Whether you are managing your campaign on your own or you have an agency you need to understand what to look for when evaluating performance. It is easy for agencies to spin the numbers and make everything sound good. So you want to have enough knowledge to make sure they are shooting it straight. Now there are A LOT of different things to look at and just analyzing the data can be a full time job in itself. So I will cover a few bits of data that you can look at that will give really great insight into how the overall channel is performing for you.
Clicks vs sessions
This is might be obvious but a lot of company’s report the click not the session, I think both are important to consider because a click doesn’t necessarily represent a session. The session is actually the more important number in terms of engagement because only clicks with sessions represent an active user. Let’s say you have a campaign that generated 16,000 clicks but only 8,500 sessions. Now let’s say the channel had 60% bounce rate. You are looking at only roughly 3,400 users who engaged more than one page on your site. Now say you spent $8,000 that is about $2.35 a person. Now that can be a perfectly acceptable output depending on your goals. But what the agency will report is that that delivered 16,000 clicks with a $.50 cost per click. The agency reported numbers sound a lot better! I just want to call out that difference because lots of clicks does not always equal successful campaign.
Display Network vs Search PPC vs Search Partners
Make sure you understand which network you are putting your money into. We briefly went over these three in our Introduction to SEM. It is important to know that there are different networks that you can work within and it is inevitable that some will work better than others. If you see keyword that isn’t performing well, but you know it should – check what network it is mostly appearing in. The display network clicks tend to be cheaper but produce less qualified users. So if you are only looking at clicks provided by cost per click, allocating a lot of funds to display network can make it look like a click serving rock star. Make sure you know the difference.
As the keyword gets more specific the bounce rate should decrease. This is because, in theory, you are reaching a more qualified visitor. If you have a long tail keyword that is not performing well you should evaluate if the keyword is just not good fit for your product or if your landing page does not adequately deliver the information the user is expecting to see based on the ad copy. Some people will tell you that a high bounce rate is fine because maybe the user just got the information they needed on the first page but tourism sites, by design, do not work that way. We want users to explore content and dig deeper into the information. At the very least we hope they will hit the listing page and then look at an account detail. For our industry, unless the ad directs them to the visitor guide page and that is all they need, the bounce is a big factor. I found this bounce rate loose guideline a few years back and I like to use it as a rough scale:
- 20% or less is amazing (and not that common)
- 20-30% is fantastic
- 40-60% is fairly common
- 60-70% is common for keywords that are a bit ambiguous (fish, camping, event)
- 70% or higher – something needs to be fixed
In adwords your keywords will be grouped into ad groups. I usually try to find one that I know, in my gut, should be working for me. If that group is performing poorly then it is usually a good indication that there is something wrong with the strategy. If you are a wine destination and you have a wine tour ad group that has more than 50% bounce rate, you need to go back to the drawing board. Depending on your budget you may have some ad groups that you are using for branding purposes so they may not perform as well as your ideal group. But if the meat and potatoes of your plan, your bread and butter product can’t perform you have a strategy flaw.
One side note: Agency explanation for a high bounce rate: “It’s our job to get you the traffic and your job to keep it”
NO. Repeat after me. NO. If they say this to you, fire them immediately. Ok, maybe don’t be so rash but definitely tell them that is not an acceptable answer. It is the job of the company running your PPC to appropriately identify keyword groups and adword groups that align with the content available on your site. If they ad is mis-matched with the content that it directs to you have very little hope of converting that visitor. If an ad is performing poorly that falls squarely on the shoulders of the one who created it. Not to mention ads that perform poorly effect your rating with Google. Google rewards you for providing quality content to go with your ads. PPC 100% has to be a team effort with your PPC company providing recommendation on alignment on you providing insight into your goals so they can properly align the strategy.
In part 4, we will go outside the box and talk about what else you can do with data besides just drive traffic to your site.