Google AdWords Audit Guide
Continually auditing your AdWords account is integral to making sure that you are both getting as many clicks and conversions as possible, and adjusting your account to fit your evolving business and website.
With this guide, you will be able to look through your account(s) and determine what is causing you to lose conversions, whether there is waste in your account, and where there can be improvements.
As part of this guide, we’ll perform a Campaign audit looking at the following:
How Often Should You Perform an Audit?
It’s a good idea to monitor your Campaign at least weekly to see how things are going and make sure that there aren’t any glaring issues. However, you should perform a full fledged audit once-a-month or every couple of months at the least.
Think of your audits as maintenance on a vehicle. It is important to regularly perform maintenance so performance is always optimized.
What are Your KPI’s?
Before you start the audit you need to remind yourself what your KPI’s are. Generally you should be monitoring for:
- Click-thru Rate (CTR)
- Average Position
- Conversion Rate
- Cost-Per-Click (CPC)
- Quality Score
- Cost per Acquisition
It’s important first to review the basics of your account, including general metrics.
Account Grade: 28%
Audit your Account Activity
How often are you updating your Campaign? How often are you adding keywords, ads, negatives, and changing your bids? It’s important to monitor account activity so you can be sure that your agency, or whoever is responsible for the Campaign, is actively optimizing.
Month by month comparison
Next you’re going to want to do a comparison to the metrics from the previous period. In this case, month-by month. Look for areas where your Campaign’s performance improved and areas where you could be more effective this coming month. The negative metrics can become goals for the next month.
Audit your Visibility
What’s your impression share for your most valuable keywords? Are you losing potential conversions by not optimizing your budget? Could your ROI improve by optimizing your impression share?
Make sure you enable “impression share” in the custom columns tab, and incorporate this metric into your audit.
Auditing Your Campaign Settings
In this guide we are going to start with Campaigns and then narrow down our focus to Ad groups and Ads. So let’s get started with Campaigns.
- Naming Convention: Now that you are looking at all of your Campaigns in one place, you’re going to look to see if your Campaigns are organized. Specifically, is their logical naming convention to your Campaigns. Do you know what kind of Adgroups and keywords are in that Campaign before you even click on it?
- Brand Terms: Do you have a Campaign devoted to brand terms? If the answer is no, make it a priority to develop one because chances are you’re missing out on a very lucrative audience.
- Competitor Terms: Do you have an Adgroup targeting other well known brands/competitors? These can be “low hanging” fruit, particularly if they’re aggressive advertisers.
- Languages: Add Spanish to reach people who have their browser in Spanish but search in English
- Remarketing: Do you have a remarketing Campaign set up? If not, you should get one set up immediately, if you need help you can look at this guide.
- Automatic Placements: Do you have any automatic Display Network placements that are underperforming? If so you should consider changing them to managed so you can decide where to place them.
- Display Network: In your Display Network, are you using various banner sizes? If not you should develop images with different sizes according to Google’s guidelines to maximize your reach.
- Device Targeting: Do you have a separate Campaign for mobile ads? If so, make sure you’re separating Mobile/Desktop targeting, and that you have a mobile-optimized landing page.
- Location Targeting: You should also take this time to make sure that your location targets are correct. Are there no overlaps?
- Budget: Is your budget set appropriately? If you’re reaching your budget by the end of the day then you should consider increasing it. Google will help you out by giving you a Limited by Budget warning next to your Campaign under the Status column Even if you are not seeing the warning you want to check your Campaign and check on when you’re reaching your daily budget for your Campaigns under the Dimensions tab and change the View to Hour of Day.
- Co-targeting Search and Display: Back under the Settings tab you’re going to want to check if you have any Campaigns that are set to both search and display you will want to restructure the Campaign into two separate ones. It is imperative that you do not have any Campaigns that are using both networks. The biggest difference is that audiences on the Display Network are not actively searching for your product or business, or things related to your product or business. That along with the pictures required for Display and the different bid prices means that having the two in the same Campaign will interfere with your metrics and ability to specifically target users at their respective stage in the buying funnel.
Now click on your individual Campaigns while under the Settings tab
- Ad Rotation: Here you’re going to make sure that your Ad rotation is set to rotate evenly or indefinitely. This will make sure that all of your ads are shown evenly so you can get accurate performance data on them.
