Whether you’ve inherited an AdWords account or created one from scratch, it’s important to take a step back and review the account as a whole to make sure there are no problems. There are a lot of moving parts and dozens of places problems can hide and it’s easy to miss them if you don’t have a system. In this guide, I’ll walk you through a comprehensive account audit to identify opportunities to improve your Google AdWords account!
Here are the main sections I’ll cover:
- Account Organization
- Negative Keywords
- Landing Pages
As you go through the guide, feel free to check each section off. Now let’s get started!
Account Organization Audit
The following steps will help you review your overall Google AdWords account to make sure it’s in good shape.
Structure – Is there a clear structure to the account’s campaigns and ad groups? A well-structured campaign helps prevent problems like missing or overlapping keywords and helps you spot opportunities in your reports. It also makes it easier for colleagues to help manage your campaigns if your team grows. For help, read How To Structure & Setup PPC Campaigns.
Conversion Tracking – Is conversion tracking set up? Is it working? Are the right conversions being tracked? With conversion tracking, you can optimize every aspect of your campaigns to maximize profit and eliminate wasted spend by measuring the impact ads have on your bottom line. Make sure you’re tracking the most important actions a visitor could take (e.g., shopping cart checkouts).
Brand & Nonbrand Split – Are brand and nonbrand campaigns split out into separate campaigns? All keywords that contain your brand name should live in their own campaign because branded keywords perform differently than nonbrand keywords: CTR is higher, Quality Score is higher, search intent is different, ad copy is different, cost per conversion is different. Keep brand and nonbrand separate so you can optimize accordingly.
Ad Group Focus – Are there any ad groups with far more than 10 keywords? Having too many keywords in a single ad group makes it very difficult to create focused and relevant ads. Split out keywords into new ad groups based on the main word and theme and drop in a custom ad that someone searching those keywords would want to see. For help building focused ad groups, read How to Use Ad Groups to Build Relevant Ads.
Approval Issues – Are there any keywords or ads that are marked as disapproved? Approval issues keep your ads from running but can be fixed quickly. If you find any, make the required change and set a reminder for yourself to check back in a few days to make sure the issue has been resolved.
Campaign Setting Audit
Now that we’ve made sure your AdWords account is in good shape, let’s take a look at each campaign to make sure they’re set up optimally.
Ad Rotation – Are the ads set to “optimize for clicks?” While “rotate evenly” is great for split testing multiple ads, it requires you to manually monitor the test for a winner. Failing to pause ads that underperform will mean the losing ads keep serving. A great alternative is to set the ads to “optimize to clicks” or “optimize to conversions.” With these settings, AdWords will test your ads on its own and serve the winners more quickly than if you were to do it manually.
Budget – Is the daily budget adequate? Is the campaign consistently depleting its budget? Review your spend and budget to make sure your best-performing campaigns have a high enough budget to handle the volume. If the budget is maxed out, consider lowering your bids in order to reduce your cost per click– you just might get more clicks for your money.
Location & Language – Are location and language targeting settings appropriate? Make sure your campaign is targeting only the locations your business serves. And if your budget is limited, consider only targeting your most profitable locations for now. Also consider adding additional languages that your bilingual customers may speak. This opens up your campaign to additional opportunities to display your ads.
Search/Display Network – Is your campaign opted into both the search and display network? It shouldn’t be. You never want to create an AdWords campaign that’s set to serve on both the Search Network and Display Network because that makes the campaign difficult to optimize. If you want to serve banner ads and advertise on blogs and niche sites, create a dedicated Google AdWords campaign that is set to serve on the Display Network Only.
Ad Delivery – Are ads set to “accelerated” delivery? If they aren’t and your campaign has an adequate budget, you may want to test it. Standard delivery distributes your budget throughout the day and helps you avoid running out of budget early in the day. Accelerated delivery shows your ads as soon as reasonably possible which means your ads could stop serving before you even wake up.
Bid Modifiers – Are bid modifiers being used? Bid modifiers make it easy to adjust your bid based on the predicted value. For example, if you have a 5% conversion rate on mobile and a 10% conversion rate on desktop, you may want to decrease your bid for ads shown on mobile devices. For help, read How To Analyze & Optimize Your Mobile Bid Modifiers.
Next, let’s take care of the keywords and make sure there are no issues or missed optimization opportunities.
Search Queries – Review the search term report and look for new keyword opportunities that stand out. Knowing which search queries triggered your ads and how they performed makes it easy for you to optimize your search campaign and save money by adding new exact match keywords. For help accessing and taking action on your search term report, read How to Use The Search Terms Report.
Opportunities Tab – Review the AdWords Opportunities tab. There may be good keyword recommendations for the campaign that you can take add in order to reach new customers. Make sure you add new keywords in relevant ad groups so your ads can be relevant as well.
