18 Step Google AdWords Audit & Optimisation Guide (2016)
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By conducting a Google Adwords account audit, you’ll ensure your PPC campaigns are reaching their full potential. Using this Google AdWords guide, you’ll discover and eliminate mistakes that might be reducing your campaign performance. You’ll also discover missed opportunities to expand and grow your account. This guide forms part of a full digital marketing audit for a website and its marketing channels.
As a digital marketer, you have two options: either hire a Google AdWords Consultant, or carry out a review on your own. Both have their benefits, with the Adwords Consultant option being more time-savvy for those with a budget. Consultants should at least be AdWords Certified to ensure that you’re getting expert support. Doing the AdWords audit yourself means you’ll learn valuable skills along the way if you can invest the time and effort to learn.
Google AdWords Guide & Optimisation Checklist
Conducting a PPC account audit isn’t a child’s play but by following through this PPC audit checklist, you’ll get a clear overview of your account performance:
We guarantee that in course of auditing your PPC account, you’ll find new ways to improve your ads’ quality score and reduce the cost-per-conversion / cost-per-acquisition.
Where to start?
Date range: to have enough data to back up your findings, use at least 3 months’ worth of data.
Stage 1: Ad copy analysis
1) Check the number of ad variations per ad group
To begin the audit, see how many ad variations your average ad groups include. The easiest way to do this is to export all your account ads using AdWords Editor and use a Pivot Table in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to count the number of variations:
Testing various ad copies contributes new insight to improve the overall click-through rate and cost-per-click.
The best practice is to test 3-4 ad variations at a time. If your ad groups include over four ad variations, reduce the number by eliminating the least successful alterations.
You can test multiple ad copy components:
For your A/B tests to yield relevant feedback, avoid testing all of these elements at once. Rather conduct a split test with one component so that if performance changes, you know which element it was that caused the change.
For a quick guide on A/B testing your pay-per-click ads, see this guide by Kissmetrics.
Tip: Make sure that your campaign naming makes sense, reflecting on the structure of your PPC account. It will be easier to conduct an audit if you know what each campaign name stands for.
2) Are You Using Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI)?
Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is an Adwords feature that allows advertisers to dynamically populate ad copy with user search queries.
Using DKI helps advertisers to deliver hyper-targeted keyword matches to the user’s search query in the ad.
Using dynamic keywords has its drawbacks. For example, if you’re bidding on misspellings, you can end up with misspelled words showing in your ad text. Neither should you combine DKI with keyword match types other than exact.
If you’re unsure whether to use dynamic keywords, the best answer is “no”. Nothing beats effective keyword research, but you can use DKI if you’re faced with a vast range of keywords (long tail) for which manual research isn’t practical. Sometimes DKI ads yield better CTR due to improved ad relevance, but this doesn’t mean the user is more likely to convert.
3) Check for Ad spelling & grammar errors
We all make mistakes. That’s why you should go an extra mile and check for misspelled words and grammar errors in your ad copy.
The pay-per-click ad is the first thing a potential customer sees when searching for a product like yours. You do not want the initial impression to be less than perfect.
4) Check which ad extensions are used
Ad extensions permit advertisers to complement their PPC ads with additional text.
By using the ad extensions, you can take up more “real estate” on the search engine results page (SERP), and communicate more value proposals to customers.
What AdWords Ad Extensions are available?
By using more ad extensions, you can improve your click-through rate across all campaigns.
Stage 2: Keyword Analysis
5) Check Your Keyword Match types
When creating PPC campaigns, you tell Google which keyword match types you’d like to use. By varying exact, phrase and broad keyword match, you’ll get to choose how aggressively or passively your advertisements match to keyword searches.
There are 4 types of keyword match types in AdWords:
When auditing your PPC account, compare whether your resource allocation matches with the results from each type of keyword matching.
Assign the largest share of your PPC budget to the match type with the lowest cost-per-action (CPA) and the highest conversion rate.
6) Check How Many Keywords Per Ad Group
As you continue with your account audit, the next step along the way is to analyse each ad group individually.
Check for the number of keywords and match types used.
It is highly recommended that you do not use more than 20 keywords in one ad group as it helps to keep your relevance high, which is good for CTR and Quality Score.
Important note: We recommend never mixing keyword match types within the same ad group in order to have a high relevance. Many advertisers choose to mix match types for ease of management, so it is a matter of preference.
Negative Keywords: Check whether you’ve got all the necessary negative keywords in place at ad group or campaign level. You want each of your ad groups to be focused on one particular topic, combining the keywords with negative matches to target the right search queries.
7) Analyse Your AdWords Quality Score
Quality Score (QS) is a measure by Google indicating how relevant the combination of your ad, message, keywords, and landing page is. It is strongly influenced by the CTR of your ads. Each of your ads can rank from 1-10. Usually keywords start with a QS of 6/10, which will go up or down depending on performance.
The higher QS you have, the more auctions you’ll be able to participate in, and the less you’ll have to pay for website visits.
You can check your Quality Score by looking within your Adwords Keywords tab.
Ways To Increase Quality Score
Aim for QS of at least 6 points. By following the steps and suggestions mentioned in this PPC audit, you’ll be able to increase your quality score:
Landing pages – check whether your landing page includes the exact keyword in the ad. If necessary, create non-indexed PPC landing pages to improve keyword relevancy for key terms
Ad copy – use the keyword in your ad’s description lines & display URL to improve relevancy
Keywords – more relevant keywords result in a higher quality score. Create smaller, closely themed ad groups with highly relevant ad copy. Moreover, eliminate zero impression keywords to improve your QS
Account – your quality score is affected by your account’s historical performance and the overall account quality. Managing your account properly over the long term will help improve your quality score.
