13 Aug '20

As a business owner or marketer, you’re busy. Managing a complex (or even simple) Google Ads program is a huge undertaking so you probably trust an in-house team, an agency, or a consultant to take care of your digital marketing programs.

Even with monthly reporting, it can be hard to know if your account is being serviced properly. PPC campaigns are fluid and unique, reacting to many factors, most outside of your control. Even the most well-managed account has room for improvement. Often, PPC marketplaces are in a state of flux, with other advertisers entering the auction, or changing strategies, while user intent may have a cyclical flow or unexpected spike. This is why Forthea is constantly auditing our PPC accounts.

So how do you know if your Google Ads account is being handled responsibly? We’ve put together an easy to follow guide that will allow you to quickly audit your advertising dollars to make sure they aren’t going to waste. Before we begin the audit, take a moment to log into the Google Ads interface, and pull up your account.

Change History (2 Minutes)

change history Could you be a victim of “set it and forget it?” A healthy Google Ads account should be adaptive. If not, whoever is running your PPC may be asleep at the wheel. A quick way to check the activity of an account is by clicking into your change history within Google Ads. Once you’re logged into your account, locate the “Change History” linked in the left sidebar towards the bottom. Once clicked in, it should look something like this: 

As you can see in the screenshot, you are able to adjust the date range to view changes made in the ad account during that time period. We recommend looking at a 30-day window, to give a full view of recent activities. The second column in the table titled, “Change,” details what has been done for the selected time period. An immediate red flag would be a complete lack of changes occurring within your account. Were there only a couple of changes made in the last 30 days? If so, you are probably a victim of set it and forget it.

Search Terms (5 Minutes)

In the same left sidebar in Google Ads, scroll up and click into “Keywords.” From there, click into “Search Terms.” This report displays exactly what a user typed into Google’s search engine that then triggered your ad to serve. As part of your PPC audit, you’ll want to look for irrelevant queries and especially those with a high spend associated with them that aren’t bringing in any conversions. You can click into the column headers to sort by cost or clicks. If a paid search program is being properly managed, then you won’t see a high volume of irrelevant queries.

Final URLs (3 Minutes)

final urls audit

Next, we need to look at the landing pages that the ads are sending users to. In the same left sidebar in Google Ads, click into “Ads.” You’ll probably need to adjust your columns to include the “Final URL” column, see the associated screenshot to find where the column customization button is. We recommend sorting by clicks or cost to see where the bulk of users land after clicking on an ad. A common sign of a poorly managed campaign is one in which the lion-share of the visitors are sent to the homepage. The more relevant a landing page, the more likely your user will stick around and convert. Landing pages also impact quality score, which can lead to a lower cost per click. The worst-case scenario is to find Final URLs being used that are broken/404 pages or no longer exist.

Google Optimization Score (2 Minutes)

recommendations

The Google Ads Optimization Score is not a new feature, but recently it has become more of a focus as Google re-evaluates which agencies are accepted into their partnership program. Agencies must have an Optimization Score of at least 70% for Partner status. What does that mean for your ad account? Well, Forthea strives to keep all ad accounts at a 75% or higher Optimization Score. A 100% Optimization Score at an account level is difficult to achieve and if achieved, may indicate that Google’s recommendations are being blindly implemented. Managing a Google Ads account still requires a human touch and it’s our job as advertisers to evaluate which recommendations are irrelevant or will make a positive impact on the ad account.

The Optimization Score is meant to guide advertisers to find new opportunities to improve account performance. If you see a low Optimization Score, then that could indicate account neglect. And if you see a 100% Optimization Score, then that could indicate blind implementation of tactics that may not align with your business objectives. Overall, reviewing the Recommendations tab is a great way for advertisers to stay on top of optimizations that will ultimately improve campaign performance and efficiency.

Audiences (3 Minutes)

display campaigns

A surprisingly common mistake we find when auditing Google Ads accounts is the lack of audiences being used. We recommend layering audiences for Search campaigns in observation mode to help guide future prospecting tactics.

However, if you have any Display campaigns running in your account, you need to check what audiences are in place. To do that, click into “Display Campaigns” in the gray left sidebar and from there click into “Audiences.” You can view audiences at a campaign or ad group level. It’s disturbing how many audits we do of ad accounts where we find *zero* audiences being used, even when the Display campaign is titled “Remarketing” or “Custom Intent.”

A campaign title can be misleading! For Display campaigns, you must provide an audience or your ads will be served to literally anyone. Additionally, you’ll want to check that there are audience exclusions in place. Examples of audiences you’d want to exclude include users who have visited a careers page or job portal as well as users who are existing customers and need support.

Crucial Conversations

While not part of the audit, communication is vital for any successful digital marketing campaign. Beyond the day-to-day paid search management and optimization, you should also be getting transparent reporting from your agency or vendor. These reports should be delivered monthly, quarterly, or however often you’d like. Along with these reports, there should be meetings to discuss strategy and goals moving forward. Here are some red flags to catch during the conversation:

  • Are only the positive aspects of the digital marketing program being discussed?
  • There are always areas in need of improvement and that should be discussed openly.
  • Is there a growth strategy in place?
  • This question can help you gauge whether your paid search program is on autopilot.
  • Do you hear crickets when you discuss seasonal trends in your business?
  • They may not actually understand your business at all, which means they may not be managing your ad spend to the best of their ability.
  • Is there any mention of what’s new for the digital marketing industry?
  • The digital marketing industry moves at lightning speed and it’s up to your agency or vendor to keep up with the latest and greatest.
  • What type of testing is currently in place for your account?
  • Online advertisers should *always* be testing!

Conclusion

If you’re relying on others to manage your online advertising spend, then it’s vital that you’re periodically auditing. Take some time to review some of the areas of your account that we’ve identified in our Google Ads account audit guide. If you’re not sure where to start then contact the paid media experts at Forthea!

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About the Author Jennie

Jennie brings nearly 14 years of purely digital experience and oversees our Paid Media department. She is well versed in search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM), and search engine optimization (SEO). As a creative person her whole life, advertising was a natural career path for her. Outside of work, you will find her glued to YouTube or taking pictures of her adorable munchkin cats for their highly followed Instagram account (Koopathemunchkin).

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