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How to Create an AdWords Action Plan From Purchase Path Data

  |  May 31, 2013   |  Comments

As advertisers, we need to look at the entire purchase experience, and as PPC managers, we should examine how other channels are impactful on what we do.

As marketers, we know the path to conversions is not direct and often there are multiple touches from the advertiser to the customers. This means as advertisers, we need to look at the entire purchase experience. As PPC managers, we should examine how other channels are impactful on what we do.

Consider a recently published report by Google, "The Customer Journey to Online Purchase." In this report Google reviewed 36,000 Google Analytics accounts with e-commerce tracking enabled, profiles whose owners have authorized sharing. Conversion metrics are derived from the Multi-Channel Funnels reports in Google Analytics.

Google lined up the traditional purchase funnel to "assists" and "last interactions" in the purchase path where assisting channels are awareness builders and a customer is considering and researching options prior to purchase. The "last interaction" channels are the "last click" where the customer finally converts.

Likewise in PPC, we see search activity vary depending on the place in the purchase funnel. During the awareness and consideration phase we see keyword searches are of a more general nature, whereas customers will search more specifically and for brand terms as they near the time to buy. All of this can give clues as to a customer's place in the purchase cycle and how to tailor our PPC strategy to reach her.

How do you determine your customers' purchase path from Google Analytics and AdWords?

In Google Analytics, find Multi-Channel Funnels reports under Conversions in the left-hand-side navigation.


In AdWords, find it in the Tools and Analysis tab under Conversions, then select Search Funnels on the lower left.


Within both of these platforms there are numerous valuable reports.

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels Reports

  1. The main difference in the reporting from Google Analytics to AdWords is that Google Analytics will show the big picture and include other channels in addition to AdWords. This presents the opportunity to examine how PPC compares to other channels and how the channels rank in the overall picture. In the screenshot below, we see top paths by channel, whereas AdWords top-level information on this starts at the campaign level and drills down.

  2. Advertisers will want to stick with the platform where they are getting the majority of the reporting so they are comparing "apples to apples" from the same data source.

AdWords Search Funnels Reports

  1. Path length. This report shows how many clicks or impressions occurred before conversion. In the example below, we see the majority of conversions occurred from one click at approximately 64 percent, but about a third of the conversions came from two or more clicks.

  2. Top paths. Four reports showing common paths of clicks and/or impressions that took place up to the final conversion. This data can be viewed by campaign, ad groups, query paths, and transitions. Here we can see how different keywords fall into the purchase path.
  3. Assisted clicks, impressions, and conversion reports. These reports show by campaign, ad group, and keyword, assisted clicks and impressions that led to but were not actually the final conversion.
  4. Time lag. Shows how many days or hours are involved from the first impression or click in the process up to the conversion.
  5. First and last click analysis. Keywords that were literally the first click in the process and the last click that converted. The type of keywords used for these will provide insight on searcher behavior at the beginning and end of the process.

Much of the data is available from the campaign level down to the keywords level. It's important to become familiar with what the data means to determine how you can best use it.


A simplified conclusion and action plan for an advertiser may look like this:

  1. The customers tend to convert in one day or less (75 percent) and the majority (64 percent) convert in less than two clicks, showing a short sales cycle. Removing any barriers to conversion on landing pages and focusing on direct response offers in ad copy will continue to support these trends and ramp it up.
  2. Shoppers convert most often from paid search, and within paid search, from Product Listing Ads and paid brand terms. Squeeze every opportunity out of the Product Listing Ads by optimizing and refining feeds and campaigns to capitalize on the existing positive trend.
  3. However, we can see that more general keywords have assisted in both clicks and impressions to drive conversions to the brand keywords. This may be an opportunity to expand into keywords likely to drive in "assists." We can test various themes, then check back to see if there was any impact in the purchase funnel. Optimize current campaigns by tossing out keywords that haven't added any value over time.

Each advertiser will have different challenges and opportunities, but clearly define those and examine the purchase funnel as it's applicable. The data presented there will shed actionable insight into AdWords campaigns.


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Lisa Raehsler

Lisa Raehsler is the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co., an online advertising company and Google AdWords Certified Partner, specializing in strategy and management of SEM and PPC for search engines, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. Lisa has led strategy on dozens of PPC accounts and puts her experience into practice every day as a thought leader in integrating clients' search campaigns with ecommerce websites, behavioral targeting strategies, and web analytics. She has participated extensively in the local interactive community, as well as at national search engine marketing conferences. Lisa's recent speaking engagements include SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX conferences, as well as numerous private and public training engagements. As a columnist for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, she writes on the topic of paid search. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRocksSEM.

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