Broad Match Modifier – Does the campaign have Broad Match Modifier keywords? Should any new BMM keywords be added? These broad match keywords contain a + before one or more words that are required to show up for searches. This keywords don’t have the high risk of irrelevance that comes with standard broad match keywords. For help with BMM, read our guide to keyword match types.
Missing Bids – If the campaign is using manual bidding, are there any keywords that don’t have a Max CPC bid set? If the bid is blank, the default ad group bid will be used, which isn’t optimal. Instead, set a bid based on that keyword’s value to your business.
Duplicate Keywords – Are there any duplicate keywords? Two identical keywords with the same match type shouldn’t exist in your account. While they won’t drive up your CPCs, they will compete and make it difficult to both optimize and control which one serves.
Bids by Match Type – Are bids set properly for each match type? If a keyword is present with multiple match types, each keyword should have a tiered bid to ensure the most appropriate match type is served. Set your exact match highest, then phrase, then broad match modifier, and finally broad with the lowest.
Low Quality Score – Are there any keywords with low quality scores? If the Quality Score is under 4 and the keyword is served regularly, you’ll want to take steps to optimize it. Move the keyword into its own ad group and give it a more relevant ad and landing page. This should boost the CTR, which will boost the Quality Score, which will ultimately save you money and earn you a higher position on the search engine results page.
Negative Keyword Audit
On the other side of keyword optimization is the negative keyword list. Let’s make sure each campaign has an adequate negative keyword list so we can prevent your ads from showing up for clearly irrelevant queries.
Missing Negatives – Are there any campaigns that don’t have negative keywords? Negative keywords keep you from wasting money on vague or irrelevant searches. Check out the starter lists in the following guide to help you get started: How to Find and Use Negative Keywords.
Search Query Report Negatives – Review the search query report for negative keyword opportunities that stand out. Adding negatives based on performance data in the SQR will boost your CTR and Quality Score, as well as make your spend more efficient. Look through the report for irrelevant queries that you want to avoid and add them as negatives.
Negative Keyword Conflicts – Are there any conflicts that are blocking keywords in your campaign? Are there any that could be blocking relevant searches? Review the list of negative keywords and compare them to keywords in the campaign. Consider removing conflicting negatives, or change them to negative exact match to limit the scope of their impact.
Now it’s time to address the part of your campaign potential customers see. Your ads are what you’re paying to promote, after all, so let’s make sure they’re strong.
Typos – Are there any typos or spelling issues in the ads? Typos reflect poorly on your business and obscure the message of your ad. Pause any ads with issues, and make the corrections in a duplicate of the ad (changing the ad directly will reset the performance statistics).
Calls to Action – Does each ad have a call to action? Tell your customers what the next step they should take is and you’ll see an increase in the number of them that actually follow through. For help writing ads, read 5 Tips For Creating Effective PPC Ads.
Ad Quantity – Does the campaign have at least two active ads in each ad group? Keeping multiple ad variations in an ad group makes it easy to find and serve the best ad for those keywords. It also protects you from sudden disapprovals that could pause an ad without you knowing. Add new ad variations to your ad group to keep the number of ads to two or greater.
Custom Display URLs – Do any ads have custom display URL subdirectories (the part after “.com/”) for the ad group? The display URL is a great place to tailor your ad to show relevance to the ad group. For example, an ad group about “Red Widget Prices” could feature the Display URL “www.widgets.com/red-widget-prices”. It’s possible that that display URL outperforms the real URL so you should test it. Just make sure you have redirects set up for these made-up URLs in case someone copies and pastes the link.
Landing Page Audit
Landing Page Errors – Are any ads pointing to error “out of stock” pages? Landing page problems break your ads, frustrate potential customers and are a complete waste of money. Update the destination URLs of ads with broken landing pages and pause ads for products that are out of stock to make sure your money goes towards ads that can actually lead to conversions.
Landing Page Quality – Are you sending traffic to the right pages of your website? If a customer is searching for a specific product, don’t send them to your homepage and make them search– take them straight to that product so they can make a decision to buy. Review the ads of each ad group to make sure the most relevant page is being used in the Destination URL.
Landing Page Optimization – Are the landing pages optimized for conversions? You’re going through a great deal of effort to bring customers to your website; is there anything you can do to make the most of the visitors you already have? Consider removing distractions from the landing page, adding a clear call to action, testing headlines, etc. Tools like Unbounce can make this easy and the performance boost can make a huge difference.
Sitelinks – Does the campaign have sitelink extensions configured? With sitelinks, you can include quick links to your top pages to segment your audience, list your benefits and win the click. There’s no extra cost to sitelinks and they will dramatically boost your CTR so make sure to add them, at least to your top campaigns. For help, read How to Use Sitelinks.
Other Extensions – Are all other appropriate extensions being used? Brick & mortar businesses should set up Location Extensions, businesses that handle inbound leads over the phone should set up Call Extensions, etc. Extensions enhance your ads and can dramatically improve performance so test each extension that makes sense for your business.