Optimizing Paid Search with Web Analytics

By Nathan Janitz, Program Supervisor

Every now and then we come across a paid search keyword that should be performing really well but never lives up to expectations. What is one to do? Optimize and test? OK, but what if after several bid adjustments, match types adjustments, about 200 creative changes and even more landing page swaps the keyword still isn’t performing? Cut it? Before we start dismissing potential top performing keywords, let’s remember that there is a lot of stuff that happens between the “click” and the “Thank You” page.

Try using Web Analytics to see how users are engaging with the site…or more specifically, try to figure out why they are leaving the site. While there are several reports one can pull, the two that I find most useful are the Conversion Funnel and the Bounce Rate Reports.

While it tends to be a very high level view, the Conversion Funnel Report (Goal Visualization in Google Analytics). The very basic report can show where potential customers are abandoning the site. By looking for problem areas (such as the second page in the funnel on the right) and testing new page ideas you can increase conversion for the entire site. Try testing a couple variations of a new page and let the consumer pick which page is the best. Pinpointing large problems areas and then test pages (usually one at a time) throughout the conversion funnel should not only help improve the performance of that pesky little keyword but also the site as a whole.

You know how many people clicked through an ad, but do you know how many of those visitors hit the back button? Bounce rate is simply the percentage of people that entered the site through a page and then left without visiting any other pages. This simple metric can give a great deal of insight into the thinking of a consumer. The higher the bounce rate, the more disconnect between the Keywords/Creative and the landing page. The lower the bounce rate, the more successful the landing page resonates with the searcher/visitor. Like I said, it’s a very simple and very telling KPI.

A few web analytics platforms (like Google Analytics) can even track Bounce Rate to the keyword! If you are lucky enough to be using one of those programs then review the bounce rate at the keyword level. Before cutting a keyword, figure out its bounce rate. Just because the creative and landing page might be working for the other 300 keywords within the ad group doesn’t mean it is working for that 1 or small group of keywords. Try moving it into its own ad group/campaign and testing out different landing pages and creative combinations. Look at both the conversion rate and the bounce rate to see if there is a correlation between the two (chances are there will be one). Monitor to see how your changes are affecting visitor interaction. You might just be able to save that dying keyword and resurrect it as one of the campaign’s top performers.


Unknown said...

Great insight on these engagment KPI's. I'd love to hear your thoughts on time-on-site (or engagnement time-on-site). :)

Nathan Janitz said...

I'm working on a post as we speak (type). It should be a good one.

Bryson said...

Nice work, Nate. I'm wondering why these optimizations are specific to paid search, however. It seems to me that the conversion funnel report can be used for any query-based medium, including SEO. Good post, anyway.

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