Is it Time for a PPC Audit?


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When’s the last time you looked at your PPC account? Is it doing well? That’s no excuse to leave it running on autopilot. When you audit your account, you’re looking deep into the nuts and bolts, trying to determine if there are areas that need work or some extra attention to improve performance.


When Should You Audit?

You can audit your account just about any time you want, because chances are you’ll always find something to improve your results. But, you should avoid audits when you’ve recently made changes to your strategy or made an account update. This is because the data could be skewed, which ultimately steers your audit in the wrong direction.

You should always audit the account when it switches from one account manager to another. The simple fact is that each account manager will set things up the way they prefer – in the way that works best for them. And what works for them may or may not work well for you.

I mean, think about how you have your phone set up – you have the apps you use most often on your home screen, right? But if someone else were to use your phone, they’d either have to download more apps, or move things around to get it the way they’d like it. It’s the same thing with PPC accounts. Do an in-depth audit when you take over management of any account.


Why Should You Audit?

You should audit your account if you’re having performance issues. You may want to audit the account when the same person has been taking care of it for a while, just so you can get a fresh perspective. You should always edit to seek improved performance.


Who Should Audit

It depends on why you’re auditing. If you’re auditing because of a certain issue in your account, then you could handle it yourself. It’ll be easier because you know the exact areas you need to dig into to solve the problem.

But, if you’re really digging deep for a comprehensive audit, consider outsourcing it. Why? Well, if you’ve been managing the account for any extended period of time, you’re slightly biased because you know you uploaded it, and you thought it would work. It may be harder for you to be objective, face the fact the that what you thought would work isn’t, and change it. And, if you set up the account, it’s easier to overlook the basics under the assumption that you set up everything correctly when you initially started the account.


How to Audit

Set up your date range

Go beyond 30 days – you need more conversion data than that. If you’re diagnosing a specific issue, look at the last three months. If you’re setting up for a general audit, look at the last year.

Make sure you know your key performance indicators (KPIs)

Without a solid understanding of the KPIs you’re going after, you won’t know the metrics you really need to dive into. If you’re handling an account audit on your own account, you’ll know what these are. But if you’re handling the audit for someone else, double check with the client or account manager to make sure you’re focusing your efforts where they need to be.

Make sure you’re properly tracking conversions

This is a huge mistake, because without the right conversion data, you can’t see whether all the PPC is actually working to help you, or the client, reach goals. This, of course, should be done as one of the first things during account setup, but a report shows only 29% of more than 2,000 audited accounts had effective conversion tracking – so it’s worth saying.

Why is that conversion tracking so important? Without proper conversion tracking, you won’t be able to determine which keywords aren’t earning you conversions. You should be spending a large portion of your budget on keywords you know have a history of producing conversions, because these are the terms your audience is finding you with.

Looking at the 29% of accounts that had proper conversion tracking in place, we see that 61% of the budget was spent on keywords that never converted. That means more than half of their ad spend was wasted. Of course, the more you spend on AdWords, the less gets wasted, but the average account wastes more than ¾ of their budget targeting the wrong search terms.

That wasted ad spend can be found and reallocated once you have the right conversion methods in place.

What happens to your cost per conversion if you’re continually wasting ad spend? It’s not as linear as you may think. Instead of a 10% increase in cost per conversion with a 10% wasted ad spend – you’re looking at an increase of 44% to 72%. And that increase goes up with every 10% wasted.

With a $10 cost per conversion, and a 30% wasted ad spend that increases to 40%, your cost per conversion goes up to $14.40-$17.20. But, if you decide to go a little crazy and bid on new keywords – and increase that wasted ad spend to 76%, then your new cost per conversion is $53.79 to $120.20.

That’s because the more money you waste on the keywords that don’t convert, the less money you can spend on the ones that do – driving your cost per conversion way up. And that trend occurs in every industry.

If your conversion tracking settings are wrong – the first thing you need to do is generate and implement conversion tracking code. Place it on the page that appears after a conversion is completed.

Check your targeting settings

Your campaign targeting settings take about five minutes to setup, so it makes sense to think you’ve got right and skip it. But, the truth is, a small mistake in this area can greatly affect your account performance. Double check your new campaigns to make sure the targeting settings make sense for the business – especially if the account has been in the hands of another manager in the recent past.

