As a business owner or executive, you’re busy. Managing a complex (or even a simple) paid search program is a huge undertaking so, you probably trust an in-house team, an agency, or a vendor to take care of your paid search advertising. 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 bids, or changing strategies, while user intent may have a cyclical flow or unexpected spike. This is why at Forthea, we are constantly auditing our PPC accounts. So how do you know if your PPC campaign 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 AdWords and Analytics accounts that have access to your relevant accounts.
Change History (3 Minutes)
Could you be a victim of “set it and forget it?” A healthy PPC campaigns 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 AdWords. Once you’re logged into your AdWords account, navigate to the "Campaign View" and select “View Change History.” Once clicked in, it should look something like this: As you can see in the chart below, you can control the date range of the chart. We recommend looking at a 30-day window, to give a full view of recent activities. The fourth column in the table titled, “Changes,” 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 Queries (5 Minutes)
Now, let’s move over to Google Analytics, which is where the majority of our audit will take place. Once you’re logged in, click “Reporting” in the top navigation bar. Then on the left side click into “Acquisition” and then “AdWords” which will bring down a drop down list. We’ll start with the “Search Queries.” This report will display what a user actually typed into a search engine that then triggered your ad. 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. If a paid search program is being properly managed, then you won’t see a high volume of irrelevant queries.
Destination URLs (3 Minutes)
Stay in the same AdWords section of Google Analytics, but now click into “Destination URLs.” This will display a list of all the pages that receive traffic from your ads. Here we’re looking for diversity. 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 help with quality score, which can ultimately lead to a lower cost per click.
Bid Adjustments (4 Minutes)
If your paid search program has been running for longer than 6 months, then there should be bid modifiers in place. If an advertiser is using bid modifiers, then it’s a good indicator that the campaign has analyzed and optimized for improved performance. Bid modifiers enable you to spend more or less per click based on several factors including hour of day, day of week, location, device, and more. Here is a bid adjustment example from Google Analytics.
While not part of the audit, communication is vital for any successful PPC 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 conversation:
- Are only the positive aspects of the paid search program are 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 auto-pilot.
- Do you see blank faces 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 web marketing industry?
- The web 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!
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 PPC audit guide. If you’re not sure where to start then contact the paid search experts at Forthea!