Simplify PPC Reports

After attending a Stratigent workshop with Jennifer Vessenmeyer called “Pimp your Reports” it got me thinking about PPC reporting and how I could be “pimping” my own reports. I don’t mean throwing so much data together that no one will ever read it like a house bill nor exporting something out of AdWords and handing it over, I mean putting together the suggested meaningful and insightful report.

Currently the PPC report I put together each month now for clients is actually right in line for what the workshop covered- but definitely in need of a tune up and there were a few pearls of wisdom that we should all stop and think about before will fill out the next report on auto pilot once again.

Is your report meaningful?

That’s a loaded question. Meaningful in the way like a wedding ceremony? Your mother’s day gift?

No, meaningful in the way that it conveys information that is unique and needed to the client. That it almost tells a story about what is going on in the campaigns and account structure and that it is answering whether or not PPC is meeting the intended goals meant specifically to PPC.

Did you pick the right statistics?

Ah, KPIs (aka Key Performance Indicators). How do you pick those anyway?

Do you just include the ones the client said to, just because? When was the last time you reviewed what those were? Is the value still the same or has it changed? Check those out. For PPC it’s going to vary greatly on that end goal. If it’s to drive traffic, do you need a list of all top referrers or is it more that you should have a total and breakdown by engine of clicks/visits from paid search?

Does it matter what the average cost per click is across all your search engines? What does that metric do and what can you do with it? If the average cost per click is 0.40 and all 3 of the platforms you are using a really different as far as the reach, the type of person who uses it and pricing, what could you do with that metric anyway?

Which statistics are you showing together?

Meaning don’t cram all the stats together on one graph, particularly if the data isn’t related enough to be on the same graph. It skews perception and overshadows successes and areas of trouble. For example, if my leads based client is tracking their cost per lead month to month and their conversion rate, should those two metrics be on the same graph? No, a conversion rate is measured in percentage and the CPL is in dollars. You wouldn’t believe it, but some folks really do mix and match their units of measurement just to save a little space.

Or how about putting your overall conversion rate against individual ad click throughs? Technically they’re both percentages, but how do you connect (by looking at the graph only- remember you can’t be standing there waiting to explain every time) a conversion rate with many sources with a single ad’s click through?

Same goes for too many metrics on one graph: CPC, CPL, revenue, cost, CPC per engine, CPL per engine, cost per engine, revenue per engine and previous month’s CPL should not be all on one graph.

What kind of graphics are you using?

Line graph? Bar graph? Scatter chart?

So many choices, so little time. Clients like data visualizations. It makes things pretty. But what are your graphics really telling you? And can clients actually read and interpret the data in them? Go with a chart that is easy to interpret and doesn’t require a two day workshop on how to read it from you. For PPC, I prefer the line graph. Clean, simple and a clear indication in the up direction. (Revenue of course!)

What colors should I be using?

There’s a rainbow of palettes and I want to use them all!

Please don’t. Colors are a great way of drawing attention to points you want to draw attention to (but also a good way to hide some stuff!) Use colors that come from the same palette. Don’t use red, yellow, aqua, purple and then magenta cause you feel like it. Gradiate the colors. Have lower numbers be lighter and bigger numbers be darker for example. Remember that if they print the report, it’ll probably be in black and white. Can you tell the difference between sunshine yellow and mint green when it’s in black and white?

Using text and wording appropriately

There’s a key with your graph right? Or each line/bar is labeled? And when I say labeled I don’t mean with everything you can possibly think of. Name the report something specific like “2009 PPC Performance for X” or “January 2009 PPC Ad Performance -Google.” Then you don’t have to put “Jan-2009” “Feb-2009” “Mar-2009” you can just put “Jan” “Feb” and “Mar.” Label what needs to be labeled and if you need to, include a small box with short a explanation on what certain metrics are, how they are measured/calculated or directions for interpreting the report. Some clients won’t know what CTR stands for or what the Conversion Optimizer is. The real mistake is letting the client read it and then make up their own interpretations.

Example graph, the stuff that should be looked at is circled in red. Missing a title, cut back on the ’09 labels, who picked these colors(?!) and why are there 2 sets of numbers- one on each side?

PPC Report

Small changes to make big improvements

Face it, clients aren’t big on change, particularly if you’re taking something away. Unless they’re changing SEM agencies in hopes of shaking everything upside down, back and around, you’ll need to implement incrementally and subtly. If you’re cutting stuff out, cut one to two things out at a time WITH an explanation. Do not simply cut something and think they won’t notice. They will notice and they will ask. A lot.

The Pimp Your Reports workshop was super helpful and made a lot of sense. Many thanks to Jennifer Vessenmeyer for including Portent and providing materials that will not be leaving my desk anytime soon. You would be absolutely astounded to see some of the reports that are floating out and around today from SEM agencies that are considered to be standard reporting.

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