Hello, Justin Driskill here with this month’s selection of unmissable Online Advertising Answers. To get your question answered (and possibly featured here) find me on Quora, and ask away.
This month’s questions are:
- How do you create PPC reports that people will actually read?
- How much money do I get on 100 visitors on a free blog on blogger with Google AdSense?
- How long have you worked in digital marketing and what changes have surprised you the most since you’ve begun?
Let’s dig in…
A: “Hi Dexter,
To make people actually read your PPC reports, you have to make them interesting to read, and interesting to look at.
You also have to accept that even an exceptionally interesting PPC report will be boring to most people – and that even for those people, you can provide useful information by simply formatting your report in a useful way.
I have written hundreds (possibly thousands) of reports at this point, so here are a few simple tips that will help you get people interested in yours.
Use Google Data Studio
Other answers here have called out Google Data Studio as a great tool for making reports, and they are right. Before you skip this section, please note – it is free and incredibly easy to use. You can plug Google Ads directly into it to pull stats, or else if you are using another platform you can copy spreadsheets into Google Sheets and make charts from that.
Google Data Studio is a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG report builder. This means you grab the type of chart or table from a menu, and drop it wherever you want on the page and it just works. Then you choose what data you want in the chart, add filters and style it however you want and you’re done.
It’s simple to use, it saves you time, gives you the ability to make much better charts than you otherwise could, and it’s free. On top of all this – you don’t even need to make the reports yourself. There is a template gallery that you can choose a report from, edit however you like, and then plug your own stats into it.
[This is a nice example of a template that you can use for yourself. It was created by Joshua Cottrell-Schloemer at Cottrell Consulting]
You can use Google Data Studio to make dashboards so that people can pull their own stats, but I also use it to make reports. To do this I just add in text boxes by the charts, write in my analysis and then download it as a PDF to send out. It’s such a time saver, I honestly couldn’t recommend it more.
Put the Most Interesting Part of Your Reports First
Put your conclusions at the top of your report.
Not everyone is going to read all of your reports, and you’re just going to have to accept that. Some people won’t have time, and some people won’t be interested, but this doesn’t mean that your report can’t have value.
Like with webpages, don’t shy away from giving people what they want right away. If someone is interested, they will keep reading. If they get bored and wander off – that’s fine too as they will have already got some value from what you’ve written.
What this means in practical terms is that your report should start with an Executive Summary. This is a super brief overview of the report’s conclusions (perhaps a paragraph or two tops), with a couple of notable stats thrown in. This is for people who will not read your report, but need to stay informed.
If you are running a weekly report, it can be helpful to simply break this down into 3 sections which you write a sentence or two for: Good Signs, Bad Signs, and General Overview. You should also include this executive summary in the email you use to send your report out.
Reports should also generally have recommendations. It can be tempting to put these at the end of your report, but you should put them at the start (and possibly also within the email you send out). This is likely the reason people are reading your report in the first place, so give them what they want. If they are interested, they will go through the rest of your report to find out what you have written in more detail. If they aren’t, they weren’t going to do that anyway.
You can’t trick people into being interested by forcing them to scroll through stuff they aren’t reading anyway.
Make Your Report Visually Interesting
To start with, this means branding. Add your companies logo, and use their font and colours in the report. Make every page roughly consistent in its layout (at least have the logo and title of a page in the same place on every page).
Use icons to illustrate your tables. You may have to hunt them down by Googling “free icons” but it doesn’t take much time. You would be surprised how impressed people are by a tiny picture of a mobile phone to clarify what a row of data is about.
You should also use a wide variety of different charts to illustrate your point. Always focus on using charts which are helpful and illuminating, but even within that, you have choices. You can use Pie Charts or Donut charts. You can use regular bar charts, or percentage bar charts. You can use trend lines and Year-on-Year comparisons. Mix it up a bit to stop people’s brains from glossing over after seeing the same thing over and over, but also make sure the chart types you choose make data as easy to understand as possible.
You should also highlight important words in your analysis. As I said, I put text boxes with each set of charts or tables so I can say something about them. In these boxes, I will highlight positive words in green, and negative words in red – so that even if someone is skim reading they will still get a general feel for what my analysis is telling them. I also highlight any comparison stats (as in +300% Year-on-Year) by putting them in square brackets, so that people who are interested can easily scan to find them.
