Managing and Tracking Changes in Your PPC Campaigns

Gerard Tollefsen - October 20, 2010

If you are running a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign, odds are that you are making changes to bids, ad copy, destination urls, and many other aspects of your campaign on a weekly basis.  While the frequency of these optimization changes can vary, one important aspect that does not change is the importance of understanding the impact of your changes.  Furthermore, how do the changes you make to your PPC campaigns influence the type of visitor you bring to the site?  I always caution against making too many changes at once, as it will be difficult to determine which of those changes had the greatest impact.  That is an entirely different topic altogether, so today I would like to focus on how best to manage and track the performance of your optimization efforts.  There are many ways to track the changes, but using Google Analytics (GA) annotations I feel is the best means.

For example, in the Google AdWords interface you can review all of your campaign changes by clicking on the “Reporting” in the top navigation and choosing the sub-category “Change History”.  This screen allows you to select different actions based on date range and the type of change you want to review.  Once you select your options and click on the “Filter change history” button, you will see a larger graph with annotations based on the day and type of change that was made.  Within this graph, you can see how the changes affected impressions, clicks, click-through rate, cost, and conversions.  This is good information to have, but using Google Analytics as opposed to just the AdWords interface provides much deeper analysis.

Google Analytics helps answer the question I posed earlier, how do the changes you make to your PPC campaigns influence the type of visitor you bring to the site?  If your goal is to attract new visitors, simply seeing an increase in traffic from a budget change does not tell the whole story.  Did that budget increase in your PPC campaign result in an increase in new visitors?  Using Google Analytics and annotations within your Google Analytics account can help identify that performance, where the AdWords interface does not.  You still get to apply individual annotations to any day (similar to the AdWords interface) but it’s not automatic.  You must go in and make the annotation yourself and describe the change (for example, “budget increase of $50” or “new Branding campaign added”).  It’s important to remember, Google Analytics will not automatically track the changes in your PPC campaign.  But it is the advanced reporting within Google Analytics that gives you the ability to look beyond simple increases or decreases in impressions or clicks due to campaign changes.  The next time you are reviewing changes in your PPC campaigns, leverage Google Analytics and its annotation feature to manage and track your changes and delve deeper into the real impact of your optimizations efforts.

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