When you inherit a PPC account from another search agency or account manager, there is always going to be that moment of head scratching as you try to figure out the “other guy’s” process and strategy. The head scratching can quickly turn to head hitting once you begin to troubleshoot the performance history of the account. But before you jump to any conclusions, you should dig into the reports.
First, you should look at 30-day and 12-month rolling averages for each of the pay-per-click accounts in question, to get a feel for whether the accounts were in fact trending downward. Then you should cross-reference the account’s performance with statistics from Google Trends to see if maybe the poor performance was due to seasonality or a drop in search volume.
To get a feel for the overall performance of the account, you first need to generate a series reports. Pull account-level reports for the past quarter, segmented by day. Import these reports into Excel (or whatever spreadsheet software you use) and sort the data by day, oldest to newest. For each of the primary data points for which you would like to generate a trend graph, create a new column that contains the formula for averaging the previous 30 days’ worth of statistics. If you want to plot the trending of clicks, spending, and conversions, you will need to create three new columns with formulas. This will allow you to then create line graphs of this data. Thirty-day rolling-average graphs are a relatively simple way to limit daily fluctuations and really focus on performance trends in a small time frame.
To look at the big picture, repeat this process for the life of the account. This time, pull account-level reports back to the beginning of the account, segmented by month. Import the data into Excel, sorted by month, oldest to newest. Then, with each data point you would like to graph, create a new column with the formula for averaging the previous 12 months’ worth of data. Create line graphs of this data, and you can view the monthly performance trends for the life of the account. The rolling average removes any errant fluctuations, such as holiday months for non-e-commerce sites, and helps you to realize any positive or negative trends from the previous account manager.
So, what if you want to validate the performance trends you’re seeing in these rolling-average reports? Your first task should be to pull keyword reports for at least the past 12 months. Get a feel for the account’s top-performing keywords. Choose the top 3 to 5 keywords and head on over to Google Trends. Enter the keywords into this tool to view search volume statistics. In most cases, there will be data back to 2004. Compare the trend lines to the graphs you created from the 30-day and 12-month rolling averages. Does Google’s search volume data show an increase compared to your new account’s decrease in performance (or vice versa)? If so, you know that your expert PPC skills will help to recover this account.
That said, if Google Trends results and your account’s performance statistics match up (i.e., they both show a steady decrease in search volume/traffic), then the real problem is a drop in interest for your product or service. If that is the case, it’s time to start honing your keyword research skills or work with your client/marketing team to diversify your products and services.
Reviewing trends, either in your PPC account or with Google Trends, is a great way to validate the performance of the account you’ve just inherited. You will be able to use this data to plot a course for improving the account’s performance, and further prove your worth to your client and/or marketing team.