The step-by-step checklist of conducting a professional audit of your Google Ads (AdWords) PPC campaigns

It’s quite normal that every advertiser wants to get high ROI while spending as little as they can for the most of every bit of money they put in the search ads. To do that, you’ll have to regularly conduct an audit of your search advertising in Google AdWords with a complete analysis report included.

Why do you need to conduct an audit of your AdWords ad campaigns

There are quite a lot of people out there questioning why they don’t get their leads after setting up ads using Google AdWords. You have to remember that search advertising isn’t magic, it’s just a tool that you can use to attract viewers to your site and offer them products or services while they’re there. Search advertising campaigns in AdWords demands a lot of fine-tuning. That’s why the frequent audit of search ads from the perspective of the tasks that you set up for the agency is crucial for success.

Google Ads PPC audit

In the process of audit it’s not enough to just collect statistics and create its visual representation – you have to make conclusions based on that information, what parts of it you need to change for the whole campaign to achieve the intended results. And that goes not just for your advertising campaign – you’ll have to do the same for the ones that competitors use to have a better perspective on things if they go wrong all of a sudden. The same advertising budget can either get you amazing results or it can just flop and all of your money would be wasted for nothing. To avoid that last part about fruitlessly spending your money, you’ll have to perform a professional audit of your AdWords strategy.

Who can perform search engine advertising audit

There are several ways to do your SEA audit. The most obvious choice would be to perform an audit by yourself or to delegate it to your SEA personnel. This option won’t cost you much and is quite useful in some cases, but if the person is performing an audit of their own company – there’s a possibility of a bias when it comes to that company’s status or capabilities. That’s why there’s the second way to perform your SEA audit – by outsourcing it. There are many AdWords experts and AdWords agencies out there offering either automated or manual audit of your search engine advertising activity. This option is extremely useful when you’re in the need of a complete overhaul of your Google AdWords account. You can also request a Google AdWords consulting option from such companies (or a single AdWords specialist), it’s provided for free or for a small fee most of the time and would let you know if you actually need a more in-depth and serious search engine advertising audit.

One important step before starting your Google AdWords audit

The possibility of a successful advertising campaign existing without some sort of a defined goal is quite low. That’s why there should be an important step performed each time you’re planning to do an AdWords audit of your company. The question is: what is the goal of this campaign? The answer can be the conversions increase, or CPA (сost per action) reduction, or almost anything else. You should know what you’re aiming at with this campaign before performing any kind of audit.

Typical structure of a basic Google AdWords audit

As a part of SEM (search engine marketing), an audit of search ads in Google can include many different parts depending on the target of audit itself. Both final structure and the parts of audit may change depending on what you want to find out by performing said audit.
A typical audit format may include:

1. Google AdWords advertising campaign’s structure and settings analysis

One more relatively small thing you should do before diving in the audit as a process is to set up a correct time period. This might be somewhat problematic, but at the same time this little step might make the whole audit and its conclusion a lot easier for you.

The problem with this is that usually people setting up a time period for evaluation that’s either too small or too large. Timeline in the span of several days and/or weeks wouldn’t give you much in terms of raw data to process and analyze. At the same time, if your analyzing period is too big (for example, 4 months or bigger) – you’re bound to have difficulties analyzing all of the factors that influenced your company in such a big time period. And if the data you’re using for AdWords analysis is wrong – you’ll definitely arrive to some sort of incorrect conclusion by the end of audit as a process. Any actions based on an incorrect audit data might seriously harm your company.

Now, let’s begin with an actual process of performing an audit.

  • SEA advertising campaign’s structure

This part implies an evaluation of how the advertising account is organized, what types of advertising campaign they’re using, what factors they’re using for their classification of advertising campaign and how well that classification works with the product or catalogue in question and/or with this ad’s targets and priorities.

For example, the criteria that’s used for classification can be:

  • The format (retargeting, media campaign, dynamic search ads, advertising in mobile apps, etc.);
  • The geotargeting results (Berlin and the surrounding region, Frankfurt and the surrounding region, etc);
  • The type of promoted product or service (general keywords, informational keywords, brand keywords, competitors names, etc).

Having your account structure in a disorganized state may be the first sign that this exact account has some serious problems. Same goes for segmentation – if your campaigns aren’t sorted by categories like services, location, goals or general theme – you’ll have a lot less control over the entire process than you could have. Some sort of priority in regards to campaign budgets goes a long way, too, since you’ll be able to limit your budget for some sort of an experimental campaign and not spend more money that you want to spend on that exact campaign.

  • General pay-per-click advertising campaign settings

This part includes validity of general settings like:

  • Daily budget limits;
  • Connection to web analytics systems (Google Analytics or similar);
  • Geotargeting;
  • The strategy of controlling the bids.

