Creating Meaningful Pay Per Click Case Studies

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “Creating Meaningful PPC Case Studies.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: At a high level, what do you expect to see in PPC case studies?

  • Problem, solution, data. – Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
  • A great story of how PPC transformed a company’s sales and/or lead generation. – Matt Umbro
  • Data and context. Useful to know if looking at 1 client or 150 clients. – Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
  • Actual business revenue/growth tracked from a campaign, not just AdWords metrics. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • Problem, solution, data, explanation (WHY it worked). – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • Overview, results and how you got there. – Christina Hall (@Mel66)
  • Without the story aspect, it’s just a snooze-worthy bunch of stats that no one but a PPC-geek digs. – Kirk Williams (@KECreate)

Q2: What do you believe to be the most misleading metric/piece of data in PPC case studies? Why?

  • “”¦increased traffic by XX%” “¦So? If they don’t convert you just wasted lots of $$$. Need that WITH conv data. – Kirk Williams
    • Agree conv. data is key. The definition of a conversion is critical. – Harris Neifield
  • Not a fan of when case studies talk about how many more keywords are in the account…I don’t care about volume of KWs, only ROI. In fact, any case study that doesn’t acknowledge conversions, I’m weary of. – Matt Umbro
  • If just “inside AdWords” stuff w no correlation to business impact. Who cares if you got QS to all 10s if not good for client? – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • Conversion rates aren’t useful as what a user is required to do to convert varies so much only when conversion rates are compared over time, and other variables are controlled for, do conv. rates become useful. – Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield)
  • How conversions are defined can be misleading. Really only interested in how the bottom line was impacted. – Nefer Lopez (@Nefer_L)
  • % improvement without context. Size of spend, number of clients, etc. – Jeremy Brown
  • How it impacted the revenue/ROI. Not that much interested in more traffic, CTR etc. – Christina Hall
  • Case studies – not a fan when they are used as marketing material (which is 97%), assume most data massaged. – Max Fink (@maxfink_SEM)
  • “Increased Vixits by X%” is a bad stand-alone metric. Need additional qualifiers. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Case studies without context are worthless. – Melissa Mackey
  • In general, I’m always weary of case study numbers. I want to know what counts as a conversion, how ROI is being calculated, etc. – Matt Umbro
  • The most misleading are the case studies on accounts that had no where to go but up. Huge gains. – Heather Cooan

Q3: Is it necessary to include actual numbers in case studies vs just percentage increases and decreases? Why?

  • I always like to include actual numbers when I can…% increases/decreases without numbers don’t mean much to me. I mean going from 1 conversion to 3 is a 200% increase – great improvement, but little data. – Matt Umbro
  • I want to see actual numbers as percentages can be high, when you start out with low numbers anyways. – Christina Hall
  • Actual numbers are best but a lot of companies don’t want to publish them. – Melissa Mackey
  • he exact numbers aren’t necessary, but context is. If you increased 50% from 500 conv better than 100% from 3. – Jeremy Brown
  • No, actually numbers will often violate client NDA’s even if the client isn’t named. % trends are fine. – Harris Neifield
  • Often, due to DNA, you might only be allowed to generalize data. But the more actual data you can use, the more solid a study. – James Svoboda
  • Depends on audience. For pros, def include actual numbers so I can do my own math. For clients, maybe too deep, percentages ok? Assuming, of course that you will not violate NDA or even come close. – Julie Bacchini
    • Good point as well – many potential clients we talk to are just being introduced to PPC or have minimal understanding. – Timothy Jensen
  • It’s good to give an idea of the size of the campaign. Some things are easier for larger campaigns than smaller. And vice versa. – Rehan Zaidi (@RehanZaidi)
  • I get the point of showcasing the main points, but in an ideal world we would get context for the percentage increases/decreases. – Matt Umbro
  • Also knowing clients’ wishes. I have 1 client that would flip if anything was said. – Kirk Williams
    • My preference would only be to do case studies with clients willing to share data, more specifically, actual numbers. – Matt Umbro
      • Absolutely, tho I couldn’t tell from discussions if some are ok using “general” stats with no spec client approval? – Kirk Williams
  • If clients don’t want their numbers published and percentages are too vague, what would you do to bolster your case study? – Vertical Rail (@verticalrail)

Q4: What is the ideal format and/or length for a PPC case study? Why?

