PPC Reports: We Can Do Better

Creating PPC reports is a big part of every PPC professional’s job. Whether you work in-house or at an agency, it’s almost always necessary to report on campaign performance.

When I started doing PPC in 2002, reporting usually involved downloading raw data into Excel and trying to make sense of it. Today, there are countless tools available to help create PPC reports. Some are paid, like Optmyzr, Swydo, and reporting tools within bid management platforms like Acquisio. Others are free – Google Analytics, Google Data Studio, and the reports section of Adwords, to name a few. Most reporting tools include a WYSIWYG editor that helps you easily create graphs and visualizations.

I’ve been writing about PPC reports since 2011. And yet, in 2017, I still regularly see reports like this:

If I needed to quickly answer the question “how are my campaigns doing?”, I couldn’t do that with this report.

Folks, we can do better.

A good PPC report should tell a story, It should immediately make its key points clear, with visuals. Use graphs and color coding to help tell the story:

Contrast this image to the previous one. At a glance, I can tell that we are below our target for responses, and that our CTR and budget are below target as well. From that, I can infer that we are below target on responses because we have not spent what we thought we would. As an agency, this isn’t a great thing to report to a client, but it’s immediately clear what is happening and what needs to be done about it.

Visuals like this make it easy to focus on insights and recommendations: why are we underspent? What are we going to do to fix the issue? That’s the info that clients are looking for from a report – not a dump of numbers without context.

If you’re creating reports consisting of numbers in Excel, it’s time to rethink your reporting. Even adding a simple Excel graph showing KPI performance over time can make a difference in how easy the data is to digest. Resist the urge to throw data into the report just because it exists. Every element of the report should have a purpose and should illustrate how the campaigns performed against goals and objectives. For example, is performance by device really necessary? If you’re not going to do anything different in the campaign as a result of the data, don’t include it.

And if your campaigns don’t have clearly defined goals and objectives, stop everything and read this post.

Creating good visuals in a report doesn’t require fancy BI tools. The health check in the example above is a simple Excel chart with added circles created in PowerPoint. Mountain graphs aren’t necessary either – you could use two lines and achieve the same objective.

The point is, we can do better. PPC reports shouldn’t require a math degree to decipher. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

What are your favorite PPC reporting tactics? Share in the comments!

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