Properly Comparing Data in Your PPC Accounts

Enhanced Campaigns are here. Now is the time to get over any lingering frustrations you have with the forced upgrade and begin to make decisions based on performance changes in your account. But first, you have to find out what’s going on. Looking for trends in ppc campaigns is an important part of an account manager’s job. You’ve got to know whats going on, why, and how to change it. Once you’ve spotted those trends, you’ve got to know how to properly compare your current data to past performance. Comparing conversion data in June to click data in April will not give you any insights into your account. The process below is designed for any time use, but the Enhanced Campaigns upgrade would be a great time to try it out. Here are a few tips to help you properly evaluate performance changes in your account and decide what to do next.

Use Comparable Date RangesApples & Oranges

The first step is pointing out abnormal data is to find what is “normal”. Determine the entire time frame you believe to have irregular data. Then, find comparable date ranges to that initial set. For example, let’s say last week was the best performance week you’ve had all month. Was last week a fluke or does it follow a trend?

First, outline each piece you can identify about last week: week in the middle of the month, in the middle of July, a week in July. These three things, though somewhat different can also give you very different data. So next you would gather data for similar time frames for each of the above. Personally I like to draw three weeks for comparison just to get a good idea. So for the above piece above, I would pull the following stats: a week’s data from the middle of April, May, and June, data from the middle week the last 3 Julys (if possible), and the average of July stats from the past 3 years.

Now draw your comparisons. Are the stats similar? Are they completely different? Which areas are different, and can you determine why? This exercise, although not the true test of performance change, will certainly give you a good place to start when comparing two data ranges.

Use the Correct KPIs

Similar to date range selection, it’s also important to choose the right metrics to compare when determining if your account’s performance is off. The best stats to use for comparing performance are those that combine multiple other stats. CTR, for example, combines Clicks and Impressions (Clicks/Impressions to be exact). Others dual metrics include Avg CPC, Conversion Rate, and CPA. These give insights into your accounts efficiency.

For a timely example, let’s say your mobile conversions are down this week. Is your conversion rate down (possibly suggesting a landing page or ad copy change is having some effect)? Or is it your CTR (possibly suggesting a lower avg position due to more competitors in the auction)? Be sure you know the root of the problem before you look to make any changes.

Pro Tip: Don’t assume AdWords will give you all the information you need. Take a look at trends in your Google Analytics account to find any other trends or abnormal performance affecting your campaigns.

Make it Visual

More than likely, you’ve used a visual cue from your account to determine a trend or abnormality in the data. I’d encourage you to use the same cues when comparing your current data to the proper time frames and KPI stats you determined above. Go into excel and put together some charts to show you what’s going on. Add trend lines if necessary to see which way your performance is leaning.

Trend Line

Remember External Forces

During a normal week, a change in Google would be considered an external factor. But this time is a bit different. The external factors I’m referring to here are the ones that would have happened despite the upgrades to Enhanced Campaigns. It’s Monday. What does that mean for your accounts? It’s also the starting to be the end of the month. Does that have any usual effects? Have your competitors made any big changes? Possibly started a promotion for all purchases 50% off? Etc., etc. You get the idea.

If you begin to notice strange data in your account, make sure you’re not assigning blame for performance changes on Enhanced Campaigns when there are really other forces at play. Do your digging, get the data, and be sure you know what’s really causing those changes in your account.


(*A final tip specific to Enhanced Campaigns)

Seriously. If you’re in your accounts on this fine Monday, pouring over small blocks of data and making big, sweeping changes based on a couple hours worth of data, you’re doing it wrong. Unless you’re managing an account that has extremely large amounts of data coming in at all hours and there’s something so wrong you’d rather pull the fire alarm and leave than tell your boss/client something’s off, then let things be. One day does not a trend make, and that goes double for half days. Be patient, and only act on new performance in increments until you’ve got a clear picture to work from.