How Savvy Is Your AdWords Account? 7 Areas To Audit

When you do AdWords account audits, you need to go beyond the data to see how savvy the AdWords account is overall. If the account is well put together, then the account manager generally knows what they are doing and you will end up talking quite a bit about the data and the account’s strategy.

savvyIf the account is lacking in the advanced use of features, often your conversation will be geared around education and some strategy.

While I often start with the One Minute Account Diagnosis, there are a few signals you can use to see if the account is savvy or not before you start talking to the account manager about increasing the account’s performance.

Conversion Tracking

Every account should be tracking conversions. Sometimes this is in AdWords, other times it might be in Google analytics or their own in-house system.

If the account does not have conversion tracking of some sort, this should be the very first step to getting an account on track.


Every account can benefit from some extension. Everyone can use sitelinks. Local accounts can focus on location extensions. E-commerce accounts have product extensions. There are call extensions, social extensions, etc.

If an account does not have any extensions, then the account manager generally needs to be educated in not just extensions, but also top-vs-side performance of ads.

I find a lot of older and very sophisticated accounts often do not have location extensions enabled any longer. These accounts are often large hotel or restaurant chains that took the time to create Local Business Ads, which were retired a few years ago. However, when the ad format was retired, these companies often did not take the time to rework all of the data into location extensions.

Search vs. Display Campaigns

A properly organized account will have separate search and display campaigns. If the campaigns are targeting both search and display, you will usually need to educate the company about the display network and how to properly organize it.

Negative Keywords

Does the account have negative keywords? Are they using negative keyword lists? If yes, then at least the manager knows what negatives are and you can go beyond education to finding the words that need to be blocked.

If the account has zero negative keywords, then you usually end up in a conversation about match types and search queries.

Modified Broad Match

Is the account using all broad match? If yes, you need to have a serious talk about match types. I find that many accounts use broad match for good reason, but have never heard of modified broad match. Modified broad match is a nice middle ground between phrase and broad match.

If an account is using all exact and phrase match, the account was often set up and optimized more than two years ago when expanded broad match was spending too much money without enough conversions.

Default Bids

Are all the keywords bids ‘default’? This means that all the bids are at the ad group level and are often 0.25, 0.50, 1.00, 2.00, 3.00, etc. If so, Odds are the account has no bidding strategy at all.

There are times when you need to bid at the ad group level such as when you have a lack of keyword data. However, if you are bidding from some conversion metric, then some of the bids should be precise numbers such as 1.03, 0.29, 0.98, etc.

If all the bids are roughly the same, then you need to have a chat about bidding strategies that often ends up being about the company’s marketing goals.

Filters & Automated Rules

If an account has saved filters, automated reporting, or has set up automated rules, then usually the PPC manager is fairly educated. These are strong signals that you are going to talk to a smart person who wants a second opinion or is too overworked to get into the nitty gritty data analysis that can help out an account.


There are many other signals you could use to determine how savvy an account is; however, I have found these signals are indicative of how savvy the account is as a whole.

Also, you can see all of these settings in just a few minutes of time. I do recommend using the AdWords editor as that will show you all the campaigns at once so you can quickly see mobile, tablet, desktop, search, display, time of day, location, and other settings from a single screen.

Just because these items are in place does not mean the account is perfect and well run. Also, not having all of these items in place does not mean the account is poorly managed. These settings give you an indication of how many features the account is using so that you can speak to the education level of the account.

You should know your audience, and in a PPC audit – the audience is the account manager and maybe their boss. Therefore, understanding the account manager’s knowledge will help you speak to your audience so that you can make sure you’re spending your time on strategy versus education so at the end of the audit – everyone is happy with the outcome.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column


About The Author: is the Founder of Certified Knowledge, a company dedicated to PPC education & training; fficial Google AdWords Seminar Leader, and author of Advanced Google AdWords.

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  • Shelley Ellis

    Love this, Brad. Especially after I went back and read the One Minute Account Diagnosis you referenced in the article.

    Most people think their tracking is set up right…but what we are finding is that most of the time it either wasn’t set up right OR there are other options that can greatly improve their tracking.

    Modified broad is another area that I almost always see opportunities for expansion. And I don’t like to just copy and past modified broad from my full keyword list. I like to evaluate the need for modified and prefer to limit modified broad match to keywords that range from 2 to 4 words total.

    Happy New Year! Looking forward to more of your articles in 2012.


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