In a recent Inside AdWords post, Ronnie C. from the Optimization team encouraged you to not only test and iterate, but to also evaluate your account's performance. If you’re using Google Analytics or any other web analytics program, you’re probably already doing this. For those who haven’t gotten around to implementing any sort of tracking, you might consider using a powerful, but sometimes forgotten, tool that lives right in your AdWords account – the Report Center.

To help you begin (or improve) your account performance evaluation process, we thought we’d cover the ins and outs in a series devoted to the Report Center. Part 1 is a basic overview of what you’ll find within the Reports section of your account. And while this post is a bit longer than our usual posts, the subject is very important to advertiser success -- and we think you'll find it worth your time.

(For the best learning experience, you may want to open your AdWords account and follow along as we review the various sections below.)

After logging into your account, select the Reports tab. You’ll be taken to the Report Center page – one of two pages within the Reports tab. On the Report Center page, you’ll find two sections (Last 5 Reports and Saved Templates) and a link to the Create Report page.

Last 5 Reports
Aptly named, the Last 5 Reports section shows you the last 5 reports you ran. This includes both on-demand and scheduled reports. This section comes in handy if you run a report and then decide to leave your AdWords account before the report is finished.

Saved Templates
Below the Last 5 Reports section, you’ll notice Saved Templates. If you find yourself running the same report repeatedly, you might consider saving the report as a template. Templates are also editable in case you need to change the information you need included in the report.

Create a Report Now link
The Create a Report Now link at the top of the Report Center page, takes you to the Create Report page. This is where you’ll select the type of report you want, as well as the type and amount of data you need.

The Create Report page comprises 4 sections: Report Type; Settings; Advanced Settings; and Templates, Scheduling, and Email.

Report Type
The first step in creating a report is selecting the type of report you want to run. You’ll find a wide variety of reports that are all aimed at helping you get precisely the information you need.

For example, say in November you added a slew of holiday ads with varying URLs (to test different landing pages) to your “Holiday” campaign. Now that the holidays are over, you want to know how each URL performed. Which type of report would you run? Though several reports could do the job, the URL Performance report would likely provide you with the most relevant report parameters.

The Settings section allows you to determine the scope of your report's data. This is where you'll determine the report’s unit of time (e.g. daily or weekly), date range (use the predetermined ranges or set your own date range), and the campaigns and ad groups to be included.

Advanced Settings
Use the Advanced Settings section to fine tune your report. You can add or remove columns of data and also filter your results.

Using the "Holiday" campaign example from above, say you want to know not only how your holiday URLs performed overall, but also how they performed on the search network versus the content network. To break out your report by search versus content data, check the ‘Ad Distribution’ box under Attributes. The resulting report would indicate the URLs’ performance on search and content on separate lines. One thing to note is that not all settings are available for all report types; however, the Create Report page is dynamic and will adjust based on the selections you make.

Templates, Scheduling, and Email
This is where you’ll name your report, decide whether you’d like to save it as a template, schedule it to run automatically (if desired), and choose whether you want it emailed to you after it finishes running. Scheduling reports is a great way to establish a regular performance evaluation process. And, if you work with others on managing your AdWords account, reports can be emailed to multiple recipients.

This concludes part 1 of our Report Center series. Stayed tuned for part 2 in which we'll do a deeper dive into the different types of reports and why they’re used.