We often think of audits as something to do at the start of our work in an account during the onboarding process. In this post, I’ll lobby for the benefits of more consistent quarterly or semi-annually audits as a way to step back from the day-in, day-out management grind to find gaps in performance or areas for expansion to help boost overall performance.
For the account manager, this can be difficult. Difficult to find the time. And difficult when you are already so used to what is in the account. At Portent, we solve this by having different account managers less familiar with the client conduct the audit and present it to the owner as a fresh set of ideas.
However you are conducting your audit, here are some helpful tips to help elevate your Google Ads account.
What Is a Google Ads Account Audit?
Google Ads audits are an in-depth review of the account setup, performance, and opportunity gaps. The PPC landscape is changing rapidly, and new performance data flows daily. This means there is always something new to do. If you don’t stop for a health check at regular intervals, it can be hard to see the forest through the trees as you work to develop a strategy, not just manage an account.
How to Conduct a Google Ads Account Audit
Google Ads has shifted over the years. Ten years ago, account managers spent significant time managing keyword bids manually. Over time, Google has become more and more automated. This is a good thing! Automation frees up time to think and work strategically while spending less time doing busy work. With that time, here are some areas to focus on when auditing an account that will help you develop and improve your paid strategy.
[Step 1]: Review Goals
Take stock of what the goals of the account are. Is it leads or transactions? Are there specific ROAS targets? You cannot audit an account effectively without understanding the KPIs and goals the account is aiming for.
Be realistic. Your account may have several goals. Everyone’s goal is to make more money. But driving revenue might be the end goal when there are softer goals along the way, like brand awareness, traffic, or driving high-funnel MQLs.
Optimizing to just a few low-funnel goals like transactions will falsely tell you as you audit that some areas of the account are underperforming when they are just aiming at a different goal.
[Step 2]: Review Conversion Tracking
Once we have goals and KPIs to support those goals, start your auditing by reviewing your Google Ads conversion tracking setup. Does your tracking empower you to gauge where you are being effective and where to optimize?
Some things specifically to audit are:
How is the account recording conversions?
To future-proof your conversion setup and ensure you accurately track conversions, you should use the Google Global Site Tag. Importing UA goals from Google Analytics will become impossible in Summer 2023.
Are you tracking all actions on your landing page?
If your goal is form-fills on your landing page, tracking that is obvious. If there are other potential actions on the page (phone calls, video plays, newsletter sign-up, etc.), you should be tracking those as trust signals to Google that people are engaging with your landing page and, therefore, their click had some value.
Do you know the value of your conversions?
If you know that a form fill is, on average, worth about $100, tell that to Google. Assign that as a value. And for the other actions I mentioned above, assign relative values. A newsletter sign-up is very likely worth less…but not zero. Decide what these actions on your landing page are worth so Google’s automation can know what you know and deliver more value.
Advanced conversion setup
If you can provide Google with closed-loop reporting, meaning going beyond tracking a lead and following that lead through a sale, your account should have offline conversion tracking. Google also has a feature called Enhanced Conversions that helps track conversions more accurately using first-party data. Check your conversion actions for availability to enable it.
Accurate conversion data powers everything in your account; many parts to follow will be difficult to implement effectively without it. Once you have your tracking tightened up, it’s time to look in the account for optimization opportunities.
[Step 3]: Identify Areas for Optimization Within the Existing Account
Account optimization is an ongoing and neverending process. Because of that, it can be hard to commit to larger daily wholesale changes. Audits can help with that. Here are a few areas to look for those larger, extra impactful optimizations.
Campaign Budget Optimization
Budget distribution and utilization have a significant impact on overall performance. Is your account spending the right amount?
We often take the budget we are given as law. Instead of taking what you are given, review the data and advocate for the budget to deliver the most value. You may not be able to get more budget immediately, but if you can make a compelling data-driven argument for a budget change, the decision-makers should listen.
To make that argument, look at metrics like
- Search Lost IS (budget)
- Display Lost IS (budget)
- Conversion metrics like Cost/Conversion and Conversion Value/Cost
- Campaign Budget Simulator
Beyond your overall budget, review whether the best-performing campaigns are getting the right f budget. Does the budget limit some high performers? If your low-funnel campaigns are converting well, but are limited, look to advocate for more budget rather than stealing from top-of-funnel campaigns. When optimizing budget, we do not want to steal from Peter to pay Paul, but instead, advocate for a healthy budget distribution between strategies that maximizes return.
