25-Point Guide to Audit Your Google AdWords Account
by Ron Dod
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Is your Google AdWords account set up correctly to maximize the ROI of your campaigns?
Are there some low-hanging fruits you can fix right away to make your ad dollars go further? Or, maybe you inherited an AdWords account and simply need to wrap your head around how it’s set up so you can improve its performance.
No matter the reason, periodic audits of your Google AdWords account is essential for getting the most out of your ad dollars. Here’s what you should cover in a Google AdWords audit:
THE BIG PICTURE
Before you dig into the nuts-and-bolts, make sure you have the right overall approach when you set up and analyze your campaigns:
Goals and Objectives
First thing first. You need to ensure that the objectives of your AdWords campaigns are in alignment with your business and marketing goals.
Whether it’s to drive traffic, generate leads, or increase conversion, you need to establish the KPIs and define what success of a campaign looks like.
For example, if you want visitors to take direct actions on your site, you should be using conversion tracking and focusing on maximizing your conversions. If you want to generate traffic to your site, cost-per-click (CPC) may be more suitable. If you aim to increase views or interactions with your video ads, you can consider using cost-per-view (CPV) or CPM or cost-per-thousand (CPM) bidding.
How the performance of your campaign is trending can give you a good idea whether it’s picking up steam or in need of adjustment.
Define a reasonable time period for analyzing how the campaigns are trending. Make sure it’s not too short, since you may not gather enough data, and not too long because there’d be too many variables to account for.
Is there a logical structure to your account? In order to effectively manage an account, there needs to be a well-defined organization.
Not only will it make your life much easier but it also allows others to step in and pick up the work easily without missing a beat.
The way your campaign is set up affects how well it’ll perform. You need to make sure you’re bringing in the right traffic to generate the desired outcome for your business.
Simply put, setting up targeting accurately is the key to delivering the right message to the right people.
The performance of your ads will be impacted if your targeting isn’t dialed in to match the business objectives.
Ad Group Relevancy
The general rule of thumb is to limit the number of keywords to 15 – 20 for each ad group.
This allows you to keep your copy relevant and use granular keywords that share the same semantic theme.
Number of Ads Enabled
If you only have one ad active in each ad group, you’re not testing ad variations to optimize your account.
On the other hand, having too many ads active often means you’re paying for clicks that aren’t converting.
Keep the number of active ads to 2 – 3 per group. Once you have identified the winning variation, pause the losing ads and test new ones.
Ad extensions impact ranking, and it’s important to have the appropriate ones set up.
There are different kinds of extensions, such as phone, location, and site links. Along with callouts and structured snippets, they give you an opportunity to present more information about your website to visitors.
Double-check that the information shown is relevant and not repetitive to make sure that you’re making the best use of the real estate available.
Segmentation and Granularity
Your campaigns should be granular enough to allow control over the themes, location, services, or goals.
Proper segmentation also gives you greater control over your spending—e.g., you can keep the budget for an experimental audience or campaign low while making sure sufficient resources are allocated to your core campaigns.
The geography setting allows you to run ads at specific times for different time zones and use keywords unique to local competition.
If you’re targeting several countries at once, it’s more difficult to achieve the level of granularity required to compete in location-specific keywords.
For most online businesses, it makes sense to have the ads run 24/7. However, if you’re running a local business and the goal is to drive calls or traffic during business hours, you may want to turn off your ads at particular times.
Are you spending your ad dollars in the most effective way possible?
Look at your high-performing ads and see if they’re limited by budget. On the other hand, see if you’re spending more than you should on ads that aren’t performing.
In many competitive industries, companies are bidding on their competitors’ brand name to get ranked in search results.
See if your competitors are bidding on your brand name and make sure you own the top position in search results.
Negative Keyword List
Negative keywords prevent impressions and clicks from unqualified searchers so you can drive high-quality traffic and increase your ROI.
Review your query reports to understand exactly what terms have been triggering your ads, identify ones that don’t send the right traffic, and add them to your negative list.
They help improve ad performance by making sure that the shorter keywords don’t steal away impressions from your long tail keywords, which are more specific and often yield better conversion rate.
You can then make your copy very specific to the long tail keywords and increase the performance of the ads.
Campaign URL Settings
You can turn on auto-tagging to add a parameter to your URLs so you can track offline conversions and report on your ad performance.
If you want to gather more information from your URL parameters (e.g., device, target, ad group, keywords,) you can add those manually at the campaign or account level.
If you do A/B testing (and you should!), you need to make sure you’re sending enough traffic to each variant.
It’s often preferable to set the rotation to “rotate indefinitely.” When you set it to “optimized,” Google may stop sending traffic to one of the variants before a significant amount of data is collected for making an informed decision.
Copy, Spelling, and Grammar
It may seem a no-brainer, but it’s worth double-checking that your ads don’t contain any spelling or grammatical mistakes.
In addition, the ad copy should be well written, appealing to the target audience, and relevant to the keyword that you’re targeting.
Remarketing is one of the most effective ways to recapture people who visited your site but didn’t convert.
If you have an eCommerce website, you can set up dynamic remarketing to show potential customers ads featuring products and services they previously viewed on your site.
Although not technically part of your AdWords setup, the landing pages to which you direct visitors have a significant impact on your conversion rate.
Make sure the messaging on your landing pages is matching the ad copy and keywords in order to deliver a cohesive user experience.
TRACKING AND REPORTING
Getting the accurate metrics is key to understanding the performance of your campaigns so you can fine-tune the ads and optimize your results:
Conversion tracking shows you if visitors are taking the desired action when they visit your website (e.g., signing up for your email list, making a purchase.)
Analyze how many conversions you’re getting on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis, as well as which campaign they’re coming from.
If your conversion volume isn’t increasing, then you have to explore ways to increase this number.
In addition, make sure the tracking code is implemented correctly and you’re tracking all sources of conversion, including mobile/app and phone calls.
Cost Per Conversion (CPC)
Your campaign won’t be sustainable if the CPC is too high, so it’s important to keep an eye on your numbers.
If your CPC is too high, you need to eliminate wasted spend by evaluating what keywords need to be paused or adjusted.
Search Query Report
Search query reports allow you to see the actual search queries that resulted in a display of your AdWords ads.
You can gain insights into how users are searching for your type of product or service so you can refine your AdWords keyword list, adjust your audience targeting, and run your ads more effectively.
Quality score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. It gives you a gauge on how relevant your ads and landing pages are to the visitors.
Ads with high-quality scores tend to have lower prices and better ad positions. Check the quality scores of your ads and identify those with low or medium scores to see how you can improve their performance.
This is the most important type of metrics you need to track.
If the ROI isn’t satisfactory, then you need to increase your conversion volume or optimize your ad by dropping the cost per action (CPA).
During a Google AdWords audit, focus on finding areas of spend waste, identifying new opportunities to experiment, enhancing management process, gaining audience insights to inform your overall marketing, and validating assumptions.
An audit of your AdWords accounts should be an integral part of your strategy.
It helps you refocus on the important aspects of your campaigns, fine-tune your ads, and take a step back to look at things that can get overlooked during day-to-day management of the accounts.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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