Understanding Time Frame Comparisons: Do Not Fall For this Google Bug (Feature?)

By Brad

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Google Ads Insights, PPC Management, Reporting

A common tactic for analyzing your Google Ads data is to do a year over year comparison of the data (or a timeframe vs a timeframe). This is especially true when you do a reorganization, and something seems off in your data.

In those cases, you often jump to your search terms data and do a year over year comparison (or timeframe vs timeframe) comparison to see if you stopped showing for some of your top queries within the reorganization.

For timeframe comparisons; there’s a few nuances you should know – and then also know when to NOT use this feature.

To quickly compare two timeframes; you can use a tool like the performance analyzer to see an entire data story or use the timeframe comparison within Google Ads.

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When we compare timeframes; we can expand any data column to see the data differences:

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The first thing to know: the entities you are seeing, and the changes are only based upon what is being actively displayed.

For example; our campaign status is currently ‘all’; if we were showing only ‘active’ then we wouldn’t see the comparison for removed or paused campaigns. When comparing your data; ensure that you are looking at the statues you want to compare, such as active and paused/removed campaigns if you are comparing your current data to a timeframe when different campaigns (ad group, keywords, etc) were active.

In this case, we wanted to compare year over year search term data to check if we stopped showing for certain search terms.

When we click to our search term data, our conversions dropped from 273 at the campaign level to 17 at the search term level.

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That’s a huge drop in search term data. This brings us to our second major rule about the time comparison data.

If the timeframe you are using for your initial comparison does not have that entity in it; then it will not compare the data even if your compared to timeframe contains that entity.

For instance, search term data is always broken out into campaigns, ad groups, search term (and you can break it out further; but that’s your minimum segments). If you moved keywords from one campaign or ad group to another one; then the initial timeframe won’t have that search term for a paused/removed campaign/ad group. That search term is only in the old campaign/ad group. This means that in your initial timeframe the entity does not exist; and therefore, it will not compare your empty entity versus your old data.

In our above screenshot, we’re only seeing 17 conversions for our old timeframe because there was an account reorganization so the old entities with conversions aren’t in the new timeframe; and thus, they are not compared. If we only look at the old timeframe and do not compare the data; we see a very different picture of our data.

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Suddenly, we can see all the search term data that had conversions or other status if we only look at the older timeframe and do not look at our data within a comparison view.

If you are looking at entities that do not have segments that can disappear, such as campaign data – you can enable all campaigns and use the time frame comparison data to easily see your comparisons and the data is accurate.

If you are looking at entities that do have required segments, such as search terms or placements; then when doing a time frame comparison, you need to download each timeframe and then use Excel to create your own comparison charts to find where changes occurred in your two timeframes.

When comparing timeframes:

  • The entities you are seeing, and the changes are only based upon what is being actively displayed.
  • If the timeframe you are using for your initial comparison does not have that entity in it; then it will not compare the data even if your compared to timeframe contains that entity.
  • When you want to see the interdependencies of timeframe metrics; use a data comparison tool

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