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Christmas Data is Evil

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Hooray, it’s Christmas! Everyone eats too much, drinks too much and spends too much. Retailers are over the moon, as are e-tailers. But beware the evil that is the disruption to your performance data in Analytics and Google AdWords.

Attribution is a funny thing and it’s extremely disrupted during the Christmas period.

Some of the search clicks are research clicks for gifts for the searcher. These will never convert later as they’ll pass the link to someone else. Those sales will be attributed to “direct” traffic rather than to AdWords, unfairly inflating your AdWords CPA. Without the AdWords click though, the later sale wouldn’t happen, so don’t turn AdWords off!

Sometimes the searcher will write the product in an email or on a good, old-fashioned piece of paper. The buyer then searches Google for the product, hopefully clicks on your ad and lands on your site, then buys. That sale is attributed to the buyer’s clicks, not the searchers, again unfairly inflating your reported AdWords CPA on some campaigns, but flattering others which focus on brand terms or specific, long tail product names.

Sometimes these are research clicks are just queuing up ready for later sales, they’re just early on in the sales funnel. The sales may not happen until a few days or sometimes weeks later.

Unfortunately, the complete picture of your conversion funnel during the Christmas period won’t be reliable until early to mid January, at which point, you’ll be able to say with greater certainty what the behaviour is at this time of year versus the “normal” behaviour during the rest of the year.

However, it is important to consider that the increases in sales in direct and brand searches for new visitors were most likely created and influenced by those initial searches. You must attribute some of those increases elsewhere, offset by the possible decrease in conversion rate from more generic search terms.

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