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Digging Deep Into AdWords: Great Data Analysis Without Leaving Your Account

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As the search engine marketing industry has grown, dozens of third-party tools have emerged to help SEMs slice, dice, and manage data. Given the thousands of keywords, ads, and account setting combinations in an average AdWords account, it’s not surprising that many SEMs are excited about these tools. Managing AdWords “by hand” with nothing more than a massive spreadsheet is simply not scalable. To efficiently grow your campaigns, you need technology to weed through your data and make the right conclusions.

But it turns out that some of the best technology available to analyze your AdWords accounts is right under your nose — in your AdWords account! Over the last few years, Google has made a concerted effort to develop business intelligence and data analysis tools right in the AdWords user interface (UI). If it’s been a while since you’ve actually logged into AdWords online (as opposed to through a campaign management tool or the AdWords Editor), it’s worth taking another look at the tools available in the UI, because they’ve become quite powerful. This article is an overview of a few of my favorite data analysis tools that you can find right in the AdWords UI.

1.  Segmentation

The “Segment” tool is located in the AdWords UI directly below the main tab navigation.

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Segmentation allows you to quickly look at the high-level trends for a campaign, ad group, ad text, keyword, or even ad extension level. Several powerful segmentation features that I particularly like are accessed via the dropdown:

SegmentTime

  •  Time — Analyze your data by day of week or hour of day. This helps you set bids based on when customers are most likely to buy from you.
  • Network Segment data by Google versus Google Search Partners. If you find that the cost per acquisition (CPA) or return on ad spend (ROAS) from Google Search Partners performs more poorly than Google, you can exclude or bid-reduce these partners.
  • Device Look at the difference in performance by mobile, tablet, and computer. This metric helps you decide whether to break your campaigns out by device or stop buying traffic on certain devices entirely.
  • Top vs. OtherEvaluate how your ads perform in the top positions (above organic results) or on the side of organic results. Often we see astronomically higher clickthrough rate (CTR) from ads on the top of the page. If you want to maximize impression share, this is a good metric to evaluate.

2.  Filters

If you like the high-level data you get from segmentation, you’ll love the more granular data available via filters. Like segments, you find filters right below the main navigation in AdWords.

Unlike segments, however, filters allow you to create very granular conditions against which you can drill deep into data. For example, you could create a filter that only shows keywords that have:

  • At least 20 clicks AND
  • 15 conversions AND
  • A position better than 3.0

This sort of analysis is useful when trying to identify very high-performing keywords (that might need bid increases) and bleeders (that might need to be bid-reduced or switched to negative status).

The screenshot below shows you just some of the ton of different filtering options available in AdWords.

Conversions1PerClick

Note that if you create a filter you really like, you can save it so that you don’t have to recreate it every time you want to run it!

Filter

3.  Dimensions

You can find Dimensions in the main navigation in AdWords.  The Dimensions feature is similar to segmentation in that it enables you to quickly look at general trends in your account. Segmentation, however, can only evaluate data at a campaign level or lower, whereas Dimensions gives you data on your entire account. This can be valuable when trying to look for general trends (day-parting or geotargeting opportunities, for example).

Dimensions also offers a few data slices that segmentation does not offer (e.g., call details, user location, reach and frequency).

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4.  Combining All Three

If you really want to start doing data mining on steroids in your AdWords account, you can actually combine the data from segmentation, filters, and dimensions to get a super-granular data set. Making this happen is not super-intuitive in the interface, so here’s how to do it:

1.  Go to the Dimensions tab and select a dimension you want to evaluate.

2.  Click the Filters tab and create a filter to further refine the dimensions data. You might see data that looks like this:

FilterGeotarget

 3.  Hit the download button (looks like a downward arrow) next to the Columns tab on the UI.

FilterReport

4.  Click the “Add Segment” plus box and you’ll see a list of segments you can add to your report (you can choose one or many).

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5.  Create the report. You should get an XLS report that gives you very deep data.

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5.  Query and Sub-URL data

There are two final data analysis tools that are worth investigating in AdWords: the “keyword details” tool and “automatic placements details” tool.

To find the keyword details tool, you must be on the “keywords” tab in the UI. You’ll see “keyword details” right below the main navigation:

KeywordDetails

Once you get to this tool, you can choose to see raw search queries for “all” keywords in your campaign or ad group, or just “selected” keywords (prior to choosing this option, you have to click the check box next to one or more keywords). The difference between the keywords you’ve purchased and the actual queries Google matches you against can be shocking.

Here’s an example of an account that was trying to buy “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” movie posters. Notice how many of the queries are totally irrelevant to their business!

The keyword was “Dragon Tattoo Poster” with a Max CPC of $0.85.

DragonKeyword

Here are the queries the account was matched against:

DragonMatches

You can do the same thing with the “automatic placements details” tool. To find this tool, you must be on the “placements tab” within the “display network” tab (yes, it’s confusing!). You’ll see a drop-down called “See details”:

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As with the keyword details tool, you can choose whether you want to see details for all of your placements or just one or more placements that you specifically select.

In this example, I chose to just look at sub-URLs for one placement (veritvynovelas.com). As you can see from the results, not all sub-URLs perform at the same CPA, creating an opportunity to exclude bad performing sub-URLs.

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And There’s So Much More . . .

The tools presented above are just the beginning. As you explore AdWords, you’ll find that many other great data analysis tools will enable you to dig deep into your AdWords performance without ever leaving the user interface. And as Google continues to blur the line between AdWords and Google Analytics, you can expect the quality and diversity of tools in AdWords to only increase.

Of course, third-party tools still continue to provide a lot of value to SEMs, and it’s doubtful that Google will ever create enough functionality in AdWords to truly compete against innovative outside companies. That said, taking another look at the AdWords user interface might just give you a few new ways to find nuggets of gold in complex AdWords accounts easily and quickly.

*Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the last issue (Winter 2012/2013) of our print magazine and was previously only available to magazine subscribers.

Image: Dog Digging in the Sand — Original Billboard Image from Shutterstock

About the Author

David Rodnitzky is CEO of PPC Associates, a leading SEM agency based in Silicon Valley. PPC Associates provides search, social, and display advertising management to growing, savvy companies. To learn more, visit ppcassociates.com, or contact David at david@ppcassociates.com.

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