Ad Group Relevancy
Within each ad group, it’s important to review the relevancy between the keywords, ad copy, and final URL landing pages. Over time during ongoing management, this can often get blurred. Strong Ad Groups result in strong Quality Scores.
Each ad group should contain a centralized theme with core keywords, ads, and landing pages relating to a singular theme.
If you can identify multiple themes within any of those segments (keywords, ads, landing pages), your ad group should probably be broken up into smaller groupings.
Keyword Match Types
Within each active ad group, it’s worth looking at not just individual keyword performance but keyword performance grouped by match type. Segment your keyword by match type to better understand how much spend is being distributed between match types and their relative performance. Are you relying too heavily on a match type that is underperforming?
Search Term Report
As you review your keyword match types, review the search term reports by ad group. Are they clean? Are the search terms triggering your ads appropriate for the keywords in your ad group? Are you cannibalizing other ad groups or strategies?
This is also a great place to find new keywords, potentially entire ad groups, and negative keywords. Look to make larger changes from trends (like developing a new negative keyword list that can apply to many campaigns) rather than just finding one-off optimizations.
Auditing landing pages is an entirely different activity than auditing the Google Ads account, but an important one. Depending on landing page performance and Quality Scores, you may uncover a larger project when taking a closer look at your landing pages.
For this audit, look at a few specific things to start understanding if you need larger changes.
Landing page messaging should match not just your ad copy but the user intent of the person searching your keywords. If that user searches informationally and the landing page messaging is a very low funnel (Get a Demo Now!), they may be put off. To increase conversion rate and engagement, align your user intent, landing page messaging, and call-to-action.
- What do we want the user to do?
- What does the user want to do based on the ad they clicked?
- What on the landing page makes it easier/harder for them to do this?
- What information does a user need to make that decision?
Another good technique is doing user research, even ad hoc, among third parties. Ask others to look at the page and get feedback on whether it is clear, appears trustworthy, and where they think they should click next. To get more scientific, use a tool like Usability Hub to run actual user research.
Determine if the design of the page helps or hurts the bounce rate. The page should be easy to read, the colors should have correct contrast, and the page should follow web accessibility guidelines.
The Page Performance
Page speed and some aspects of the backend page infrastructure will affect the conversion rate. Run your page through tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to learn where the page needs help from a developer.
Again, auditing landing pages is its own practice. But an impactful one on your Google Ads account performance. Look here for more landing page best practices.
[Step 4]: Look for New Opportunities
As you finish auditing what is already in the account, shift focus to what the account is missing. This is often the hard part for an account manager who spends time in the account daily.
Utilize the marketing funnel
A trap during day-to-day management is to shift too much attention and money to the strongest CPA or ROAS campaigns. That will drive the best results in the short term, but it needs to be more scalable. Your account should target users throughout the entire marketing funnel.
Have a plan. Lay out the marketing funnel (awareness, interest, desire, action) and where your campaigns fall into each. Understanding how your campaigns and landing pages align with your budget, so using a full-funnel approach will yield better results.
You should look for opportunities to fill in the gaps during the process. You may learn that 90% of your budget is going to very low funnel spending, and you need to expand higher in the funnel. This may lead to tests into video, Discovery Ads, Performance Max, display prospecting, and more.
Doing a deep dive keyword research exercise is a great way to uncover new opportunities. The keyword landscape is changing all the time. You may find new keyword opportunities in your account through the search term reports. Still, you will likely find more new opportunities outside of using keyword research tools or while doing competitive research.
Google Analytics should drive many of our optimization decisions. It can provide much deeper insights into the site and fuel larger PPC decisions that will affect the long-term direction of the account.
[Step 5]: Collaborate with the Full Marketing Strategy
Similarly, the account should have a full-funnel approach as we look outside the world of Google Ads. PPC does not work in a vacuum. Talk with your client, stakeholders within the business, and the other digital marketing teams.
Interviews with salespeople and product managers can help you understand what customers are looking for and how they search for things. You may uncover new keywords, ad copy ideas, or issues with your CTA. All of which will inform your PPC strategy and budget investment overall.
Work with the SEO and Content team. Organic and paid share the same SERP. Collaborate so you can blend your strategies into one cohesive search strategy. PPC and SEO can work together to own the SERP or supplement each other at times when, for example, the CPC for a keyword is too high, so developing new organic content to rank can help the business.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, especially if the account you’re managing is one you’ve owned for years. Deep dive audits are a great solution to this problem as you aim to keep the larger strategy in mind and find new things to test continually.
Let us know if you are looking for a fresh set of eyes for your account. Sometimes a third party can be just what an account needs to innovate and avoid getting stale.