Back in March, Google launched a new AdWords reporting feature called AdWords Search Funnel.  This long awaited reporting feature provides valuable insights into search user behavior with respect to conversions attributed to paid search campaigns, ad groups and keywords.  If you use all of these reports, that's great, but I'm guessing you already have a tough time keeping up with the standard AdWords interface and changing quality scores.  So instead of going through all the reports, I'm going to focus on three absolutely essential reports you should be scrutinizing: assisted conversions, top paths, and time lag reports.

NOTE: The public roll-out should be complete by now, so ensure you have access by logging into your AdWords account and selecting the Reporting tab > Conversions > Search Funnels (in the left column).

Assisted Conversions

Most Google AdWords accounts are built on a product or geographic hierarchy at the campaign level, so looking at the assisted conversions report at the campaign level might not yield much insight.  Drill down to the keyword level and prepare to be amazed.  This particular report isn't explained too well in the Google AdWords help section, but I typically rely on it to tell me which keywords are driving last-click conversions, and which are contributing to last-click conversions on other keywords.

Let's use an example.  Say you're an electronics retailer and you're targeting two phrase match keywords:

  • digital cameras
  • canon digital cameras
Users type in "digital cameras" into Google, see your ad and click it and are sent to a relatively generic but well-converting landing page of cameras on promotion.  In their effort to research their eventual purchase, they might do a number of searches on particular models before settling on a particular brand, say Canon.  Knowing you had a bunch of cameras on promotion, their next search term might be "canon digital cameras" and this time they click on your ad to a landing page with all your smoking hot Canon promotions.  Your price and pedigree is irresistible and they buy a Canon camera.  Google AdWords attributes the last-click conversion to "canon digital cameras" and an assist to "digital cameras."

Would you have gotten the conversion if you only had the longer tail keyword?  Maybe, but maybe not.  With the "Assisted Conversions" report you can test out.

Top Paths

Once again, the "Top Paths" report defaults to Google AdWords campaigns, which is probably less useful for most advertisers than selecting ad group, or keyword level data.  Although the "Assisted Conversions" report conveys much of the same information in terms of conversion events, "Top Paths" gives you the ability to go beyond a binomial relationship.  This stuff is exciting because you may actually witness user intent and search sophistication increase incrementally over time.  In addition, if you have a fairly large set of keywords, it can also give you some clues into the influence your ads and landing pages have on visitors.  Consider the same example we used above, except introduce another step in the path:

  • digital cameras
  • canon digital cameras
  • canon sd110 digital camera
If you notice this path show up in the "Top Paths" report fairly often, you may want to circumvent the second or third step in the process by influencing a purchase decision for the "Canon SD110" on your generic landing page.  Asking questions from your data also helps: do I see the same top path behavior for other manufacturer products like Sony or Nikon?  If not, why?

Time Lag

Although the data available from the "Time Lag" report is also available in Google Analytics with a bit of tinkering, having it available through Google AdWords Funnel Reports without the need for specifying segments is extremely helpful.  As the name suggests, the "Time Lag" report displays the distribution of elapsed time before visitors convert through AdWords campaigns.  Considerable insight is provided by way of customizing your analysis starting point: from first impression, from first click, or from last click.  Obviously, you're aiming to optimize the time to conversion from first impression.

ASIDE: Googlers, if you're reading, the only thing I don't like about this report is that you cannot break down distributions by campaign, ad group, and keyword like all the other reports.  Sure, a quick workaround is to specify new conversion goals that are campaign-, ad group-, or keyword-specific, but I would probably reserve doing that only for the severely problematic ads.

Why should you scrutinize the "Time Lag" report or even worry about its existence?  Of all the conversions I generated last week from paid search, 83% occurred on the same day.  You could say that's pretty good, and I'd agree, but I'm still worrying about the 7% of conversions that occurred in the "12+ days" bucket.  What that's telling me is that a good chunk of conversions can be attributed to old ads, potentially old landing pages, maybe old keywords!  Even if I don't report the true number of conversions for my campaigns for last week to my boss, I need to know what the true performance of those campaigns was so I don't make matters worse.

A little bit of extra data can go a long way in making you look like a PPC dynamo, so be sure not to skip over the Google AdWords Search Funnel reports.

May 5, 2010

Garry is an expert in lead generation, search engine marketing, web analytics, and social media marketing. He has successfully championed creative marketing campaigns and executed on actionable insights in several vertical markets including media, insurance, technology, and telecommunications. As Online Marketing and Lead Generation Manager at Marketwire, Garry is responsible for business development through online advertising, content management, search engine optimization, and social media channels.

Garry also runs a successful online marketing blog, a web analytics blog, and is active on Twitter.


Hello from Google and thanks for the great article. Comment on your aside for googlers about the time lag report where you say: "you cannot break down distributions by campaign, ad group, and keyword like all the other reports"

You actually can see this information, though currently it is a little buried. The only way to do it is to drill down through the First Click Analysis or Last Click Analysis reports. Once you have clicked on a campaign in one of these reports, you can click the drop down next to "Drill in to these conversions:" and choose Time Lag, and the campaign, ad group or keyword you are on will persist and pertain to that Time Lag data.

You'll have to drill down each time you want to see the Time Lag info for a campaign, ad group or keyword.

Sweet, thanks for the comment Jeff.

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Search Engine Guide > Garry Przyklenk > Google AdWords Search Funnels: 3 essential reports you should scrutinize