I’ve long been a believer in the value of account audits. An audit conducted at the right time and done in the right way can uncover opportunities within an account that may otherwise go unnoticed. Sometimes prioritizing the opportunity within an account can seem overwhelming, so one or more times a year I like to use a quick 30-minute audit for the search segments my accounts to help identify areas that warrant further investigation. This post will guide you through a quick check of your accounts and help you focus on areas with the highest opportunity.
When to Audit
When you first take over the account.
It does not matter if you work for an agency or if you’re in an in-house position; the initial takeover is a critical time. This is also probably one of the times you will have the least amount of bias about an account.
After you have managed an account for 3-6 months.
The length of time depends on your plans for an account. You want to conduct an account audit when you feel like you’re done with the initial elements you planned to incorporate.
When you feel like you have done everything there is to do.
We’ve all been there. After working on an account for a period of time, you get the sense that it’s 99% complete. You’ve exhausted the options and have moved into maintenance mode. If possible, this is a great time to have a colleague conduct an audit for you.
A lot can change in a year. The SEM industry moves fast, and some of your accounts may move just as quickly. An annual audit of accounts should be on every SEM’s list of priorities. If possible, this is also a great time to have a colleague conduct an audit for you.
What to Audit
A lot of what needs to be audited will depend on the account. Different accounts have different goals and objectives. The purpose of this level of audit is to determine where the real opportunity lies within an account. As I stated earlier, based on what is found in this quick audit, you should dive deeper into areas that warrant further investigation.
- Is it logical, and does it make sense? You should be able to get a sense of how an account is structured by the naming conventions being used. If you can’t, there is room for improvement.
- Is the structure overly fragmented or too consolidated? Don’t over-complicate things by creating unnecessary campaign segmentation, but don’t over-simplify and just lump everything together.
- Can it scale? Arguably the important thing to understand.
- Are you using search partners? Unless historical performance states otherwise, this should be enabled/tested.
- Are search and display separated? I’m still surprised at how often this is not the case – they’re different platforms and should be treated as such.
- Which are devices-targeted? Not all devices are applicable to all products and services.
- How are devices being targeted? “All” = you’re doing it wrong! Individual devices should be targeted in individual campaigns unless there’s a really, really good reason to combine them. (I’ve yet to find that reason.)
- Do campaigns have geographic overlap and, if so, should that be corrected?
- Are multiple geos grouped together when they should be segmented?
- Do the geos being targeted make sense for the product or service being promoted?
- Are any areas being targeted under- or over-performing in relation to goals?
- How budget is being delivered? Unless there’s an extremely compelling reason to use standard delivery, I default to accelerated. Standard delivery gives Google too much leeway in deciding when ads should and should not be served and how your budget is used.
- Do daily budget settings align with total budgets?
- Are the most important/successful campaigns being limited by budget settings?
- How are bids being managed, and does management align with the account-bidding option setting?
- Are bids being set and managed at the keyword level? (They should be.)
- If automation (3rd party or conversion optimizer) is being used for bidding, are the settings correct?
- Overall, do bids appear to be aligned with the stated goals for the account?
- What is the percentage of converting queries (not keywords) that are being triggered by exact match? If the percentage of converting queries being triggered by exact match is low in most cases, that signals opportunity for exact match keyword expansion.
- What is the percentage of spend used on queries that have not generated any conversions? If a decent percentage of spend is being used on queries that are not converting, that signals opportunity for negative keyword expansion.
- Are negative keywords being used in a way that allows for solid query mapping?
- Are the obvious head terms included?
- What is the process for keyword expansion (both negative and standard)?
- Are sitelinks being used? They should be!
- Are ads aligned with keywords? Generally speaking, when you have a single ad associated with multiple keywords, there may be opportunity for improvement.
- Do the ad rotation settings align with process and goals?
- Do active ad groups have too many ads?
- Is an ongoing ad testing process in place?
- Do you have different landing pages for different keywords?
- Do landing pages deliver on the promise made in ads?
- Is an ongoing landing page testing process in place?
While by no means all-inclusive, the above 30-minute audit process will help you prioritize your efforts in the areas that have the strongest likelihood of moving the account performance dial in the right direction. If it’s been awhile since you have audited your accounts, now’s the time to make it happen!
Jeremy Mayes is an account executive at PPC Associates. He has over 11 years of SEM experience in accounts ranging from B2B to education to ecommerce. He hails from the greater Chicago area.