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5 Powerful Ways To Use Google Analytics To Improve AdWords Performance

Following on from my previous article on using attribution models to improve your AdWords performance, I thought I'd share some other ways in which you can use AdWords to inform and improve your AdWords campaigns. In this article, I’ll be sharing with you the top 5 ways in which you can use the power of Google Analytics to gain greater insight into your AdWords performance and make smarter business and bidding decisions so that you can get the most from your existing budget.


1) Benchmarking

Benchmarking is one of those Google Analytics features that gets little attention and even less love yet it’s one of the most exciting and useful reports in Google Analytics. 


benchmarking 1.jpg


With benchmarking, you can see how your website compares on high level metrics to other websites in your industry vertical. You can then use that data to make some decisions, especially around whether you should spend more on AdWords or spend that money fixing up the user experience on your site.


Pro Tip: In my experience, benchmarking data is correlated VERY closely with landing page quality score. In the example above, this landing page quality score would be average or poor. Make it go green and you’ll likely see “above average”. There’s no data confirming this, but anecdotally, trust me.


Benchmarking data is available for each value of the following dimensions:

  • Default Channel Grouping (i.e. Social, Direct, Referral, Organic Search, Paid Search, Display, and Email channels)
  • Location (Country/Territory)
  • Device (i.e. desktop, mobile, and tablet)

You can compare your data against benchmarks for the following metrics:

  • Sessions (i.e. number of sessions)
  • % New Sessions
  • New Sessions (i.e. number of sessions from new users)
  • Pages / Session
  • Session Duration
  • Bounce Rate


You can find more about Benchmarking and the required steps you need to take to enable it here.


2) Treemaps

Treemaps allow you to explore, in an incredibly visual way, trends in acquisition in your AdWords account. You can use these as a high level view to zoom in on problem campaigns that might not look like they’re performing too poorly in the AdWords UI.




In the above example of a new account we inherited, you can see that one campaign in particular (the big red block to the left) is performing rather poorly. The size of this block indicates that it’s the campaign that we need to look at first. You can find more about Treemaps here.


3) Segmented Remarketing Lists.

Google Analytics allows you to create remarketing lists based on custom segments that you define and then import them into AdWords for use in your remarketing and RSLA campaigns. This is a massive improvement in the power of traditional, tag based, remarketing lists.  




You can create remarketing lists based on your own business logic, business needs and you can even import some incredibly creative and useful remarketing list “packs” from the gallery. You can even built them based on the insight you get from the cohort analysis report in Google Analytics for that extra bit of whoomph.


4) Deeper Multi-Channel insight.

Following on from my previous article, Google Analytics lets you look back up to 90 days when determining the value of a touchpoint in your attribution models.




This can help you get a much better picture of the value of a keyword (or set of keywords) than you would normally get by looking at the columns in the AdWords UI. This is particularly useful when your business has a sales cycle that’s longer than 30 days (think high ticket items and luxury goods).


5) Custom Intelligence Alerts by SMS and Email

Google Analytics has an amazing custom alert feature buried deep inside the intelligence report menu. Custom alerts allows you to receive an email and/or an SMS (US only for now I’m afraid) when any unusual activity, as determined by you) is detected.


The reporting options are impressively powerful and allow you to get an alert when any action defined by you, good or bad, happens. Crucial for when you accidentally enter that extra zero when setting those keyword bids!

So there you have it, my top 5 favourite and in my opinion, most powerful, features in Google Analytics that can help you stay on top of your AdWords account performance. The Google Analytics world is filled with a plethora of amazing tools, reports and insight and integration with AdWords is only getting better with each passing month.


If you're not using Google Analytics as part of your AdWords campaign management strategy, you will be soon, as all your competitors already are. 

about Dave Davis

Skydiving and travel obsessed. Director of digital marketing agency Redfly, based in Dublin, Ireland. An marketing agency that specializes in AdWords management, Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.

lisacubitemscom c
September 2015

I don't get or understand this.. do you folks at google think I have nothing better to do than to follow your stupid adwords every minute of every day to make sure I'm not spending too much on advertising or even on my, what's that I say, too much time trying to actually work at my business??  This is ludicrous and I would like to find one small mom and pop shop that does and needs all this analytical stuff.. all we care about is if our ad is shown and how much does it cost, thats it!.. learn to "do it yourself" and all this other crap is just that... crap... I don't have time to take a 1000 hour tutorial either as one section makes even less sense than the last one.  I"m sure you wont even care if anyone reads this as I don't really care about what you say (because I don't get it anyways).. this junk is NOT for mom and pop shops.. it is NOT for anyone who doesn't know anything about computers and NOT for, well anyone trying to start a business... and if alot of this text is wordy.. its because all this stuff in here is just wordy stuff too... Personally, I think it your goal to make it so complicated we have to additionally pay someone who knows anything about this stuff to make it work.. in addition, I did that last year.. didn't help me one bit.. had the same amount of customers, same amount of cost, same amount of income for more advertising$... not money well spent if you ask me

Dave_Davis Top Contributor
September 2015 - last edited September 2015

Hi Lisa. @lisacubitemscom c

I'm very sorry that you feel that way.

