Columns and AdWords Reporting
When an AdWords account advertiser first logs into his or her AdWords account the table below with metrics are contained within vertical columns. Campaigns are displayed horizontally with the associated column metrics. Advertisers who dive deeply into their accounts to analyze performance almost always change the columns displayed by clicking on the “columns” tab and modifying from the pre-selected column categories such as performance which contains impressions, clicks, click-through rate (CTR) and avg. position (average position an ad shows in search results).
While the breadth of columns to choose from is usually much wider than most advertisers need, it is still not comprehensive enough to handle all situations and their respectively needed metrics. Using custom columns, advertisers are able to modify and report on almost any nuisanced filtering of the data.
What are Custom Columns?
Under the columns tab at the very bottom is the location of the custom columns creator tool. Unlike the pre-fabricated metrics AdWords offers users including the ability to report on performance, conversions and impression share, the custom columns tool puts advertisers in the driver seat to modify and filter data to report immediately on any idiosyncratic view of the data.
By selecting custom columns nearly all the options of current columns exist but with the added layer to modify which levels of data are reported on. For example, instead of reporting on the Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) of all conversions, a user can select using check boxes only the conversions he or she wishes to report on, naming it a unique title and adding a recommended, but not mandatory, description which is overlaid when the user hovers over the question mark in the table itself.
While custom columns are a great feature and good to know, when would an advertiser actually have need of this tool?
When to Consider Using Custom Columns
Custom columns are best used as a supplement to the use of filter options or segmentation of data, and are meant to be frequently used in reporting metrics on an AdWord’s account performance. For example, to look at only search campaigns, it is best to use the filtering tool and filter by campaign type search only. Or if an advertiser wants to review the performance of each conversion by name and its respective performance by campaign (or other level view) it is best to use the segmentation tool and segment by conversion name.
But when an advertiser needs to report internally or to an external client specified metrics for a subset of the conversions (more than an individual conversion name) it is best to consider creating custom columns.
For example, a digital newspaper client who tracks phone calls, email sign-ups, app downloads and multiple types of subscription purchases, wishes to track the conversion count, Cost Per Acquisition and ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) of only the subscriptions, as these are the only true end-result creators of value to the company. In order to effectively do this on a recurring basis, custom columns can select these individual conversions and not the others, and remain a stable reported metric in the interface for future review and analysis.
Well-managed accounts with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are specific and measureable, but do not focus on all conversions at once, are typically the best candidates for custom columns. Custom columns does provide the creative power to filter and segment data within the vertical rows rather than horizontally as mentioned above, but it typically is not worth the workload necessary when saving filter options will do. From a business value perspective, it is important to use best judgment when determining whether the additional workload is requisite, when the return on investment may not merit the effort.
How to Create and Add Custom Columns into the AdWords Reporting Table
Watch the 60-second step-by-step video on how to create and add custom columns.
Best Practices for Custom Columns
Tip #1 Helpful Custom Column Names
Name the title of your custom columns something very specific such as subscription only conversions, for a custom column filtered to report on only subscriptions, and not other conversions in the account such as app installs, calls, or newsletter sign-ups.
Tip #2 Short, Specific Custom Column Descriptions
Consider providing a succinct but detailed description of the custom column for quick reference in the AdWords reporting table when hovering over the question mark. Being able to swiftly read what the custom column is reporting on can save the advertiser much confusion and time to pull it up fully under the columns tab.
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