How to audit your Google Ads account like a pro
Use this step-by-step analysis as a blueprint to audit and help improve the profitability of your own Google Ads account.
Brad Geddes is no stranger to paid search. And as one of the co-founders of Adalysis, he’s done his fair share of audits.
In an SMX Advanced session, he provides a framework for how to audit your own accounts, or perform audits for client proposals. Let’s dive in.
Why perform an audit?
Here are a few reasons why you’d perform a Google Ads audit:
- Someone is unhappy with performance. Their conversions have decreased and spend has gone up. Something has gone wrong.
- The account owner wants to make sure they are following best practices and nothing is wrong.
- The account owner is happy with what they are getting, but they want more.
- The agency is performing an audit as part of a proposal and they need to know what the products are, how they sell, what their funnel is, and if part of that funnel is being ignored.
Ask the right questions
When you’re performing an account audit there are several pieces of information you need to know. Geddes addresses some of the questions you need to ask yourself or the client.
- What is the goal of your Google Ads account?
- What do you want out of it?
- What do you consider a successful account?
Starting the Google Ads account audit
- How big is the account? Is it two campaigns or 30?
- What is the ad spend?
- Are there search and display campaigns, or just search?
Is the account manager new? Will you have to educate that person?
If they are a professional then you can address them in a different way than if they’d only been working in Google Ads for a few months.
What are you not seeing?
What is not being tracked or only used in certain campaigns? The most common conversions not being tracked are:
- Phone calls.
- Mailto links.
Use Google’s conversion action sets and adding different conversions together and applying different activities to different campaigns, Geddes said. This way you can use interaction goals for top of funnel and CPA goals for bottom of funnel.
Once you’re happy with the conversions or know what needs to be fixed, look at campaign settings. What you’re looking for is consistency in the setup process.
Some things to look for:
- Are all of the campaign targeting the same locations?
- Are they creating ads by device?
- Are they using bid adjustments?
- How are they bidding?
Who is managing the account
Is someone actively managing the account? Sometimes an account is spending millions of dollars per month and if it has five changes over the last 30 days, it’s likely that nobody is managing it.
Other times it may have a huge number of changes but it’s all done by API, meaning that nobody is overlooking the data. And other times someone is really into the account, actively managing it and you’ll see a ton of changes and what is being worked on.
This should give you an idea of how active the management is and what is being used to make changes. Is it API, third-party scripts, a human, or something else?
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Once you have the base level audit complete, look at trends. Instead of looking at month-to-month trends, look at year-over-year. Consider how last March did compared to this year instead of looking at February vs. March.
Ask the client if they can provide a few time frames when they were happy with the account for reference. This way you can look at date ranges, compare the visual data, and analyze whether search volume has dropped significantly.
If search volume dropped, did someone remove keywords? Is impression share going up?
Quality score issues could also be present as well as problems with extensions. Was a new landing page launched?
Knowing these factors can help you chase down what happened and isolate areas of change.
Looking at the big picture
In a traditional audit, you don’t have time to look at every detail. Instead, you look into what the problem areas are, Geddes said.
- How often are those ads showing or not showing?
- Are you losing impression share due to budget?
- How about ad ranks?
- If impression share is high and the client still isn’t happy, can you add new targeting with some different display or keywords?
If the issue is budget:
- Can you manipulate the budget to get more?
- If you took the budget from another campaign, would you get more?
Budget manipulation is likely the easiest way to gain additional conversions, Geddes said.
Look at the trends and timeframes of when things changed:
- Is it an ad rank issue? If so, then you’ll want to dig into Quality Score.
- Is it ad relevance? Is it a landing page issue?
- Does the landing page match the keywords in the account?
- Did they launch a new website or page that caused the experience to be affected?
Have a conversation with the client and find out what happened.
What keywords is the client using? What does their targeting look like?
Look at their match type usage and trends.
- What is their conversion rate by match type?
- Do they have a lot of broad match keywords with conversions, but no exact match?
- Is anyone going through the query report and adding those keywords to the account?
Duplicate search terms also occur. So Geddes suggests adding a negative keyword to the lower performing ad group can often result in an increase in conversions. Controlled duplicates can often result in additional conversions.
Keyword conflicts can also occur if you are blocking your own keywords. However, Google doesn't look at match types, campaign negative lists, or MCC negative lists, so you could be blocking keywords that don't even show up in Google. Microsoft does, so you can use that to find Google conflicts, Geddes said.
Ad group sizes
Geddes uses a simple pivot table to look at ad group sizes.
- How many keywords are by ad group and how many search terms exist by ad group?
- How are the ad groups being managed?
- Do the ad groups need to be broken down smaller?
Consider the top spending ad groups first. Is there is a large number of them? RSAs don't cover everything, so Geddes suggests still using granular ad group organization – even with the new ad formats.
RSA performance and pinning
When you get an idea of how that client is managing RSAs, you want to know what's their overall asset breakdown.
- What is your overall pinning usage?
- Are they pinning everything a little bit?
- Nothing pinned?
- What's your ad strengths?
- What's that asset performance breakdown?
- Are these RSAs unique and are they doing well?
- How is the client thinking about it?
Looking at the overall asset report you can determine how many different ads an asset is in:
- Is it on purpose?
- Did multiple people create the pins?
- Are they consistent?
Geddes reminds us that pinning doesn't affect conversion rate or CTR. You’ll likely see a lower ad strength because you’re controlling the message.
But once you have an idea of how ad groups are broken down and how they are doing, you also need to know who you should be paying attention to.
The competitor analysis
Auction insight shows you who you’re competing against.
- What's that overlap rate?
- How are different people addressing these search terms?
- Do we fit the same?
- Do all the ads look the same?
- How do we stand out in this crowd?
- Who are your top competitors?
And then looking at how their ads are selling against you, you can devise your own sell against strategy.
Once you do that, you can still do ad testing just like you could before. You may have some ad groups with multiple ad types, and some ad groups that are just all RSAs. So when you're doing RSA ad testing, you may do them by theme, like RSA one is about discounts, RSA two is about prices, etc..
Geddes notes that clients love insights. Multi ad-group testing is a great way to let clients know that they can increase clicks, conversions, or other metrics by doing X.
A lot more can be done than what Geddes discussed, but you only have so much time to complete the audit. The big methods to look into are:
- How are they bidding.
- How are they using bid modifiers.
- Target CPA is common, but it may not be the best option because it does not use device modifiers to adjust bid.
How are audiences being used across the account? Geddes says that audiences are are so useful and so much reporting and audience bid adjustments can be used with several types of automated bidding.
Google doesn’t use audience modifiers to change the bids. They use the audience modifiers to say “you want to show your ads more to this audience group, or less to this audience group.” So use your bid modifier in an ad serving way.
What if someone has zero audiences or they have zero search audiences, or maybe they have some display ones for remarketing? That's often a place of improvement in accounts. Dig deep into audiences and the ways you can create custom audiences
Presenting the audit to the clients
Some audits can be 10 pages or even 100 pages.
But what's important to remember is that not every client who reads the audit will have your level of PPC knowledge. They simply want to know what to do. So focus on the important highlights and recommendations.