Zooming in–The magic of looking more closely

Too often, we take what we are offered at face value. The zoom setting is determined by someone else, and in our rush to get onto the next thing, we fail to discover what is going on within.

The act of zooming (actually or metaphorically) is a modern thrill, the opportunity to see what was there as we move closer to what is there. Suddenly, new levels reveal themselves to us, and we begin to see the mechanisms that are hidden from us at first glance.

My hunch is that once a medical student has understood what makes us tick, people don’t look quite the same anymore. And once you understand how the banking system works, a credit card offer feels a bit different as well.

If you want a cool example of how this works, click on this photo of 84 million stars, a composite of photos shot by a telescope in Chile. The ESO telescope is capable of putting together a 9 billion pixel image.

But once you click once, you can zoom, again and again and again. Those repeated clicks reminded me of just how vast the galaxy is, more than I ever could have learned from a single picture. It turns out that this vastness is repeated in every system in our lives. If we only care enough to zoom.


Don’t Get Lost in the Numbers: Effectively Report on PPC Performance

Reporting on paid search performance is the single most impactful element of a PPC engagement between agency and client, even more so than performance. If you’re driving great results from your paid search campaigns and blowing past your client’s goals, what good is it if you can’t effectively communicate that fact or prove it through reliable reporting? Likewise, if you have a few months of poor performance, maintaining a good working relationship through quality reporting that provides insights and recommendations may be the thing that salvages it. It is vital that you report effectively.

Common Mistakes That Make for Ineffective PPC Reports

I’ve been working in paid search accounts for nearly ten years. I’ve seen—and made my fair share of—mistakes when it comes to reporting and communicating performance with clients. The following are some all-too-common practices that have destroyed engagements that need to stop happening in our industry.

Exporting a Spreadsheet and Sending it to the Client Without Any Edits

Seriously, an exported .csv file from Google Ads IS NOT A REPORT. The only time you should ever send an unedited export directly to the client is if they’re a data-savvy practitioner themselves and specifically ask for one.

Reporting on Too Many Data Points

Ever seen a graph like this?

Screenshot of a report with 10 campaigns represented by 10 different colored lines all on the same graphScreenshot of a report with 10 campaigns represented by 10 different colored lines all on the same graph

Can you tell at a glance what’s going on here? Neither can I. And neither can your client. Don’t do this.

Focusing on Data Points Irrelevant to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

If your client’s goals center on revenue, your KPIs for your paid search campaigns are probably metrics like average cost per conversion, conversion rate, or return on ad spend. Your reporting should highlight these metrics and focus on them. Don’t waste time highlighting metrics like impression volume or click-through rate; if they didn’t substantially contribute to their revenue goals, they’re not going to care.

Providing No Analysis, Insight, or Context With Trends or Visuals

If your reports are just some metrics highlighted on a page, your client’s response every time will be just a slew of questions: “So what?” “Is this good?” “What happened?” “What optimizations have you made?” “What’s working?” “What needs to change?” and so forth. Don’t send reports that create more questions than they answer.

Elements of Effective PPC Reports

An effective PPC report should clearly communicate the answers to questions clients will inevitably have with any regular update. They should also do so in a way that someone “not in the room” when you’re giving your overview would be able to quickly review and clearly receive the message you want to send them. After all, your relationship with your client is directly impacted by the story around your work and performance.

One analogy you could make is with the “blank sheet of paper test” digital marketing strategists use when analyzing content on a webpage. If all a user could see was a brief headline on a blank sheet of paper, would that person know what to expect from the rest of the content on that page? That same philosophy should apply to PPC reports: if someone were to skim through your report quickly, would they be able to ascertain the narrative you want to convey to them?

In order to do this, your PPC reports need to do four things:

  1. Primarily focus on a limited set of KPIs tied directly to goals and conversions
  2. Demonstrate trends visually
  3. Provide context and valuable insight (analysis)
  4. Keep granular details (e.g., keyword-level data) secondary to the focus on KPIs

Goals

Primary KPIs must correlate with the primary goal of your client’s paid search campaigns. For example, if their goal is to drive revenue at a certain threshold, then your main KPIs should probably be revenue and return on ad spend (ROAS). Furthermore, your KPIs should be limited to a small set of metrics (between one and three). You don’t want to have the client try and focus on too many metrics and create confusion.

Visuals

Visually demonstrating trends helps ensure the story you’re trying to tell gets through to the client. It’s one thing to write out what happened last month and why in paragraph form. It’s another thing to see your set of KPIs demonstrated in an easy-to-read graph than illustrates the story you want to tell at a short glance. Having clear visuals with contextual utility that emphasize your KPIs and analysis helps minimize confusion, as well as the chance of your client walking away with another interpretation of the data you’re presenting.

