Custom Columns: Your Data, Your Way

Google Adwords

Being a fan of data isn’t a prerequisite for working in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, but it certainly helps. The AdWords interface is a veritable wonderland of metrics, ripe and ready for you to segment and analyze.

Back in December 2014, Google spoiled us further by launching Custom Columns, an option to quickly view segmented metrics within the interface, giving you more detailed insights at a glance.

Here we look at some of the practical applications of these columns and how to go about setting them up in your accounts.

How They Work

If you’ve ever used the AdWords interface, you’ll know that there are a host of metrics you can choose to apply at either the campaign, ad group, keyword or audience level in order to analyze your data.

You can view anything from the basics (like clicks, impressions and conversions) to metrics pulled from Google Analytics (such as bounce rate and time on site). You can also take your analysis one step further by segmenting your data by any of the choices seen below.

Adwords Segmentation

These segments can give you valuable insight into how campaigns are performing on different devices, how search partners compares to Google search, and which conversion types are being generated, to name but a few.

However, in the past there have been limitations to what you could do with this data within the interface. Taking a top-level view of any of these segments hasn’t been possible, as they could only be applied at campaign or ad group level.

In order to see, for example, overall mobile performance for a whole account, you’d have to download a report segmented by device into Excel and then create a pivot chart for the data you’re after.

Additionally, segmenting your data by conversion type immediately removed all impression, click and cost data. Thus, in a situation where you had one conversion type that was more valuable than another, it was a very time-consuming and manual process to see which campaigns were leading to not only the most conversions, but also the most valuable ones.

This is where custom columns come in. This feature allows you to create columns that only display a specific portion of your data, and you get to pick the portions. You can choose almost endless combinations of performance metrics (clicks, conversion rate, CPC, total conversion value, etc.) with the segments you know and love.

How To Create Your Own Custom Columns

Creating your own custom columns is very quick and simple. At either campaign or ad group level, select the “Modify Columns” option under the Columns drop-down. On the list below, select the last option: Custom columns.


You’ll then be asked to give your column a name and description, and then to select the metric and segment that you wish to combine.

The example below shows how you’d go about creating a column for mobile click-through rate (CTR): Select CTR as the metric, then segment by device and tick “mobile devices with full browsers.” After that, just save, and voila! Your custom column is created.

Mobile CTR Custom Column

Using Custom Columns In Your Own Accounts

When you consider how many metrics and segments are at your disposal, there are hundreds of combinations you could use in your columns. But what would you actually use them for? There’s nothing worse than useless data cluttering up your interface.

Rest assured, however, that these columns are anything but. At our agency, we’ve found a variety of uses for these columns that have benefited our accounts and made life easier.

1. CTR Without Search Partners

Search partners can perform very differently to Google search, and it’s common to find that it achieves significantly lower click-through rates. Given the number of impressions search partners can generate, this can have a big impact on overall CTR and make performance look much worse than it is.

Short of disabling search partners, which isn’t always appropriate, your best option before was to segment data each time to check its performance against Google search. Now, by creating a custom column of CTR segmented by network type, you can add Google search CTR to your selection of metrics.

2. Mobile Performance

Mobile traffic may be ever-growing, but user behavior can vary dramatically between devices. Gone are the days when you could neglect mobile performance, but any conscientious advertiser would previously have had to regularly segment and download data into a pivot chart to get a useful snapshot. Now, you can add columns to show any given metric specifically on mobile, allowing for faster analysis and decision-making.

3. Different Conversion Types

If a user can complete a variety of conversion types on your website, creating columns for each will immediately make life easier and free up time spent segmenting and pivoting. For one of our clients, despite having three different conversions on site, a registration was so much more valuable than the others that the cost-per-action (CPA) target was based on that alone.

By creating custom columns for Registrations, Cost-per-Registration and Registration Rate, the team were able to determine which campaigns were truly adding the most value to the account and not just driving lots of low-value conversions. Of course, this was all possible before, but the addition of custom columns made it quicker and easier, leaving more time to optimize the account.

These are just a handful of examples of how we’ve used custom columns to streamline account management; there may be others that are even more useful for your accounts.

By trying Custom Columns out, you could find yourself left with more time for valuable optimization and strategy and less time spent bogged down in reports and pivot tables.

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