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Linking AdWords & Analytics: a Troubleshooting Guide

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At our Google Analytics training in Washington DC last week, one of the most burning questions we got asked was, “Why can’t I see my AdWords data in my Google Analytics?” And even though we’ve blogged about this problem before (here), we wanted to provide a step-by-step troubleshooting guide, complete with how-to’s and screenshots.

So – let’s start from the beginning! Log into your Analyltics account directly from www.google.com/analytics/home/ (rather than just tabbing over to Analytics from your AdWords account). Go to Traffic Sources / AdWords / Adwords Campaigns. If you see data there, but simply cannot access it from your AdWords screen, that is a separate problem (see steps #4 and #5 on this Google help page). However, if you see zeroes there (as in the thumbnail to the left which you can click to enlarge), follow the steps below:

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Step #1: Checking Your Auto-Tagging

When your AdWords aren’t talking to your analytics, the first thing we suspect is that your Auto-Tagging may not be turned on.

To check this, log into your AdWords account from adwords.google.com/select/Login, click on the “My Account” tab, and click on “Account Preferences”. Under “Tracking”, you will see either “Auto-Tagging: Yes” or “Auto-Tagging: No”.

If you see “Auto-Tagging: No”, you’ve likely found your problem. Click on “Edit” and change it to yes. (Remember that once you do this, you’ll be collecting AdWords data going forward — you can’t recover data retroactively — so wait six to eight hours before you log into your Analytics account and look for your AdWords data.)

If your auto-tagging was already turned on, keep going on to Step #2 to find your problem!

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Step #2: Make Sure Your Landing Pages Are Tagged

Now, you’re going to check whether you have Google Analytics code on the landing pages you’re sending traffic to. So go to one of your landing pages, and click on “View” / “Page Source”. (If you’re not entirely sure what landing pages your ads are going to, you can go to an ad group in your AdWords account, and just click on the blue underlined title in the Ad Variations tab all the way to the right — that will take you straight to your landing pages without incurring any click charges.)

After you select “View” / “Page Source”, you should see a bunch of HTML with a chunk of javascript like in the screenshot to the left. However, if you find that your landing pages aren’t tagged (since it’s easy to forget to add GA code if you have dedicated landing pages!), you’ve found your problem. On the other hand, if your landing pages are all properly tagged, continue on to Step #3.

(**Side note: If going to “View Source” and then hunting in the code for your GA code is not your cup of tea, never fear. Stephane Hamel has created a wonderful plug-in for just this purpose and it’s well worth the download!)

Step #3: Make Sure Your AdWords are Linked to the Right Analytics Account

We’ve seen cases where your AdWords actually are talking to your Analytics — but they’re linked to the wrong account. To check whether this is your problem, you’ll need to do a bit of work.

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First, you’ll need to log into you Google Analytics account from the www.google.com/analytics/home/ screen. Under “Settings”, click on “Edit” next to your main profile (you need to have admin access to your Analytics in order to do this). On the next screen, you’ll see a piece of javascript code in the center of the page — write down the GA account number you see there. (It comes after the letters UA. Like this: UA-12345676-1.) Now, do the exact same thing, only get the UA number from the Analytics tab of your AdWords account (log in from adwords.google.com/select/Login).

Do the two numbers you wrote down match? If they don’t, you’ve found your problem. (And if this is the case, you’ll need to get in touch with Google to have them unlink the “wrong” account — you can’t do this part on your own!) Then, you just have to link up the right account, and you’re in business! (See this Google help page for instructions.)

If that’s not your problem, keep going — right onto Step #4.

Step #4: See If You’ve Got a “gclid” Problem

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If you still haven’t solved your problem, you’ve most likely got a gclid problem. (And what the heck is a gclid, you ask? Actually, it’s just the tracking code that passes information from your AdWords to your analytics. [The term gclid actually stands for Google Click ID — thanks to Jesse for clueing me in to the origin of the word!])

To diagnose this problem, go ahead and click on one of your ads in the paid search results, and then look up in the URL. Do you see the letters “gclid” followed by a series of letters and numbers? If not, you’ve identified the problem at last!

Usually, this happens when the destination URL of your AdWords traffic is being automatically redirected to another page. To correct this problem, fix the destination URLs in your AdWords account so that each ad is going directly to the right landing page. Or, just have the server redirection retain the gclid parameter in the URL of the page the traffic gets redirected to. (You may need to find yourself a good Google Analytics geek to help with this last part!)

Best of luck, and happy linking!

-Traci Scharf

Slash Pay-Per-Click Costs Using Negative Keywords

For anyone who is reasonably new to the world of Pay-Per-Click (PPC), let me share a few words of wisdom — if you don’t have an extensive list of negative keywords, you’re probably paying too much for your traffic.