Stage 3: Account management review
8) Check Frequency of bid changes
How often do you, your AdWords Consultant or Digital Agency tweak your PPC campaigns? Check the Adwords Change History to find out.
It is important to frequently review your keyword bids and optimise when necessary. Google Adwords is a dynamic auction marketplace that needs regular review.
Ideally, you should update your keyword bids once a week. However, if you’re unable to optimise the account this often, review your account at least once a month.
In May 2016, Google announced that advertisers would be again able to set separate bid adjustments for mobile, desktop and tablet. By regularly auditing your ad campaigns, you’ll be able to rapidly adjust to the changes.
9) Review Pending keyword opportunities
To discover new keyword opportunities, and take advantage of your findings, check your Search Query Report (SQR) in Google AdWords. You can find this under Keywords -> “Search Terms”. You can also find this in Google Analytics providing auto tagging is enabled.
The SQR reveals all the new keywords and negative keywords that you can easily add to your campaigns.
If you use an extensive amount of broad or phrase match types, you can discover new keywords that didn’t seem obvious in the first place. Add new keywords as exact matches or negative matches to improve your ad’s relevance and raise the quality score.
10) Check your Audience Targeting
AdWords has many useful features like Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSAs) and Customer Match that permit marketers to segment and target their customers for more specific marketing initiatives.
During your PPC account audit, consider the new possibilities of re-targeting your audiences based on their previous preferences and actions. Returning customers are typically more likely to convert.
Customer Match lets you create and target your own user lists by uploading prospects’ email addresses. Use these lists to create Search, Gmail or Youtube ad campaigns to send more targeted messages to the right people at the right time.
Here’s more information from Google on using and applying Customer Match on Google AdWords.
11) Do You Use Enhanced Campaigns?
Google’s Enhanced Campaigns feature lets marketers set bid adjustments based on the user’s location, their device, and the time of day. These bid adjustments mean you can raise bids for positive signals – such as a higher conversion rate for mobile than desktop. Similarly you can reduce bids for poorer performance campaign aspects – e.g. a lower CTR in the evening.
Check whether you’re currently applying the enhanced features in your ad campaigns. Read this article on AdWords device bidding changes launched in 2016.
12) Shopping campaigns
No E-Commerce PPC account audit is complete without considering shopping ads (Product Listing Ads / PLAS).
The two main characteristics of Product Listing ads are:
1) They feature a product image
2) They’re tailored according to products and product categories (instead of keywords)
If you haven’t yet set up PLAs and have a transactional, E-Commerce website, now’s the time to do it. The Product Listing Ads help to increase the traffic to your site, tend to have a lower CPC and return a lower CPA compared to generic text ads.
For a step-by-step guide, see this article by Google.
Stage 4: Quality control
13) Check For Landing page errors
The success of your PPC campaigns is decided by multiple factors. In addition to engaging ad copy and relevant keyword targeting, you also need to set up campaign landing pages.
While auditing your PPC account, take the time to review your landing page details such as:
14) Review remarketing campaigns
It is highly likely that you have some retargeting campaigns already in place. While auditing your PPC account, search for new profitable ways to expand this campaign category.
First, check your remarketing campaigns’ profitability, cost per click, and conversion rate. Your target conversion rate should be decided by your Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), taking into account your Customer Lifetime Value (CLV / LTV).
Second, look for new audience segments that you could retarget with a specific value offer.
Maybe you’re missing out on retargeting users that started to fill in your contact form but failed to complete it. Maybe there’s a shopping cart abandonment issue that could be resolved by using retargeting.
For retargeting campaign best practices, see these 19 stategies by Google.
15) Check Your Campaign & Ad rotation settings
Campaign settings include the basic rules on how and to whom your ads are shown.
Here are a few elements that you should check during the PPC account audit:
16) Keywords with zero impressions
The more keywords you have in your campaigns, the harder it is to manage and review.
To keep your ad groups streamlined, find all the keywords bringing no traffic over extended periods, and remove them from your targeted keywords list.
Here’s another reason to eliminate the zero impression keywords: They might be impacting your account’s quality score.
Review all your zero impression keywords. A high rate of no-traffic matched might indicate a poor keyword or targeting strategy.
Stage 5: Visibility audit
17) Check Impression share
Are your ads shown every time someone searches for a particular keyword, or is your impression share lower than 100%?
Usually, Google might decide not to show your ads all the time due to budget limits or because of a poor ad rank.
An impression share lower than 100% shows advertisers that there might be unfulfilled potential, or the ad campaigns are not relevant for people searching for specific keywords.
You can increase your impression share by improving the overall quality and relevance of your ad campaigns as well as increasing budget and bids for higher positions.
18) Review Your AdWords Competitors
It’s an incremental part of a PPC account audit to understand how your impression share compares to those of your competitors.
To get more insights into this topic, use the Auction insights report in Google AdWords.
The Auction insights report for Search campaigns provides 6 different statistics about your competitors’ campaigns and bidding:
When comparing your ads’ visibility to competitors, search for significant differences and try to find the cause of the sudden drops, or someone’s skyrocketing visibility.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time for you to conduct your very first comprehensive PPC account audit.
Feel free to reach out to us by email or in the comments section, and ask for help or additional information.