6 Key AdWords Reports to Use for Your Small Business

Advertising your small business in Google AdWords is easy to get started. But spending your budget efficiently to connect with the most likely potential customers? That’s an entirely different matter, and it means understanding the available AdWords reports.

Advertising your small business in Google AdWords is easy to get started. But spending your budget efficiently to connect with the most likely potential customers? That’s an entirely different matter, and it means understanding the available AdWords reports.

What are reports, and why are they so helpful? As you advertise with AdWords, data generated by your campaigns, ad groups and ads is collected and saved — and we’re talking huge amounts of data, ranging from which keyword phrases trigger your ads to which devices your visitors are using. This continually growing mountain of data is way too immense to be useful as a whole. You need a way to use this data and identify important trends or cautionary red flags.

That’s where AdWords reports come in. Determining which reports are most worthwhile can seem overwhelming. Read on for six key AdWords reports that you should start using for your small business.

Report 1: Campaign Performance Report

Before you start digging into specific sets of data, it’s good to step back and take a broad-level view of your campaigns. Do this by running a Campaign Performance report, which includes all the default stats you’ll normally find at the campaign level in AdWords. These stats include clicks, click-through rate (CTR), average ad positions, conversions, conversion rates, cost per conversion and conversion value. Pay especially close attention to campaigns with low costs per conversion — find out what makes them successful and apply that knowledge to new and existing campaigns.

Also, you can customize the date ranges of Campaign Performance reports going back weeks, months or years. You’ll cover the most ground with Campaign Performance reports that cover more recent timeframes, but occasional reports across larger timeframes could open your eyes to important trends you otherwise might have missed.

Report 2: Search Terms Report

Want to know how people are finding your ads? You should, and that’s why the Search terms report is helpful. This report reveals the actual search queries people type (or speak) into Google that cause your ads to appear.

Adding relevant, high-performing search terms to your keyword lists usually results in more traffic at lower CPCs. Conversely, adding irrelevant search terms to your negative keyword lists will boost CTRs, reduce CPCs and likely lower your costs per conversion.

Report 3: Placement Report

The Placement Report reveals how your ads perform across Google’s massive Display Network, which is generally a good source of less-expensive, high-volume traffic. However, people who click ads on the Display Network often aren’t as buyer-oriented as those who shop on the Search Network. As a result, Display Network traffic often doesn’t convert as well as Search Network traffic. Also, performance can vary greatly between Display Network websites. The Placement Report provides data from specific Display Network websites so you don’t have to guess which ones are worthwhile. Use managed placements to target your ads toward top-performing Display Network websites, then reduce your bids for low-performing websites or block them from showing your ads.

When reviewing this report, just remember that Display Network trends usually don’t mirror Search Network trends. With that in mind, you’re better off focusing on conversion data rather than superficial metrics such as costs per click and CTR.

Report 4: Audience Demographics Report

Who is clicking your online ads, and which of those visitors are most likely to become paying customers? To start answering this question, check your audience demographics report data. Do this under the Display Network tab for Display ads or the Audiences tab for Search Network ads. This report breaks down your Search Network traffic by gender and age range. You can also see the parental status of Display traffic and household income for Video traffic.

If certain demographics outperform others, then you can target your campaigns specifically toward those audiences. You can also lower your bids for under-performing audiences.

Are You Buying ‘Smart Media?’

Media buying, or online advertising, is more than just a Web strategy to help grow your business. It’s both a science and an art. It involves a bit of finesse, competitive research, creativity and good negotiation skills.

Media buying, or online advertising, is more than just a Web strategy to help grow your business. It’s both a science and an art. It involves a bit of finesse, competitive research, creativity and good negotiation skills.

Sadly, with most online advertising experiences, the lagging partner is typically the business owner by no real fault of his or her own … it’s simply from sheer lack of industry knowledge and media savoir-faire.

I’ve been buying online ad space for more than a decade. Here are my personal powerful and money saving tips to buying smart media. These are “must ask” questions that will help you get the most bang for your buck:

1. Competitive analysis—Find out what the typical industry rate is for that particular ad spot and placement in your niche. For instance, if you’re interested in running a 300×250 banner ad, do some research. Call some ad networks and find out what that ad unit costs on the home page and ‘”run of site” within your target niche. What ad units typically get the best clickthrough rates (also known as CTR)? Read some online e-zines or blogs and get an idea on average metrics so you have a benchmark to measure your campaign against.

2. Ad targeting—Find out if the publisher allows day parting (running ad during specific time periods). This can save you money on ad rates, especially using the CPM (cost per thousand) pricing model.

3. Dedicated email—Find out the size of the list you’re thinking of renting, the frequency the list goes out, and the average unit sale (AUS) per subscriber. Ask the publisher who’s mailing for you if there will there be a lift note (an introduction or implied endorsement). Lift notes help “warm up” the list (subscribers) and boost conversions.

4. Out clause—Ask your account executive if the media agreement has an out clause or termination right. This is important as if your campaign is not working, you don’t want to have to ride it out and waste money. You want the ability to end it and cut your losses. Also find out if you can pause your ad during a slow traffic times (i.e. summer, holidays) as not to waste impressions (CPM).

5. Reporting—Ask your account executive if you will be given daily/weekly reporting OR access to the online ad serving system. This will allow you real-time access to clickthrough rates and more to evaluate if creative (banner and landing page) is striking a chord with the target audience.

6. Seasonality—Each industry and niche has its highs and lows. But, generally speaking, it’s typical to see drops in website traffic during summer (June to Aug.) and around certain U.S. holidays. Research your industry and use consumer purchase behavior to your advantage. For instance, in some industries, the days around Thanksgiving are slower than usual. If you’re running a campaign that falls on this timeframe, ask about getting lower rates or pausing your ad during the slowdown. DoubleClick and ClickZ are great sources of information and often release quarterly consumer Web reports on buying patterns and traffic.

7. Exclusivity—Similar to economies of scale (where the more that’s produced, the cheaper the unit price), if your banner ad is sharing space with other advertisers for less “solo” time, you should be paying less. It’s important to ask whether your ad will get 100 percent of the rotations or sharing ad exposure. And if sharing, find out what percentage of exposure you are ultimately getting during your ad run. This is known as being “fixed ad placement” or “shared ad placement.” If you’re told you have shared placement, this is a great bartering tool to get a more competitive rate.

8. Site targeting—You’ve heard in real estate it’s always about location, location, location, right? Well, online real estate is no different. Find out if your ad will be run of site (ROS), run of channel (ROC) or on specific high-traffic pages. Typically, the further you drill down, the more you pay. It’s known as “site targeting.” Similarly, the higher you go up, the less you pay. ROS is the highest (most broad) level, so it’s usually the cheapest ad location. Next is usually ROC, whose ads appear on certain channels or sections of a website. Then there are also specific pages or demographic targeting. Your goals and budget will determine which placement is best for your needs.

9. Remnant space—Often the forgotten about query, remember to ask if remnant space is available. Remnant ads are those ad units that the publisher or ad network is having a difficult time selling for whatever reason. They can also be last-minute specials or units that are now available due to another deal falling through. With more popular, high-traffic websites, you can save a fortune buying remnant media. Just pay close attention to the terms and conditions in the insertion order, as with most special deals, there are usually restrictions and little leeway.

All of these factors will help determine the value of your ad space and, ultimately, the cost you’re willing to pay to access that audience. Good luck!