How to audit a PPC account and find the quick-wins!

When you’re working on a PPC account day-in day-out sometimes things can slide through the cracks, or alternatively tasks can find themselves on a to do list where they’re continually bumped further down – meaning they never get actioned.

Whether you’re in-house and have been tasked with managing the company PPC account, or are instead an agency looking over a client’s account, it’s important to do a PPC audit to make sure the basics are correctly covered as sometimes these can lead to quick-wins.

The below PPC audit recommendations are by no means definitive, but by covering off these points you’re laying the foundations for a great PPC campaign which can then be built upon through performance review and further optimisation.

1. Google AdWords/Analytics Linking
If the site also uses Google Analytics then make sure this is linked into AdWords – it can simplify conversion tracking, as well as provide additional insight into engagement levels on the site such as bounce rate and time on site – all great stuff when it comes to fine-tuning the performance of the PPC account.

2. Conversion Tracking
If the only goal is to drive traffic, lots of traffic, then fair enough, however if the goal is to drive enquiries or sales then you’ll need visibility on how many are being generated in order to determine the ROI and optimise the PPC account.
It’s sometimes surprising how many sites don’t have conversion tracking setup so it’s always best to check. If tracking exists in Google Analytics then import this into AdWords, alternatively this can be setup directly in AdWords itself.
If it’s an e-commerce site being tracked then make sure the tracking isn’t just counting the number of orders, but also the value of those since you’ll need this in order to calculate the ROI which will influence your bidding strategy.

3. Keyword Targeting / Match Types
Which keywords are being bid upon, and have appropriate match types been used? When auditing PPC accounts it’s important to see which match types have been used, or whether or not the account is reliant purely on broad match – which can lead to a poor quality score and untargeted traffic.

Use of phrase and exact match terms can help improve relevance and quality scores, although broad (with and without the modifier) can still be beneficial to drive volume, providing negative keywords are being used correctly and you’re not just bidding blindly.

Are long-tail terms being targeted too? These can lead to cheaper and more targeted traffic, whereas bidding on a single word can be way too broad and a quick way to blow precious budget. For example, we’ve previously witnessed a wood flooring company bid on the term “oak” – needless to say it didn’t perform too well.

4. Negative Keywords
If the PPC account in question is using broad/phrase matched terms, then one aspect you’ll want to cover off are negative keywords to make sure budget isn’t being wasted on terms which are irrelevant.

A bit of a brainstorm in conjunction with Google’s Keyword Planner can make sure you cover off the main offenders, but in AdWords you can also run a Search Terms report to see the actual searches which were triggering an ad and led to a click.

However, sometimes this reports that there is “Not enough data to show particular queries”, in which case you can perform a better analysis in Google Analytics via a Matched Search Query report – that is providing both AdWords and Analytics are correctly linked.

5. Ads
Is the ad relevant to the keywords being targeted? Ideally the keyword focus should be covered off in the ad headline, description and display URL to really make the ad stand out from the crowd as being highly relevant to the searcher’s query.

You don’t want to keyword stuff it though – in fact you want to persuade the searcher to click the ad rather than one from a competitor. That means using a captivating headline and a strong call to action such as buy/enquire now, as well as USPs which can make the ad stand out – free delivery, 10% off, 24 hour emergency call out, 20 years’ experience etc.

However, it’s not just enough to have one “good” ad for an ad group. Without the context of other ads in the ad group, how do you judge its performance? It may well have a click-through-rate (CTR) of 10% which may not seem too shabby, but you could create another ad which blows this out of the water with an even higher CTR.

By including multiple ads within each ad group you can benefit from Google’s ad rotation settings which automatically show the best performing ads based upon past CTR. Therefore, ensure each ad group has at least two ads, then in the words of Harry Hill – fight!

6. Ad Extensions
These are another great way to boost the CTR of your ad by presenting the searcher with more reasons to click it. They aren’t always guaranteed to show, but being easy to create there’s no reason not to add them to try and maximise the CTR – and thus benefit the quality score.

