Getting False Data? How Google Analytics Reports Adwords Data

I found this recent marketing campaign launched by National Car Rental pretty humorous because I completely relate.

“You are a business pro… Monarch of marketing analysis… With the ability to improve ROI through SEO, all by COB.

I tell my friends sitting around me “That’s what I do!” They of course yawn and continue chatting amongst themselves. But digital marketers can relate, and as mixed up as that quote sounds, it’s very true. Instead of marketing analysis through SEO like the business pro in that commercial, I am going to talk about analyzing paid search, but without renting a car.

Paid search marketing is still a small percentage of traffic and sales to an eCommerce store yet still very relevant. The most interesting aspect of online marketing and eCommerce in my opinion is Analytics. Search Marketers spend an enormous amount of time dissecting Analytics and Webmaster data to use to their advantage when plotting their next scheme… excuse me, “marketing initiatives”. The problem is, Analytics can sometimes be a roller coaster of emotions to figure out what is going on. The data can sometimes seem confusing to interpret, yet we often dismiss how Analytics work.

Here is a particular real life example of what I am talking about:

The Confusion

Below is a campaign I ran for just under a week. I put a hold on the campaign, and I waited for another week.

As you can see, by July 31, I had put a stop to the campaigns, yet the visits kept coming in resulting in more visits vs clicks by the end. Than all of a sudden, the conversions.

On August 2, and August 4, I recorded two transactions with zero dollars spent on the day. Where were these visits coming from?

Then I noticed these conversion paths in my Multi-Channel Funnel.

These were the only two Conversions in that time frame that began with a Paid Search leading up to the same conversions I recorded in Adwords Analytics.

Well the conclusion is simple, those visits generated by those ads led to a sale.

So, how does it work?

Visits vs. Clicks

Remember, this is for paid search only, more specifically for Google Adwords, so in Google Analytics under Advertising->Adwords->Campaigns, these metrics are recorded for your Advertising Campaign results:

These metrics are for campaign results I personally have been running since August 1, 2012 that are different from the example above. Google applies a “Cookie” to the visit the first time a searcher hits your ad and visits your site. That visit/click will be recorded as 1 (visit) – 1 (click). What you need to know is that the Cookie is now valid for 6 months, therefore for people coming back to your site organically, directly or through a referral are recorded as a Visit, hence, your initial Paid marketing is bringing traffic back to the site for another chance of conversion. This is when you need to look at your multi-channel funnel conversion paths.

Multi – Funnel Sales

In your Analytics, check out your Conversions->Multi-Channel Funnel->Top Conversion Paths:

These paths all represent conversions, in particular sales. It is very important to note, that paths that end with an Organic Search and Direct are recorded in your Adwords reporting as a sale, because that visit was generated into a conversion down the path.

It goes to show that investing marketing budget into PPC is worth a lot more than instant conversions. This does what grass roots marketing tactics such as billboards, magazine and television ads essential fail to do. Record proper Return On Investment (ROI).

To that point, this brings me to the most important piece of the entire puzzle. Cost Per Acquisition. I wrote a post on reporting your PPC performance where I touch base on the importance of CPA.

Calculating Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

The Formula is very simple.

ad campaign cost/[number of impressions x CTR x CR]=CPA

When you are running a PPC campaign, you are essentially renting space, a term coined from a webinar I have referenced in the past given by Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz and Darnesh Shaw of Hubspot. If the cost to acquire that customer lines up with your business strategy and goals, that is a job well done. In my example at the top, the conversions came after I had spent some marketing dollars on Paid Advertising. In this sense, this proves what grass roots marketing was trying to accomplish. Reach your target audience, drive them to your product/service and acquire customers.

Remember, you have data from these campaigns coming in for 6 months.