Search Attribution: AdWords Search Funnels

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In last week’s webinar on search attribution, we explored how AdWords Search Funnels can show you the full search path your customers take prior to purchasing or “converting” on your site. This path can include different types of keywords, ranging from early searches on generic keywords (often referred to as “upper funnel” or awareness-generating keywords) to later searches for your specific brand. By better understanding the full search path and the role that different keywords played in leading your customers to buy or convert, you’ll be able to improve your advertising campaigns.

During the webinar, we walked through the Search Funnels reports, the insights the tool can provide, and some practical uses:

We received a lot of great questions from webinar participants. We weren’t able to get to all of them during the allotted time, so below are some responses and more pointers on Search Funnels.

If you’re interested in learning more about digital marketing attribution, you can also watch the previous recordings in our attribution webinar series and register for our upcoming webinars:

  • Attribution Insights from Google and Econsultancy (4/26/2012) – watch recording here
  • Building Blocks of Digital Attribution (5/24/2012) – watch recording here
  • Search Attribution: AdWords Search Funnels (6/20/2012) – watch recording here
  • Multi-Channel Funnels: Attribution Across Channels (8/9/2012) – register here
  • Next Steps with Attribution – registration details coming soon

What is digital attribution? What is search attribution?
Digital attribution is the process of assigning credit to the various online interactions your customer has before a “conversion” (conversion = making a purchase or performing some other valuable action on your site). These interactions could include display ads, paid or organic search results, email campaigns, affiliate coupon programs, social network posts, and other digital interactions. Today, many marketers by default use “last click” attribution, assigning all of the credit to the last interaction before a conversion rather than considering the entire conversion path.

Search attribution focuses specifically on understanding and assigning credit to the keyword searches, search ad impressions, and search ad clicks a customer performed before converting. The Search Funnels reports allow you to view these “search paths” in detail and how some keywords assist conversions earlier in the path while other keywords occur later in the path, immediately before a conversion. By understanding the role these keywords play in the conversion path, you’ll be better equipped to design your search marketing programs.

What are the requirements for Search Funnels?
Search Funnels works automatically with AdWords Conversion Tracking. Once this feature has been set up, the Search Funnels reports are automatically available within the AdWords interface. If you aren’t yet using Conversion Tracking, Bill Kee’s recent webinar on the Building Blocks of Digital Attribution provides a great overview on how to set up Conversion Tracking. You may also wish to view our help center articles on Conversion Tracking and Search Funnels.

Could you please define the Search Funnels terms?
Sure, during the webinar we provided some definitions. Here they are:

  • Search Funnel: Report describing search ad click and impression behavior prior to a conversion 
  • Conversion Path: Sequence of ad clicks and impressions leading up to a conversion 
  • Last Clicks: Any search ad click that happened immediately preceding a conversion 
  • Assist Clicks: Any search ad click that happened prior to the “last click” before a conversion 
  • Assist Impressions: Any search ad impression that was not clicked and happened prior to a conversion 
  • Assist Clicks / Last Clicks: The ratio of assist clicks / last clicks for a particular campaign, ad-group, or keyword 
  • Assist Impressions / Last Clicks: The ratio of assist impressions / last clicks for a particular campaign, ad-group, or keyword
This is my first time using Search Funnels, what three analyses do you recommend?
Search Funnels offers some great ways to quickly pull out some actionable insights. First, in the Assisted Conversions report, sorting in descending order by the ratios “Assist Clicks / Last Clicks” and “Assist Impressions / Last Clicks” provides an easy way to identify which of your keywords assist the most conversions and are having most of their contribution overlooked in AdWords’ last-click model. You may choose to test different bidding or budget strategies for these keywords to ensure you capture their value. For example, if a particular keyword has a ratio of three, then for every last click conversion the keyword provides, three additional assists were provided. The keyword would receive no credit for these assists within AdWords under the last-click model. However, utilizing the insights gained from Search Funnels you may wish to explore whether increasing this keyword’s bid drives more users down the conversion path by placing these high-assisting ads in higher positions.

Second, the ‘Time Lag’ report can help you to identify how long your customers take to convert. In particular, the ‘Time From First Impression’ report can help you approximate your customers’ research cycle, from the time they first see one of your search ads, to them eventually converting with you. Within this report, you may also want to explore whether your most valuable customers take a certain period of time to convert. For example, many advertisers find that customers that consider their purchase for longer are actually more valuable customers.

Finally, the top paths report is another great resource. You can dive in to the most common paths your customers take before converting with you. In particular, you can try to identify whether customers begin their journey by researching on broad generic keywords and whether they complete their conversion on more branded keywords.

What is the history window and how important is it?
By default, Search Funnels includes all of the paid search interactions your customers had in the 30 days prior to the conversion occurring. However, this feature can be customized by selecting from the drop down menu at the top of the interface. You can select to change the history window to either 60 or 90 days. This is an important consideration. The length of time that makes most sense for you will likely depend on the type of products you sell. For example, if you’re a business that sells high-consideration product or services, you may want to extend the window to 90 days, as it may take customers a long time to purchase and you would want to ensure that you include all of their interactions with your search advertising. Before selecting a history window, you may also want to examine the ‘time lag’ report to identify on average how long it takes your users to convert.

What are impression assists? And how should I value them?
Impression assists occur when a customer sees one of your search ads, but does not click on it, before later clicking on another of your ads and converting. The impression could be providing a branding effect.  For example, if you are getting a lot of assist impressions and their average position is relatively high, it's possible that those impressions had a positive impact on the customer coming back and converting later. You could test this hypothesis by bidding keywords to different positions and measuring the impact on impression assisted conversions.

What about attribution beyond search?
Search Funnels uncovers a crucial part of the path to conversion by showing all of your Google search ads that a user either saw or clicked on, before they converted for you. However, you may be interested in understanding how your customers interact with your other online channels too. In our upcoming webinar on August 9, we’ll be walking through Google Analytics’ Multi-Channel Funnels, which allows you to examine not only the path within paid search, but also display, organic search, social, e-mail marketing, and more. Register here.

Happy analyzing!

Posted by Simon Rosen, Global Sales Lead for Search Funnels and AdWords Conversion Tracking

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