Check that the targeting is set to either the search network or the display network – not both. The networks target users in different scenarios/ And, metrics for each network are combined, which makes it hard to see how each one is doing. Plus, it takes away the ability to segment the budget by network.

If you’ve got campaigns targeting both – separate them now.

Use the search network when you’re working on a limited budget, and when you’re selling a product that people look for when they need it, like plumbers, electricians, HVAC professionals, and locksmiths.

Use the display network when you want to help familiarize people with your brand, when your sales process is long (to keep your brand at the top of mind with remarketing), and you have a sexy product that sells with images. You should also use it when you have compelling video assets.

You can still run campaigns on both at the the same time – but take the time to create a campaign for each network, allowing you to craft messaging for each network and control budgets and bids.

This way your data stays clean and it’s easier to make data-driven decisions for your business.

Check to make sure you’re setup for the right target locations, and that you’ve set your mobile bid adjustments accordingly, so your ads can show on mobile, if desired.

Check ad group relevance

Look through your ad groups to make sure none of them have more than 15 to 20 keywords. Clean up the ones that do. This is to keep data simpler for you, because larger groups won’t impact your performance.

You’re serving the same set of ads of all the keywords in each group, so if the list of keywords is too big, you’ll end up having to write generic ad copy. It’s better to break the ad groups into smaller chunks of keywords so you can create more specific ad copy for each semantic theme. This ensures your copy is more reflective of what the searcher is looking for – increasing the likelihood they’ll click om your ads.

Look at number of ads per ad group

If you’ve only got one active ad in each group, the previous account manager wasn’t testing ad variations. This can limit your account optimization. But, if you’ve got too many ad variations in each group, it can be hard to see which ones are performing the best. Aim for two to three variations in each ad group so you can more effectively test. Once you’ve found a winner, stop the losing ads, and test a new variation.

Setup ad extensions, if they’re not already

If you don’t have any ad extensions, get to it. The extensions do affect the rankings, but just putting them there isn’t good enough. You need to make sure the extensions are appropriate for the business itself.

If you’re using call extensions, make sure the phone lines are well-staffed so they can handle the call volume. If you can’t have someone there to man the phones 24/7, make sure the extension is only set to run during business hours. If you’re running an e-commerce store, make sure to get rid of location extensions so the ads won’t appear in Google Maps.

Check automated extensions to make sure they’re not negatively affecting your performance. Usually, they don’t, but if you notice they are, opt out to avoid wasted ad spend.

Check your keyword match settings.

A quick refresher:

  • Broad: Your ad may show for searches that include any of the keyword terms, including related searches, relevant variations, synonyms, and misspellings.
  • Modified Broad: Your ad may show for searches that contain all the terms, preceded by a + sign, in any order.
  • Phrase: Your ad will only show when the search query has the keywords in the exact order you enter them – but other words are allowed before and/or after the phrase.
  • Exact: Your ad will only show for searches that are the exact keyword phrase by itself.

A common mistake is to run all the keywords with the same type – which Google defaults to broad. While they can get you plenty of traffic from people searching, they won’t necessarily convert well because they’re only loosely related to your business. Using all phrase or exact match, however, can be just as bad, because this can greatly damper the search volume.

Look at what’s there and determine the strategy behind it – and how well it’s been working. Make adjustments accordingly.

Look over your negative keyword lists

Use negative keywords to defend against impressions and clicks from the searchers that aren’t qualified. If the account manager before you didn’t use this strategy, you have a lot of work to do. Look at your reports to see the terms that have been triggering your ad, and then look through them to see if there are any terms you don’t want to continue show for. If you find them, set those as negative.

If there’s already a list of negative keywords, look over them closely. Make sure all of them are a good fit and aren’t stopping impressions for your keyword. Check the negative keyword match settings to make sure they’re behaving as intended.


Create Your Plan of Action

Now that you’ve gone over everything in the account, it’s time to craft a strategy for improvement. You know exactly what you need to do to get the account in good shape, and can start tackling it one task at a time. Audits may not be fun, but they’re a necessary part of the journey.

How often do you audit your own PPC accounts?

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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