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Google Addresses One of the Flaws in Its Paid & Organic Report, Others Remain

Google announced yesterday that its paid and organic report can now be downloaded by device, a marked upgrade in allowing marketers to analyze ad and organic link performance by query more granularly. Both paid and organic ranking and peformance can vary by device type, making this segmentation crucial for understanding both channels’ performance as well as assessing results of tests such as brand ad holdouts.

However, the report is still limited in a couple of critical ways in that it does not include data from Google Shopping campaigns and the data still cannot be segmented by geographic region. Here’s why those two points matter.

Google Shopping Ads Are a Huge Source of Traffic for Retailers and Crucial to Understanding Ad Visibility

Google Product Listing Ads (PLA) accounted for 52% of all retailer Google paid search clicks in Q1 2017 and 75% of all non-brand clicks, according to Merkle’s Q1 Digital Marketing Report.

As such, leaving these ad units out of the paid and organic report greatly limits how much insight advertisers can draw from it. For example, having a PLA unit as well as a text ad and organic link for a particular search might impact expected performance compared to when just a text ad and organic link are present. At present, the report would deem these two situations as identical.

Obviously moving forward, retailers would greatly appreciate an update to include Google Shopping in the paid and organic report.

Global Organic Data Inhibits Valuable Analysis

The other major limitation of the paid and organic report that has yet to be addressed is the lack of geographic segmentation. This is important for a couple of reasons.

One is that even if a brand were completely global and relevant in every country that uses Google search, its competitive position is likely different for different regions. Aggregate global trends might hide valuable regional insights, and advertisers currently have no ability to account for this.

Another big reason this is an issue is that paid search data is obviously limited to the regions targeted in AdWords, while organic performance represents the entire world. That means that while the ‘ad only’ and ‘both’ categories of query performance are limited to regions targeted by AdWords, the ‘organic only' performance is mixed between regions targeted in AdWords and any other regions which accounted for organic impressions. This isn’t an issue if AdWords campaigns target the entire world equally with ads, but that would be an incredibly rare if not non-existent scenario.

At a basic level, this makes it nearly impossible to make comparisons of aggregate click-through-rate when an organic link is present by itself versus when an ad is shown alongside an organic link, since the global data makes for an apples-to-oranges scenario. This can be accounted for in holdout testing when ad impression share for a query is at or near 100%, but it’s a headache and marketers are out of luck for any query without near-100% ad impression share.

Conclusion

This is the first major update to the paid and organic report since its release in terms of real additional functionality, and represents a strong step forward in making the report more nimble for advertisers to actually use in analysis.

Unfortunately, there are still a couple of other areas that need to be patched up in order to make the paid and organic report all it could be. If you’re reading this, Google, inclusion of Google Shopping ad performance and geographic segmentation are next on our wish list for this evolving report.

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