If you do PPC, the odds are that you probably look at a million reports a day. You might look at reports from each channel interface, competitor reports, or big picture overall performance reports. A good report allows you to aggregate all of the important data, visualize performance in an easily digestible way, and draw insights that help you determine your strategy based on this information. That last bit is important. If a good report tells you what your next steps are, a bad report can leave you completely confused, or worse – lead you to make the wrong decisions. For these reasons, reporting is extremely important. So here are all of the things you should consider when putting together a report.
KPIs & Your Audience
Probably the most important thing to consider when building a report is what’s in it. To know what KPIs to include, you need to know your audience. As a digital marketer, you know that there are a thousand different metrics you can report on, and some of them are more useful than others.
The best way to determine which KPI’s to report on is to consider who’s reading your report. Is it your boss? Your client?
Consider what their goals are and what’s important to them. If your ultimate goal is conversions (whose isn’t?), then that should definitely be included in the report, along with cost per conversion and conversion rate. Maybe you’re also employing a full-funnel strategy, so engagement with top-funnel ads is important. Include that too!
Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s important, so ask! I guarantee whoever is reading your report will be thankful that they don’t have to skim a sea of words and numbers to get to the important parts.
And hey – don’t forget to include yourself in that audience. If you’re building this report, it’s likely you’ll be looking at it and discussing it with whoever you’re sending it to. Consider what information is important for you to have in those conversations and include that too.
If there are a thousand KPIs to choose from, there is an endless list of ways to segment that data. So again, consider what’s important to you and your audience. If your users convert at about the same rate on mobile and desktop, then stop including a year’s worth of performance metrics to show that. If, like me, you need near-constant validation that you’re good at your job, segment the data by week to see your improvement over time. Or, if improvement month-over-month or year-over-year is important, include a graph that tells you how you’re doing.
Another factor to consider is the different segments of the business, as well as the channels you’re advertising in. Google search and display perform much differently, and while it might be important to have an overall view of performance, providing data split out by each channel will give you a better understanding of what’s working and what needs work. If your campaigns are segmented by different service or location segments, it’s probably important to view those separately, especially if there are significant differences in performance goals and expectations.
Now that you know what to include in your report, how do you get someone to actually read it? Come on, you know it’s true. You’ve skimmed through a report that was messy, long, and hard to read and then dreaded the next time you’d receive it. Or, on the other hand, you’ve dreaded putting together that report because it was messy and time-consuming. To avoid this feeling of dread, instead, your report should instill FEAr. Flexible, Easy-to-Read, Automated reporting. Let’s cover what this entails:
Things are constantly changing in PPC. You might adjust your strategy and expand into new platforms, employ a different strategy, or try a new ad format that requires different metrics. Whatever happens, you want your report to be able to keep up. This might mean choosing a reporting platform that’s flexible, or thinking ahead when putting together your Google or Excel sheet. Either way, when things do change, make sure you won’t have to put days worth of time into revising the report. Or worse, have to migrate your report to a new platform altogether.
Easy to read reporting involves a lot of factors. First, your report should not be 100 pages long. Sometimes a long report is unavoidable, but when you ask yourself “Is this information relevant and important?”, the answer should always be yes. If not – take it out. In any report, you should include a summary section. A TLDR section if you will. Or, if you’re more professional than I am, an executive summary. This section helps any busy person reading your report get the gist of the report and helps ensure everyone is coming to the same conclusions about the data provided. It can also help you answer questions before they’re asked. Consider what questions might arise from the data in your report, and answer them in your summary section.
Another element of easy-to-read reporting is the layout. If you’ve crammed all of your information onto one page and used 3 different fonts, it probably won’t be easy to read. Try to organize the report in a way that makes sense to the reader. If a page on your report is feeling cramped, move that information onto the next page. Start with top-level information and break it down as you get further into the report. For example, you might have one page with aggregated metrics from every channel, and then a page for the performance of each channel individually. Imagine how someone reading your report might use it. If, when you’re reading the report, you find yourself flipping back to a page to compare data, put those pages next to each other.
Finally, use visualization when you can. Humans are simple creatures and pictures make us happy. Use line charts to see data over time and pie charts to see percents of a whole. Some reporting platforms even have ‘scorecard’ features that let you see how each metric has changed from week-to-week or month-to-month, using red or green to tell you if that’s good or bad. And whatever you do, please use the right graph for the right information. If you’re not looking at percents of a whole, a pie chart is not for you.
While reporting is important, it’s probably not the entirety of your job. If you find yourself spending more time putting together a report than doing any PPC, odds are your report isn’t as automated as it could be. There are a million reporting platforms and data aggregators out there like Datastudio, Ninjacat, Optmyzr, and Supermetrics. Find the platform(s) that offers the most flexibility and the most automation for your reports.
Just because you’re automating your report doesn’t mean you shouldn’t re-read it before you send it to anyone important. When you automate your reports, not only can you spend more time doing more important things, but odds are your report will be more accurate and consistent. Plus, spending time to automate your report right now will save you time in the long run. If you spend three hours putting together a report each week, odds are you’ll be so tired of looking at it that you won’t double-check to make sure your data is right. And nothing is worse than sending a report week after week only to find that you’d been looking at the wrong data.
And there you have it – your roadmap to beautiful, effective, FEAR instilling reports that will give you more time for actual PPC. Happy reporting!