PPC analytics proves your strategies are working (or failing). Learn key metrics to track, the top reports to use, and how to create them for your campaigns.

Here, you’ll find:

Imagine trying to give someone directions to your home without knowing where they currently are. You can’t because there’s no way to explain how to get somewhere if you don’t know where to start.

Similarly, the only way to understand your pay-per-click (PPC) ad performance and get better results is to track analytics. As you track PPC advertising performance over time, you can better understand where you are now and how to get where you want to be.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about tracking PPC analytics and creating an effective PPC report.

How to establish your PPC reporting goals

Before we dive into what you should include in your PPC analytics reporting, we must identify your PPC strategy goals. So whether you’re running Google, Bing, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook ads, you need to identify what success looks like before you choose key metrics for your ad campaigns.

The most common PPC goals are to:

  • Increase traffic to my website. If this is your goal, then you’ll want to focus on click-through rate (CTR). Keep an eye on ad copy performance and targeting options.
  • Increase sales or leads. Conversion rate is going to be a key metric for you to track. Focus on the keywords that are converting best and monitor negative keywords. Optimize your landing pages for the best results.
  • Raise brand awareness. If your goal is to improve brand visibility, then you’re likely focusing on display ads and remarketing. For display ads, you’ll track which sites are performing best, and for remarketing ads, you’ll look at conversion rates.

Your overall goal with PPC reporting is to track the metrics that matter most to achieving your goals. Then, you want to make strategic recommendations on how to improve your campaigns based on what you’ve learned from the analytics.

Key PPC metrics

(Image: Pexels)

10 key metrics you need to track PPC performance

“Analytics are a key factor in the ongoing success of a PPC campaign, and surprisingly, most companies are not doing it right,” says Sam Yadegar, CEO of HawkSEM.

“Simply tracking conversions from a campaign or channel level will not provide the necessary details on what needs to be done to grow conversions and scale profitably.”

So what metrics should you be tracking to understand your PPC performance and identify ways to improve? Let’s dive in.

  1. Quality score
  2. Cost per click (CPC)
  3. Click-through rate (CTR)
  4. Conversion rate
  5. Cost per acquisition (CPA)
  6. Return on ad spend (ROAS)
  7. Impressions
  8. Average position
  9. Bounce rate
  10. Attribution tracking

1. Quality score

Quality score is a rating based on the quality and relevance of your keywords and PPC ads. This score determines your cost per click and your ad rank on both Google Ads and Microsoft Ads.

This score is determined based on your click-through rate, keyword relevance in each ad group, landing page experience, ad text relevance, and historical ad account performance. Though it’s not clear how much each factor weighs in determining your quality score.

Why you should care about quality score: A low quality score indicates that you need to make changes to your ads, keywords, or your landing page to avoid wasted ad spend.

2. Cost per click (CPC)

Cost per click refers to the amount of money it costs each time a user clicks on your ad. Higher value keywords will have more competition and naturally cost more per click.

A good CPC will depend on how much you make from each conversion. But in general, the lower CPC is, the better. If cost per click is high, but conversion rate is too, then you’ll still get a favorable ROI.

Why you should care about CPC: This metric tells you if you’re paying too much for leads compared to revenue. CPC can identify areas where you’re wasting ad spend.

3. Click-through rate (CTR)

Click-through rate measures the number of clicks your ad receives per 100 ad impressions. Basically, it allows you to see the percentage of people who click on your ads after seeing them.

A strong CTR suggests that your ad is well received by your target audience. If you have a low CTR, this could indicate that you need to improve ad copy, adjust your targeting, or work on improving your overall PPC strategy.

Why you should care about CTR: Click-through rate is a great metric for ad relevance as it lets you know that your ad is meeting the intent of the search query. CTR also helps you improve your quality score, which can lower your CPC, allowing you to get more from your ad spend.

4. Conversion rate

Conversion rate is the percentage of customers who convert after clicking on your ad. Conversions don’t always equate to sales. For instance, if your ad is leading the user to download an ebook, then the percentage of downloads would be the conversion rate.

A number of factors go into achieving a high conversion rate, including compelling PPC ad copy, optimized landing pages, user interest, and the attractiveness of your offers.

Why you should care about conversions: Every PPC ad’s goal is to get the user to take some type of action (or convert), so this metric is important for understanding your ad performance.

By implementing a proper tracking and analytics strategy for AppDymanics, HawkSEM was able to increase its conversion rate by 20% while doubling targeted traffic. Find out how we did it.

5. Cost per acquisition (CPA)

Cost per acquisition (or cost per conversion) measures the total number of conversions in relation to ad spend. In other words, it tells you how much, on average, it costs to convert a customer throughout the ad campaign.

Cost per acquisition directly impacts your profit margin. Conversions are great, but if you’re losing money to get them — it’s not worth it. However, a higher CPA may be worthwhile for businesses with higher customer lifetime values (CLV) if they can recoup that cost over time.

Why you should care about CPA: Cost per acquisition helps you measure your overall ad campaign ROI. It helps you understand how effectively you’re spending your ad budget.

