The great thing about PPC is that it is easy to track and measure. When you link your PPC account with Google Analytics or other data program, you can exponentially expand your wealth of data to really understand who your user is and how they are finding you. All of this is great, but the data doesn’t do any good unless you use it.  Don’t wait until your account is in trouble, looking into data now can help you stay on top of small changes in your account and identify opportunities for expansion.

Compare performance history at the keyword level: Your account performance may not be poor but it is also not off the charts, or maybe your account is doing really well but you want it to do even better. No matter where your account is at, periodically dig into your keywords to look for patterns and changes at a granular level. Compare your top performing keywords this month to last month and even compare to the same time last year. Month-to-month comparisons can help you indentify little shifts in the industry as well as in your user and their behavior.  I was recently digging into a client’s data and although the account was performing at a similar level as the past few months, when I looked at the keywords I found that the top performing keyword had dropped in impressions by 50%. When I compared the position and keyword bid month-over-month, everything had remained the same. After additional research using Google Insights and other tools, I found that search patterns had shifted in the last few months, and I needed to change my approach to gain back the traffic I had lost. On the surface it looked like the account was performing as usual, but really other keywords had just been making up for the traffic my top performing keyword had lost. If I could get that traffic back, I would then see growth in the account.

Review year-over-year account data: You have access to a lot of data but to get the big picture, pull out your key metrics by month and get it all on one page. Do this for the past two years and look for trends; you might be surprised what you find. For instance, if you plot the clicks, impressions, click-through rate, conversions and conversion rate for Google search vs. content network over the last two years, you may see that the content network has become a larger player in your account. If that is the case, you may want shift your optimization focus to either bring search back up or push the content network further. You also may see that every July your traffic tends to take a sharp drop, so you can help set the client’s expectations now that it is likely to happen again. Start thinking about how you might counter the dip as well as maybe increase traffic for June to help make up for it ahead of time.

Predict and Plan: Use the yearly comparison or month-to-month data to predict what is going to happen over the next couple of months, and adjust your campaigns in advance. Develop a calendar of events, promotions or offers you can promote for the months where traffic tends to decrease so you are planning ahead to try and minimize the natural decrease. If your brand isn’t one that relies on offers, look for other ways you can supplement a decrease in one search engine – maybe boost spend in another or consider adding a third tier search engine to help pick up some additional traffic. The key is to use the data to develop a plan.

Break down data into plain English: As a search marketer you know what every number represents and the lingo that goes with it, but as you report data to clients and other partners, make sure you are translating it into plain English. For instance, instead of just listing all of your campaigns next to their conversion rates and handing it over, cluster campaigns together and add descriptive category headers like “High Performers”, “Slow & Steady” and “Growers” to help tell a story about the campaigns.  Think of the mindset of your users and what they might be like. Use the data along with any other consumer insights you have to paint a picture – literally. Visuals can help bring your numbers to life and make them easier to remember. Place an image of the Midwest if your “High Performers” are mostly from the Midwest or a photo of a middle-aged woman if you know the Slow & Steady, reliable campaigns are made up of mostly women searching at work.

Provide monthly recaps: Don’t keep your clients and team wondering how things are going. Take the time to pull together monthly stats and compare them to previous months, as well as year-over-year if applicable. Make sure you not only provide the data in an interesting way, but also formulate a summary to call out any trends or changes in performance. Use your monthly report to set expectations for the coming month as well as indentify areas for expansion and improvement.