The exciting thing about search marketing is that people’s search behaviors are always changing; this can depend on the time of year, trends or new developments in the industry. But how do you stay ahead of these changes and more importantly, what do you do to counteract any negative effects in your accounts? In this post, I’ll focus on understanding traffic trends in your PPC accounts and in my follow-up post I will talk about how to effectively leverage your findings to benefit your account.

Digging-in To Your Account

There are many tools out there to help you understand traffic patterns for your campaigns. However, the first place you need to look is in your PPC account. Start out by running a campaign report for the last few years. Under settings choose “monthly” as your unit of time. Alternatively, set your time range and look at a graph for impressions and clicks in the interface. Either of these tools should give you insights into when traffic drops or spikes occurred. Are there any patterns in your data? Now start thinking about what events (good or bad) happened during those time periods:

  • Did you make any significant changes in your account during those times? The “View Change History” tool can be very insightful.
  • Did something big happen in the industry?
  • Is seasonality a factor for your product or service?

Drill down even further by pulling keyword placement performance reports. Some keywords might be affected by seasonality as well.  Certain keywords may have been star performers for a few years, but have dropped off in performance even if their average position hasn’t changed much over time.  Pull out these keywords and use Google Trends to further trouble shoot. Searchers might be using different search terms than they did a year ago. Along with Google Trends, your Google Analytics can also help you identify search patterns based on geography.

What Are Your Competitors Doing?

Keep an eye on your competitors – know what they’re doing, not only in the PPC space, but other marketing efforts as well. It is easy to get sucked in to the PPC world, but take those blinders off. Your competitors maybe running compelling awareness-building offline campaigns that are driving searchers to click on their PPC ads as well.  Your traffic might be directly impacted by what your competitors are doing.

What Is Going On In The Industry?

You may want to set up Google alerts for your most important keywords and try to catch-up on some industry news on a weekly basis. Traffic may spike if there is a huge surge in your industry or tank if there is some bad publicity, so keep on top of what’s going on and think through what that might mean for you PPC account.

I’ve recapped several ways in which you can start identifying changes in your PPC traffic. In my next post, I will discuss how to utilize the knowledge that you have about search patterns to maximize your account performance.