AdWords came out with the paid and organic report in late August. The paid and organic report had the potential to provide data that is no longer available in Google analytics due to the Google secure search update (not provided). Getting data back would be great for both SEO and for SEO-PPC integration. I wrote two posts in September (here and here) about the potential uses of the report.
We have continued to investigate the usage of the paid and organic report. Reagan left office when I had just turned two, but I do like one of the catchphrases he frequented used.
So, I manually checked performance for our SEER clients who have Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) connected to AdWords. I looked at fourteen paid and organic reports PPC data compared to our actual AdWords search data in Q4. Three of the fourteen clients set up the paid and organic report during Q4, so this is partial Q4 data for those three clients. There was one outlier whose data discrepancy I could not explain.
Paid and organic report data is very similar to GA data. However, at the query level the data was less reliable. When I compared matched search query level Google cpc visits in Google Analytics to paid and organic estimated clicks in AdWords for high volume queries, some of them were off considerably.
I then dug into the SEO data to see if it was as accurate as the PPC data.
As you can see, GWT data from the paid and organic report in AdWords and Google Analytics data have major differences. In fairness, SEO data is much harder to accurately access than PPC for many reasons. Visits are not the same as clicks. Profile filters influence Google Analytics data. Some people have installed the GA opt out plugin or have do not track software on their computers. However, we do see a bias in the data. The paid and organic report consistently estimates less (35% to 88% less) clicks than the number of Google Analytics organic Google visits.
5 Things This Data Helps Us Know
1 – The AdWords paid and organic report usually estimates PPC activity accurately in aggregate. However, we still need to check our client's individual data against the report as there can be outliers. I searched based on date ranges, deleted data, and anything else I could think of that would cause a discrepancy, but I couldn't figure out why client 7 had such a big discrepancy.
2 – At the search query level, the PPC data can be off. The PPC data is best used in aggregate.
3 – If anything, the paid and organic report slightly underestimates paid clicks, but this tendency is less than 1%.
4 – PPC data from the paid and organic report is much more reliable than SEO data.
5 – Organic data from the paid and organic report consistently is below Google Analytics estimates, meaning that the cost/benefit analysis that could be drawn from paid and organic report data would likely be UNDER-estimating the impact of SEO.
Since most organic keyword activity is not provided, we can't dive in at the keyword or query level for SEO.
Takeaways for Advertisers
1 – Trust, but verify. Always check your GWT paid data against AdWords data in case you are an outlier (like client #7) whose GWT data may not be accurate.
2 – Know that the Paid & Organic report is likely underestimating SEO traffic by at LEAST 35%, possibly as much as 90% based on SEER client data. Check your GA organic visits against paid and organic estimates to see how much it's underestimating your volume.
3 – Utilize the data with caution on the SEO side, and remember to account for the bias to undercount SEO. Overall, GWT seems to match PPC activity very closely in aggregate so you can proceed with more certainty there.
4 – Query level insights from the paid and organic report may not always be accurate for BOTH PPC and SEO.
What have you seen from your paid and organic report data? Is there a consistent under-reporting of SEO traffic volume?