Reporting too much or too little
Over the years, I have come across several inefficient styles of paid search reporting that do not address client expectations, trending, or campaign goals. Most clients are looking for their agencies to provide high-level analysis and strategic recommendations that improve campaign performance. However, some reports are massive spreadsheets that jam too much information into one report; they do not put data into context, lack actionable insights, or fail to summarize trends, which can lead to clients' searching out insights and recommendations on their own. Others provide no data to support analysis and leave clients in the dark.
If someone is not intimately familiar with the ins and outs of paid search management, it is easy to misinterpret data when agencies report unnecessary information without much context. It makes it difficult to understand cause-and-effect optimizations and the true value of hiring an agency or expert.
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To minimize confusion, it is essential for paid search professionals to sort through the performance data and provide a framework to summarize reports. This way, clients are not blindly reporting a sheet of numbers/metrics back to their organizations. They should have the data they need to address C-level executives and present a clear understanding of how their campaigns are performing. While clients do range in paid search knowledge, an agency should never assume that everyone can fill in the context around a paid search campaign and the implications of performance fluctuation.
On the flip side, providing an incomplete picture with too little data can raise a number of questions about the value of paid search and can create a scenario in which clients do not believe their agencies are providing proactive, strategic counsel. Common questions that surface are: What is happening to my campaign? What is my agency/paid search manager doing? Can we scale up efforts? What is being done to improve/optimize performance?
Without an actionable report and data analysis, clients can quickly make assumptions on campaign health and make recommendations based on partial information or incorrect analysis of too much data. In extreme cases, these assumptions lead to unimpressive results, missed optimization opportunities, or a misunderstanding of campaign performance.
The remainder of this article outlines a few reoccurring assumptions with paid search interpretations and how a lack of context or explanation can be detrimental to campaign success. Here are some examples of reoccurring misconceptions looking at both pre- and post-click metrics.