First of all, I don't work for Google. I posted this to help anyone who wanted to improve their performance do just that. Nobody is forcing you to read it. This is the AdWords community. We share ideas, tips and help. Nowhere did I, or Google, say that you had to follow or indeed understand any of this. It's like complaining to popular mechanics magazine because you can't switch on your TV.


Also, I can assure you that the features I mentioned above are certainly being used by mom and pop shops. If you're not willing to put in the effort to learn, I can promise you that your competitors are or will be. There's a whole range of content on the community, from beginners to advanced. It's up to you what you do with it. Again, I don't work for Google. I'm simply trying to share some tips.


Maybe this is how people react when you share info to your peers in YOUR market, and I'm truly sorry for that. It must be awful . I know what it's like to have people complain when all you're doing is sharing something you spent your time on, for free. If you're not bothered with learning anything, maybe you could try AdWords express. It's a very hands off part of AdWords.


Maybe when you've learned something you might like to come back and share it with us. I promise I won't be as hostile. If you've any particular questions after you've calmed down a bit, I'd love to help. I too was in your position. I know it's confusing. But working through it is worth it. And having someone share their tips can be an invaluable part of that process. Even if you don't see it yet. The community is always open if you need some help.

Alexey C Rising Star
October 2015

Hi @Dave_Davis Thanks for your insights. Treemap looks amazing - such a good way to quickly spot which campaigns are performing better or worse in terms of different metrics.  I am also using Behavior reports to spot which landing pages have highest Bounce Rate and Interests reports to optimize display campaigns but from today list of my favorite reports became bigger. 

Dave_Davis Top Contributor
October 2015

Hi Alexy

Thanks for the great feedback. Tree maps are indeed fantastic and our clients love them for the reasons you mentioned. 


Behaviour reports are another good one. Good call on that. I'd love to hear about any other useful reports or tools in GA that have helped with your AdWords performance. 

Alexey C Rising Star
October 2015

Yes Smiley Happy But I think you also already using them: 
1) Audience > Interests reports to understand which are the main Display network interests of most converting audience, so them we can add it as a targeting in display campaigns.

2) Audience > Users flow to understand which website content users are more engaging with.

3) Behavior>Landing pages adding adwords segment to see if I should test any other landing pages which I got from users flow report.

4) Behavior>Site search to see if can give any additional message in remarketing or spot if there are products/services which client can add to his website.

Dave_Davis Top Contributor
October 2015

@Alexey C Thanks for the feedback. Good choices. 

If you discover more features, let me know and I'll be happy to do another post. 


In the meantime, check out the new GA calculated metrics, they're awesome!


Alexey C Rising Star
October 2015

@Dave_Davis this new metrics are really awesome, gives much more flexibilty and opportunity to track ROI in analytics for some of them projects without creating additional property and making code modifications. 

Dave_Davis Top Contributor
October 2015
They really are Alexy! I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to pass and calculate some competitive adwords metrics to see if the reporting and dashboards can be made more robust in GA. I'm sure you're the same and would appreciate some even tighter integration between adwords and GA. They nailed it with the attribution reports down to the keyword level. It would be fantastic if this could be funneled into the dashboards, automated reports or even intelligence events Smiley Happy I'll post a new article here in a couple of weeks when I figure this out.
Alexey C Rising Star
October 2015

@Dave_Davis nice, I would be looking forward to read your new article soon Smiley Happy

Adrian S
January 2016

Hi Dave


Thanks for the article, very interesting (and excellent complaint handling skills too!).


I had a couple of queries about the benchmrking reports, which i was hoping you might be ble to help with?


The client i am working with is in a strict vertical, which is Roofing. I have their Analytics property configured as "Home & Garden" as its the nearest thing available in that particular list of options. However in the benchmark reporting there is the option to drill down the Home & Garden category to view reporting specifically for Roofing (Home & Garden > Home Improvement > Roofing), which would be perfect. So i have two queries:


1. Should i actually have this client property set to Roofing as a category somehow?

2. When i select Roofing in the benchmark reports there is no data (although there is when I select Home & Garden). Why is this?