13 Places to Look on Your Next Google AdWords Account Audit

Chad Kearns, Vice President of Marketing Services

Auditing your Google AdWords account on a quarterly or semi-annual basis is a great 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.

While some marketing managers and business owners know the importance of stepping back to review an AdWords account, many don’t know where to start when it’s time to dive in for an audit.

Below are 13 places to start when looking to find impactful places for change through auditing your Google AdWords account.

Conversion Tracking and Analytics Setup

Before diving directly into the setup, execution, and performance of your Google AdWords campaigns, it’s important to ensure the method being used to track your key performance indicators is working properly.

1. Google AdWords conversion setup

Within the Tools section of the Google AdWords interface, the Conversions tab displays all AdWords conversions set up in your account. Check the tracking status of active conversions and the live conversion pages on your website to ensure you’re tracking your most important KPIs.

2. Google Analytics / Google AdWords linking

If you’re actively using Google Analytics to track visitors on your website, ensure your Google AdWords and Google Analytics accounts are linked together. When linked properly, marketers running Google AdWords can track campaign performance from an acquisition, behavior, and conversion perspective.

Confirming that conversion tracking is working properly allows marketers the ability to analyze campaign performance around their most important KPIs. This ability will use reliable conversion data when it comes to auditing a Google AdWords account is vital.

Configure AdWords Link Group

If you discover that your conversion tracking is incomplete or not working all together, make sure to take that into account before making major account changes based on conversion performance.

That said, let’s dive into the AdWords campaigns when auditing your account.

Campaign Settings and Dimensions

The settings within an individual campaign hold a wealth of targeting features that affect performance. Exploring these areas at the campaign level can uncover areas of wasted spend or places for potential growth.

3. Campaigns limited by budget

When it comes to allocating spend within your account, identifying the campaigns that are limited by budget on a regular basis provides the most straightforward way to control spending.

Campaign budget example

If a campaign is not limited by budget on a daily basis, increasing the daily budget will have little to no effect on campaign spending.

If a given campaign is limited by its daily budget on a consistent basis, adjusting the daily budget up to expand spending or down to limit spending, is one of the simplest methods for controlling the overall spend in your account.

Finding high-performing campaigns that are limited by budget create a notable opportunity for efficient KPI expansion.

4. Device targeting

Again at the campaign level, the device by device performance breakdown provides marketers the ability to expand or limit spending on computers, tablets, and mobile devices based on individual device performance.

By adjusting device-specific bids negatively or positively, advertisers can adjust their spending to maximize spending on their best device types from a conversion standpoint while limiting or eliminating spend on devices that convert poorly.

5. Location targeting

Similar to the concept around device targeting, location targeting enables advertisers to further control spending based on their geographic location targeting.

Identifying your highest converting geographic area allows advertisers the ability to push more of their budget into those areas and, conversely, if a small handful of locations are identified as poor converting from a conversion rate or cost-per-acquisition level, budget can be pulled or totally removed from those areas.

Location targeting example

6. Ad schedule

Just like the device and location performance philosophy, the ‘Ad Schedule’ tab within the campaign settings provides a campaign level look at campaign performance based on the ad schedule set up.

Within the ad schedule tab, advertisers can find account metrics like impressions, clicks, click through rate, average cost per click, and total spending for each segmented block of time carved out in their ad schedule. Along with those metrics, conversion-centric metrics like conversion rate and cost per conversion point to efficiency performance on marketers’ most valuable KPIs.

Ad Scheduling example

Similar to the bid adjustments possible for individual locations and devices, your ad schedule can be further manipulated to take advantage of high performing times and days.

7. Delivery method

The delivery method within a campaign can often times be overlooked by advertisers unsure of its capabilities. If you’re looking to spend more within a given campaign that is not limited by daily budget, switching the delivery method from ‘Standard’ to ‘Accelerated’ can give your campaign a boost in impressions leading to the potential for more clicks, conversions, etc.

Campaign / Ad Group Structure

After combing through and identifying areas for optimization within your active campaign settings, we can shift our attention to the makeup of the ad groups within each campaign. This really comes down to the organization of your ad group structure within a given campaign.

