Understanding Your Keyword Performance Better with Google’s Search Funnel Reports

By , Associate Director of Paid Search at Hanapin Marketing

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I’ve always taken a bottom line approach to evaluating keyword performance. I want to know how much was spent on clicks, how many conversions those clicks generated, and if my keywords are profitable and performing to client or in-house goals. I base optimizations on these bottom line metrics and decide whether to pause certain keywords.

 

What I have recently come to understand is that bottom line performance does not tell the entire story.  As users become more sophisticated in their searching patterns, the path from initial search to conversion is growing longer. This conversion path is called a ‘search funnel’.

 

Understanding an account’s conversion path will help you make more informed optimizations and overall account management decisions. Quite often, your underperforming keywords could be indirectly helping other keywords in the account to convert. Pausing an underperforming keyword that drives conversions in another area of the account will ultimately hurt overall volume and profitability.

 

Today we will dive into the search funnel report and discuss how to best use it, so you can better understand what comprises the conversion path.

 

What Is The Search Funnel Report?

 

The search funnel report documents a searcher’s entire path to conversion. Sometimes the path is just one query long. Other times it’s an entire series of keywords and queries. Search funnel data can be found in three locations: 1) The Adwords interface, by adding in the assisted clicks, impressions, & conversions columns, 2) By clicking on ‘tools’>conversions>search funnels, and 3) Google Analytics.

 

Below is an example of a search funnel report.

 

Search Funnel 1

 

Interpreting the search funnel report can seem daunting. There are dozens of mini reports and filters that show search funnel activity in a variety of ways. I’ve provided simple definitions to help make it easier to remember what the report’s key fields mean.

 

Assisted Clicks: Clicks on keywords that led to a conversion on a different keyword.

 

Assisted Impressions: Impressions that led to other impressions that led to a conversion.

 

First/Last Click Analysis: Keyword performance at the beginning or end of the conversion path.

 

Click Assisted Conversions: Total number of conversions a keyword contributed to by having assisted clicks.

 

Top Paths: The actual path searchers took that led to a conversion.

 

Path Length: The amount of clicks it took until a conversion occurred.

 

Attribution Modeling: What marketing channel got credit for the conversion?

 

Search funnel data is collected via conversion tracking. If conversion tracking is already installed, no additional set up is required. If tracking isn’t installed, all you have to do is create a conversion pixel and install it per Google’s directions. For more information on setting up conversion tracking, just visit Google’s help center.

 

Now that we have a basic understanding of what the search funnel report, the next question is:

 

How Should I Use The Data in the Search Funnel Report?

 

I use search funnel reports to communicate value to my clients, and to better understand user behavior. For instance, when it’s time to decide where to increase or pull back spend, I can justify keeping keywords live that might normally get paused if I were looking exclusively at the bottom line data.

 

Below is a sample keyword report that I pulled from the Google interface. All I did was add assisted clicks, click assisted conversions, assisted impressions, & impression assisted conversions.

 

keywords

 

The cost per converted click for ‘nursing associates program’ is $389. Based on that bottom line cost, I wouldn’t want to continue on with that keyword. However, there is 1 impression assisted click. Whether you value your assisted conversions equally as last click conversions or not, this extra conversion means the keyword is performing much closer to goal and is worth keeping live.

 

On the other hand, the 2nd keyword, ‘nurse degrees’ has only 1 conversion at a $327 cost per converted click, and it has 0 assisted clicks, conversions, or impressions. In this instance, I can be reasonably assured this keyword is not producing any conversions and is only running up cost, and can therefore be paused.

 

Below is an example of user behavior. I’m particularly interested in this query path. Notice the progression from a general interest search (‘degree in dental hygiene’), to a more targeted search (‘dental hygienist schools’), and finally to a specific search (‘dental hygienist schools Georgia’).

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 4.18.04 PM

 

From this simple view, I’ve learned 2 things: 1) general keywords are leading to conversions down funnel, and 2) User searches in this path are very deliberate. Each search becomes more refined as the searcher advances through their research process. I also learned I need to fill any keywords gaps by making sure my list contains keywords that mirror the conversion path my prospects are taking.

 

Looking forward to hearing about how you’re using search funnel data to gain unique account insights. Drop me a comment and let me know!

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  • Zac Heisey

    Awesome stuff here Jeff! I’m becoming more and more aware of the need to identify PPC keywords that may be assisting conversions rather than solely relying on last-click conversion data in my client’s accounts.

    • Jeff

      Glad to hear it! If conversion is truly a path there’s no reason alter the path. Good luck!

  • Boyang Sun

    Great article! I have some questions.

    From the bottom line perspective, the Click Assisted Conversions look like none converting keywords. How do you adjust for these keywords from a CPA perspective?

  • Jeff

    This is always a tough call. I would probably bid down on the assisting keywords a bit. This way you can keep them in the mix while at the same time reducing the cost those keywords are accruing.

  • Ben

    HI Jeff,

    I have some questions:
    1. Is there an easy way to format the data in analytics to make it appear with the proper metrics in place like you have in your screen shot?

    2. On the keyword path section –> Were you just looking at general keywords as a whole for this? What did you click on to view that data?

  • Jeff

    Hi Ben,

    For the example in the post, I used the query path to highlight how user searches become more defined as they get closer to making a decision. If you click tools>conversions you will find the search funnel data right in the adwords interface. I then clicked on top paths>query paths. Hope this helps.

    As for your other questions, you can get this data even easier by drilling down to the keyword data in Adwords and adding the ‘search funnel’ columns. Once you’ve done that, you can download it and manipulate the data however you need to

  • LP

    Hi Jeff,

    I have three questions:

    1. Is their a particular time range you usually pull to look at this data? Is it ok to look at all time, just in case their were valuable keywords that were paused?

    2. What if there is a keywords that had no conversions but had all the other metrics, however it was a high converting keyword – Should I reactivate and lower the cpc or leave it paused?