How to Understand What You’re Seeing on the Google Ads Dashboard

I’m new to Google Ads. Even though I’ve been a professional direct response copywriter for 8 years, I’ve always focused on the message. But recently, traffic generation has caught my eye.

Why write the words if no one sees them, right?

So, I promised a friend I’d document my journey to understanding Google Ads for my benefit and hers. 

Step one was getting a well-crafted SOP from brilliant minds who have gone before me. Check.

Then, I did the next most important thing… I followed the steps.

(Following good advice is a wildly underrated tool. I give this tip all the time in my role as a copy coach but it’s often ignored. Nevertheless, it’s good advice.)

Having followed the SOP, I’m now the proud owner of a Google Ads account populated with 1 (dare I say it) adorable ad. To my delight, I also managed to get it to light up with that cute little green dot that means all is well and my ad is running.

To further confirm my success, I was charged $3 when the ad ran.

Awesome! I have an ad. I’m queen of the world!

Or maybe not.

Today, the cute green dot has turned an ominous shade of red. There’s also an alert next to it that says my ad isn’t showing. Very disappointing.

What’s my plan? Start over at the beginning? 

No, I’m not going to burn the account to the ground.

Instead, I’m going to go through the account as though I’ve never seen a Google Ads account before… carefully retracing the steps that the SOP so efficiently stomped me through, to see if I can understand how this system hangs together.

Why? I’m of the opinion that life is held together by a few guiding principles. If I understand the “trunk of the tree,” I can waste less time staring at the individual leaves.

Ready to dive in with me?

Let’s start with understanding the dashboard.

So far, I’ve got this:

The purpose of the Google Ads dashboard is to help you get an overall picture of how well your campaign is going. Once you can read the tea leaves, seeing what’s working and what’s not working should be instantaneous. 

On the dashboard, you’ll see 4 important metrics: impressions, clicks, clickthrough rate, and conversions.

Impressions. Impressions are the number of people who saw your ad. Or possibly more accurately, it’s the number of people your ad was shown to.

Clicks. Clicks are the number of people who clicked on your ad and went to wherever you sent the traffic, for example: your website or landing page. 

Tip: If your impressions are high but the clicks are low, the problem is with the ad copy. If this problem continues, the ad will be shown less often because Google will perceive the ad as less relevant.

Clickthrough rate. Clickthrough rate is the percentage of people who clicked your ad compared to how many people saw it. It’s a useful metric because it’s a quick way to see if your copy is doing its job. In direct response copywriting, we say anything above a 1-2% conversion rate is good. That holds true for Google Ads traffic, as well.

Conversions. Conversions have a confusing definition depending on your perspective. Business people define a conversion as “getting the sale.” Google Ads defines a conversion as an action the prospect took. (Not nearly as exciting as getting the sale, IMO.) Examples of conversions are placing a call, downloading an app, filling out a form, clicking on your website, etc. 

Tip: If people click through to your website but don’t take the next step (fill out the form, buy your product, etc), then the problem could be two-fold. 

First, copy. Second, value. If the prospect doesn’t instantly see the connection between the ad and what’s on the website, they won’t take the next step. Also, if the prospect doesn’t understand why taking the next step is valuable, they won’t do it.

To diagnose why the prospect isn’t taking the next step and get ideas for what to improve, Google suggests you link your Google Ads account to Google Analytics. You can learn more about that process in this 2-minute video created by Google Ads Help.

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