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The Best of Google Analytics for SEMs

Published: October 26, 2012

Author: Molly Shotwell

Today’s post is by Account Manager Lisa Becker, whom you may recognize from her 15 minutes (ahem, 15 seconds) of Google Engage for Agencies fame. Or not, in which case you might recognize her as the girl painstakingly checking her watch and tapping her foot patiently waiting in line at Dunkin’ Donuts in downtown Chicago.
love google analyticsIf you’re like most SEMs I know, you probably have an array of paid search interfaces open at every waking hour, and you check them borderline obsessively throughout the day. Furthermore, if you’re like many PPC Account Managers, you swear by the sheer volume of useful data and insights gleaned from the almighty AdWords Dimensions tab.  (Ron – you’ve taught me well!)  Equipped with 12 active windows of Excel data, an extra-large pumpkin coffee from Dunkin Donuts and the support of your fellow SEMs, you should have everything you need to optimize an account, right?  Wrong.
AdWords can no doubt provide more spreadsheets than you could analyze in a lifetime, I’ll give you that, but if you’re not using Google Analytics, you’re missing out. And when I say missing out, I don’t just mean in the sense that Google Analytics has an unbelievable number of bells and whistles that can amount to hours upon hours of entertainment (which of course it does). I’m referring to the wealth of additional metrics and data views that, when used in conjunction with AdWords data, can provide really meaningful insights into the characteristics and purchasing behavior of your client’s potential new customers and, in turn, how to improve your SEM efforts to effectively reach them.
Allow me to be your Google Analytics tour guide and give you a quick rundown of the best Google Analytics tools out there for SEMs. Perhaps the very best part is that you can start using all of these tools immediately with no prior GA experience or webmaster knowledge necessary.
All right, SEMs, with no further ado, let’s get this party started.
1. Best Tools for the Hopelessly Impatient – Same Day SQRs & Real-Time Site Traffic
If you’ve ever launched a new campaign where no prior SQR data existed or you’ve ever stayed up until 11:59 to see if your client is going to have a record conversion day, you’ll appreciate these.
Search Query Reports (SQRs) are the basis of everything we do in SEM (or should be), so the fact that Google search query data tends to have a 1-2 day lag is incredibly unnerving. Well, guess what? If you were using Google Analytics, you’d be able to see the search queries that triggered your ads on the same day, hence giving you a 1- to 2-day head start in keyword sculpting. This data is readily available under Standard Reporting (top navigation) -> Advertising (side navigation) -> AdWords -> Matching Search Queries.
Bonus: You can choose Keyword as a secondary dimension, which will actually show you which keyword each search query matched. No joke, folks. You will be able to find this absolutely nowhere in AdWords, so you can +1 Google Analytics for that. (See my colleague’s insightful SearchEngineLand blog on Match Types for more on the advertiser’s dilemma of mapping keywords to queries). While you’re at it, click the ‘Add to Dashboard’ and ‘Shortcut’ buttons at the top of the screen.
search query to keyword mapping
Now, if you’ve already looked at same-day search query data and you want even more up-to-the-minute information, check out your site traffic in real time by going to Home (top navigation) -> Real-Time (side navigation) -> Traffic Sources.  This will show you all of the visitors who are on your site at any given moment; they’ll be segmented by traffic source. To narrow the scope to Paid Search only, click on Paid Search and navigate back to Overview to see top keywords, geos, and active pages.
It might be a stretch, but given past keyword data and number of active paid search visitors on site, you could work backward into an estimate for conversions given a particular campaign or keyword conversion rate.
traffic sources google analytics
2. Mobile Insights to Optimize Campaigns
Mobile web browsing continues to increase in both volume and value to advertisers on a month-to-month and even day-to-day basis. While some industries (e.g. retail) are going to find catering to mobile especially important to their business, even B2Bs and non-ecommerce sites can no longer ignore proliferate mobile traffic.
To see how much of your site traffic is coming from mobile devices, go to Standard Reporting (top navigation) -> Audiences (side navigation) -> Mobile -> Overview. If you want to break it down even further to SEM, click the ‘Advanced Segments’ button at the top of the page and select ‘Paid Search Traffic’.
You can also define a custom segment to view only traffic for an individual campaign or ad group. To drill down further still, select Devices on the side navigation bar to see a breakdown by Device. From this page, you can drill down to several primary dimensions (mobile device, service provider, mobile input – e.g. touchscreen, click wheel, amongst others) and any other secondary dimension that may be useful to you.  You can also isolate traffic that drove conversions by selecting a goal set from the site usage bar as I’ve done in this account.
google analytics devices
As you can see from the screenshot above, conversion rate for the Sony device is exponentially higher than for all of the other devices combined. Granted, this may be a statistical anomaly given a limited data set, but if the client continues to see elevated conversion rates for this device over time, it may be optimal to target it in its own campaign and increase volume and max CPCs. Depending on the significance of an account or individual campaign’s mobile traffic, you may want to view this report often. If so, click on ‘Shortcuts’ and ‘Add to Dashboard’ here too.
3. Remarketing Made Easy with Funnel Visualization
