3 Charts for a Potent PPC Dashboard

Whatever tool(s) you use to manage your PPC campaigns – search engine interfaces, desktop clients, campaign management software, or some combination – you get a lot of analysis and reporting power.  However, virtually all of these tools still come up short in terms of providing concise yet insightful overviews of PPC activity that can be presented to stakeholders on a periodic basis and quickly comprehended.

So you inevitably end up exporting data to Excel for manipulation. But then what?

Here’s an approach relies on 3 easy to interpret charts that cover all the essentials: overall volume metrics, cost efficiency metrics, and operational efficiency metrics.  While these charts may not answer all the questions we need answered, they provide a comprehensive summary of campaign activity that can be used to quickly:  a) get a sense of what is working (or not) and b) figure out where the next level of analysis needs to go. (The example below is for a lead generation site, but you could easily add revenue/ROI metrics for an ecommerce site.)

1. Cost & Volume

First thing everybody wants to know is: how much money are we spending? Second thing is: what are we getting for the money?  This chart answers those questions in a straightforward fashion, using 2 vertical axes as necessary.

ppc dashboard chart - cost and volume

Pretty obvious what is going on here (the point is to make it obvious): spend is up dramatically in Dec and clicks are increasing even faster.  In this case, a result of broader use of the content network. Cost has been close to budget – may be within tolerance or may require further explanation. Conversions also increased strongly, although we have to use some caution in comparing the rate of change, as conversions are on a different axis.  Still, positive movement all around (hence the green number disc), so let’s move on to the next chart.

2. Cost Efficiency

ppc dashboard chart - cost efficiency

Here we move from the ‘how much bang?’ to ‘how much bang for our buck?’  Cost per click has come down due to our careful bid management and, more importantly, cost per conversion is trending downward as well.  However, there is still work to be done, as we can see the cost per conversion is above target (even though the target increased slightly for the Christmas season).  Let’s keep that in mind as we move on to the next chart. (The number disc is yellow – reminding us that we need to watch this one.)

3. Operational Efficiency

ppc dashboard chart - operational efficiency

Now we take a look under the hood to see how the engine is running (to switch metaphors in mid-stream). Our click rate was already disturbingly low (not good for quality score) but we are somewhat okay with that as we are aggressively qualifying visitors for this campaign.  Not surprisingly, with more content network we are seeing even lower click through rate in December than November.  More distressing: slide in conversion rate.  Previously hovering around our target, it has now dipped way below.  So our engine is in need of a tune-up – and the number disc is marked in red to focus our attention.  All things being equal, if we can get the conversion rate up, our cost per conversion will decrease, fixing the problem highlighted on chart 2.

Next Steps

With this clear overview of the status of our PPC campaigns, we can identify the next steps to take in order to figure out how to improve performance.  These are likely to include:

  • Looking at the traffic sources to see if we need to pull back advertising spend and/or lower bids on search engines that are not performing.  Maybe the content network is not giving us the quality we need at a cost we are willing to pay? Maybe we can improve this by weeding out high traffic/low conversion placements.
  • Drilling down into the campaigns to zero in on the campaigns/ad groups/keywords that are contributing most to the lower conversion rate.  Does messaging need to be adjusted?  Do we need to refine keyword match types?
  • Following through to landing pages and looking at bounce rates to see if there the messaging is appropriately aligned and conversion path unobstructed.

The main thing is, we have a solid foundation on which to proceed and a consistent framework that we can use for assessing next month’s results.

Numbers are Not Enough

The numbers are critical, but they rarely tell the story by themselves.  It’s important to include analysis along with the charts.  One of the reasons for number the charts is so that comments can be associated directly with a chart.  It’s best when these comments are maintained on the dashboard over time for continuity.