8 Google Analytics Reports for Paid Search Marketing

Peanut butter and chocolate. Simon and Garfunkel. Apache Junction and a competent dentist. Paid search and analytics.

All marriages made in heaven.

One of the most underutilized resources in a PPC professional’s tool box is a great analytics platform. Here I’ll provide three basic and five slightly advanced reporting techniques that you can use within Google Analytics to effectively monitor and improve your paid search campaigns.

The Basic Analytics Reports

1. Simple Search Status
There are two simple methods to see how your paid search program is performing at a high level within analytics.

First, apply the paid search advanced segments option located at the top right of the Dashboard. Deselect All Visits and check Paid Search Traffic.

Another way to show paid search performance by engine is by accessing your search engines report. This is located within Traffic Sources / Search Engines.

Simply click the ‘paid’ option underneath the line graph to see performance for your paid search campaigns.

What This Report Tells You
This report is especially useful when comparing visits, time on site, revenue, transactions/leads and bounce rate between the major engines. Conversion rate and per visit value are also important metrics.

2. Branded vs. Non-Branded
Many paid search marketers bid for their own brand name. While many feel this may be a cannibalistic approach to driving traffic from your own brand name, it can certainly work in many cases. However, there are many good reasons to do so. I recommend testing to determine the ROI of brand keyword bidding vs. avoiding this method completely.

If you do choose to bid on your own brand or company name, here’s a simple way to track performance:

Go to Traffic Sources / Keywords
Choose to show ‘paid’ as in the example above.
Near the bottom of the keyword list within this report, you will see the following:

Filter your list by entering your brand name and hit ‘Go’. Here you will see a new report containing stats for keyword phrases that include your brand.

Now run a separate report excluding your brand name. Hit ‘Go’, and compare the data from the previous report.

What This Report Tells You
Know how much of an impact your brand name has on your paid search campaigns. You may also find unique keyword variations such as ‘your brand name product’ or ‘your brand name service’ that will help determine how popular different facets of your business are among the searching populace.

When trying to determine whether or not to bid on brand terms, again my suggestion is to test. Use flights carefully (e.g. one week on and one week off) and rely on percentages as opposed to aggregates. Run the same brand keyword filtering reports, but remember to show paid vs. non-paid performance for the appropriate date ranges.

3. Campaign Tracking
Campaign tracking is very helpful but requires consistent campaign naming convention within Google and Bing. You must also tag your URLs appropriately to include the correct tracking code.

I typically use one of two methods for appending a destination URL with the correct tracking code.

Method A: Google’s URL Builder

Method B: An Excel Formula
See columns A through G below. You can populate your sheet with as many rows of data as you like. Please note that the highlighted row should contain your own data.

In column G, paste the following formula on each row. The example below will work for Row 2 in your Excel document (hence the references to A2, B2, C2, etc), but just paste the formula in each corresponding row and you should be fine.

Hint: Use Paste Special / Paste Formula. Then replace all open spaces with a “+”.


Once you have tracking code placed and all Campaign names are consistent across engines, you can build out campaign data in analytics. To view individual campaign performance, simply to go Traffic Sources / Campaigns. Here you’ll find an aggregated list of campaigns for a selected date range.

What This Report Tells You
Simply put, know which campaigns are performing and which need improvement. Adjust bids, daily budgets, ads and keywords to modify visit tallies. Focus on your landing page and site experience to improve conversion rate and transaction efficiency.

Advanced PPC Reporting Techniques

4. Engine Advanced Filters
The report referenced in #1 above provides specific information for each engine’s performance. However, there is much more that can be gleaned from the Google Analytics platform. To find additional information about those visitors coming from specific engines, you can create advanced segments.

In the upper right-hand corner of the interface, click on ‘Advanced Segments’ and select the link that reads, ‘Create a new advanced segment’. This will bring you to a screen where you can drag and drop certain measurement attributes. Here’s what the advanced segment for Google CPC traffic looks like. I’ve called this one ‘AdWords’.

And since Bing powers itself and Yahoo, you can create another for adCenter.

What This Report Tells You
Once each segment is created and selected individually, you can begin to explore other areas that will give you a better indication of quality of visits from AdWords and adCenter. For instance, review visitor loyalty and trending within the Visitors section. Check out most trafficked pages, navigation summaries and exit rates in Content. Finally, review Goals and Ecommerce statistics to determine just how well AdWords and adCenter are performing with respect to individual goal conversion and/or specific product sales.