GA funnel visualizationWith the revolution of Google’s new universal remarketing pixel, the traditional challenge of setting up remarketing campaigns just got that much easier for advertisers everywhere.
That said, placing the remarketing pixel is really only the beginning of the battle; the real remarketing challenge lies in defining lists that will serve a significant volume of traffic – and beyond that, defining logical sub-sets of visitors that show similar purchase intent to remarket to separately.
So what is the best way to do that?  Should you rely solely upon your intuition or your client’s intuition? Google Analytics Funnel Visualization means you don’t have to; you have concrete data to back your list creation.
To access this useful tool, go to Standard Reporting (top navigation) -> Conversions (side navigation) -> Goals -> Funnel Visualization. In this graphic, it is clear to see that once a visitor makes the decision to start the conversion process, the greatest opportunity lies in remarketing to visitors at step 1 where more than half of visitors do not proceed to step 2. It’s worth noting that it is also worthwhile to build out a separate remarketing list for visitors who do not proceed to step 1, i.e. top of funnel visitors, though the intent and corresponding conversion rates are likely to be much lower the higher up the funnel you go.
4. The Missing Piece of the Multi-Channel Attribution Puzzle
In working with one recent client, I’ve found it difficult to match the data reported in AdWords and AdCenter to the data being collected in the client’s back-end database. The client’s reported conversions were consistently outnumbering ours, and we had to look closely at attribution models to understand why.  If you have a similar mismatched reporting dilemma, or if any of your clients use a wide variety of different digital media and you want to better understand how they work together to foster conversions, utilizing Google Analytics’ multi-channel funnel data can shed some much-needed light on what’s really going on behind the scenes.
As you’ll see from the below Venn diagram, assisted conversions accounted for roughly half of this client’s total conversions. Just look at the wide areas of overlap between organic and direct channels, paid search and organic search, direct traffic and email, or even the centermost intersection of all 4 media. This can be invaluable data in evaluating how different media impact the client’s bottom line, particularly if any one media channel plays a strong assisting role but does not necessarily have high conversions attributed to it.
multi-channel visual
5. Your Accounts at a Glance – Completely Customizable Dashboards
If you’ve gotten this far and you’re still reading, congratulations! This is by far the most valuable gift that Google Analytics has to offer to SEMs. Find me an SEM who hasn’t ever been in an information time crunch, frantically flipping from tab to tab trying to piece together the data needed for a report, a desired stat on a client call, or info for daily account checks.
Google Analytics Dashboards are, in this author’s opinion, the absolute quickest way to store all of the information that you may need at a moment’s notice in one convenient place. Now, before you point out that some other paid search platforms and even AdWords itself (in a very limited capacity) provide some charts/graphs, I’ll have you know that Google Analytics dashboards are different in that they are completely customizable.
GA dashboards are comprised of up to 12 widgets, each of which is fully customizable in terms of dimensions, metrics, and filters to include only the data set you want to see. You can also choose to see each widget visualized as a metric, pie graph, timeline graph, or table, whichever you prefer for a given data set. These widgets can be added throughout the GA interface simply by clicking the ‘Add to Dashboard’ button when you come across data that is useful to you. Alternately, widgets can be added and configured manually from the Custom Dashboards screen for the utmost in customization – although I have to warn you this may take a little more time/familiarity with GA.
The below dashboard is a sample that I might use to check my Beta campaign for a particular client at a glance. At a glance, I can do a super-quick check of the day’s visitors, mobile data, CTR, CPC, geo, hour of day, top keywords, and matching search queries, all on one screen. These widgets are also linked to reports in the Google Analytics interface that I can click through to if I need more in-depth information.  Again, these are all customizable, so if this particular layout doesn’t cut it for you, customize your dashboard to see whatever metrics are important to you or to a particular client.
customized dashboards
In addition, I can share this dashboard with my colleagues or the client by email or by exporting to PDF if I choose, and I also have the ability to automate dashboard reports. If I click the ‘Email’ button and specify time intervals, it will pull this dashboard data automatically and deliver it to my inbox every day, every week, or every month just in case I don’t want to login to Google Analytics to see it. No matter who you are or what tools you’re using, you have to admit that’s pretty cool.
As with AdWords, the trick of Analytics is segmenting the mountains of data provided in meaningful ways – and of course practice, practice, practice. While I acknowledge that these useful tools are just the tip of the GA iceberg, I hope they will help get you started on your quest for Google Analytics knowledge relatively quickly and painlessly. I encourage you to jump on the Google Analytics bandwagon (peer pressure!) as soon as possible and begin reaping the benefits for your clients as well as your account team. Let the Analytics love affair begin!
Lisa Becker, Account Manager

25 E Washington Street
Suite 420

Chicago, IL 60602

(650) 539-4124

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