AdWords Search Funnels – Lovin’ It or Still Unsure?

About two months BIG news hit our small SEM world. At SES NY 2010 Google announced the roll out of Search Funnels for AdWords advertisers. Finally! More insight into assisting keywords and conversion path analysis. Hip Hip Hoorah! Not just the last keyword that was clicked and converted, but keywords that either clicks or ad impressions contributed to the conversion but didn’t score the “points.” We’ve always knew this was happening in theory, but now there’s data to prove our intuition was right and point us to keywords we may be under-valuing in normal last click conversion bid optimization.  Love it.  I think.

I was so excited when I noticed that one of my accounts that receives a lot of conversions (hence lots of data to make valid conclusions) was finally in the roll out a few weeks after the announcement. And I have to admit for the first couple of weeks, I went in and checked out this data frequently, okay…maybe a little neurotically.  I thought I would be utilizing this feature regularly, again and again, but it kind of feels like the honeymoon is over or it is at least off to a very slow, lukewarm start.

What is Search Funnels?

Search funnels is a new set of reports in AdWords for advertisers using conversion tracking. It allows you to look at ad impression and click behavior for campaigns/ad groups/keywords that lead up to a conversion. For those of you who want to learn the basics of this new feature, here’s a useful overview video:

AdWords Search Funnels Overview

The most effective way to learn about what it does and what it means is to go into your account (right now) and poke around. In AdWords UI, go to Reporting tab>Conversions>Search Funnels link on left side>

Here’s my favorite reports so far:

Assisted Conversions report, Dimension: Keyword, Sort Descending on Assisted Conversions/Last Click Conversion Index  – A value close to zero means the keyword has more of a role in being a last click converter, and a value close to 1 means they are equally an assist and last click. Above 1, means they are more of an assister than a last click converter.  You can find keywords that may have not converted last click or few conversions, but have high assists (higher than a 1 value).  They may be worth either increasing bids or at least require some new attention.

Top Paths Dimension: Keyword (Clicks): This report shows you what keywords users clicked on before they converted.  Several paths indicate users act just like we think, starting by querying broad generic keywords and then becoming more specific as they become more educated/interested.

However, what becomes obvious is how often users query, re-query and sometimes even re-query, and click and click again on the same ads. Many of the paths reported contain the same keywords.  User queries and clicks on one of our ads, doesn’t convert.  User queries the same keyword and clicks on our ad again, and then converts.  Maybe it’s timing, maybe it’s other content the user has been exposed to in the process, or maybe it’s the time of day, who knows?  But it does support using different ad messages/benefits targeted to the same keywords to reach users multiple times with varying benefits, to eventually get the conversion.

Assist Clicks and Impressions (again by Keyword) – this report shows for each keyword the last click, assist clicks, and assist impressions.  It is interesting to do different sorts/filters on the data and some keywords that I previously didn’t think were that important moved up in rank and are due second consideration.

Time Lag: This report shows how many days it takes after the first click it took before the user converted.  It is amazing to me how large of a percentage one of my clients has 12+ days between the first and last click before the conversion. Patience, my fellow marketers, some people need time to make up their minds.

There are some limitations to Search Funnels reports:

  1. Your account needs to be using AdWords conversion tracking to have Search Funnels.  Some advertisers have very good reasons to not share their conversion data with Google.  For them, the value of having this data is not worth the risk.
  2. If you do have AdWords conversion tracking, Search Funnels does not include your clicks or impressions from Content Network even though this is part of your AdWords account.  So your conversions reported in Search Funnels will not match those in your AdWords account unless you only run on search. For one of my clients, content network is a huge source of traffic for us, so it doesn’t give us a full or accurate picture of our program, just assists from Search keywords.
  3. It also does not include organic, actual search queries, or competitor’s information.  Again, the data is strictly related to your AdWords Search account.  Some are starting to figure out how to aggregate it all with GA, but it sounds like it is still a work in progress.
  4. It has a short 30 day cookie window. Currently, for any attribution occurring more than 30 days the assists will not be recorded. You would have thought that for attribution modeling, a longer cookie window would have been a no brainer, it is afterall measuring delayed outcomes. For many b2bs who have long selection and sales processes, this could be a major limitation, but it sounds like this may become customizable in the future.

Are you using Search Funnels reporting?  Is it helping optimize your program or is it too early yet to see clear benefits?

Lisa Sanner About the author
  • Awesome info. Will use for my clients too. Thanks Lisa.

    May 24, 2010 at 2:59 pm

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