6. Return on ad spend (ROAS)

Return on ad spend looks at overall ad spend in relation to your revenue. It goes beyond CPA — the individual cost per conversion — to show you overall spend versus overall revenue.

ROAS tells you if your campaigns are profitable. You can use ROAS to determine how you’ll allocate funds to each of your different PPC campaigns.

Why you should care about ROAS: Return on ad spend helps you identify the most profitable PPC channels to optimize your PPC ad campaigns.

7. Impressions

An impression happens when someone sees your ad, whether or not they actually click on it. If your ad is at the bottom of the page, it only counts as an impression if the user scrolls to that section of the page.

When you have high impressions but a low CTR, this means the ad either isn’t relevant to the target audience or it’s just not resonating with them.

If your impressions are low, you can increase these by including broad match keywords or expanding your audience by targeting other regions or industries.

Why you should care about impressions: Impressions help you understand if your ad is reaching your audience. It can be a great metric for measuring brand awareness.

8. Average position

The average position indicates the order of your ad on the search engine results page (SERP) when compared to competitors. The average position is impacted by quality score, bid amount, and the search engine user’s intent.

Why you should care about average position: Your ad ranking has a direct impact on your campaign performance. The higher it is on the page, the more likely it is to catch the user’s attention and get them to click.

9. Bounce rate

Bounce rate measures the percentage of users who viewed your landing page and left without taking action. When it comes to PPC, a high bounce rate suggests that the user’s expectation didn’t match what they actually saw on the landing page.

Why you should care about bounce rate: High bounce rates help you identify ads and landing pages that may not be aligned. By reviewing these assets and optimizing them, you can potentially improve conversions.

10. Attribution tracking

Attribution tracking helps you see which ad campaigns play a role in the PPC customer journey. While the customer may convert on one specific ad, that doesn’t mean they didn’t see and consider other ads that contributed to their decision to convert.

Most attribution models give conversion credit to the final click. However, this doesn’t account for any other types of PPC campaigns that may have assisted in that conversion.

Why you should care about sources: Attribution tracking can help you get a more accurate ROAS because you can are able to see which ads help contribute to conversions, even if they don’t get the final click.

Woman at computer creating report

(Image: Pexels)

4 best Google Analytics reports for PPC marketers

While you may have other PPC analytics tools to track performance, most people running PPC ads through Google Ads use Google Analytics to do some (if not most) of their reporting.

There are many reports you can run, so we put together a list of our favorite Google Analytics reports for PPC marketers to understand PPC performance.

Now is probably the best time to mention that Universal Analytics stopped processing new data on July 1, 2023. So if you have not yet migrated to Google Analytics 4, you’ll need to do that before you can run any of these reports.

1. Demographics details report

The demographic details report shows you the key characteristics of the people on your website or app. This includes information like the user’s language, location, interests, age, and gender.

To find this report:

  • Log into your Google Analytics account.
  • Select Reports from the left menu.
  • Then select User Attributes > Demographic details.
Google Analytics Demographic details

(Image: Taken from GA4, October 2023)

The report defaults to showing you data by Country. However, you can also view by region, city, language, age, gender, and interests.

GA4 demographics by interest

(Image: Taken from GA4, October 2023)

The Interests segments give us a look inside our target audience’s behavior, which can help us understand user intent for more targeted PPC keyword research.

Using this report, you can segment the data by past purchasers to identify the most relevant interest segments to target. Sort by the highest conversion rate, and use these interest segments to refine your current Google ads campaigns or create new campaigns that target those segments.

2. Site search report

The site search report helps you understand what users are searching for to find what they need on your website.

This report’s usefulness goes beyond just PPC marketing. You can also use it to inform your organic digital marketing keyword strategy.

It can also give you expanded keyword options based on real user behavior as well as help you identify gaps between your audience’s expected and actual search behavior.

To find the search report:

  • Navigate to Reports.
  • Go to Engagement > Events.
  • Click on view_search_results.

Once you’re there, scroll down to see a widget that allows you to filter based on parameters. Under “Parameter Name,” choose search_term. This will show you exactly what people searched for on your site.

To see the search terms, create a custom event-based dimension for the search term results.

3. Referrals report

With the referrals report, you can see the top websites that sent traffic to your site. You can also see if any of those users actually converted.

To find this report:

Go to Reports. And navigate to Acquisition > Traffic Acquisition.

Scroll down the table to find the Referral row.

Click the + in the default channel group. And choose session source or session medium.

This report will help you better understand how people are finding your website. From there, you can discover which sites are sending you high-quality referral traffic.

If you’re running Google display ads, you can use these high-quality referral sources to create a new placements audience. This is a strategic way to test expanded audiences because you already know the site sends you high-quality traffic.

4. Conversion paths report

The conversion paths report helps you understand the path that customers take to conversion and which attribution models get credit along that path. This report will give you an overall view of how long it takes users to go from initial impression to conversion.

