When my company, Unique Influence, is pitching services to potential clients, the process will usually entail an audit of the client’s existing accounts. When it comes to Pay Per Click (PPC), this means an audit of their existing Google AdWords and Bing Ads accounts.
There are many important issues to watch out for when performing an audit, and this article is going to look at a few of them.
1. Campaign Structure
The highest level within a PPC account is the campaign level. Generally, only having one campaign in your account is not a good idea. Campaigns should mirror the structure the navigation on your website (especially for E-commerce clients) with different product lines organized into separate campaigns. This allows you to monitor performance and assign budgets, as well as chose different campaign settings.
Housing all ad groups and keywords in a single campaign will limit your ability to adapt settings and attributes based on performance of different product offerings. If the campaigns are running internationally, it is also a good idea to create duplicated campaigns for each country you wish to target. Bids, language, competition levels, and performance will vary for each country, so it is best to keep these separate so you can properly optimize for the unique properties of each market.
There are many settings available at the campaign level in PPC accounts that cannot be set at the ad group level, thus leading to the need for a sophisticated campaign structure. Settings should be reviewed to ensure that you are targeting the proper geographic markets, bid strategy (manual vs. automatic), ad scheduling, language, budgets, and many more.
3. Network Settings
Google AdWords generally utilizes three main networks: the Google Search Network, Search Partners Network, and the Google Display Network (GDN). Most accounts will be automatically opted in to the Search Partners network for all search campaigns, unless this option was manually disabled. Generally, the Search Partners Network greatly underperforms compared to Google Search.
If an account is suffering from poor performance, this may be a quick and easy way to see some improvements. Performance by network can be analyzed by segmenting click type by network, or by diving into the “Dimensions” tab and viewing performance by network. Display campaigns targeting the GDN should be housed in their own separate campaigns. This way performance can be easily viewed separately for display versus search, as these channels have inherently different performance.
Since enhanced campaigns were introduced, the ability to target by device was basically removed. The only capability marketers have to control which device ads are shown on is through the mobile bid modifier, under device settings. If a client does not have a mobile optimized site, or generally does not see success with mobile users, a -100% bid modifier should be applied to mobile traffic to eliminate ad exposure on mobile devices. Unfortunately, there is no option to limit tablet performance, as Google lumps it in with desktop.
Keywords should be analyzed to see if the account is targeting the right traffic. A good first step is to sort by highest cost keywords and analyzing if these keywords are driving conversions and if they are converting at an acceptable cost per acquisition (CPA). You should also ensure that keywords are intelligently grouped into ad groups based on relevancy. Keywords within an ad group should all be related, allowing for highly relevant ad copy to be used that incorporates several of the keywords in the text.
6. Match Types
Accounts should use more than one match type, and different match types should be organized into separate ad groups or campaigns. If an account has nothing by broad match keywords, there will most likely be a lot of room for improvement. We typically rely on exact match and broad match modified as our two main match types within an account.
7. Ad Extensions
An account should use all available ad extensions that are relevant to the account. Sitelinks, and especially Enhanced Sitelinks, should always be used if possible. Callout extensions are also a universal extension that should be used on all campaigns. These allow you additional lines of text in which you can provide more context and information to potential customers to encourage them to click your ad. Sitelinks have been proven to improve click-through rates. The addition of ad extensions also makes your ads more visually appealing, occupying much more real estate on the search engine results pages (SERPs) by adding additional lines of content to the ad unit.
8. Ad Copy
You should always audit ad copy to ensure a few best practices are being followed. The ad copy should always be highly related to the ad group it shows for. It should contain keywords from the ad group so that it receives good quality scores, and those terms searched by the user will show as bold in your ad text. The first description line should end in a period. If this line can read as a stand alone sentence, it can potentially be shown as a longer headline in the SERPs.
9. Search Query Reports
A “searched terms” report, also known as a Search Query Report (SQR), should be pulled for all non-exact match keywords. This report will show you the actual search queries that users typed into Google before clicking on your ad.
By going through these reports, you will be able to check on the quality and relevancy of the queries the ads are being matched to. This will give you a good sense if the keywords are too broad, or if a more expansive negative keyword list needs to be created. These reports will also provide long tail keywords users have searched for that led to conversions. Mining these reports for new keywords to add is a great way to grow an account.
Bids should be set at a keyword level to ensure you are not overpaying or inflating cost. Enhanced bids can be enabled if you are using Google tracking and conversion optimization. Google provides estimated bids at the keyword level to show on the first page of Google SERPs, as well as estimated bids to show at the top of the first results page. You can bulk change bids to raise or lower to one of these two estimates, or you can bulk increase/decrease bids by a specific dollar amount or percentage.
Once you’ve completed the steps above you should have a great idea of the performance for the account, along with the start of a plan for improving performance. PPC audits are essential when starting out with a new client or account and should also be a regular part of your account management.
This post was written in collaboration with Dave Auster, a Digital Marketing Strategist at Unique Influence.