Going Down The Rabbit Hole

In my years of managing PPC accounts, I’ve noticed several different patterns and trends that are a part of the job. I even have pet names for some of these phenomena. This week, I want to talk to you all about a little something I call “going down the rabbit hole.”

We’ve all been there. With any PPC account of any significant size, you’re constantly bombarded with data. Click data, traffic data, conversion data, revenue data, competitor data…I could go on and on. And with the wide variety of reports available to you, you can often assume that all of this data will eventually lead you to a solution to your pay per click woes. So it’s just a matter of spending some time hunting for that needle of insight in the haystack of data, right?

Pursuing answers in data is an admirable pursuit, but sometimes in PPC, it just doesn’t get the job done. Sometimes you get so absorbed in your mountain of data that you run around in circles of analysis without actually coming up with any actionable insights. You run report after report and run statistical analysis after statistical analysis, but you fail to get anywhere. I call this “going down the rabbit hole.”

Like Alice, the original rabbit-hole spelunker, you get lost in a wonderland of reports that look neat on the surface, but fail to provide any clear answers. So you wander around for a while, maybe meet some interesting characters, but you never really end up closer to your original goal. It may be fun for a while, but your boss or client is probably not going to appreciate you spending the last eight hours looking at Excel spreadsheets without coming up with anything to truly improve account performance.

As PPC managers, we often assume that all of our problems can be solved with data. While data is an essential part of what we do, it doesn’t always have all the answers. Sometimes you need to take a risk based on an educated guess to really move the dial. It’s OK to not run a pivot-table fueled, complexly cross-referenced, Math PhD-thesis-quality analysis when a simple statistical significance test and an educated guess will do. In my experience, it’s far, far, better to spend half an hour checking some obvious questions and taking bold action rather than spending hours creating a complex spreadsheet that may or may not deliver the outcomes you need it to. So don’t go down the rabbit hole. Be conscious of how you’re spending your time, and question whether you would benefit more from running that analysis for hours, or just spending that same amount of time doing simple stuff like checking up on ads and search queries. There’s a time and a place for complicated analysis, but in PPC it’s not as frequent as you might think.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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