- Delivery Method: You’re also going to want to make sure that your Delivery Method is set to Accelerated so your ads are shown as frequently as possible.
- IP Exclusions: Under IP Exclusions, you are going to want to make sure you exclude your own IP and all the IP addresses of people who are working on the Campaign. You don’t want to pay for your own clicks.
- Bid Adjustments: Are you automatically adjusting mobile bids? If not, you may want to consider increasing or decreasing your mobile bids based on the performance of your mobile ads.
Auditing Your Ad Groups
- Ad Group Naming Convention: Just like with the Campaigns, you’re going to want to make sure that there is a clear and detailed naming convention to your Ad Groups. The names of your Ad groups should reflect more targeted subcategories of the Campaigns’ themes.
- Keywords within Ad Groups: Ad Groups should have no more than 20 keywords. Too many keywords will make your Ad Group less specific and targeted. It will also make your ads less relevant to your keywords, thus dropping their quality score.
- Ad Extensions: These are included in your quality score, so Ad extensions is important to include with every Adgroup.
- Negative Keywords: Are you using negative keywords in your Ad Group to sculpt your results and reduce wasted expense? If you do not have an extensive negative keyword list for your Ad groups, especially those with broad or broad match modifier keywords, you’re going to want to add negative terms.
You can get an idea of what negative terms you should add by going to the keywords tab,
Clicking on Details then All under Search Terms.
Here you’re going to find all the terms within the given date range that triggered your ads. A good habit to get into is to go through this list and add negatives keywords that are unrelated to your product, business, or service.
Auditing Your Ads
- A/B testing: You should always be running at least two different ads in your Ad Groups while doing A/B testing to see which performs better. Which ads are performing best? Make sure you have statistical significance before making decisions. The rule of thumb is that you need at least 50 clicks and 500 impressions before reaching statistical significance.
- Do you have mobile ads set up? If you have not invested in developing mobile ads, than you should definitely consider one. Mobile ads have tremendous reach potential.
- Grammar Errors: ALWAYS check and double-check for spelling and grammar mistakes. You are almost guaranteed to not receive a click if a viewer notices a spelling or grammar error in your ad.
- Call to Action: All of your ads should have a clear, strong, specific message followed by a call to action.
- Destination URL: Make sure the destination URL is correct. Don’t waste money sending people to the wrong page!
- Relevant Landing Pages: You should also review that your Ads are going to a relevant landing page that’s no more than one click away to a conversion page.
- Ad Extensions: For your ads with Ad Extensions, are any of the extensions repeating info from the ad? If they are you’re going to want to rewrite your ad.
Auditing Your Keywords
Go to your Keywords tab.
- Audit your Search Terms: Routinely analyzing search terms and optimizing the Campaign according to these search terms helps in a variety of ways:
- Identify keyword with conversions, and bid higher for those
- Exclude negative keywords
- Add high converting keywords as exact match keywords
- Identify opportunities for new Adgroups and landing pages
- Audit your Match Types: First you’re going to want to make sure that you have the appropriate match type for your different ads. You could be spending a lot of money on keywords that aren’t driving optimum traffic to your ads if you are using to many broad keywords. Make sure that you have a healthy amount of phrase, BMM, and exact match types. Also make sure that Adgroups with broad keywords have a solid negative keyword list.
- Keyword Quality: Sort by Impressions and Cost to see if there are any keywords that are costing you more money than you are making. If they have high impressions but low conversions, are the keywords relevant? If the issue is low CTR, then this is a time when you should review your ads to see if you can improve your clicks.
- Quality Scores: Next you’re going to want to check your quality scores. If any of your scores fall below 6, consider modifying your ads or pausing your keywords. You should then revisit your low quality keywords and examine what is contributing to their low scores, and make the necessary adjustments.
- Click Through Ratio (CTR): What is the overall CTR of your keywords? How do individual keywords look in terms of CTR? Review keywords with low CTR and determine what changes need to be made to improve your CTR.
- Duplicate Keywords: Duplicate keywords means that you are paying money to compete with yourself. During your adwords audit you need to look through the keywords in your Campaigns, look for duplicate keyword, and remove the one that’s performing worse. Tools like Scriptalicious or SEO Book’s Keyword List Cleaner are extremely useful for Campaigns that have a lot of keywords in them.
