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How to uncover hidden gems in your paid search accounts


A PPC professional’s job goes beyond just launching paid search campaigns.

An equally important task is optimizing and scaling those campaigns for maximum effectiveness and impact.

This requires diving deep into the performance data to uncover valuable insights that can inform optimization strategies.

The data from your paid search campaigns contains a wealth of insights waiting to be uncovered. By analyzing metrics, keywords, competitive landscape and user paths, you can identify opportunities to improve targeting, messaging, budgets and overall campaign performance.

This guide will walk through some key reports, tools and analyses that can yield impactful insights for optimizing your paid search efforts.

Harness the power of ad platforms and campaigns 

Our friendly ad interfaces, Google Ads and Microsoft Ads, offer a wealth of powerful information if you know where and how to look for it. 

Metrics matter

Analyze key metrics like click-through rate (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), conversion rate (CVR), conversion volume and cost-per-conversion across the different objectives and campaign types in your account and note any discrepancy or misalignment.

For example, let’s say you’re looking at a campaign and notice a high CTR coupled with a low CVR. What does this indicate? 

It could mean there is:

  • A mismatch between your ad copy messaging and the intended audience.
  • A misalignment in who your target audience is. 
  • Or a need to refine your landing page experience. 

Testing will determine which element needs adjusting, but uncovering this misalignment provides a starting point. 

In another example, let’s look at cost-per-conversion. With a thorough conversion setup including conversion values, you can examine cost-per-conversion across the different conversion actions to understand the true value of a campaign. 

If a campaign has a high overall cost-per-conversion you may be inclined to turn it off. 

If you notice that segmented actions have a low cost-per-conversion for a high-priority action, you might be inclined to:

  • Adjust your conversion scoring (primary vs. secondary).
  • Update landing pages to feature the high-priority action more.
  • Increase investment in the campaign because it drives high-quality conversion actions.
Google Ads metrics per campaign

Keywords are cornerstone

Keywords are the foundation of a paid search account. Foundational keyword research often determines the entire structure and segmentation of an account.

Analyzing keywords post-launch is a typical part of account maintenance and provides a window into several important insights.

I always start by doing an n-gram analysis – a streamlined way to examine your keywords on a larger scale than combing through search query reports or keyword reports individually. 

N-gram analysis allows you to break down and group your keyword sets into themes, making it easier and clearer to discover otherwise hidden trends and areas of opportunity. 

I like to use these breakdowns to identify what themes show up most often with especially strong or weak performance (remember that metrics matter). 

  • For themes with strong performance, you can consider creating new campaigns or ad groups to prioritize messaging, budget allocation, etc. 
  • For those with weaker performance, you can incorporate negative phrase match keywords that align with the underperforming themes to save your ad spend and ensure you’re reaching the right audience. 
PPC n-gram analysis

Understand where you are showing up

Take a look at your Auction Insights reports, they may surprise you. You often have an idea of who your direct competitors are, but that doesn’t mean that they are the only people in the ads auction that you are up against. 

Reviewing your impression share via the Auction Insights report regularly can help uncover hidden insights to help with competitor identification as well as keyword targeting and refinement. 

A couple of things to keep an eye out for and what kinds of insights they may uncover: 

  • New advertisers listed that are aligned in industry, product/service with you: New competition to keep an eye on for market share availability, competitor research, potential conquesting opportunity. 
  • New advertisers listed that are not aligned in industry, product or service: You may be targeting keywords that are pulling in queries that are less relevant than is ideal, either by match type or the term itself. 
  • Large fluctuations in impression share (for yourself or other advertisers): This can indicate greater or reduced investment which can influence things like CPC, cost-per-conversion and in turn your bid strategies and ad spend budget allocations. 

Dig deeper: How to improve PPC campaign performance: A checklist

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Beyond the platform: Using Google Analytics 4 to dive deeper

In addition to the insights you can gather from the platforms themselves, you can also use other reporting and analytics tools to uncover more holistic insights about paid search. 

So many valuable insights can be found by delving deeper into the user journey of your customers. The conversion path reporting in GA4 is the perfect tool for this and allows visibility and insight into the number of touchpoints a user takes before converting, the different channels they interact with on this path and several associated metrics.

This insight helps you understand how paid search interacts with other marketing channels, letting you identify gaps or a need for further paid search coverage and develop a holistic omnichannel approach. 

For example, if you notice that the most frequent path to conversion is a journey that includes Paid Search > Organic > Paid Search, this may indicate that users aren’t far enough down the funnel to make a decision the first time they see an ad and are conducting deeper research before converting. 

You can use this insight to incorporate more nurture elements into your ad strategy, adjust landing page content, etc. 

GA4 conversion path tracking

Dig deeper: How to combine GA4 and Google Ads for powerful paid search results

Revealing untapped potential within your paid search accounts

There is an endless wealth of insights you can gather from your paid search accounts. Some that I have found to be impactful and have shared here for you are: 

  • Focus on key metrics and their relationship to each other, your campaign objectives and campaign types. 
  • Use n-gram analysis to uncover keyword themes, trends and areas of opportunity. 
  • Be mindful of the Auction Insights report to monitor competitive activity, changes in investment and seek potential coverage gaps. 
  • Use Google Analytics 4 conversion path reports to understand where paid search fits into the bigger picture.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of strategies for uncovering hidden gems in your paid search accounts, but it is a good place to start. 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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