Suspect you might be one of those advertisers who is feeding the Google piggybank? Well, let’s put a stop to that! In this post, you’ll learn what negative keywords are and how you can generate a starter list of negative keywords in no time at all.

So what are negative keywords? Let’s start with an analogy. When you do pay-per-click advertising, it is like throwing a party. You’ve created a guest list of people who are invited to your party (these are your keywords), but you’ve also hired a bouncer to keep out any undesireables (these are your negative keywords).

Here’s an example. Let’s say I offer French lessons. My keyword list likely has a number of keyword variations that users might type into a search engine, like “French lessons”, “private French lessons”, “French language lessons”, and “French language instruction”.

But what if someone types in “private French Horn lessons”? Or “French language instruction online”? Or “French language lessons on DVD”? Without negative keywords, you will be showing your ads to all these types of bad traffic — inadvertently lowering your quality score and overpaying for your traffic as a result.

Now, you’re probably wondering where you get your negative keywords from? Do you have to pluck them out of thin air by sheer ingenuity? Am I going to ask you to brainstorm negative keywords while sitting in the bathtub, or keep a notebook on your bedside so you can think them up as you’re drifting off to sleep? No, no, no — there’s a much easier way!

Here’s what I want you to do. Just as you probably use a keyword tool to help you develop keyword lists, I’d like you to use a keyword tool to develop negative keyword lists. And if you don’t have fancy tools at your disposal, don’t worry — for our purposes, the free keyword tool in your AdWords account will do just fine!

First, you’re going to type one of your keywords into the keyword tool:

Then, scan the list for “bad traffic” terms:

For each “bad” search query on the list, find the offending word in the phrase and add it to your negative keyword list. (Below is a screenshot of adding a negative keyword in AdWords using AdWords Editor, but this works for whatever search engine or interface you happen to be using.)

Adding Negative Keywords in AdWords Editor

See how it works? It’s not hard at all really and is well worth the effort.

Good luck and remember — don’t feed the Google piggybank!

Make More Money by Segmenting Your Pay-Per-Click Accounts

When I begin working on a new pay-per-click account, I really never know what I’m going to see. Sometimes the keywords are far too generic to generate a good conversion rate (a dog walker advertising on the term “dogs”) and sometimes the keywords are far too specific to generate any real traffic (such as “dog walking services in Pittsburgh’s North Hills”). But you know what never surprises me with new clients? Poor segmentation!

So, for anyone who’s just delving into PPC for the first time (or who’s been bravely running their own PPC campaigns), let’s get down to business. What is segmentation? And why is it so important?

I’d like you to think of your PPC account as an investment portfolio. You might look at your portfolio as a whole from time to time to see how you’re doing overall, but in general, there is very little actionable data at the account level.

The actionable data comes from seeing how various segments of your portfolio are performing. Let’s say my fictional investment portfolio is made up of energy stocks, manufacturing stocks and tech stocks. If my energy stocks are getting phenomenal returns, my manufacturing stocks are getting steady positive returns and my tech stocks are losing money each month — well, *that* is some actionable data. I’m probably going to put more money into my energy stocks, hang onto my manufacturing stocks and sell my tech stocks.

Your pay-per-click account can be seen in much the same way. When you divide up your account into 6-10 campaigns (generally, your main product lines or service areas), you are going to begin getting some clear, actionable data. You’re going to know what your top-performing campaigns are and you’ll be able to turn up the volume on these campaigns (for example, increase your bids to get a higher volume of high-converting traffic). Similarly, you will know where your efforts are wasted and can stop the “slow bleed” of poorly performing campaigns.

And don’t forget to extend your segmentation efforts one level deeper — each campaign should be segmented into relevant ad groups (let’s say about 2-4 ad groups for each campaign). Although adjustments at the ad group level are somewhat more “fine tuning” than “big picture”, the principles are the same — it’s still about doing more of what’s working and less of what’s not.

So, if you’re one of those many PPC advertisers who have one campaign and one ad group, start segmenting! What you find out may surprise you.

Just because you paid a lot of money for that website doesn't mean it's gonna convert

We see it all the time — companies who just can’t figure out why their site doesn’t convert like it should.

We know first-hand that high conversion rate sites aren’t necessarily the prettiest sites. They often don’t have fancy graphics, knock-your-socks-off design or expensive flash elements. But they know what their users want and they give it to them — for example, they help users easily navigate to the right product; they give users the information they care about; they make it easy for users to do business with them.

Since it’s a Friday, I’m not going to tell you why you should do user testing on your site, or rant about common usability problems I encounter in performing user testing for clients. Instead, I’ll save the educational post for the work week and direct you to this funny (because it’s true) post, Don’t Hire An Ad Agency to Build Your Web Site. It says it better than I ever could!