How to Spot Trends in Your AdWords Account

One of my first activities every morning is to log into my MCC and go check up on my client accounts. I’m making sure the account is running okay, look for any notifications from Google, and generally check for deviations from “standard” behavior. But what exactly am I looking for?

Look for Anomalies

Virtually every account has a baseline performance level. Spend is usually dictated by budget levels. Clicks & impressions are limited by search volume. This consistency makes spotting an anomaly easy. Let’s take a look at this graph of clicks & cost during the month of June for an advertiser. You’ll notice a very predictable pattern where they are maxing out their budget on weekdays, traffic is lower for weekends, and the cycle repeats. However, Monday June 16th and Tuesday June 17th do not behave as expected.
AdWords Graph Anomaly

This type of behavior should trigger an immediate audit of the account.

What Caused The Change?

In the example above, I don’t know what caused the anomaly. I had not made any major changes to the account preceding the change and it didn’t correspond to any holiday or other external event. Google is still investigating the situation, but I think it was simply a glitch in their system (that they won’t own up to).

Let’s look at another example that happened in another account earlier in 2013. This graph shows Avg. Position & Avg. CPC for a Google Grants account during January and February.
AdWords Graph Anomaly 2

Here you can see a significant increase in Avg. CPC starting around January 28th. There is also a degradation of Avg. Position from sub-2 to around 2.5 that occurs at almost the same time. So what happened? If you work with a Google Grants account you’ll remember that this was when Google announced that Grants accounts could now bid up to $2.00 CPC (up from the previous $1.00 CPC limit). I had doubled all the bids in the account, so the increase in CPC was not unexpected. However, the degradation of Avg. Position was somewhat surprising until we started looking at Google’s announcement closer. After telling us we could bid up to $2.00 this was slipped in there:

“…your ads will now appear below the ads of traditional AdWords advertisers.”

Suddenly, the degradation in Avg. Position made sense, even if we didn’t like it. So in this case, there was a policy change at Google that led to the anomaly.

Keep An Eye On July 22nd

As you probably know, Google will automatically convert all “legacy” campaigns to Enhanced Campaigns on July 22nd. While many advertisers have already upgraded, there will be a significant number that will be automatically upgraded by Google after that date. This change to the AdWords system has the potential to alter your campaign performance in several ways. Here are a few trends you should keep your eye on:

  • Spend by device – If you had mobile-only campaigns, after conversion they’re going to have some desktop/laptop/tablet traffic in them.
  • Avg. CPC – Especially for mobile, this change could lead to higher CPCs.
  • Cost/conv. – Related to both items above, but you may see good or bad changes.