8. Individual ad group performance within a campaign

Within each of your active campaigns, reviewing the overall performance of each individual ad group can point to the potential need for a campaign restructure. This analysis is especially pertinent to campaigns limited by daily budget.

Let’s look at an example.

The campaign below holds five active ad groups, all of which collect impressions, clicks, and conversions at different volume and efficiency levels based on the keywords held within each ad group.

ad group example

Looking at individual performance, it’s clear to see that the ad group highlighted in red converts at both a volume and efficiency level much higher than the campaign average. That said, the same ad group is only spending 33% of the ad group spending total due to the other, poorer performing ad groups that all share the same daily budget.

In this example, removing the poor performing ad groups from this campaign and placing them into their own, brand new campaign, would allow the opportunity for greater performance. Identifying both higher-than-average and lower-than-average performing ad groups within campaigns provides marketers the opportunity to redistribute ad groups and further control their spending.

9. Ad group relevancy

Within each ad group, it’s important to review the subjective relevancy between the keywords, ad copy, and final URL landing pages. Generally speaking, those three segments factor into Quality Score–the higher your Quality Scores are, the better your ads will perform.

Once way to help maximize QS is through highly relevant ad groups. Each ad group should contain a centralized theme with core keywords, ads, and landing pages all relating back to a singular theme.

If you can identify multiple themes within any three of those segments (keywords, ads, landing pages), that means your ad group should probably be broken up into smaller groupings.

Ads and Ad Extensions

10. Active ads per ad group

The number of active ads and the performance of those ads does affect overall performance within a given ad group. Over time, as more ad variations and testing messages are added into a given ad group, the number of active ads running in an ad group can negatively affect performance.

Generally, try to stick to 2-3 active ad variations at a given time. Stay small, while still A/B testing your ad copy. When too many ads are active in a singular ad group, impressions wear too thin and conclusive testing is tough to complete.

Additionally, simple things like using title case throughout and proper grammar can have a significant effect on click through. Be sure that your ads are formatted properly so they appear clear and professional in the search results.

11. Utilizing pertinent ad extensions

Based on an advertiser’s KPIs and business model, check to make sure that all pertinent ad extensions are being used.

Since Ad Extensions do factor into your Ad Rank, implementing highly relevant ad extensions can lead to higher CTRs and conversion rates in addition to lower average CPCs.

Not every Ad Extension is right for every business. Understanding which Ad Extensions are effective and ineffective to drive your KPIs will help guide your work here.


12. Keyword match types

Within each active ad group, it’s worth taking a look at not just individual keyword performance, but keyword performance grouped together by match type. Each kind of keyword match type has its pros and cons.

Exact match keywords can often generate the highest conversion rates but typically come with lower search volume. Broad match keywords, which can bring in a higher volume of impressions and clicks, can also generate unqualified traffic for your website–increasing your costs without driving KPI metrics.

Analyzing keyword performance by match type can provide insight into where performance thrives and drags. While analyzing overall match type performance should not drive the letter of the law when determining your keyword match types, the additional information can help guide keyword strategy moving forward.

13. Search term reports

A search term report does not show the performance of the actual keywords in your account. Instead, it breaks down performance of the actual search queries that trigger your ads.

Search Term Report example

Reviewing the Search term reports will help with two major keyword optimizations for your ad groups.

  1. Find high converting keywords and keyword phrases that are not in your keyword list. Yes, your ads are already populating on those queries, but by adding those keywords and phrases into your keyword list, the likelihood that your ad will populate on that query will increase.
  2. Analyzing the search term reports is a great way to find and add additional negative keywords to your negative keywords list. By adding irrelevant keywords to your negative list, advertisers can save spending on poor quality, low converting traffic.

Stepping back and auditing your Google AdWords account on a normal basis can be a great way to find pockets of wasted spending and areas for profitable expansion. At the onset, a full audit of an AdWords account can be a large task but it doesn’t have to be done all at once. Using the 13 reports, strategies, and optimizations outlined here, marketers can make their way through an audit at a pace that suits their expectations and needs.

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