  • One page. ~500 words. Can be ‘longer’ if using more images and less text. – Jeremy Brown
  • A one pager is generally best…similar to an executive dashboard report…quick and to the point. – Matt Umbro
  • PDF format often for lead generation, otherwise html page for significant social sharing. – James Svoboda
  • I love images and they convey info faster. But still, don’t go longer than a couple pages even with pics. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • Shameless plug, but our company went to IRCE this year and our case study done by Google was completed just in time for the second day. It was great. We were selling a service with a Google backed case study! – Matt Umbro
  • I hate to say this, but an infographic is a nice way to do a case study. – Melissa Mackey
    • Make sure to back up that infographic with a text version, google can’t index the text on the infographic. – Chris Gutknecht (@ChrisGutknecht)
  • Graphs can be good too, but show me my numbers. – Matt Umbro

Q5: What role have you found case studies to play in the sales process?

  • Unless handled with care they raise expectations – because we tend to showcase our best results. – Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
  • Sales always asks for them, but to be honest I’m not sure how much they help. I suppose they do help. – Melissa Mackey
  • Case studies tell good stories…a great case study will not only showcase improvements, but speak to the relationship. – Matt Umbro
  • Gets leads into the funnel. – Robert Brady
  • I case study to share only w/client, to give them context. Don’t use for advertising. – Theresa Zook
  • I also like to write case studies that have shown ongoing improvements…making immediate improvements is easy but show me improvement performance on a consistent basis, year over year… or performance improvement I should say. – Matt Umbro
  • Case studies kick the door open for the sales qualification process, where the team can vet & set expectations for prospect. – Nefer Lopez
  • Sometimes a testimonial from a happy client is a much more effective sales tool than a case study. – Julie Bacchini
    • True. One is (hopefully) authentic, the other is usually tailored is some way by the agency. – James Svoboda
    • When you have a testimonial in a case study even better! – Matt Umbro
    • Why not have a testimonial from the client featured in the case study? Good fit. Builds authenticity. – Robert Brady
      • It is always interesting to see what client’s perspective is on what you achieved for them too. Insight helps talking to others. – Julie Bacchini
  • Quite helpful- especially for the non-PPC literate higher ups. – Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)

Q6: What features make a great PPC case study? Why?

  • Specific cause-and-effect. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
  • For ecomm, it’s all about the ROI after taking into account margins & fees…if you’ve increased ROI significantly showcase it! – Matt Umbro
  • Real Client Names, Real Data, Real Tactics, Real Spend, Real Return, Real Images, Real Screen Shots, Real Testimonials. – James Svoboda
  • I think showing how you efficiently achieved or exceeded client goals is key. Back it up with data. – Melissa Mackey
  • % of numbers in the upwards direction, typically…more impressive when the metrics are CPA/Conv volume over CPC, reduced spend. – Elizabeth Marsten
  • Showing strategies or tactics specific to a particular niche, to highlight your focus on it (if you have one). – Rehan Zaidi
  • Something different. Most case studies are similar. Better to add a new river than 1 more drop to the ocean. – Jeremy Brown

Q7: What is one item/feature that you SHOULD NOT include in a case study?

  • Anything negative. – Robert Brady
  • I said it before, but I don’t care how many more keywords you’ve added to the account! – Matt Umbro

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More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• CallRail (@CallRail)
• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Chris Gutknecht (@ChrisGutknecht)
• Christina Hall (@Chrissie_Hall85)
• Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
• Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield)
• Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
• Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Kirk Williams (@KECreate)
• Max Fink (@maxfink_SEM)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Nefer Lopez (@Nefer_L)
• Rehan Zaidi (@RehanZaidi)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
• Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
• Vertical Rail (@verticalrail)

Creating Meaningful Streamcaps

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; WebRanking SEM Manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, SEO Blog Author. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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