Google Ads Account Audit: A Complete Walkthrough

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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Managing a Google Ads account can be a tough business as there are constant optimization challenges and demands to remain on the cutting edge of Google’s revisions and best practice modifications. Therefore, conducting regular account audits is a necessity.

A Google Ads audit seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of various aspects of the account. These investigations often reveal (and aim to remedy) under-optimized or sorely deficient areas in which an account can be improved to boost the performance of various campaigns.

Account audits are usually called for in a handful of different scenarios, such as:

  • An account has not been used for quite a while
  • Taking over an account for a client
  • Someone within a company takes over account management
  • Campaign issues (poor performance) with an unknown cause

magnifying glass on keyboard

However, there are also benefits to be gained from periodic audits. Some of these advantages include:

  • Revealing areas of wasted spend
  • Augmenting management processes
  • Applying new audience insights at the account level
  • Uncovering expansion opportunities

If your PPC account needs an audit, look no further. Here is a complete walkthrough for conducting a Google Ads audit.

Assess Account Goals

The first step in ensuring a properly optimized account is to assess the account goals to ensure they align with the business’s ambitions. While there may be multiple goals, understanding what they are helps to set the stage for the rest of the audit as the goals point toward the expected performance outcomes.

When reviewing goals, account managers should ask:

  • What are the company’s conversion goals?
  • Do these goals still reflect the goals of the company?
  • Has the target audience shifted?

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When the aims of a brand are adequately coordinated with the goals within Google Ads, the rest of the audit process has an anchor from which to work.

Ensure Proper Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking is the key to PPC effectiveness. Therefore, failing to do so or incorrectly setting up conversion tracking is one of the single biggest PPC account mistakes. Unfortunately, it’s quite a common one, too.

A 2016 study revealed that a mere 29 percent of Google Ads accounts were tracking conversions accurately. This means that more than two-thirds of account owners couldn’t comprehend if their efforts were paying off because the conversion tracking was set up improperly, or not at all.

Without conversion tracking set up correctly, it is impossible to determine if users are converting and the cost of those conversions.

Ensuring that an account is accurately tracking conversions is a vital task. If conversion tracking is set up, it was likely implemented improperly if:

  • Click and conversion counts are the same: This scenario is probably indicative of the code having been added to landing pages as opposed to order confirmation or “thank you” pages.
  • Conversion rates are high, and sales are low: In this situation, the tracking pixel is likely measuring visits to home or product pages.
  • Conversions seem unusually low: Here, merchants are likely missing conversions. This situation can be indicative that tracking codes have not been implemented on newer landing pages or that other types of conversions (such as phone calls) are not being tracked correctly. Low conversions are complex and could also be caused by something other than a tracking issue. 

pair analyzing analytics dashboard

Alternatively, if there are no conversions registered, the first order of business is to generate a conversion tracking tag and implement it in the appropriate destination.

Evaluate Targeting Settings

While it doesn’t take long to implement targeting settings for a campaign, one small error could have massive consequences. Therefore, it is necessary for account managers to comb through each of the account’s campaigns to ensure that the targeting settings are appropriate for the respective campaign and the business overall. Some of the areas to pay particular attention to include:

  • Target Locations: Verify that the brand is targeting the regions for which the account has opted. From there, analyze the geo reports to gain a broader understanding of which areas perform better or worse and refine the account to prioritize locations accordingly.
  • Network Settings: Goals, predictions and performance are likely to vary between the Search and Display networks. Therefore, the optimization process will differ as well.
  • Mobile Bid Adjustments: If retailers wish for their campaigns to show across mobile devices, it is necessary to ensure that bid modifiers are significant enough to achieve visibility in the mobile SERPs.

evaluate targeting settings graphic

Analyze Ad Group Relevancy

The basic axiom for keyword implementation is that ad groups should contain no more than 15 to 20 keywords. Therefore, account managers should examine all the available ad groups to ensure that none go beyond this threshold. Those that do will require some attention and re-organization. 

The reason that ad groups should tout a restricted keyword list is that a weighty and potentially diverse list of terms and phrases means that marketers will be forced into writing rather bland and generic copy to fit with such an array of keywords.

Therefore, instead of casting the widest net possible, account managers should aim to populate each ad group with a hyper-focused, granular list of keywords that all speak to the same motif. By using this tactic, advertisers can then develop exceedingly specific and pointed ads that speak to the intent of search users.

ad groups keyword maximum quote

Do be aware that ad groups tend to accumulate keywords as they grow and evolve. Therefore, it is essential to regularly go through each group and move keywords that are no longer applicable or effective into different ad groups or to discard them altogether.

View the Number of Ads Per Group

If accounts only have a single ad per group, that is a clear indicator that testing has not been taking place. Alternatively, if there are a variety of active ads per group, test results are going to be muddled at best.

Google Ads accounts should aim for at least two or three variations per group, as this provides a manageable number of ads to test. Once the best performing ads are established, pause all other and test out a new variation.

Examine Ad Extensions

Firstly, if an account’s ads don’t feature any extensions, add these as they are likely to drive more ad sales. Additionally, in today’s hyper-competitive PPC landscape, extensions give brands all sorts of advantages.

Moreover, it is essential that retailers confirm that the extensions utilized are appropriate for the ad set. For instance, if ads are driving consumers to an eCommerce landing page for a brand that has no physical location, a location extension would only serve to harm performance and confuse potential customers.

google company rich snippets

Lastly, verify that all sitelinks, structured snippets and callouts are appropriately aligned with the products or pages to which they relate.

Scrutinize Keyword Match Settings

Optimal ad campaigns tend to include keywords that span the various match types. However, a frequently occurring error is that account managers place all keywords under a single match type, likely broad match as this is the default setting. With this setup, click-through and conversion rates are sure to be abysmal. In turn, a campaign’s Quality Score will drop considerably, thereby harming various aspects of an advertiser’s ability to reach relevant audiences.

When conducting an audit, it is vital for managers to dig through keyword implementations to ensure that they are accurately applied to various campaigns.

In addition to reviewing broad, phrase and exact match keywords, account managers must also comb through any negative keywords that are currently applied. For this, it is necessary to analyze the list to ensure that each is a good fit and should indeed be applied to the negative list.

pay per click equals sales income

Moreover, review the negative keywords match types settings to verify that they aren’t all set to “exact,” thereby limiting their effectiveness.

Running PPC adverts through Google is one of the most powerful tools that online advertisers have at their disposal. However, if an account is set up improperly or is un-optimized, those ads can quickly become a money pit that produces no return.

With the groundwork laid, retailers should now know exactly how to get their accounts into excellent shape. Follow the steps outlined above to audit your company’s Google Ads account and ensure that the ads produced bear fruit. 

However, if you need a helping hand, Visiture’s eCommerce PPC specialists can help audit and optimize your Google Ads account to yield outstanding results.

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And see how Visiture can grow your revenue online through award-winning transactional focused marketing services.

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