There’s a variety of extensions to choose from, although some of the more popular ones are sitelinks, which are additional links to other pages on your site, and also call extensions to drive calls to the business.

Dependant on the nature of the site being advertised not all ad extensions will be needed/relevant, although with the choice of sitelinks, call, location, app, review and social extensions there will undoubtedly be something of relevance.

7. Geographic Targeting
Is what your site offers applicable to all of the country, or just a specific region?

If you’re a Brighton based plumber then bidding on broad terms such as “plumbing” and targeting all of the UK is one way to pour money down the drain, not generate any enquiries and most likely incur a terrible quality score. Instead you should look to target areas closer to home, including nearby towns/cities and possibly even the county.

Alternatively if you service is only targeted at mainland UK, then make sure you’re using location exclusions to avoid showing ads to searchers in the Orkney Islands, Isle of Man etc.

8. Device Targeting
Is the account targeting all devices? If so then segment the data by device to see how that’s working out, since desktop, tablet and mobiles can all perform very differently.

If you’re an e-commerce site and see that the conversion rate for sales on desktop/tablet devices is a vast improvement over mobile performance, then look to either reduce mobile bids with the bid modifier to make it more cost-effective, or if it’s really bad then disable it completely.

It’s worth noting that those on mobile devices may be more inclined to call than put through an online enquiry/sale, although without third-party call tracking it’s not that easy to attribute this back to PPC – although the aforementioned call extensions can help shed some light on this.

9. Search/Display Networks
The default setting for campaigns is to have them opted into both the Search and Display networks – although the nature of these networks is very different.

Many advertisers have found that by having their ads appear on contextually relevant sites via Google’s automatic placement they’ve spent a lot of budget and not got much in return.

If you’ve a limited budget then it makes sense to focus this on the best performing network, and this can be quickly identified by segmenting the AdWords data by network. If the Display network is performing badly then either disable it completely, or instead refine it and pursue Managed Placements to only target sites which have historically performed well.

10. Account Structure
Everyone structures their accounts differently so there’s no right or wrong way of doing so. However, what if the account only features a single campaign with multiple ad groups and is limited by budget?

If this is the case then all of these ad groups will be competing to spend the budget, although if there’s one ad group in there which is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of performance then place this in its own campaign so it’s free to spend a greater share of budget.

Multiple campaigns are a great way to have more control over how a budget is allocated, however multiple ad groups within these can also be beneficial.

If there’s an ad group which contains a variety of terms all crammed together with just one ad, then these can potentially be better served by grouping the keywords into smaller ad groups each with a more targeted ad.
For example, a Brighton estate agency may have a single ad group with the following terms included:

• Buy Brighton flat
• Cheap flats for sale in Brighton
• Brighton houses for sale
• Buy terrace house in Brighton
• Buy Brighton mansion
• Luxury Brighton mansions

They’re all terms a searcher who’s looking to buy property in Brighton may be searching for, although the difference between a flat, house and mansion is vast.

Therefore, rather than using a single ad to serve them all, break them down into more targeted ad groups so that the CTR can be driven up by having more relevant ads which better differentiate based upon the keywords targeted.

Prioritise and get to work!
There you have it, 10 steps to let you identify areas for improvement when auditing an account, the important thing now it that you prioritise that list of tasks you’ve just noted down.

Writing ads may take some time dependent on the size of your account, whereas other tasks such as refining geographic targeting can take a matter of minutes and have a big/quick impact on results.

It’s therefore advisable to put in timescales alongside each task. Some will get done sooner than others, but providing you work your way through the list (and don’t get distracted) then everything will be implemented and the PPC account will be better for it.

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the end, but just the beginning. Through continued testing of new ads, addition of new keywords (both positive and negative) and bid optimisation you’ll be able to squeeze even more out of the account to ensure it runs like a well-oiled machine and delivers a great return.

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