How to read your PPC reports: The basics

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Luke Fisher of DBD Media.

This is the first in a series of articles from DBD Media on how to interpret the PPC data from your search marketing agency and how to analyse this performance within a wider digital context.

A typical report from your agency will include the following metrics:

Impressions: The total number of views your ad received within the search results page.

Clicks: The total number of clicks your ad generates, directing users to your desired landing page.

Impression Share: The percentage of impressions that you received divided by the estimated number of impressions that you were eligible to receive.

CTR: Click-Through-Rate is the ratio of users that click on your ad compared to those who see it.

CPC: Cost-per-Click is the average cost for each click on your ad.

Average position: Describes how your ad typically ranks against other ads and where they appear on the page. An average position of 1-8 is generally on the first page of search results.

CPA: Cost-per-Acquisition is the average cost for each conversion (e.g. sign-up, download, purchase, etc.) on your site.

Conversion Rate: The ratio of users that convert on your site, compared to the total clicks.

You should be able to compare these metrics with the same data from the previous month or week, and once you have built up some history, should be able to see some trends emerging. Your agency will be analysing this and providing insightful recommendations based on the data available.

Material shifts in PPC results month to month can initially be alarming, however it’s important to step back and see the bigger picture. To understand your results, consider them in context of your website, seasonality and your wider marketing performance. How do the numbers stack up against the same period last year? Was there anything different last year or last month that may have affected search volume? How aggressive have your competitors been, and have there been any new entrants in terms of the competition for your keywords? Also, if organic and direct traffic are down month on month, this may also be reflected in your PPC activity.

When faced with a big drop, or even a big increase in conversions or clicks, it’s essential to keep the nature of PPC in mind. Even the best PPC campaign in the world can only influence users who have a pre-qualified interest in your keywords, however broad that list of keywords is. Have you recently started or stopped any above the line activity that was driving users to search for your service? Alternatively, have you decreased spend on a channel which might have had a knock-on effect?

Just as you plan your strategy holistically, communicating your marketing plans for every channel with your agency is essential for effective PPC budget management. If there is likely to be a surge in demand driven by other marketing activity (e.g. sales/promotions), it’s essential that your agency knows in advance, so that budget is available to support incremental traffic and to aggressively target these interested users.

Luke Fisher is a PPC account manager at DBD Media for clients such as Maybourne Hotel Group, Brunel University and VSO.

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