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

By Jeff Baum | @jeffbaum71 | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

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.




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!