Whether you use PPC now, have used PPC in the past, or have ever heard of PPC (Pay-Per-Click) you know that it is great for providing metrics. You know how many times your ad gets shown (impressions), how often those impressions turn into clicks (CTR), how much each click costs (CPC), how many of those clicks successfully sign up or buy (conversion rate) and a plethora of additional acronyms like IS, QS, ROI, ROAS and more.

If you're like most PPC advertisers, the problem isn't that you don't have enough data (though people are always clamoring for more), it's that you don't know how to translate all that data into action. To prevent drowning in this sea of data, you need to learn to S.W.I.M.

S - Start Simple

From the moment you log in to your PPC account, you're awash in data. Clicks, Impressions, CPC, Cost, Avg. Position, Conversions. This data is available for each campaign, each ad group, each keyword and each ad. It's easy to feel overwhelmed. To start simple, focus on the following metrics:

  • Conversion Data - This consists of conversions, conversion rate and cost/conversion. Let's say your conversion is an email registration and you're willing to pay $10 for a new signup. Start by looking at cost/conversion to find areas beating the target and areas falling short. Are the conversion rates significantly different? Have you had enough conversions to feel good about the data? Conversion data ties PPC performance to business goals.
  • Click-Through-Rate (CTR) - Drill down to the ad group level so you can see CTR on each ad. Hopefully you're testing 2 or 3 versions of ad copy. Contrast the highest CTR ad to the lowest CTR ad. Does it match the keywords in the ad group more tightly? Is it price-focused or feature/benefit-focused? Having a good CTR gets you more visits to your site as well as helping to lower cost/click.

W - Widen Your Net

As you become more confident in your skills you'll want to broaden your analysis. Here are a couple more areas to look at:

  • Search Query Reports (SQR) - If you're using broad or phrase matching your ads get triggered for various search queries related to your actual keywords. The SQR will show you the exact search queries that triggered your ads. This will show you potentially irrelevant terms that you can add as negative keywords as well as new ideas that you may not have thought of yourself.
  • Bids & Avg. Position - I recommend looking at this metric at the keyword level. That keyword with conversions that are just too expensive? Perhaps a lower bid, and lower average position, would make it profitable. Not getting the performance you expected from a prime keyword? Maybe you need better position. Also, compare this with the new Top vs. Side Report.

I - Incorporate Intuition

You know your business and you know your customers. All data analysis, no matter how compelling, needs to pass the "reality check". Even though this is the 3rd step, you would already have put your intuition to work in the previous steps. As you looked at your SQRs you would have used intuition to know which terms to add as negatives and which to add to your efforts.

Now that you've analyzed your conversion data and looked at CTR for your ads, it's time to apply some intuition by looking at message match. When a person uses a search engine they are looking for something. Their search query reveals intent and your ad should tell them how you can solve their problem. Once they've clicked the ad, your landing page continues to build on the promise made by your ad. If you see great CTR and poor conversion rates, you might have message mismatch. Put yourself in your customers shoes. Look at the keyword, then the ad copy, and then the landing page. Is the flow disjointed? Does the call to action from the ad match the landing page? Message mismatch can kill your performance.

M -Make an Action Plan

You've done the analysis and most likely you've found some areas for improvement. Now you need to take action. We can't talk about all the tactics you'll need, but I will outline a process that you should be follow:

  • Take Action - Pause underperforming ads and write new ads. Increase or decrease keyword bids. Design and test a new landing page. Always be testing.
  • Keep Records - Get a Word document and write down what changes you made along with why you made them. This helps you remember what you did and improves your analysis when you come back and review the performance of your changes.
  • Save the Date - Go ahead and schedule a review of your changes. For high traffic accounts this might be 1 week later, for low traffic accounts it might be 1 month. Don't make changes and then forget about them.

Now that you've had your swimming lesson for the day, it's time to go out and get some practice.