Over the years great books, articles, webinars and podcasts have been released about AdWords best practices and how to evaluate your account to improve its quality and performance.
Done well, an exhaustive audit may be one of the highest value activities in paid search. And done well, it takes quite some time, especially for larger accounts.
This post is an introduction to a series that attempts to put all these best practices together in a prioritized order, providing a step by step guide to perform your own AdWords audit. Hopefully saving you time with your audit whilst improving its contents.
It is an ambitious objective, but as the saying goes, I will be standing on the shoulders of giants. So whenever I’ve found a source that will provide you clarification and guidance for a specific best practice, I will simply try to summarize it as shortly as possible and link to these ‘giants’. One of these summarizations will be a checklist at the end of each post and a complete checklist at the end of the final post.
So obviously, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but I do hope to provide a useful contribution to the paid search and online marketing community that has been so generous in sharing its knowledge over the years. Consider this series as an effort to tie this shared knowledge about AdWords best practices and audits together.
I’ll focus specifically on Google AdWords, but lots of these analyses and recommendations can also be applied to Bing Ads and advertising on other search engines.
Let’s start with the why, when, who and what of PPC Audits, which will largely be based on The Who, When & Why Of PPC Account Audits, Learn How to Audit Your PPC Account with Joe Kerschbaum and The Complete PPC Account Audit Guide.
No account is perfect. Especially if the same person or team has been working on the same account for a long time, opportunities and best practices may have been missed. By stepping out of day-to-day activities and letting a fresh pair of eyes evaluate every aspect of your paid search program (over a longer time frame), you will generate a list of possible improvements, expansions and fixes that should increase the quality and performance of your account.
So it’s not about daily (or weekly) optimizations like bid changes and keyword research, but it’s looking at the bigger picture and making sure no opportunities are missed.
When To Audit?
This depends on the size and monthly spend of the account. As a rule of thumb: comprehensive audits should be done twice a year for smaller and mid-sized accounts and quarterly for larger accounts.
As you should get a (long) list of actionable recommendations to improve your account, you’ll also need the time to implement these recommendations before performing another audit.
If you work at an agency and inherit an account from another agency (or the advertiser’s in-house team), this would also be a good time to perform an audit.
Who Should Audit?
As said before, it’s best not to have the one(s) managing the account perform its audit. As the account should be challenged and questioned during an audit, you’ll need a fresh perspective to truly do that.
And of course, the one(s) performing the audit should be at least as experienced and knowledgeable about AdWords as the one(s) managing the account. Preferably more.
So this could be an experienced colleague (if you work at an agency or within an in-house PPC team), an external agency or a consultant that is also able to clearly communicate his or her findings.
What Should be in an Audit?
Below you will find the list of topics that this series will cover, so in this case, all these topics will be part of the audit. For each area of your account you should get:
- An Analysis: how are you currently measuring up in terms of best practices and performance?
- Recommendations: what should be done to improve, expand or fix wherever this is needed? These recommendations should be actionable and specific.
Areas I’ll cover in this audit, which will be the future posts of this series:
- Goal Setting
- Campaign Settings & Bid Adjustments
- Ad Extensions
- Impression Share
- Quality Score
- Account Structure
- Keywords and Match Types
- Ad Copy
- Lin-Rodnitzky Ratio
- Product Listing Ads
- Bid Management
- Landing Pages
- Display Network
- YouTube & AdWords for Video
This is the order in which I like to audit (and fix) accounts. First of all, goal setting and measurement should be optimal to get a complete picture of what you’re trying to achieve and if you’re actually achieving it. Both affect everything else you do in your account, so if these first 2 areas aren’t optimal, you should fix this before doing anything else.
I imagine the order of the rest of the list above is up to discussion. For example, some might say account structure is more important than ad extensions (and I agree), but the reason ad extensions are checked first is because they can be considered a quick win. Usually you’ll want to implement the quick wins as quickly as possible so you can move on to the harder, more time-consuming wins, while already benefiting from the quick wins.
I’m looking forward to provide you a guide that is as complete as possible and give credit where credit is due for further exploration of the discussed topics.
This completeness will clearly be a temporary thing as not a month goes by without Google releasing new AdWords or Analytics features. Sometimes these fundamentally change best practices, like no longer separating campaigns for mobile devices. But usually these features are additions and improvements that don’t really change the essence of established best practices.
So this guide will be as up-to-date as possible (fully enhanced of course), but you can count on Google and Bing to release something great right after you’ve published an article about it.
But as a reader of this blog I’m sure you’ll be in the know of the newest features and how they may affect your accounts.
To further enhance the value of the series, I’m hoping that you’ll use the comments section for any questions, omissions found or suggestions for improvement you may have!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.