20-MINUTE READ · By Tina Arnoldi on February 21, 2018
It’s tough to stay current with Google’s changes while also responding to internal demands at your organization. Whether you recently inherited a poor performing account or are owning up to not having logged into Google Ads in a while, the below steps will guide you in auditing your account, while also noting why these steps are important.
Also, you will see how to use 3 free and easy-to-use Supermetrics Google Sheets reporting templates for the audit: high-level PPC report, historical quality score report and Google Ads & organic keyword performance templates. If you’ve never used Supermetrics templates for Google Sheets, just follow this simple guide.
Task 1: Find out why your company uses Google Ads
Rationale: If the response is “I don’t know”, pause your campaigns while you answer that question. The answer helps you know what to look for in the audit. For example, if it’s to reach prospects only in the United States, you’ll check for locations during your audit.
Task 2: Determine the budget and targeted locations for each campaign
Rationale: If the monthly budget is $3,000, divide that by 30 days for the average month and set a daily budget of $100. (I have some tips in a previous post on what to do with accounts that over- or under-spend their budget.)
Next check the location for the correct cities, states, or countries. Do you want to only reach people who are physically located in your target area or include people who are interested in that area? If my campaign is targeted to people who travel to the United States, then I want people who show interest in the US. If it’s for people who are only in my location, then I choose the middle option below.
Task 3: Compare your campaign structure to the navigation of your website
Rationale: When you’re new to Google Ads, this is a good way to identify if your campaign structure makes sense. (We’ll break this down again for ad groups). A retailer with a single campaign for clothes that sends traffic to the homepage will probably receive clicks for men’s shirts, women’s dresses, and children’s shorts. In that setup, the site visitor then has to click through the site to get to the relevant page. A better experience for shoppers is separate campaigns for men, women, and children. View the below clip for a short overview about account organization.
Task 4: View the number of ad groups for each campaign
Rationale: It also helps to look at your website to see if ad groups are well organized. If you are a retailer with a campaign for men, you should have multiple ad groups in that campaign – such as one ad group for shirts and another group for pants. It’s rare that only one ad group will be enough in a campaign.
Task 5: Review whether it’s clear what a searcher is asked to do after clicking on the ad
Rationale When I tell people to be critical, I don’t mean telling your writer that he or she did a lousy job! An ad can have a catchy message but not tell people what to do upon arriving on the site. Is the action to make a purchase, download a white paper, or fill out a form?
If you’re not clear on what to ask, here are examples of CTAs to get you started. Lunametrics has a cheat sheet on their website to help you think of good action verbs to use in ads and we have some general tips for improving your ad copy in an earlier post.
Task 6: Does the landing page match the ad copy?
Rationale: Let’s go back to the retailer example. If your ad is for women’s spring dresses, does it go right to the page with dresses? Or, does it go to the home page, the women’s clothing page, or the women’s page for year-round dresses.
I’ve had clients who want website visitors to “discover all they have to offer”. I get it. We’re proud of what we do and want people to see it all! But remember that we’re also lazy when it comes to the online world. Just like we do not want to wait for a page to load, we also do not want to click through multiple options to find what we need. Is there a message match? An ad for women’s spring dresses should go directly to the section of the website that shows women’s spring dresses.
Task 7: Note which keyword types are used
Rationale: Keyword types are broad, broad match modifier, phrase, exact, and negative. Broad keyword types have a wide reach which helps with a product or service that’s very niche or difficult to describe. But it can cost a lot of money and bring in irrelevant clicks. You’ll identify this in your account because they are words or phrases without a symbol around them as seen below.
After you have checked the quality score of your keywords, it is highly recommended to track how individual keywords are performing organically and in PPC marketing campaigns. Google Ads & Organic Keyword Performance Template is an easy way to do it: just choose the campaign and the time range together with the question you are seeking an answer to (from the drop-down menu) to see the relevant keywords and metrics in the table below.