- One word Keywords: One word keywords are generally much too broad to be used in a Campaign, especially as a broad match. Unless they are converting very well, you should consider adding more terms to the keyword to make it more specific.
Auditing Your Landing Pages
Now it is time to check the landing pages for your ads.
- Relevancy: You’re going to want to make sure that your landing page match your keyword and ad. Your keyword should appear multiple times on your landing page.
- Conversions: Your landing page should also link to a conversion page, or easily lead to a conversion page. You should also have a system in place to track conversion obstacles.
- Device Targeting: Unique landing pages should be made for different devices.
- User Experience: What is the bounce rate of your landing pages? What was the dwell time? These metrics will impact the quality of your page, which in turn impacts Quality Score.
Auditing Your Metrics Review
- Analytics / Adwords: Is your AdWords account linked to your Google Analytics account, and are your goals set up? If not, this guide will help you.
- Hunt for Trends: If your quality scores are creeping down, or your CPA is climbing, you need to review your history and see what has changed when this trend started.
- Tracking: Do you have a system in place for accurate reporting on your metrics and your changes? This is really important to have when you start to notice trends within your Campaign and you need to review your changes. It is also a good record of evidence for performance improvement.
Something like this should suffice:
Review Possible Optimizations:
Based on all of these findings, what changes can you made at the various level to improve the performance of your Adwords account? Here are a few to consider:
- Bid Increases for First Page (or Top 3) Visibility: If your average Ad position is low, consider increasing bids to be shown in the top 3 spots
- Increase Bids for Converting Keywords: Gain top positions for keywords that are inexpensive and convert extremely well.
- Keywords with high impression and clicks but no conversions: Review these keywords and evaluate the lack of conversions. Are the keywords, ads, and landing pages relevant? If not, considering changing or pausing.
- Bid Management: How many keywords do you have that are “Below first page bid”? Review these and consider increasing bids or pausing.
- Hour of the Week Comparison: what type of the day do you have the most impressions? Clicks? Conversions? Consider using dayparting to improve visibility during key times of the day.
- Geographical Analysis: Are certain cities, states, or countries performing better than others? If so, perhaps create a new Campaign targeted specifically at these geographical locations. If certain areas convert poorly, consider excluding them in the locations settings.
Tools for AdWords Auditing
There are a lot of good, free tools that can help you with your AdWords audit. One of these tools is the Wordstream AdWords Performance Grader. This tool is very useful because it allows you to gain better insight by comparing your account to other AdWords accounts with the same level of spend in your vertical. So if you’re the owner of a food truck, you won’t be compared with the likes of Subway or McDonald’s.
This tool will give you detailed information about your Account in terms of:
- Wasted Spend (Negative Keywords)
- Impression Share
- Ad Text
- Landing Pages
- Mobile Targeting
- Long Tail Keywords
- CTR (Click-through rate)
- Quality Score
If you are managing an account with Campaigns that have many keywords and adgroups, then it might be smart to invest in a tool like Wordstream or Optmyzr. These tools provide you with in-depth data about your Account. They also give you time-efficient ways to optimize your Campaigns by suggesting negative keywords, new keywords that can improve CTR, gathering keywords that could benefit from an increase in bids, showing you ways to improve quality score, and highlighting trends in your Account, Campaign, Ad Groups, and Keywords. Basically they will serve as your permanent auditing manager.
As great as these tools are, (and they’re constantly adding new features), it’s important to not follow these tools blindly. Make sure you go through the suggestions these websites offer yourself as some of the suggestions may not always be relevant.
Here is a checklist version of this guide so you can follow along as you perform your audit and make sure that you review all the important parts of your Account.
Your AdWords account will only give you what you put in. The consistent monitoring and auditing of your Campaign is the only way to optimize your advertising efforts and improve Clicks and Conversions.
That being said, it’s also important not be overbearing on your Campaigns and performing audits everyday as you will be ruining any chance of getting significant data from your changes. It takes time to build up an AdWords Campaign, but once you have built your Campaign up and started auditing, the possibilities for generating revenue are endless.
But remember, an AdWords Campaign is never “finished”, so even if you’re Campaign is doing better than you could imagine, do not skip the audits.