5. Hour of the Day Custom Report
In addition to advanced segments, custom reports are also helpful for extracting relevant and useful data. Half way down the page on the left hand side of the Google Analytics interface, you can find a link to create, edit, remove and view your custom reports. Here is one to analyze performance by hour of the day.

Once this report is created, you can apply either your Paid Search Traffic, AdWords or adCenter advanced segments to view how well your campaigns are performing throughout the day. Export the data to a CSV file to sort and manipulate it to your liking.

What This Report Tells You
Utilize the Hour of the Day custom report to discover whether you should institute a dayparting strategy within your campaigns. For example, if your spend and clicks are high in the morning, but you see most of your sales in the evening hours, adjust your campaigns to ensure that you maximize effort later in the day. This custom report can be adjusted or replicated to view performance for day of the week, month, cities, regions (or states), page depth and so on.

6. Landing Page Performance
To further review performance of your landing pages across a number of individual metrics, you can create yet another advanced segment for your landing pages. Here’s an example of a Landing Page segment for any page that includes ‘landing’ in the page name:

You can modify this segment to include all or campaign-specific landing pages from paid search or other media campaigns.

What This Report Tells You
Once again, apply this segment when jumping into the Visitors, Goals and Ecommerce sections to gain a better understanding of visitor behavior with landing pages and ROI. Within the Visitors tab, Map Overlay, New vs. Returning and Visitor Loyalty reports typically provide some actionable data. You can also check out traffic sources to find out if people are finding your landing page in other ways like via natural search.

7. Underperforming Keywords – Eliminate the Negative
One of the best ways to improve PPC metrics and return on investment is to cut the fat. Find out what keywords are dogs with respect to their ability to drive leads and/or product sales. You can identify lackluster terms within the keyword report

Go to Traffic Sources / Keywords.
Choose to show ‘paid’ as you did in #1 and #2 above, and click on the Ecommerce tab within the keyword report.

At the bottom of the report, click on Advanced Filter and create the following:

When applied, this sample filter will only show keywords for your chosen date range that registered more than 50 visits and produced less than $1. You can obviously change this filter to whatever you see fit.

What This Report Tells You
While you can quickly determine which terms may be holding your PPC campaign back, you should choose your next step carefully. Sure, you could pause the keyword and stop the bleeding, but the lack of performance might not be the keyword’s fault. Check ad copy and landing page content to verify that the visitor is getting what she expects to receive and that your message is consistent throughout.

8. Natural Opportunities – Accentuate the Positive
Finally, you can improve the reach of your PPC campaign by looking over a report that has nothing to do with paid search traffic. Find out what terms your visitors are using in natural search and internal site search to uncover potential additions to your paid search keyword list. Here’s how to do it:

A. Natural Keywords: Go back to the keywords report (Traffic Sources / Keywords) and select the non-paid option underneath the line graph. Use your filter options to find terms specific to a product category, service set or your brand name. You can also filter those terms that produced a transaction or goal completion to find potential winners.

B. Site Search: If enabled, internal site search provides some amazing insight to the motivations and intentions of your audience. Check out Content / Site Search / Search Terms. This report may not only shed some light on potential keywords, but it may also provide impetus to create some new campaigns.

What This Report Tells You
In this instance you are looking for long-tail terms that may not bring sweeping changes from a traffic standpoint but might just impact revenue or lead tallies. This is also a great way to find keywords with typos. With paid search, the best way to make positive changes over time is to focus on micro-improvements. Every little bit helps.

What other reports within Google Analytics to you use to measure and improve success for your paid search campaigns?

6 thoughts on “8 Google Analytics Reports for Paid Search Marketing

  1. Thanks for this – I’ve been trying to communicate this to a client, and once again you’ve succinctly crystallized my thoughts into timeless prose.

    And if it gets them to let me expand their keyword list, even better. 😀

  2. Any chance I could get a copy of an excel document with the formula for calculating campaigns (i.e. url builder)? I’ve tried pasting the code in a number of times, but keep getting errors (#Name).

    I’m hoping I can use this with Google Docs so I can setup campaigns for different groups to use but still retain control over some of the elements.

    In advance, thanks!

  3. Hi Trevor. Thanks for asking. I just sent you an email with the sample Excel spreadsheet. Just let me know if it gives you any trouble.

  4. Chris, awesome article. Google Analytics is an INCREDIBLY valuable resource in reporting Paid Search, but unfortunately, due to the incredibly manual nature of the beast, it’s typically fairly underutilized. Your article definitely helps “lift the veil” on what metrics provide the most insight -and more importantly, how to mine them out of GA. Given this amount of detail, I can definitely tell you have a sharp focus on results -which many digital marketing consultants lack.

Comments are closed.