The dreaded audit: in life and in business, it’s usually more of a source of stress than anything else. Fortunately, the IRS has little interest in what you’re doing with your Google AdWords campaign. After all, if you’re reading this article, that’s probably your responsibility.
As a digital marketing professional, it’s a common and recommended practice to audit your search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns. And as Google AdWords, AdSense, and similar alternatives continue to roll out new features each year, it can be challenging to comprehensively review your strategies, since there are so many places to look—and so many places for improvement.
In this article, we’ll put together a checklist so you can independently audit your pay per click advertising strategies quickly and effectively.
To start off your audit, first identify the places where your ad is running. Once you’ve done this, you’ll want to confirm that:
- Search campaigns and content campaigns are separate
- Ads are running on “all available devices,” including mobile devices—we wouldn’t want those pretty mobile ads to go to waste, would we?
Spot Check Ads & Bids
Pick a handful of your different ad variations and test them out using the Google AdWords preview tool. Make sure that the ads are displayed correctly and guide the user into clicking—use this helpful tip sheet on effective ad copy for further guidance.
Google’s Conversion Optimizer is also a valuable tool for the SEM auditor, as it creates a framework where you can measure the actual conversions that your campaign is generating while the optimizer auto-bids for clicks to meet your conversion goals. Use the Conversion Optimizer on both the search and display network to make sure that your sales-based campaigns are doing their bidding for you—literally.
And it goes without saying to make sure you’re not using any Auto CPC settings on any of your campaigns, as the recommended bids rarely self-optimize to outperform your competition.
Review High Impact Areas
While ad copy and bid settings are vital to the overall health of your pay per click campaign, your audit should also review the AdWords settings that affect your most high quality leads. Some areas worth checking include:
- Dimensions: Under the Dimension tab, see what times of day are yielding the best conversion rates. If one time slot in particular is generating good results, consider day parting to make sure you’re making good use of your campaign’s busiest hours.
- Quick Retargeting: A pay per click advertising campaign and a robust retargeting platform are both essential. Under the Campaigns tab, make sure that the “Audiences” tab is checked, extract the pixel code, and embed it on the web page whose visitors you’d like to retarget.
- Keyword Organization: One common error when setting keywords is dropping a list of all the same keywords into each campaign as if they’re all created equally. Keyword sets are a must when it comes to creating a consistent conversion map for the user, from the moment they search for your keyphrase to when they exit your landing page. Use the “Keywords” tab and confirm that every keyword you’re using is an exact match keyword and that each one is part of its own ad group with its own specific, proven ad copy. (Hint: If less than 80 percent of your conversations are coming from exact match terms, your campaign likely isn’t reaching its potential—distinct keyword ad groups help go a long way!)
- Competitors’ Brand Names: Create campaigns based around your competitors’ brand names. If you Google your five biggest competitors and your ad isn’t triggered, you’re missing a huge opportunity to win battle for clicks.
Between the day-to-day maintenance of a pay per click campaign, it’s easy to lose track of the big picture. Conducting a quick audit can really help make sure that your super relevant keyword list, optimized mobile ads, and carefully designed landing pages are all reaching their potential.