Be less formal within the report
Your Executive Summary and recommendations are what will be read the most. They are what will be shared among people who don’t directly care about your work.
Your analysis within a report will likely only be read by people who are actually invested in what you are doing. These people are already interested in the stats, and to make them interested in your opinion too – make it interesting. Show your workings by just writing down what you think and are discovering as you yourself look at these stats.
Don’t go overboard and make it free-flowing nonsense, but if you read something and it surprised you then say so. If one chart says something that needs investigating further, then say so. It’s not your diary, but it should be readable in a way that makes people understand your conclusions and recommendations – and the best way to do that is to just to write down what you are thinking it as you think it (edit it later of course).
Don’t Make People Feel Stupid
The main reason why people don’t like reading reports is that so many report writers feel like they have to be absolutely formal with them. There is no reason for this.
Yes, sometimes jargon helps you say what you need to, but saying “the CPA increased by £4.93 YoY” is simply less accessible than saying “it cost us almost £5 more for each sale from these ads than it did at this time last year”.
Make your recommendations and Executive Summary as plain language as possible. Label charts and tables with plain English where possible. Most importantly, have a simple glossary of terms as your back page for every report, and have an index at the front so that people know it is there.
Reports are meant to illuminate and disseminate information, so don’t make them hard to read!
Change things for no reason
This is not the best tip, but if you are sending out the same report periodically for a long period, every now and then slightly tweak it. Change the colours, move the boxes a bit, use slightly different graphs. It’ll help keep people looking at it.
Most of the time when you update a report, it’ll be in the backend where you make data more robust. People don’t care about that. If you change that little mobile icon into a little icon of a person holding a mobile, then suddenly people will notice that table again.
Read Other People’s Reports
This is an obvious final tip, but read other people’s reports and try to notice what makes them interesting to you. If you say ooh, or find yourself sitting forward suddenly, make a note of what caused that and try to mimic it in your report.
Writing reports can be boring. Reading reports can be boring. So make it easy on both yourself and the person reading the report.
I hope this helps,
To work out the amount of money you could get from 100 visitors, you’ll have to use some averages to get an estimate.
The rough overall average for the number of pages each person will visit on each website they go to is 2.
Assuming you mean 100 visitors per day, this means you could expect 200 pageviews a day, or about 6,000 per month. That would mean you would get $60 per month from your 100 visitors per day.
If you want to work out how much money you can make from advertising, you can use this simple calculator: How Much Money Can I Make?
I hope this helps,
A: “Hi Erin,
I’m coming up on 20 years in digital marketing and the thing that still surprises me most is something that never changes – that people react so uniformly to advertising.
If I show an ad to two random groups of 1,000 people in the UK, both will get roughly the same amount of clicks. There will be some difference of course, but the more random groups I show the ad to, the more the stats will cluster around an average. Our responses to advertising are just that predictable.
Maybe you’re thinking – no, not me and my friends! We’re totally random! Well, I’m afraid to say that your unpredictableness averages out to being pretty predictable when you are part of a larger data set.
I’ll put it another way – if I run an ad campaign for a month in the US, letting everyone see it once – the percentage of people who click on it each day will stay pretty stable.
We all like to think we’re completely unique, and that our tastes are entirely our own. Having seen advertising statistics roll in over the past 20 years, there is clearly a limit to that uniqueness.
That’s not to say that we’re all the same – just that statistically speaking we’re a lot more predictable than we like to think. It’s also not to say that targeting ads at different groups of people won’t yield different results – only that results will stay stable within those groups. It doesn’t matter if you target car owners, bird watchers, Indonesian accountants with motorbikes who only shop on Tuesdays, or everybody in the whole world – each group will be uniform within itself. Whatever part of the human race you draw a circle around – people in that circle aren’t that different from one another.
Which sounds kind of beautiful, but then this is advertising we’re talking about so I’ll finish with what I consider to be the most depressing example of how people react to advertising:
If you put a non-alphanumeric character in an ad on Google (such as ?!%£$ etc), then people are more likely to click on that ad. It doesn’t matter what the ad is for or where it is running. Ads with non-alphanumeric characters in them attract our attention so we are more likely to click on them than ads without.
Our responses are just that simple that an exclamation mark – which you probably see every single day of your life – is probably enough to catch your attention and possibly enough to make you do something you might not have otherwise done (ie click on an ad).
Isn’t that weird?
See you next time,