How to Set Up Proper PPC and Analytics Tracking

Whether you’re starting a PPC account from scratch or inheriting a large account from another agency or manager, the story should start pretty much the same. “Once upon a time in PPC land, I opened a Google Analytics account and double-checked that all of my traffic and conversion tracking was implemented correctly.” Maybe this process isn’t a fairy tale, but ensuring you have proper tracking should always be your #1 priority.

PPC Conversion Tracking

For starters, you need to ensure that the conversion tracking available through the major PPC search engines is in place. Run a lead-tracking report to see if conversion data is available in each search engine in use. This will tell you if they’re using conversion tracking. If they are, your mission is to double-check that the codes have been installed correctly on the website and/or landing pages. Leave no landing page unchecked, no conversion path untouched. If the account has no conversion data, this is your chance to implement the codes. Utilizing the conversion tracking services through Google, and Bing will allow you to manage those accounts more easily because you will have immediate access to conversion statistics.

AdWords and Analytics

Next you need to check the analytics tagging. When inheriting an account, your first task is to ask your client or the previous account manager whether or not they have been using an analytics program to monitor the site’s performance. If they have, find out if Google AdWords has been linked to Google Analytics (if the client is using Google Analytics). You can do this by simply logging into AdWords and clicking on Google Analytics from the Tools and Analysis tab. If you arrive at the Analytics Overview page, the task is already done. However, if you arrive at a page that asks if you would like to sign up for Analytics, you will need to follow a few steps to link the accounts.

To link AdWords and Analytics, your first step is to add the Google Account login that you use for AdWords as an admin user in Analytics (or simply verify that it is there). At this point you can go back to AdWords, click the Analytics tab, and click the button that says “I already have a Google Analytics account.” You will be given the opportunity to choose the proper account name, and then Google will link the accounts.

Implement URL Tagging for Analytics

When you link your Google AdWords account to Google Analytics, all the data generated by your AdWords account will automatically be included in your Analytics reports. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for pretty much any other pay-per-click traffic source. If you don’t take special care to tag these traffic sources, they will show up as “organic” (lumped with your SEO traffic) in Analytics. How do you remedy this? By creating custom URL tags for your PPC accounts.

For starters, you can use the Google URL Builder. With this tool, you can create tags that, when appended to your Yahoo! or MSN ads, will transfer important information to Google Analytics. This information includes source (i.e. Google, Yahoo!), medium (i.e., CPC or organic), term (keyword), content (ad group), and campaign name. Both Yahoo! and MSN offer special features to carry extra data into Analytics, namely keyword and search query data. Both search engines pass parameters with each PPC visitor that can be pulled into your Analytics reports, giving you greater visibility. But your top priority is to merely tag your traffic with the source and medium to ensure you have clean data in Analytics.

Please see this article on PPC Hero for additional reading and detailed information on how to implement custom URL tagging for adCenter.

Goal Funnels in Analytics

Another important tracking element is the use of Goal Funnels in Google Analytics. This allow you not only to track conversions for ALL of your traffic sources (PPC and otherwise) but also to review the entire conversion path that a visitor took before they became a customer.

Goals are easy to set up. All you need is the URL of the “confirmation page” of your conversion process. From the Overview page of Analytics, click on “Edit” for your website’s profile and scroll down to the Goals section. Choose to “Edit Settings” to create a new Goal. If you find that there are already Goals set up, verify that they are correct (i.e., is the Goal URL correct?) and providing data.

Google Search Query Data in Analytics

Within the Google AdWords interface, there is a Search Query Performance report. However, this report has a major flaw: a tremendous amount of the search queries are labelled “other unique queries” and are not revealed to you. This can be very frustrating.

You can use Google Analytics to work around this issue and gain access to all search queries for your AdWords traffic. The process involves creating a new profile and creating filters that will pull the search query data out of the referral string (information that is passed to your website with each visitor from Google). Upon completing the setup process, you will be able to view the search queries for all of your AdWords traffic.

When most people see “insertion” and “AdWords” in the same sentence, they automatically think of dynamic keyword insertion. This is NOT dynamic keyword insertion. Insertion tags, or as Google calls them, ValueTrack tags, are designed to pass important information from Google to your analytics package via your destination URL only. Use insertion tags to create comprehensive tracking URLs that will pull in keywords, differentiate between Search and Content, and display ad IDs and even the site where your placement targeted ad appeared. Here are the tags:

* {keyword}-This pulls in the actual keyword from your AdWords account, NOT the search query.
* {creative}-This pulls in the ad ID.
* {ifsearch:Search}-This tells you if your visitor came via Search ads.
* {ifcontent:Content}-This tells you if your visitor came via Content ads.
* {placement}-This tells you the website where your placement targeted ad was shown.
* Example URL:{keyword}&type={ifsearch:Search}{ifcontent:Content}&site={placement}

If you’re familiar with creating custom tracking URLs for adCenter, this is pretty much the same song and dance. The trick here is that you’ll need to configure your third-party analytics software to recognize these parameters for the purposes of reporting. That is, unless you feel comfortable reading the referral URL of every visitor to your site.

Just to avoid any confusion, if you are using Google Analytics with your AdWords account, you are already getting most of this data. The exception, of course, would be differentiating Search and Content or accessing the {placement} website data. For these parameters, you can create Advanced Filters in Analytics to pull in and report on these data points.

Why Is All of This Important?

Whenever you manage a PPC account, tracking should be your #1 priority. But when you are inheriting an account, the stakes can be especially high, so it is in your best interest to ensure that ALL tracking is in place and working correctly. Additionally, using all of the available tracking tools will provide you with the necessary data to manage your accounts to perform at their best.

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