Analysis

Context and insight—proper analysis—are vital as they answer key questions your client will always have, which must be routinely addressed:

  • What’s happening?
  • Why is it happening?
  • Is this good or bad? Why?
  • Where do we go from here?

On top of KPIs and visuals, giving clear answers to these four questions in a concise written format will help ensure your client has minimal follow-up questions.

Secondary Details

Granular details and metrics can be helpful to a fellow PPC strategist or tactician, but shouldn’t be the primary focus of a PPC report (unless it’s a one-off request specific to a particular ask). Once you’ve finished highlighting the three key elements above for overall performance—which is what will apply to all stakeholders who may reference your report—then feel free to add secondary pages to your report which cover other details such as campaign-level data, keyword-level data, ad copy analysis, etc.

Here’s an example of the reporting we do at Portent. We use Google Data Studio to implement these four contextual elements in all of our client-facing reports:

Screenshot of a GDS report on campaign results across all digital channels, including goals, visuals, analysis, and secondary detailsScreenshot of a GDS report on campaign results across all digital channels, including goals, visuals, analysis, and secondary details

Screenshot of a GDS report on organic landing page results across all digital channels, including goals, visuals, analysis, and secondary detailsScreenshot of a GDS report on organic landing page results across all digital channels, including goals, visuals, analysis, and secondary details

In Conclusion

Effective reporting that is easy to understand and that supports your client’s primary goals is a key component of a successful PPC campaign. To make sure you are maximizing your ability to engage your clients with PPC metrics, take a look at the reports you’re delivering now and consider the following:

  1. Are you missing any of the key elements outlined above?
  2. What do you need to adjust to ensure you’re giving yourself every chance to make your client engagements successful and profitable to both parties?
  3. Make sure you’re avoiding common mistakes that may damage your relationship with clients and include these four elements in your paid search reports.

Keeping these things in mind will set you on the right path to a successful working relationship with your clients, built on efficient and reliable reporting.

The post Don’t Get Lost in the Numbers: Effectively Report on PPC Performance appeared first on Portent.


Sarah Beth Yoga: Influencer Marketing From a Celebrity Perspective

Let me ask you a question. Who would you trust more? A business praising its own products? Or a person that you’re familiar with praising its products?


“This will change your mind”

How often is that true?

Not very.

Changing a mind is difficult work. It won’t happen with a standard intervention, and it probably requires enrollment on the part of the person you’re engaging with as well.


Choosing to be a citizen

Citizens aren’t profit-seeking agents who are simply constrained by rules. Citizens behave even if there isn’t a rule about it.

Citizens aren’t craven partisans, voting for party over fact. Citizens do the right thing because they can, even if the short-term cost is high.

Citizens live by the rule of community: If everyone did what I’m about to do, would it lead to a useful outcome?

Sometimes we call citizens heroes, which is a shame, because their actions should be commonplace, not rare. The myth of success based on short-term self-interest has been disproven again and again. It seems obvious that leaving things better than you found them is a powerful step forward, because you’ll probably be back this way again one day soon.

Every successful community, every organization, every family has citizens. It’s the citizens who define the future, because their commitment to the long-term matters.


Building Fandom Through Video: Lessons From Sarah Beth Yoga

Fandom is something that athletes, musicians, and performers have been tapping into for years to succeed. The excitement and passion that fans bring to what they love is a powerful force that has been filling entertainment venues for generations.


In search of reciprocity

If your posture is to give hoping that you’ll earn the moral high ground and thus get something back, you didn’t give first.

You gave second.

You’re saying, “how can I incur a debt, one that I’m going to use to achieve my goals.”

If the words ‘I’ and ‘my’ appear in your reasoning before you get to the work you’re hoping to contribute, then your goal is reciprocity. Calling it generosity merely confuses the issue.


Adding Contextual Utility to Reports Without Writing a Novel

Reporting can be a chore. Even with all the data automation in the world, to frame our results, we feel the need to write an executive summary and hope we touch on the why behind all the painstakingly-created charts and graphs.

But sometimes, we might not be able to boil down the proper context for the client in just those few introductory paragraphs. So let’s explore some simple ways to have the data elaborate on itself.

Annotations

Annotations can be as simple as “campaign starts” with an arrow pointing to a place on the timeline.

Screenshot of a GDS line graph report that shows an arrow indicating when in the data Portent's work beganto forecasted click data for the same future time periodScreenshot of a GDS line graph report that shows an arrow indicating when in the data Portent's work beganto forecasted click data for the same future time period

They can also be as simple as a caption under a point in the graph you want your client to pay attention to.

