In our previous entry in this series, we talked about how we use the PPC account audit to figuring out what’s working, what’s not, and what needs further testing in your company’s PPC account. It’s all part of bringing you and your marketing team onboard as Group Twenty Seven clients.
In this blog post, we walk you through our PPC account audit in more detail by diving into account organization, metrics, ad extensions and settings.
But while we describe the process as relatively linear, it’s really not. Instead, just as a detective follows a trail of clues, we start with obvious issues and follow the money trail to see where it leads.
An aside: While we talk specifically about AdWords in our audit, the same principles would apply to audits of other ad systems, such as Bing Ads.
Account Organization Audit
We start by looking at how the account is organized. An account that has a logical structure of campaigns, ad groups and keywords tells us the account has been carefully managed. An account that’s “messy” tells us we’re probably going to find more problems elsewhere.
What do we mean by messy? It could includes things such as:
- Branded and non-branded keywords in the same ad group. Mashing up branded and non-branded keywords is a great way to muddy results. (It’s also a way for less scrupulous PPC managers to improve the appearance of poorly performing campaigns.)
- 20+ keywords per ad group. Google recommends having five to 20 keywords per ad group. And while you could have more, why would you? In our experience, it only leads to problems with keyword duplication. If you really need all those keywords, it would be better to break them into smaller ad groups with more focused topics.
- 4+ ads per ad group. Yes, you want to have more than one ad for testing purposes. But if you have too many ads it takes longer to collect the data and generates less clear results.
The presence of any of these symptoms makes us cautious. After all, if the account team didn’t have time to clean up keywords and ads, what else got left in the lurch?
Once we’ve got a handle on how well (or poorly) the PPC account is organized, we wade into account metrics.
And while the list of AdWords metrics can go on and on, here are some of our favorites:
- Search impressions. The number of times your ad appears on Google or the Google Display Network. If your ad doesn’t show up, it’s not going to convert.
- Cost/Conv. The amount your willing to pay for a conversion. Is it too high? Too low?
- Average position. Where does the ad display on the page? Position two is ideal in most cases.
- Cost per click. Is the amount reasonable given the budget and results?
- Click through rate. Anything below one percent should be flagged. (Although very competitive keywords might reasonably be less than one percent.)
And it’s not enough to see how the campaign is doing at a single point in time. We use the “dimension” tab function to play with dates and see how the data has changed over the past months.
For more on the many metrics we look at as part of our account audits (and ongoing account management), see our article in Search Engine Watch, PPC Management Operations: The Ultimate Guide.
Ad Extension Audit
AdWords ad extensions allow advertisers to add additional information to their text ads.
But with so many ad extensions available, it’s not enough to merely optimize each one individually. Instead, we check to see whether an overarching ad extension strategy is in place. Basically, we’re looking for a holistic approach that creates one cohesive message.
So as part of our audit, we go through the account and ask the following questions:
- What extensions are in use? How well are they performing?
- Are the extensions appropriate? (e.g. a business without a storefront may not benefit from a location extension. But a call extension might make sense.)
- Are the extensions populated correctly?
- What other extensions might be appropriate and useful?
- Are the most important features, benefits and actions being promoted?
Account Settings Audit
AdWords account settings seem to have a “magical” ability to switch on and off at will. So we audit the account settings to make sure everything is set up correctly.
Settings are especially important because if you don’t set them manually, Google will do it for you. And usually, the default settings aren’t ideal.
Some of the account settings we look at are:
- Geo settings. We took over a new client account recently and found that its state-specific ad copy was displaying across the entire U.S! And that was the result of incorrect geo settings.
- Budget amounts: Campaigns with trifling budget amounts max out before they even get started—making assessment difficult. It’s much better to reduce the number of campaigns, up budget amounts and test to see what works.
- Search partners: Do partner sites make sense for ROI? If not, turn them off.
Opening up a client’s PPC account is like opening a present. We’re never sure what we’re going to get! But a poorly organized account with incorrect settings and questionable extensions is no lump of coal. On the contrary—these accounts often give us our best opportunity to make a big impact.
If you’re thinking that conversion tracking should also be included in our audit, you’re absolutely right! In our next blog post in this series, we’ll dig deep into conversion tracking as part of our client onboarding process.
Want to read the entire “Getting Started With a PPC Agency” series from the beginning? Start with our introductory post.