For example, you have to remember about geotargeting factor for each of your advertising campaigns, since spreading a single AdWords campaign to several countries at once is bound to give you troubles with controlling the bidding prices for several time zones at once. On the other hand, the smaller your target country or region is – the better control you’ll be able to have over advertising on such a scale. Also don’t forget that you can exclude certain places or areas from your target the same way you include them.

Also, since we’re talking about AdWords setup in general – you should also remember that balance is important when it comes to the number of AdWords campaigns per advertising group. Having just one campaign per group means you’re not testing out new possibilities or experimenting at all. On the other hand, having way too many advertising campaigns targeting one single group might lead you to splitting traffic way too much, which, in turn, limits your flexibility and adaptability in general when it comes to that exact group and what they want.

  • Advertising materials and creative messages’ analysis

Google Ads creatives analysis

Next step implies the analysis of multiple parameters like: keywords, advertisements, extensions, quick links and other creative elements. This stage helps with revealing critical mistakes that can directly interact with your advertising campaign traffic’s cost, size and quality.
Keywords:

  • Checking for keyword duplicates;
  • Checking for different types of keyword match type;
  • Analysing how complete and relevant your keyword research results are;
  • Analysing the same about your stop-words;
  • Checking for possible conflicts of both words and stop-words.

While we’re at the subject of stop-words – their overall importance is often underplayed. Stop-words can be added for a specific campaign or even specific ad group. Stop-word lists are also available if you want to keep the same stop-word collection over your entire account.
Text-based ads:

  • Checking headers for maximum keyword phrases’ usage (not forgetting about its readability and spelling), as well as checking for maximum character usage and maximum header amount usage;
  • Checking ad texts for: spelling and readability errors, call to action, using max character count and max text number count;
  • Checking the number of ads in rotation;
  • Checking for ad moderation (while looking for the faulty ones);
  • Checking for information validity and actuality.

Graphical, media and video ads:

  • Text check, as well;
  • Checking if all of the image, banner and video formats are included;
  • Checking for ad moderation and information validity/actuality.
  • Extensions:
    • Checking if all of the available and relevant extension formats are available (depends on the advertising system);
    • Checking for extension moderation and information validity/actuality;
  • Links:

    • Checking if UTMs are correct, checking for any missing attributes and the transferred info;
    • Checking if the links with the info and keywords are still relevant;
    • Checking the technical side of those links (error 404, error 500, etc).
    • Strategy and process of bid management analysis

    This might as well be one of the most important parts of audit as a process. If you’re handling your bids in the wrong way or underfunding them – the overall effectiveness of your ad campaign gets lower, your budget spread becomes uneven and you’re missing opportunities to get more target actions in your KPI.

    Google provides a number of different types of bid management strategies, and each of them is the most suitable for some specific purpose or target. It’s true that the bid management strategy relies heavily on your company’s target and goals, that’s why there are several different groups of bid strategies (with examples of specific strategies for each group):

    • Smart Bidding (focus on conversions) includes strategies like target CPA (cost per action), target ROAS (return on ad spend), ECPC (enhanced cost per click) and others;
    • CPC bidding (focus on clicks) consists of two strategies – Maximize Clicks (which is an automated bid strategy) and Manual CPC bidding (which, as the name suggests, has to be controlled manually);
    • “Focus on impressions” group includes the following: target Search Page Location, target Outranking Share, CPM and vCPM strategies (cost per thousand impressions, the first one is an automated bid strategy and the second one has to be controlled manually);
    • “Focus on views or interactions” is special because it applies only to video ads, and consists of one strategy – CPV bidding (cost per view).

    As you can see, there are quite a lot of possible bid management strategies both automated and manual ones (even though the majority is automated ones). While using one of the automated strategies would most likely make your life easier – it’s still based on some sort of a simulation or a guess that might not be exactly right for your company’s case, that’s where manual bid management strategies (like vCPM or manual CPC) come in place, allowing for much more precise control at the cost of doing most of the calculations by yourself.

    Main things you need to check when overlooking your current bid management strategy:

    • The frequency of bid changes;
    • The settings of your bid automation and if it’s turned on in the first place;
    • What’s the current set bid rates and if they’re allowing you to reach the KPI you’ve set for yourself;
    • How much your bid amounts are different from the average ones for your industry;
    • What are the corrections for your bids that you’re applying and if they’re effective or not.

    You can also adjust your bids to specifically target some sort of device, be it mobile, tablet or desktop, if you’re getting a lot of conversions from one such device type. Same goes both ways – you can also completely cut out all of the traffic from a particular device type if you have a reason to do it.

    • Audience analysis

    Nowadays audience analysis is widely used in search advertising. This includes everything from site visitor list from every step of the vortex to client databases, geolocations, social and demographic characteristics and more.