Task 8: Review trends for your key metrics
Rationale: If an account was active for a while and recently turned over to you, use the High Level PPC Report template for a snapshot of performance. I used it for an account that it was given to me and not managed for most of the year.
Once I ran the report, I selected clicks, cost, CPC, and impressions as seen below which shows it was not performing well. Now I have a baseline so I can compare performance in a couple months.
Next, compare your existing campaign and ad group structure to your website to determine if it is well organized. If that looks good, notice if your ads have a clear action step and lead to the right landing page. Audit your keywords and consider pausing some of the more expensive ones – at least temporarily – if you have a limited budget and they do not bring a return as well as trying different match types.
Task 9: Use location extensions
Rationale: People still search locally even though implicit terms like nearby and closest in Google have declined. For searchers, local relevance is expected, but not always overtly requested. At least 60% of clicks on a location extension were for directions or more information about a location. Don’t miss out on an opportunity for your ad to stand out against local competitors who do not use location extensions. (Also make sure your Google My Business page is updated so you can connect it to Google Ads).
Task 10: Target audiences with observations
Rationale: There are multiple ways to reach target audiences with Google Ads, such as Similar Audiences, Google Analytics segments, and Smart Lists. For now, we’ll look at Observations since that does not impact the reach of an existing campaign.
For previous visitors to the website in a specific account (All Users), I adjusted the bid up by 20%. Compare this to email marketing, where you contact people who already know you to share a new offering. It’s similar with Observations. All users are people have been to this site and I want to bring them back when they search on Google. I now have data about segments of site visitors that could potentially be used in a separate RLSA campaign down the road.
Task 11: Look for negative keywords
Rationale: Accounts that are not managed regularly are often missing negative keywords, which are the words you do not want to have trigger your ad. This can be very costly to an account if not monitored. As part of the audit, you won’t create a negative keyword list or add negative keywords. At this point, you are only checking for their use.
When you click on Keywords In the left column of Google Ads, you’ll see search keywords, negative keywords, and search terms on the right. Click on negative keywords.
Task 12: Check for n-grams
Rationale: Huh? That was my response too when I first heard of them. Adalysis states that n-grams analyze the instances of a word or phrase across all query data. In Google Sheets, you can easily glance at the terms that triggered an ad so you can analyze word performance throughout your search queries. Much easier than a single instance at a time.
In the below account, you can see the word wiki is one of the terms used along with primary search terms (which have been grayed out since this is client data). When I hover over the word wiki (bottom left), I see searches where wiki was included and that one of the primary target keywords with the word wiki resulted in 39 conversions. The word wiki with other phrases in the account did not result in conversions so I may want to pause those words and focus on the phrase that does result in conversions.
Task 13: Check the landing page experience
Rationale: It’s okay that you are not a developer. This step is not technical but an important metric for overall ad performance – and only takes a minute. Select Landing pages on the left side of Google Ads and see what the mobile experience is for the campaign. If the mobile-friendly click rate is low, you’ll want to note that in your audit write-up.
Task 14: Look for Google Ads rules
Rationale: Google Ads rules can be a big time saver and are set up in the Bulk Actions section of Google Ads.
To recap, here’s a list of your tasks:
- Find out why your company uses Google Ads.
- Determine the budget and targeted locations for each ad.
- Compare your campaign structure to the navigation of your website.
- View the number of ad groups for each campaign.
- Review the ads with a critical eye.
- Make sure the landing page matches your ad copy.
- Note which keyword types are used.
- Review trends for your key metrics.
- Check for location extensions if the business is local.
- Add audiences as observations. (You will not impact the reach if you do observation rather than targeting).
- Note if negative keywords are used.
- See if n-grams stand out as good ones and if there are some to consider pausing.
- Look at the landing page data to see how it performs on mobile.
- If rules are not used, offer some suggestions for Google Ads rules.
About Tina Arnoldi
Tina Arnoldi is Analytics and AdWords Qualified and one of the few people in the United States recognized as a Google Developer Expert(GDE) for marketing. Her agency, 360 Internet Strategy, is also a Google Partner. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn