Best Practices For Auditing An SEM Account

This is the first post in a 7 part series covering a set of best practices and the logic behind auditing a SEM account—how, why, and when it’s appropriate to evaluate your current efforts. I’d argue that just as you take a vacation every six months to recharge and gain perspective, you should likewise step back from your day-to-day SEM efforts every six months and evaluate why things are the way they are with your campaigns.

Each post in this series will focus on one unique SEM optimization best practice. These include:

  1. Match Type
  2. Top Terms
  3. Organization
  4. Relevance
  5. Quality Score
  6. Scalability
  7. Measuring Success

While each practice is valuable in its own right, each step also is a building block for the subsequent analysis. The goal of an audit is to find hidden opportunities, minimize unnecessary costs and maximize revenue. A complete audit will identify what is and isn’t working within a search effort, as well as revealing opportunities to scale campaigns efficiently and effectively.

SEM Audit Best Practice 1: Match Type

Whenever we audit an account at our agency, the first thing we look at is match type. At a high-level, a match type analysis is a good indicator of an account’s overall efficiency, revealing whether cost-per-click amounts are higher than necessary.

Key factors in determining Quality Score include the relationship between the exact match form of a keyword, the ad copy associated with the term, and the landing page for the ad copy. Assuming bids are the same across match types, a keyword using exact match will generally have a lower CPC than in one used in broad or phrase match. Using this logic, in a well structured account, the majority of clicks should come from exact match. If a click for the same keyword in using exact match is cheaper, why pay more for a click with broad or phrase match?

This is not to take away from the value of broad and phrase match. For my claim to hold value, it’s important to recognize the difference between a keyword and a query. As broad and phrase match types have the unique attribute of matching relevant queries with keywords being bid on, it’s logical that in an efficient account the majority of impressions come from broad and phrase match types, whereas the majority of clicks come from exact match (in other words,clickthrough rate for exact match is generally higher than broad or phrase). Furthermore, broad and phrase match provide keyword expansion opportunities via the AdWords search query report.

So what does this mean? All keywords that are live in broad or phrase match should be live in exact match. Keep broad and phrase match live on select terms that have proven to be effective. Take advantage of the tools that AdWords provides such as the search query report to migrate broad and phrase matched clicks to exact match opportunities. Repeat these steps every few weeks or shortly after adding new keywords.

The big take-away from this is an understanding of how match types can work together. Match type optimization is the first step in the process to minimize costs without reducing click volume – and is the simplest step to execute. Doing this, you should notice an immediate reduction in CPC and an increase in CTR. Subsequently, it’s not uncommon to observe an increase in Quality Score on all terms, adgroups, and campaigns that have been newly enabled in exact match.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | How To: PPC


About The Author: is the Vice President of Performance Marketing and Analytics at SellPoints and is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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  • ckellogg

    This is great advice.
    Now, how do you organize the keywords with different match types in a campaign: do you set up ad groups for exact, phrase and broad match? Can you have the same keyword with all match types in the same ad group?

  • Benny Blum

    ckellog – I’m going to get more into organization at all levels (adgroup, campaign, and account) in the 3rd post in this series, but I can briefly answer your question here. Isolating the exact match form of a KW into a unique adgroup can be very useful for high volume and more generic KWs that broad or phrase match to less relevant queries. For all terms that are not high volume or generic, it’s not necessary to go through the hassle or creating tons of new adgroups.



  • alanmitchell

    Hi Benny,

    Nice comment at the bottom emphasizing how exact, phrase and broad match should work together in harmony. Getting out of the mind-set that ‘broad match is evil’ and ‘exact match is king’ is definitely a good thing.

    I agree that broad match will naturally deliver a higher share of impressions and exact match a higher share of clicks, but I think the more you close this gap the better. Searches that have broad-matched to your keywords are potentially no less inferior than ones that have exact-matched to your keywords if the right structure is created and the right negatives are added. I think match type equality is a sign of a highly relevant campaign.

    Great post though – looking forward to the next 6 parts.

  • MelaniePPC

    Hi Benny,

    This article was very insightful, thanks! When do you anticipate the other 6 parts of the series to be posted? I look forward to reading them as well.

  • Benny Blum

    Melanie – the next post will be coming out shortly…not sure the date.



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