As a Paid Media Specialist something that rings true time and time again is that the only certainty is uncertainty. Whether a company is relaunching their website, a new person is managing paid ads, or a Google Ads account has been running for some time there are many reasons it makes sense to conduct an audit of a Google Ads account. This makes sure that nothing falls through the cracks whether there is a change from Google or a change from an organization. It is crucial to make sure everyone is on the same page to reach customers with the right message at the right time and earn their business. While there are several ways to conduct an audit of a Google Ads account here are some steps to take to conduct a thorough analysis of an account from a top-down approach.
Step 1: Understand What The Goal Is
This first step is crucial because it sets the tone and guides decisions within the rest of the audit. Reviewing account notes if the account has been active is a good place to start. Next, reach out to contacts or decision makers within the organization to align business goals to advertising objectives. This is also a good opportunity to set expectations if needed. Be sure to ask questions that can be insightful to the setup of the Google Ads account. Some examples of questions to ask are:
- What metrics do you look at to define success in your advertising?
- What are your targeted areas for advertising?
- Are there any limitations or restrictions I need to be made aware of for advertising?
- Have there been any recent or upcoming changes to the website?
- Are there any products or services that are more important or profitable than others in your business?
Once advertising goals have been clearly defined the next stage will be reviewing account settings, however, it is important to keep in touch with decision makers throughout the remaining steps in case other questions need to be answered further down the line.
Step 2: Review Account Settings
In this phase work can start on the account beginning with some basic settings. This will make sure that accurate data is being recorded and that no small settings are missed for later steps. Make sure first that proper accounts are linked to Google Ads such as Analytics, Search Console, etc. Next review the account conversions. It is important to make sure all valuable actions that the organization wants to track are included in Google Ads. Each conversion has values and attributions that should be set up as well. Conversions should be periodically tested on the site to ensure proper tracking is in place. Websites are constantly changing and if a change alters the way conversions are tracked it could leave a hole in the data. Lastly, review account settings to ensure these are setup as intended.
Step 3: Analyze Account Structure
Behind understanding the goal analyzing the account structure is one of the most crucial steps when reviewing a Google Ads account. In this step advertisers will review the layout of the account’s campaigns, ad groups, and keywords. They can use insights from the first step to outline the structure of the account. Things to look out for are:
- How many campaigns are running?
- Inside those campaigns what are the ad groups running and do the ad groups complement each other?
- Is there any overlap in keywords across the account?
In this step advertisers should be looking at the big picture of the account and how all the pieces do or don’t fit together, making changes as necessary.
Step 4: Update Campaign Settings
After the structure of the account has been gone through it is best to update the settings at the campaign level. This can be a fairly quick step before reviewing individual pieces such as keywords and ads. Items to review during this phase include location targeting, ad scheduling, bid strategies, audiences, networks, etc.
Step 5: Examine Keywords
In this step the audit starts to get more granular within the account by looking at keywords. It is important to note that going through this step it is best practice to stay within one campaign before moving to the next to stay on similar topics. It is also important to review the same columns and time frame across the account so the data is consistent and reflective of the same period.
What to review in this step is how the keywords relate back the goal defined in step 1. Do the keywords make sense inside the same ad group? What search queries are ads showing for and what keyword matched each query? From that information advertisers can decide if new keywords or negative keywords should be added as well as suggest changes to keyword match types.
Step 6: Revise Ads
Transitioning from keywords it is best to then focus on the ads that the keywords are prompting. First, ensure at least 2 ad variations are in each ad group. Following that make sure the ad is relevant to the keywords and search queries, so a user is more likely to click the ad when it appears. It is also best to periodically test landing pages for functionality, how they match the search query, and to ensure the page has not been removed or redirected to a new URL.
Step 7: Review Extensions
Extensions are what pairs with the ads so it naturally follows logic that these would be what is reviewed next. Many of the principals such as matching relevant text to the ad group or campaign theme follows suite here. Since extensions are typically not as focused on as ads during routine maintenance it is especially important to review, making sure relevant extensions are being utilized and links from these extensions are functioning as intended.
Step 8: Check Optimization Score Recommendations and Policy Manager
To finish auditing a Google Ads account, review the optimization score and policy manager. Doing this will help ensure no errors were missed in any of the prior steps of the audit. The recommendation tab should help identify options for optimization such as duplicate keywords, bid suggestions, and more. The policy manager will help advertisers identify any ad or extension flagged due to violations. Advertisers can then review this information and appeal or make changes as necessary to keep the account in good standing.
Once all these steps have been completed advertisers can give themselves a pat on the back for a job well done. The Google Search Ads audit has been completed! The work doesn’t stop here though, continuous optimization and reporting are pillars to a successful paid search campaign. By performing ongoing maintenance of the account it should make larger audits, like the one laid out in this article, a walk in the park. Do you have a Google Ads account that needs a full audit or still don’t know where to start? We are here to help! Contact Anvil Media and we would be happy to assist with your advertising needs.