Understanding Search Funnels: Gaining a Leg Up on the Competition

I am often asked, “What is one tool that is overlooked even by Paid Search pros?” Typically, Search Funnels is near the top of the list of items that come to mind.

So, Google provides advertisers with gobs and gobs of insights that can be deciphered, analyzed, optimized and leave you drunk on data.  Google is continually creating new tools, segments, filters and features.  Large advertisers are testing new betas that give them unfair advantages in click-through-rates and conversions.

How do you compete against the experts? Start by understanding your Search Funnel reports and you will immediately gain insights that your competitors are likely overlooking within their own accounts.

Why Search Funnel Reports Exist:

AdWords assigns conversions to the last ad clicked; however, this last click attribution can mislead your decision making process.  If you haven’t had a chance to invest in attribution modeling, you need to turn to the Search Funnel reports.

A few Questions Search Funnels Can Answer:

  1. What happened before the conversion took place?
  2. Did the searcher see your ad multiple times?
  3. Did the searcher click on multiple ads before converting?
  4. How much time lapsed between the first ad seen and the conversion?

In short, Search Funnel reports help you understand how your keywords and campaigns work together to lead up to conversions.  Understanding conversion paths or the sequence that took place before a conversion can be even more important than just understanding which keyword converted.

You can find Search Funnel reports, using the following path: Tools & Analysis  >> Conversions, Search Funnels are in the left hand navigation.

 Showing the Power of Search Funnels

Search funnel analysis can get complicated quickly, but in an effort to show the power of this tool, below is a simplistic example.

Using the Time Lag Report, I can quickly see that 83% of the conversions come within one day of clicking an ad.


Then I can pull the Path Length report for another quick insight.


From this report I can see that 76% of conversions happened on the first click, but 23.79% on sequential ad clicks.  Now the fun begins; I know the bulk of my conversions happen on the first day the ad is clicked, but 24% need to click on more than one ad before converting.  As a savvy Search Marketer I can deduce that I need to run two tests:

Test #1:

Ad delivery method Standard vs. Accelerated: Testing delivery method may increase the number of searchers who see my ads more than once in the first day.  This could then increase conversions because I know the bulk users are deciding that day to convert.

Test #2:

Remarketing for Search Ads: This test will allow me to alter my keyword bids on people who have already clicked on my ads but didn’t convert.  This would allow me to bid more aggressively knowing that almost 24% of my conversions need to visit the website more than once before converting.

Keep in mind this is just a simple example of the data and insights that can give you a leg up on the competition from the Search Funnel reports.

David MihalekDavid Mihalek – has written 5 posts on this site.
David Mihalek is a Associate Director of Search Marketing at Empower MediaMarketing where he contributes to the improvement of Paid Search & Invite Media Campaigns.
Previously, his career focused on creating holistic online marketing strategies using PPC, Social Media, SEO and Web Analytics. David has consulted & worked on projects for clients who have found themselves in the follow categories: Fortune 100 & 500, Internet Retailer Top 500 and numerous other small to medium size businesses.
In an effort to keep up with the latest advancements in the online marketing space, David continues to renew his Google Analytics, Google AdWords & Bing Ads certifications.
You can now follow David on Twitter: @mihalek.

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2 Responses to “Understanding Search Funnels: Gaining a Leg Up on the Competition”

  1. Ian
    November 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Search Funnels and the Attribution Modeling Tool are rapidly becoming important in our business. In particular, it’s surprising to see how many steps customers take before making a purchase and how many different marketing channels are involved. Using this knowledge, we’ll compare revenue reported under the standard ‘last click’ attribution model to a ‘first click’ model and see some real differences. When we move from last click to first click, some channels (like Bing AdCenter) well see a revenue difference of 20%+. We’re undervaluing YahooBing, but by how much? That’s the next question to answer.

    • David Mihalek
      November 29, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      Ian, at Empower MediaMarketing we have been partnering with an attribution modeling agency called Adometry who is quickly becoming a leader in the space. What I have realized not only from this partnership but working heavily with Google Analytics & AdWords attribution tools is that attribution isn’t a one size fits all model. So for each client we have worked with, different campaigns and clients yield completely different attribution models. So for you Bing is / might be undervalued but for our clients it maybe overvalued. Looking beyond sources of traffic i.e. Display, Email, Organic & Search we are taking attribution a step farther. We are actually using it to understand which behavioral segments feed the top of the funnel. So while our pixels can help us understand which audiences / behavioral targets convert; using attribution to better understand the top of the funnel can help us drive additional sales for our clients. Thank you for your comments and interaction with MediaisPower.com. Stay tune as I have a more advanced Google Attribution blog post on the way in which we look at how Linear, First Click, Last Click & Time Decay models can give you a powerful edge over the competition for free.

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