Secondary Dimensions

You have two pages in your report to address channel performance and landing page performance? Why not combine them? Adding two dimensions to one data table can frame a combination of things that lead to better performance and keeps the overall page count in your reports down.

Why not show campaign, country, and device while we’re at it?

Screenshot of a GDS report with a red box calling out the campaign, country, and device data columns Screenshot of a GDS report with a red box calling out the campaign, country, and device data columns

Titles and Subtitles

I’m a big fan of teeing each page in the report up with a question in the title and answering it with the subtitle and the ensuing data. In the title and subtitle, you can lay out:

  • Where you got the data
  • What baked-in comparisons exist
  • What business question you’re trying to answer with the report

Screenshot of a GDS report titled "How efficient are our paid campaigns?" and the subtitle "Last year's conversion and CPA data from all Google Ads campaigns" that answers where the data is from, and what is being comparedScreenshot of a GDS report titled "How efficient are our paid campaigns?" and the subtitle "Last year's conversion and CPA data from all Google Ads campaigns" that answers where the data is from, and what is being compared

Benchmarks

How many of us have been in a client meeting and heard the question: “Is this performance good?”

Good compared to what? Their past performance or the performance of their competitors? In either case, as consultants, we should provide the answers and have them available quickly.

Screenshot of a GDS report that includes the benchmark CTR for the campaigns at the bottom of the data, for quick referenceScreenshot of a GDS report that includes the benchmark CTR for the campaigns at the bottom of the data, for quick reference

Ratios

Our clients’ conversions were up 20% over last month. Great! But was that just because they spent more money? Or just because they got more traffic? Or did we really drive higher conversion rates? Add the ratios alongside volume to have it there in case the question comes up.

Screenshot of a GDS report that shows the click-through rate next to the number of clicksScreenshot of a GDS report that shows the click-through rate next to the number of clicks

Cost

Like it or not, we live in an ROI-focused time. Never leave Cost Per metrics off of your report! Cost Per Everything: Impression, Click, Lead, Sale. If the client is going to have to answer to their CFO for how much they’re spending on customer acquisition, give them Cost Per every step of the acquisition funnel.

Screenshot of a GDS report that shows three cost metrics side by side: CPM, CPC, and CPAScreenshot of a GDS report that shows three cost metrics side by side: CPM, CPC, and CPA

Trendlines and Forecasts

We can’t predict the future, but there are several forecasting models that come pretty darn close. These forecasts can help clients estimate results, which makes it easier for them to write our campaigns and marketing costs into their budgets.

Screenshot of a GDS report that shows actual click data for a time period next to forecasted click data for the same future time periodScreenshot of a GDS report that shows actual click data for a time period next to forecasted click data for the same future time period

Context, Not Writing

If we can’t figure out how to provide the context in our reports without writing a novel of an executive summary every month, we’re gonna spend an awful lot of time writing summaries and answering questions. So try some of these to create contextual utility in the data visualizations you already provide. And if all else fails, change the chart type! Switch your pie chart back to a simple table and add several more metrics. Never settle on a visualization that can’t explain itself.

The post Adding Contextual Utility to Reports Without Writing a Novel appeared first on Portent.


Why How we Measure Impact is, Mostly, Wrong

When Clayton Christensen took the podium to give the commencement speech at Western Governor University in 2017, he told students that companies that fail have a small view of humankind. In their attempt to emulate successful companies, he explained, people forget that they all started with solving a small problem. Then he talked about a similar idea, this time using numbers. Because we have limited minds, he explained, we aggregate the world in a hierarchical way, with the people who aspire to bigger numbers higher up in companies. His theory, which he introduced in the Harvard Business Review in 1995,…


Cars, houses and TVs

Compare 1960 to today:

Cars are a bit faster, a bit safer, higher in quality and a lot more expensive.

Houses are much bigger, a bit more efficient and enormously more expensive.

TVs on the other hand, are dramatically bigger, dramatically more efficient, dramatically more powerful, significantly more reliable and way cheaper. For $300, you can buy a 49 inch TV that would have cost a million dollars in 1960.

What happened?

Cars, with the exception of new electric drivetrains, are basically the same thing they were, except designed with computers and assembled by robots.

Houses, with the exception of some prefab edge cases, are still assembled by hand, on location, by skilled workers. And they went up in scale because real estate prices and income inequality went up even more.

But TVs–they made a leap. A leap from analog to digital, a leap from tubes to solid-state. Moore’s Law is at work on your television, but it’s been largely shut out of the two largest purchases most people make.

When you see computers and networks show up in an industry, it’s easy to predict what will happen next.