To find this report:

  • Click on Advertising.
  • Then, go to Attribution > Conversion paths.
  • Select a date range from the drop-down menu on the right.
  • Select one or more conversion events from the down-down menu on the left.

This default report shows data from all users, so if you want to see data for a specific group of users, add a filter at the top left of the page. For example, to look at specific paid channels, use the Session source or Session medium filter to look for Google or CPC.

The data visualization section gives you a quick look at the channels that initiate, assist, and close conversions along the path.

While the data table shows you the actual paths users take to get to that conversion. It also shows you metrics like conversions, purchase revenue, days to conversion, and touchpoints to conversion.

Conversion path report

The data visualization is shown at the top and the data table is on the bottom. (Image: Search Engine Journal)

The early touchpoints are the first 25% of touchpoints rounded to the nearest whole number. The mid-touchpoints are the middle 50% of touchpoints on the conversion path. And the late touchpoints are the last 25% of touchpoints.

The bar charts under each touchpoint will show you how much conversion credit is given to each dimension.

Overall, this report will help you understand how many touchpoints happen before the final conversion, allowing you to see all the user journey interactions.

At HawkSEM, we go beyond just using Google Analytics to track this information. We integrate ConversionIQ for tracking and analytics, allowing us to see every step of the customer journey, from initial search to sale and everything in between.

“CIQ gives us direct insights on campaign specifics such as keywords, time of day, day of the week, geolocation, device, and other customer demographics, allowing us to get more of what is working and trim the fat on what is not,” Rambod Yadegar, President of HawkSEM says.

“Further, CIQ provides customer data, which will allow us to branch off into other marketing channels, such as SEO or paid social.”

PPC report

(Image: Pexels)

How to create an effective PPC report

Reporting isn’t just for the PPC expert. It is also often seen by the client and others on the marketing team to understand the efficacy of paid search efforts and see where PPC fits into the company’s overall marketing strategy.

Here are some tips for creating an effective PPC report that helps anyone in the organization better understand campaign performance:

Define key metrics and terms.

Not everyone looking at the report will understand all the terms or what the KPIs mean. Add a section to the report that explains key metrics and goals so there’s no confusion about what you’re trying to do and how you’re tracking progress.

Use plain language when explaining data. If you have to use PPC jargon, define these terms so all stakeholders can understand what they’re looking at.

Include visuals.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the data in the report. Using visuals, like charts and graphs, to communicate this data can make it easier for everyone to understand the complex information you’re providing.

Provide the details of all ad groups.

Provide data for all the ad groups that make up your PPC campaign. Clearly describe each ad group’s purpose and what it was meant to achieve. Then, include specific details like audience, keywords, bid strategy, placement, and any other relevant information.

Include benchmarks and competitor data.

It can be difficult to understand how an organization’s PPC ads are performing without some context. Including industry benchmarks and competitor data in your reporting helps people better understand how the PPC ad campaigns are performing in relation to similar companies.

Comparing your PPC ad KPIs to the industry average helps you identify where you might be underperforming. For instance, let’s say you are an ecommerce brand and you find that your CTR is below the industry average. That means it might be time to test new ad copy.

Be transparent about the results.

No one benefits from manipulated reports. You should aim for honesty, transparency, and accuracy in all your PPC reporting.

Some PPC ad campaigns may not meet expectations at first or might not have gone as planned. However, it’s important that your client has an accurate understanding of how their search engine and social media ads are performing — even if it’s not what they want to hear right now.

Get in a reporting cadence.

Create a reporting schedule that works best for you and the organization. Depending on the size of the business and the campaign, this could be weekly or monthly reporting.

Consistent reporting is the only way to prove the value of PPC campaigns over time. Find or create your own PPC reporting template and use it to save time when creating new reports.

Add insights and recommendations.

As the PPC expert, it’s your job to make it clear what the data means and how you’re using what you’ve learned to make improvements moving forward. Clearly explain any insights you’ve gotten from the data and any recommendations you will make based on this information.

For example, you might suggest optimizing ad copy, testing a new landing page, or tweaking targeting for better results. Explain how you came to this conclusion so all stakeholders are on the same page about why you are taking certain actions moving forward.

Bring it back to the overall business goals.

To show that PPC ad spend is worth it, you should make clear how the PPC campaigns contribute to the overall marketing and business goals.

“One pitfall I’ve often encountered is an overemphasis on vanity metrics like impressions or clicks,” says Dominik Maka, Head of SEO at LV Bet.

“While these numbers may look good on paper, they can be misleading if they don’t translate into meaningful business outcomes. It’s crucial to align your PPC metrics with your actual business goals.”

The takeaway

You can’t grow what you don’t measure. Tracking PPC analytics is a vital part of running and scaling successful PPC ad campaigns.

Identify PPC strategy goals that align with the company’s goals. Then, choose your metrics carefully based on those goals so you can track what is most important to the business.

PPC management is a complex process, and that includes tracking analytics. If you want support with your ad campaigns, we’d love to be your PPC agency.

Book a complimentary consultation with our team today to see what’s possible when you partner with PPC experts.

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation