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The Ultimate Google Ads Pacing Dashboard (Free Data Studio Template)



The Ultimate Google Ads Pacing Dashboard (Free Data Studio Template)

Editor’s note: As 2021 winds down, we’re celebrating with a 12 Days of Christmas Countdown of the most popular, helpful expert articles on Search Engine Journal this year.

This collection was curated by our editorial team based on each article’s performance, utility, quality, and the value created for you, our readers.

Each day until December 24th, we’ll repost one of the best columns of the year, starting at No. 12 and counting down to No. 1. Our countdown starts today with our No. 4 column, which was originally published on October 29, 2021.

Amy Hebdon’s piece is packed full of information about why a Google Ads Pacing Dashboard is essential and how to utilize Google Data Studio and Google Sheets to create and customize your own for free.

You did a phenomenal job on this, Amy! Thank you very much for your contributions to Search Engine Journal.


As paid search managers, sometimes we don’t have all the tools we need to do our job. Even simple tasks like Google Ads pacing can be much harder than they should be.


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That’s because you can’t enter your budget or conversion targets directly into the platform.

Without that basic context of goals vs. actuals, it becomes hard to know the right action to take.

Most third-party software and DIY pacing sheets attempting to solve this problem just aren’t useful to paid search managers.

They’re either too basic to provide insights, or too busy to be understood at a glance.

Image created by author, October 2021

In this tutorial, we’ll look at what a great pacing dashboard must have to help you in your career, and how to use Google Data Studio and Google Sheets to get your own automated pacing dashboards for free.


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Pacing Dashboard Requirements

A pacing dashboard needs to give you easy access to data that drives strategic decisions and action.

Here’s my own top-five wishlist for what I want in a pacing dashboard:

  1. KPI snapshots and relationships. I need to understand the relationship between what should happen (goals and month-to-date targets) and what is happening (actuals).
  2. Show daily progress. I want to see the daily pacing targets needed to reach monthly KPIs, and whether the account is consistently hitting those targets. What course correction, if any, has happened? What changes still need to be made?
  3. Provide context. I want to see how this month’s performance compares to recent and longer-term trends.
  4. Automated. Unless my budget or revenue goals change mid-month, I shouldn’t have to touch or update anything.
  5. Accessible and shareable. Let me access and share with my team or clients without logins, downloads, or attachments.

Data That Drives Better Decisions

I don’t like the phrase “let the data decide” because data doesn’t make decisions. We do.

The beauty of this pacing dashboard is that it gives you instant access to the data you need to make strategic, informed decisions.

A script can automatically pause campaigns when spend is high, but it can’t consult with your client about how to respond to market changes.

Since most of us manage accounts that need to hit conversion goals and not simply “spend X budget every month,” knowing exactly how spend and returns are pacing against targets can elevate your management skills.

Here’s how you can take action on dashboard insights in a way that positions you as a strategic partner for your clients.

screenshot of pacing matrixScreenshot from Google Data Studio, October 2021

Hot/Hot: Opportunity.

When performance is stronger than expected, talk to your client about increasing budget to meet the demand so you don’t leave sales and leads on the table.

Hot Spend/Cold Returns: Optimize.

When you’re overspending and don’t have much to show for it, it’s time to optimize for efficiency. Lower bids and budgets, and pause or remove poor performers.


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Cold Spend/Hot Returns: Investigate.

When spend is low but return is above goal, the temptation is to celebrate. Before you do, take a deeper look into how to use available budget for top of funnel efforts or greater returns.

Cold/Cold: Adjust expectations.

If the demand just isn’t there, it might be best to adjust the budget, shifting allocated funds to a period that needs it.

Anatomy Of A Perfect Pacing Dashboard

Back to the dashboard.

Translating the top five wishlist items above into an actual pacing dashboard, I built out these sections that give me exactly what I need.

KPI Relationships Section

The dashboard leads with KPIs for spend and return. I know exactly what the goal for the month is, what real-time performance is, and how we’re pacing.

Comparing MTD goal progress with the month’s completion lets me know whether it’s time to observe or time to act.

Seeing my key performance indicators in multiple formats (raw numbers, ratios, percentages) helps me understand pacing and data relationships without having to divide large numbers by 30.4 in my head.

The Ultimate Google Ads Pacing Dashboard (Free Data Studio Template)Screenshot from Google Data Studio, October 2021

Charts And Scorecards Used:


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  • Month progress: Today’s date, percent of month completed and remaining.
  • KPI goal scorecards: Revenue (or conversion) goal and monthly budget.
  • KPI Pacing Widget: A single-cell table that returns a statement based on pacing.
  • MTD target scorecards: MTD target value, percent completion of MTD target, and total monthly goal.
  • Gauge with range: KPI performance to date with progress visualization.
  • MTD scorecards: value difference between actual performance and goals.

Return Ratio

There’s also a section that compares spend to return. The target is automatically populated based on goals and does not need to be set separately.

You’ll see a different section depending on whether you’re using the Revenue or Conversion Dashboard.

The Revenue Dashboard for ecommerce displays ROAS (return on ad spend). The Conversion Dashboard for lead generation and general conversion tracking displays CPL (cost per lead).

roas target vs actual screenshotScreenshot from Google Data Studio, October 2021

Daily Progress And Course Correction

I like to see how we’ve been doing (average daily performance) and how we are doing (recent daily performance).

schreenshot of daily pacing for revenue and cost mtd dataScreenshot from Google Data Studio, October 2021

In the account used in this screenshot, my daily revenue will always trail below the target. That’s because of conversion lag time, and I’m going to note it but not worry about it.


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Charts And Scorecards Used:

  • Daily pacing target: Target divided by days in the month.
  • Performance scorecards: Today, yesterday, and average.
  • Time series chart: Cumulative performance compared to pacing target.

I’ve found that extra details such as tables with daily variance distracts my focus on the bigger picture (are we pacing to hit our goals?) so I don’t include it in my dashboard.

If you’re the kind of person who wants to see the specifics of past daily performance every time you check in on pacing, you can certainly add it to your report.

Historical Performance Section

I don’t have a photographic memory of how seasonality affects each account, so I like having a reference for that in the dashboard, as well.

screenshot of charts showing past 30 days and past 13 months performance on a google ads accountScreenshot from Google Data Studio, October 2021

These historical charts give me trend data and context for real-time performance.


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Charts Used:

  • Time series chart: Last 30 days for KPIs.
  • Time series chart: Last 13 months for KPIs.

How To Build The Dashboard Using The Google Data Studio Template

Now that we’ve got the blueprints of a pacing dashboard, it’s time to turn the dream into a reality.

To fully automate the pacing dashboard, we need two different data sources and a way to combine and visualize the data:

  1. Account Performance Data (Google Ads): A direct connection to a Google Ads account will give us real-time spend and conversion data, as well as historical trends.
  2. Internal Goals and Targets (Google Sheets): By recording KPI goals in a Google Sheet, we can populate month-to-date and daily pacing targets.
  3. Blended Data (Google Data Studio): Data Studio will combine our data into a single blended data source that can calculate metrics from both Ads and Sheets.

Assign The Pacing “Tempo”

Google Data Studio gets better all the time, but it currently does not handle date-based calculations well.


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Because of this, we’ll give Google Sheets double duty as a “metronome,” with additional fields for date and daily targets keeping pace against actual engine performance.

What we’re aiming for here is a snapshot of how we’re doing against consistent progress.

If we were looking at November, budget might be withheld at the front of the month to spend during BFCM. The dashboard would show underpacing, which then draws attention to how much needs to be made up in the end of the month.

How To Access And Prep Your Templates

To save yourself some time setting up your dashboard, you can grab this template.

Follow the instructions from the page to update the default sample data in Sheets to your own account and KPIs. The blended data uses the “join key” of the Google Ads account name, so enter it exactly in Google Sheets to prevent errors.

Next, open the Data Studio template, select your data sources, and hit “Copy Report.”

screenshot of report copy prompt in data studioScreenshot from Google Data Studio, October 2021

And with that, the Google Ads pacing dashboard is KPI-focused, shows daily progress and historicals, and is automated.


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The final step of getting “wishlist status” is to make it easily shareable, which is no sweat for Data Studio.

Customize And Update Your Dashboard

These edits and customizations will give you full control over the dashboard to reflect your own needs and preferences.

Update Chart-Level Pacing Targets

To get chart ranges to match your targets, you’ll need to do some light customization.

Gauge Chart Axis

Manually enter the axis of your gauge charts by doing the following:

  • Select the gauge chart in the dashboard.
  • Select the Style panel.
  • Change the Axis Max to match the month’s goal shown above the chart.
screenshot of entering pacing targetScreenshot from Google Data Studio, October 2021

Time Series Pacing Metric


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Create a constant daily pacing target with these steps:

  • Select the daily pacing time series chart in the dashboard.
  • From the data panel, select the calculated pacing metric.
  • Update the number in the formula to match the pacing target above the chart.
screenshot of style axis max updateScreenshot from Google Data Studio, October 2021

Modify The KPI Pacing Widget

Next to each KPI is a color-coded button indicating the pacing status. You can customize the colors, text, and intervals.

screenshot of various pacing widget buttonsScreenshot from Google Data Studio, October 2021

Edit the dimension’s calculated field to change phrasing or interval. The budget pacing field will look like this by default:
WHEN (Cost/MTD Spend Target) < .9 THEN "Underpacing"
WHEN (Cost/MTD Spend Target) >= .91 and (Cost/MTD Spend Target) < 1.1 THEN "On Track"
WHEN (Cost/MTD Spend Target) > 1.1 THEN "Overpacing"


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You can change the values if, for instance, you want “on track” to be within 5% of goal, rather than 10%. You can also create more variants, or edit the return statements.

To change the background and text color, simply edit the conditional formatting in the Style panel.

screenshot of conditional format sectionScreenshot from Google Data Studio, October 2021

General Troubleshooting

If something isn’t working in your dashboard, start by checking these areas:

  • The blended data “join key” must be exactly the same in both your Sheets and Google Ads data sources.
  • The data source needs to be the account you want to review.
  • The date range should be set to custom (month to date, etc) and not on “auto.”
  • Chart axis and pacing fields need to be correctly hardcoded with targets.

Because the template is 100% customizable, you can make any updates you want, from changing the currency to setting different weekend/weekday or even daily pacing goals. You can also set up a single Google Sheet as a data source for all your reports.


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Having instant access to performance goals and actuals gives you insights that can make you a more strategic paid search marketer.

With this Google Ads pacing dashboard, you’ll finally be able to meet the demands of your own pacing wishlist and drive better management decisions for your clients.

2021 SEJ Christmas Countdown:

Featured image: Singular Fact/Shutterstock

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Small Business Search Trends On The Rise In 2022



Small Business Search Trends On The Rise In 2022

A new report from Semrush reveals searches related to small businesses, particularly ‘opening’ a small business, are on the rise.

The report details the business categories and specific search queries gaining traction and offers insight into what areas of marketing businesses are investing in.

Data in the report is based on the keyword and search volume intel collected by Semrush.

After analyzing the traffic growth trends to organic search performance over time, Semrush shares which small business categories manage to do better online.

Here are some key highlights from the report.

Search Trends Around Opening A Business

Looking at search volume for various searches that indicate an intent to open a business, the report finds:

  • Over the past four years, the number of “open business” searches has grown by 21%.
  • The majority of “open business” searches occur in January and March.
  • From 2018 to 2022, searches for all things related to starting a small business spiked by 76%.

Most Popular Small Business Categories

While general interest in starting a small business is spiking, search volume indicates aspiring business owners are looking to open boutiques:

  • Almost one-fifth of all entrepreneurs-to-be want to open a boutique.
  • starting an Etsy business looks attractive to almost one-fifth of all the searchers.
  • Vending machines appear to be gaining the most significant traction, as the category broke into the second spot of most-searched small businesses.

Analyzing search trends across regions, the report finds:

  • The “Etsy, cleaning, boutique” triad is present—fully or partially—across each state’s top 3.
  • In exactly half the states, coffee shops also make it into the top 3 most searched small business categories.
  • Montana and Vermont searchers also consider delivery services as a potential undertaking.

Most Frequent ‘Small Business’ Related Searches

Half of all the top small business-related searches are related to financing.

Here are the top queries, ordered by average monthly searches:

  1. Small business loans
  2. Small business grants
  3. Small business administration
  4. Small business ideas
  5. How to start a small business

Small Business Searches Related To Marketing

Keyword stats indicate small business owners try to embrace all the up-and-coming trends:

  • Searches for digital marketing services surged by 1,500% (especially fast during the pandemic).
  • Interest in creating short videos for small businesses grew by 420%.
  • 600% more people were looking up free text message marketing in 2022 than in 2018.

Small Business Site Categories With the Highest Traffic Growth

The report finds the average traffic growth for small businesses across the board was 2900%.

Semrush states:

“This means that over the past 4 years, most of the websites within our client list managed to expand their visitor base.”

Top 10 Small Business Site Categories By Share of High-Ranking Organic Keywords

The report explores which small business site categories have the largest share of high-ranking organic keywords.

Here are the categories listed in order, followed by the median number of organic keywords where the domain ranks in the top 10

  1. Publishing: 45,581
  2. Online Media: 10,116
  3. Veterinary: 9,379
  4. Entertainment: 6,627
  5. Consumer Services: 3,518
  6. Consumer Goods: 3,339
  7. Building Materials: 2,957
  8. Music: 2,593
  9. Human Resources: 2,145
  10. Food & Beverages: 1,839

What’s interesting to note here is how the top 10 categories by high-ranking keywords don’t line up with the fastest-growing site categories by traffic. Semrush suggests this could mean ranking for a high number of keywords might not directly lead to traffic growth.

Featured Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

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Google Top Stories Topics Sections On Desktop



Google Top Stories Topics Sections On Desktop

Google Search is now grouping some of its Top Stories sections for some queries by topics. This was working on mobile for a while but is now reportedly working for the desktop Top Stories Google Search results.

Here is a screenshot for a query on [biden] where Google Search on desktop is showing a topic section for abortion articles and a topic section for the US military in Europe. You can click on the image to enlarge or check it out yourself for that query.

click for full size

Yes, the layout is now new, it is from December 2021 but the topics on desktop search is new according to Shalom Goodman, who is a news SEO and would know this.

He shared more screenshots on Twitter:

It makes sense to group some queries by topics for the Top Stories section.

Also, I wasn’t sure if this was new, but the “Topics In News” section on the right is supposedly new:

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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64.2% Of Sites Use WordPress



64.2% Of Sites Use WordPress

WordPress continues to dominate the content management systems (CMS) market and is currently used by 64.2% of websites that have a CMS, according to data from

Shopify is a distant second for June 2022 and accounts for 6.3% of the CMS market.

Wix, Squarespace, and Joomla round out the top five with less than 3.5% market share each.

CMS Market Share June 2022 is available to reprint with attribution; see Creative Commons license for details.

W3Techs notes that 33.1% of websites do not use any of the content management systems they monitor.

WordPress is therefore used by 43% of all websites, and 64.2% of those with an identifiable CMS.

WordPress Plans To Continue Working On Security, Stability

WordPress shows no signs of slowing down and is currently about five years into a ten-year project that involves rewriting its entire codebase.

In a recent interview, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, Executive Director of WordPress, told SEJ,

“…the next year, as with all of the years in a project like that, is making sure we are still as stable and capable as a CMS as people have come to expect while also still pushing forward with a newer more modern way to manage your content online.”

WordPress rolled out version change Arturo 6.0 this month and within two weeks, 36.2% of WP sites had updated to it.

Roger Montti reported that WordPress shared a proposal for a plugin checker that would improve security and site performance by proactively vetting plugins, as well.

Shopify Enters B2B Marketplace With June Update

Shopify released its Summer ’22 Edition in June, adding more than 100 new features for users.

A new feature simply and aptly called “B2B” will connect Shopify Plus merchants with wholesalers and offer integrations with NetSuite, Brightpearl, Acumatica, and others for a more seamless experience.

See Brian Frederick’s coverage here to learn more.

Wix Publishes Structured Data Guide For SEO Pros

Wix, in third place for CMS market share this month, released “Wix Structured Data Guide: How To Use Standard & Custom Markup” in June.

Contributing author Mordy Oberstein, Head of SEO Branding at Wix, shared his comprehensive guide to implementing structured data on Wix here at Search Engine Journal.

“In fewer than three years, Wix went from supporting little by way of structured data to offering SEO pros and site owners the ability to do nearly whatever they want with relative ease,” Oberstein wrote.

He also noted that due to recent platform updates, any content elsewhere on the internet around this topic is now out of date.

See his guide above to learn more about applying structured data to your Wix site.

Stay tuned for next month’s CMS Market Share Monthly report.

Related reading:

Featured image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
Data source:, Usage statistics of content management systems, as of June 27, 2002.

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