It’s Monday morning. You manage a large paid search account. What should you do today?
The answer depends, of course, on the status and situation of your account. But let’s think and talk generically.
And let’s assume, for this one brief moment, that you have fast and easy access to any reports or dashboards that you might wish to see to help drive your decision. All you have to do is decide what you’d like to see and the information magically appears on your screen or printer.
The first candidate is rather obvious; if our campaigns are incomplete, improperly constructed, or if our business or competitive environment has changed, then a clear priority should be to adjust the campaigns accordingly.
This might mean campaign and adgroup re-organization, keyword and match-type adjustments, changes to our bids and text-ads or landing pages.
But if there’s none of that type of work to do either (I know, that’s my second nearly-impossible assumption of this post thus far) then what?
What if you have an on-target campaign with properly valued keywords and queries producing a generally acceptable number and ratio of sales and revenues?
Or at least, if you can’t quite stretch your imagination that far, one in which there are no major gaping holes or areas of total embarrassment. What do you do then?
Opportunities and Risks
In a solid and stable campaign there is still a lot going on. The world is still changing – in terms of seasonality, user behavior, competitive and non-competitive bidders, the keyword matching algorithms and search engine rules, etc.
In this environment effort and emphasis should be placed on opportunities and risks. Areas where you could do better, and areas where you’re not doing so well.
A lot of the opportunities and risks in a paid search campaign can be identified using comparisons and calculations.
Comparisons tell us how things (Ad-Groups, Keywords, Products) are doing in relation to both other similar things, or in relation to another time frame.
Reports telling us the top and bottom 5 Ad-Groups by ROI (or ROAS) or the top and bottom 50 keywords by Gross or Net Profit can help you quickly spot winners you should let run, or losers that you should fix or kill.
Even better are reports listing the most improved or most deteriorated performance – which Ad-Groups or keywords are making (or losing) money this week/month when they did the opposite last month. Our friend and advisor Avinash Kaushik has talked about the power of these reports for web analytics in general and reminds us that they have great power in PPC too.
Simple calculations can tell how components of our campaigns are performing against either goals or averages or medians – and often make it very clear where time or attention should be placed.
If you have Ad-Groups or Keywords which under-perform your goals on 30-60-90 day moving average basis, aren’t those ripe for review?
If certain Ad-Groups have an exceptionally wide performance distribution (on one of several possible metrics, such as CTR or Conv. Rate), doesn’t that suggest that the text-ads or the landing pages aren’t well matched to the queries?
More sophisticated calculations can reveal where bids are under or over their optimal settings, when ad position or text-ad CTRs are causing under performance, and even when certain keywords should be moved out of their current Ad-Groups.
All of these examples suggest a world where the right information is collected by your search analytics software and then processed and formatted in a way that helps you know where your valuable time and energy should be placed.
Thus far, however, neither the search engines, web analytics providers, or even paid search management tools have really provided very much of this type of prioritization assistance.
What we’re getting is a lot closer to raw data than useful information. And in the face of this raw data quite a few campaigns are managed on instinct rather than insights.
Of course, some paid search managers do the kinds of comparisons and calculations I’m describing either manually, in their heads, or via extensive efforts with a lot of data exports and Excel worksheets. But it takes a lot of work – time that itself is not used managing the account – and there are limits to how much post-processing and manual calculations can be done.
The Long Week Ahead
In a series of earlier posts I argued that we need better clarity into our paid search accounts. Today I’m suggesting that even when we get the right data there is a need for technology and automation to help make sense of it, to translate the data into actionable information.
As far as this post-series goes, that leaves only the last of the three challenges facing paid search managers – the efficiency of implementing changes once you figure out what’s required. I’ll tackle that one in an upcoming post.
(Upcoming Events: I’ll be at the Semphonic XChange Conference in San Francisco on Aug 17-19, and am Speaking on “Identify, Analyze, Act: SEM by the Numbers” at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose on August 19th)