    We mentioned geographical part’s importance before, but there’s one more part to it – language settings. It is probably quite obvious, but you should use the language your target audience speaks at when providing ads to them. There’s even a specific setting for it in your AdWords campaign settings – “Languages” tab, if set to “All languages”, would determine the correct language for your ads by using the same language that the viewer’s browser is using. That’s why this setting, while somewhat broad, would actually bring your more impressions in general.

    Some time before this audience analysing instrumentarium was mostly used for remarketing purposes, but now it can be applied to both search-based campaigns and search networks. It’s incredibly important to choose the right audience for yourself, exclude any possible interactions with other audiences and correct them when needed. All of that, if done right, can severely increase your effectiveness.

    Speaking of remarketing, reaching for immediate conversion on the website is difficult in B2B with long sales cycles. That’s why you should be always ready to try and bring back all of those people that only clicked but never converted. That’s what remarketing campaigns are here for, using cookies to bring back ads up to 540 days after specific visitor clicked on your link.

    It’s important to check for the following:

    • The structure of dividing your retargeting audience;
    • The relevance of your advertising creative;
    • Checking if the audience adjustments are done right.

    2. PPC analysis based web analytics data (e.g. Google Analytics)

    "analyzing PPC performance in Google Analytics

    This second part of the pay-per-click advertising audit is about assessment of your settings for web analytics systems, as well as overall advertising campaigns KPIs analysis in your Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics or in the other systems.

      • Your web analytics system (Google Analytics example)
        • Web counter codes are placed on all applicable pages;
        • Conversion goals are created and their data is validated;
        • GA ecommerce module is turned on for e-shops;
        • The filters are cleaning out the employee, agency and developer visits to the website;
        • Your Google AdWords account is linked to your Google Analytics;
        • You can see search terms in reports in a correct way (UTM_term is not overriding the actual search term);
      • PPC advertising campaign effectiveness
        • General assessment of the current effectiveness (channels divided by campaign type, region, device type, etc);
        • Current budget spending strategy compared to the planned advertising effectiveness;
        • Analyzing overall keyword effectiveness based on the primary visiting metrics (bounce rate, time on site and others);
        • Analyzing keyword effectiveness by target actions;
        • Analyzing keyword effectiveness based on business stats (ROI, etc);
        • Analyzing advertising placement’s effectiveness (Google network, Gmail, YouTube, mobile apps etc).

    Optimization criteria: ROAS, ROI, Conversions, CPC

    While we’re at the topic of effectiveness, let’s list some of the most common metrics and what each of them is affecting.

    The main KPI of your AdWords campaign is undoubtedly ROI/ROAS (return of investment/return of ad spend). This one basically shows how much money you’re making back after putting funds in the campaign. PPC (pay per click advertising) campaign is heavily relying on having a lot of effort in correct ROI-positive fields, which may include either reducing your CPA of increasing your conversions’ volume in general. The former action is called “optimizing”, and the latter is “scaling”. You’ll have to decide which one of those is more important for your business.

    Less important factors you should look into as well are conversion volume and cost per conversion.

    Conversion Volume metric is all about progress. You should compare the specific action’s conversions during a certain time limit, be it a day, a week or a month, and don’t forget to include info about which ad campaigns are getting you those conversions. If the statistics above is not growing on a monthly basis for you – it is a problem and you need to address it, because being stagnant is a clear sign that you have to change something, be it conversion rate, click numbers, impression volume or all of the above.

    Cost per conversion (CPC) is one more quite important stat. If it’s too high – your AdWords campaign is not sustainable at all. But there are a lot of ways to reduce it. One way to do it is to look at all of the ad campaigns as a whole to see which of them aren’t doing as good as the other ones (and the way you can alter them, too – by changing some keywords, for example). One other way is to lower your max bids. At the same time keep a watchful eye over your search terms and their effectiveness.

    If your CPC is doing good – it’s probably a good idea to work on your conversion volume (by expanding your keyword base or through other means).

    Conclusion

    Every step of audit, as a part of SEA optimization in general, is supplied with the information about how that one mistake affects your overall effectiveness, and recommendations about what further steps to take to improve your KPI.

    The result of such an audit as a whole should be in the form of a checklist of what to do to improve your results and increase the amount of target actions performed (not forgetting about matching the latest advertising guidelines and rules of advertising platforms).

    An insane amount of factors is affecting the overall results of your search advertising. By performing regular audits of your Google AdWords campaign you’ll be able to see which areas you need to improve and start making an effort to actually improving them.

    To set up your search advertising just right, you’ll need to spend a long time researching this whole process (months or even years). There’s no universal recipe for audit of your search campaign. But at the same time we’ve already listed a good number of the most common mistakes and where to look for them in general.

