Paid Search

7 Steps to a Successful PPC Audit

I interviewed the top guy on my team at Disruptive to come up with this list of the top 7 steps to a successful PPC audit. These steps are based on answers and research provided mainly by Johnathan Dane, our COO. This post is mainly for those of you who have recently taken over a campaign, or want to just take a step back from getting into the granular details of PPC and make sure you’re able to see the big picture clearly.

1) Search Term Report/Keyword Match Types

One of the first things I check (that also gets me excited as a little kid during Christmas) during a PPC audit is the search term report. Based off the keyword match types that an account uses, you can usually guess how bad or how good a search term report will be.

The search term report quickly tells me if the keywords an account is bidding on matches what they’re really paying for. An advertiser could think they’re doing really well, but the search term report quickly tells us if 20-50% or more of their budget is being wasted.

Most of this comes down to whether they’re utilizing broad match keywords or not. If broad match keywords are the only match types being used, then there’s a very high chance that budget is being wasted quickly.

search terms 637x384 7 Steps to a Successful PPC AuditImage credit: personal screenshot taken Dec. 11 2013

2) Destination URL/Landing Pages

After I check the search term report, my next stop is the destination URL/landing page set up. Often you find a PPC audit is needed when an account isn’t performing well, and many times this ties into the visitor experience after they’ve clicked your ad.

Where many people fail with PPC is when it comes to their website. They may be getting mediocre results for now, but a change in value proposition, offer, or layout of the site may produce dramatic increases in conversion rates that then increase your volumes of leads and sales and decrease the cost per lead and sale. Some a/b and usability testing will be highly beneficial.

The worst destination URLs are usually the home page and not specific landing pages that communicate exactly what the keyword and ad talked about. If there’s an offer in the ad, then it must be consistent with the landing page experience for highest chance of success.

3) PPC Campaign Settings              

There are many ways to set up PPC accounts. When it comes to paid search, one of the things we see most often is campaigns targeting both the search and display network. Almost 95% of the people we’ve talked to that have accounts set up this way wanted to only show their ads on Google, and not the display/content network.

We then run a segment by network report and see where most of the budget has been used, and sometimes the display network gobbles up more than the search network, not allowing the advertiser to bid specifically and exclusively on the keywords they’ve decided to bid on.

4) Conversion Tracking/Phone Tracking/Email Tracking

The great thing about PPC marketing is that it’s very easy to tie into revenue and ROI. Conversion tracking allows you to see which keywords, ads, and landing pages are performing the best so you can easily add or take away budget depending on performance.

Unfortunately, some advertisers don’t know that this level of tracking is available and therefore guess that the new phone calls or lead submissions are coming from PPC, not knowing that their social media or other traditional media campaigns can influence the results.

As part of our PPC audit, we strongly recommend setting up conversion tracking so that we can report on success and improvements. If we can’t we’re kind of always shooting in the dark, not knowing what works and what doesn’t.

To take it one step further, we also want to track phone calls and even emails that are specific to the PPC visitor experience. Meaning that a unique trackable phone number and a unique trackable email address is used for the PPC specific landing pages.

5) Ad Group/Campaign/Quality Score Relations

How are the campaigns and ad groups structured? Is there a strong common theme between the keywords and ads, or is it all just one melting pot of a mess?

When performing a PPC audit, we can often see that the quality scores suffer when an advertiser used one ad group for all their keywords. By doing so, it makes it impossible to have very specific ads for the keywords.

You may think that “bounce house” and “bounce castle” are such similar keywords that anyone would know that they’re the same thing. But Google doesn’t really care. Google cares about relevancy. If you have an ad showing “Rent Your Bounce House” when someone types in “bounce castle” then you’re not as relevant as you could be.

By being much more granular with the way your AdWords account is set up, you welcome in higher click-through rates, higher quality scores, higher ad positions, and lower cost per clicks.

6) Remarketing/Retargeting – What are you leaving on the table?

If your PPC account is a high volume traffic catcher, then remarketing will be your new favorite toy.

The majority (as in the major majority) of people who visit your site will be there for the first time. This should give you a clear heads up that they might be comparison shopping and they’ll ultimately forgot your offer at some point.

During our PPC audit, we can go in and see the time lag of your account. What you’ll usually see is that people are really good at converting 90% of the time the first day they click your ad, but another 10% fall between 2-12+ days after they first clicked your ad.

Remarketing allows you to have your image and text ads follow a past visitor around as they continue to browse other sites. Your offering may have a long sales process, so using remarketing to stay top of mind will allow you to recapture lost sales and leads.

7) Mystery Shopping

One of the most fun things to do during a PPC audit is mystery shop your sales people. If you’re in the lead generating field of PPC, then mystery shopping is alpha and omega when it comes to actually closing deals at higher rates. You may be great at getting leads at the right cost per lead, but you’re not done.

What we’ve found is that long ring times to answer phones, non specific voice-mails, and straight up rude behavior are the biggest part of why you or your company is not making the money you could be.     

Conclusion                 When performing a PPC audit, always remember that it’s very likely your potential client set this up by themselves. Because of that, be courteous and let them know of the good things they’ve done and explain to them why they were right in their thinking. The prime reason for an audit is to improve their campaign, not bash egos.

photo 7 Steps to a Successful PPC Audit
Adam is the PR Director at Disruptive Advertising. He writes on Marketing, PR, PPC, Native Advertising and how these all interact with each other on sites like Forbes, SocialMediaToday, SEJ, Examiner and others.
photo 7 Steps to a Successful PPC Audit
photo 7 Steps to a Successful PPC Audit

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