    In a lot of cases AdWords search ads audit can get pretty complicated really fast. Here’s a two-part checklist of everything we’ve discussed in this article to help you with that potential problem:

    Google AdWords advertising campaign’s structure and settings analysis

    1. Advertising campaign’s structure:
      1. The format;
      2. The geotargeting results;
      3. The type of promoted product or service;
    2. General advertising campaign settings:
      1. Daily budget limits;
      2. Connection to web analytics systems (Google Analytics or similar);
      3. Geotargeting;
      4. The strategy of controlling the bids;
    3. Advertising materials and creative messages’analysis:
      • Keywords:
        1. Checking for keyword duplicates;
        2. Checking for different types of keyword match type;
        3. Analysing how complete and relevant your keyword research results are;
        4. Analysing the same about your stop-words;
        5. Checking for possible conflicts of both words and stop-words;
      • Text-based ads:
        1. Checking headers for maximum keyword phrases’ usage, as well as checking for maximum character usage and maximum header amount usage;
        2. Checking ad texts for: spelling and readability errors, call to action, using max character count and max text number count;
        3. Checking the number of ads in rotation;
        4. Checking for ad moderation (while looking for the faulty ones);
        5. Checking for information validity and actuality
      • Graphical, media and video ads:
        1. Text check, as well;
        2. Checking if all of the image, banner and video formats are included;
        3. Checking for ad moderation and information validity/actuality;
      • Extensions:
        1. Checking if all of the available and relevant extension formats are available (depends on the advertising system);
        2. Checking for extension moderation and information validity/actuality;
      • Links:
        • Checking if utm-marks are correct, checking for any missing attributes and the transferred info;
        • Checking if the links with the info and keywords are still relevant;
        • Checking the technical side of those links (error 404, error 500, etc);
    4. Strategy and process of bid management analysis
      1. The frequency of bid changes;
      2. The settings of your bid automatization and if it’s turned on in the first place;
      3. What’s the current set bid rates and if they’re allowing you to reach the KPI you’ve set for yourself;
      4. How much your bid amounts are different from the average ones for your industry;
      5. What are the corrections for your bids that you’re applying and if they’re effective or not;
    5. Audience analysis
      1. The structure of dividing your audience;
      2. The relevance of your advertising;
      3. Checking if the auditory corrections are done right;

    PPC analysis based web analytics data (e.g. Google Analytics)

    1. Your web analytics system (Google Analytics example)
      • Web counter codes are placed on all applicable pages;
      • Conversion goals are created and their data is validated;
      • GA ecommerce module is turned on for e-shops;
      • The filters are cleaning out the employee, agency and developer visits to the website;
      • Your Google AdWords account is linked to your Google Analytics;
      • You can see search terms in reports in a correct way (UTM_term is not overriding the actual search term);
    2. PPC advertising campaign effectiveness
      • General assessment of the current effectiveness (channels divided by campaign type, region, device type, etc);
      • Current budget spending strategy compared to the planned advertising effectiveness;
      • Analyzing overall keyword effectiveness based on the primary visiting metrics (bounce rate, time on site and others);
      • Analyzing keyword effectiveness by target actions;
      • Analyzing keyword effectiveness based on business stats (ROI, etc);
      • Analyzing advertising placement’s effectiveness (Google network, Gmail, YouTube, mobile apps etc).
    3. Getting to a conclusion based on all of the collected data.

    You can also get the checklist in a PDF file and a free 30-minute consultation with me if you’ll fill in this form.

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    Feel free to book an initial 60-minute free consultation. You will hear from me within 24 business hours after submitting the below form.

    Want me to improve your leads and traffic?

    Let's chat and see what can I do for you. Only if I'll foresee the value for your business in working with me, I’ll be able to take you on as a client.

    If you won’t want to move forward together, that’s OK too. Worst case scenario will be that you'll receive some free advice from me which will help you grow the traffic, leads and sales numbers.

    Feel free to book an initial 60-minute free consultation. You will hear from me within 24 business hours after submitting the below form.

    The step-by-step checklist of conducting a professional audit of your Google Ads (AdWords) PPC campaigns Contents1 Why do you need to conduct an audit of your AdWords ad campaigns2 Who can perform search engine advertising audit3 One important step before starting your Google AdWords audit4 Typical structure of a basic Google AdWords audit5 1. Google AdWords advertising campaign’s structure and settings analysis6 2. PPC analysis based web analytics data (e.g.Read More Read More"/> 2019-11-27
    Andrei Iunisov - Digital Marketing & SEO Consultant from Chemnitz, Germany
    09131 Chemnitz, Hilbersdorfer Str., 52, Germany
    +49 1514 5128623