A Google Ads audit is an in-depth review of your Google Ads campaigns. The aim is to gather information to effectively optimize and enhance its performance. We created this 8-step guide to help you conduct a Google Ads audit like the pros.

Here, you’ll find 8 steps to perform a Google Ads audit:

  1. Check your goals and account structure
  2. Audit your account structure
  3. Examine your keywords
  4. Evaluate ad copy and creative elements
  5. Optimize your landing pages
  6. Fine-tune your conversion tracking
  7. Review bid strategies and budget allocation
  8. Conduct a competitive analysis


How well is your Google Ads campaign performing?

Without an audit, you’ll never know.

We spoke with HawkSEM’s CEO, Sam Yadegar, about how to perform a thorough Google Ads audit to optimize your campaign performance.

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Much like a content or overall PPC audit, a Google Ads audit reviews every aspect of your account. (Image: Unsplash)

How to conduct a Google Ads audit

Follow this step-by-step guide to conduct your next Google Ads audit.

1. Check your goals and account structure

You need to go into your audits with an action plan. That means making sure you have solid goals in terms of traffic and conversions so you can see how you’re currently measuring up. (Of course, your goals may change as your business grows.)

When setting your goals, be SMART about it—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Here are some questions to guide your goal-setting process:

  • What specific action do you want users to take? Are you looking for more website visits, product purchases, newsletter signups, or lead generation? The more specific you are, the better you can tailor your audit to identify areas of improvement.
  • How will you measure success? Whether it’s through conversion rates, click-through rates (CTR), quality score, or return on ad spend (ROAS), deciding on KPIs upfront will help you evaluate your campaign’s performance effectively. Yadegar says you should focus on these eight KPIs during your audit.
  • Are your goals achievable with your current budget and resources? It’s essential to set realistic goals that match your budgetary constraints and the competitive landscape of your industry.
  • How do your Google Ads goals align with your overall business objectives? Ensure that your advertising efforts support broader business goals, whether that’s brand awareness, market expansion, or customer retention.
  • What is your timeline? Setting a clear timeframe helps you manage expectations and measure outcomes effectively. Whether it’s a quarterly, bi-annual, or annual goal, a timeline keeps you on track.

Remember, your Google Ads campaign goals can vary significantly depending on your business model, digital marketing strategy, products or services, and target audience. A B2B software company might focus on lead generation, while an e-commerce brand might prioritize sales and ROAS.

2. Audit your account structure

A well-organized account structure is critical for the success of your Google Ads campaigns. It impacts everything from your quality score to ad relevance, influencing both performance and cost-effectiveness.

Evaluate campaigns and ad groups

Begin by checking your campaign settings and reviewing the structure of your campaigns and ad groups. Ask yourself:

  • Do your campaigns align with your marketing objectives? For instance, you should have separate campaigns for different product lines, services, or business goals (such as brand awareness vs. lead generation).
  • Are your ad groups tightly themed? Ad groups should be organized around a small set of closely related keywords. This specificity allows for more targeted ad copy and landing pages, ensuring that highly relevant ads are shown for specific keywords and that the quality score is high.
  • Is there overlap between ad groups or campaigns? Keyword overlap can lead to self-competition, driving up costs and diluting your performance data.

Keyword organization

Once you’ve assessed your campaigns and ad groups, take a look at your keyword strategy:

  • Are your keywords relevant to the ad group’s theme? Ensure that each keyword is directly related to the ad group’s focus to maintain high relevance across your ads.
  • Have you included both broad and specific keywords? A mix of broad, phrase, and exact-match keywords can help you balance reach and relevance.
  • Are negative keywords being used properly? Negative keywords prevent your ads from showing on irrelevant search queries, saving your budget for more qualified leads.
  • Are you using branded keywords? Branded keywords are where your paid search and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies come together.

Based on your review, take steps to refine your account structure:

  • Consolidate overlapping ad groups and campaigns.
  • Split large ad groups into smaller, more focused ones.
  • Regularly review and adjust your keyword lists. Add new relevant keywords and prune low-performing or irrelevant ones.
  • Implement a consistent naming convention. This helps you quickly identify the purpose of each campaign and ad group at a glance, making management and reporting easier.

3. Examine your keywords

Start by identifying your keywords’ performance metrics. Key metrics to consider include CTR, conversion rate, CPC, and Quality Score.

Here’s how to approach this:

  • Review CTR and conversion rates: High CTRs indicate that your keywords are relevant to your audience, while high conversion rates suggest that the traffic driven by these keywords is valuable. Identify which keywords are driving the most valuable actions.
  • Evaluate Quality Scores: A high Quality Score means Google thinks your keyword is relevant to your ad and landing page. This often means lower costs and better ad positions.
  • Review CPC: Understand which keywords are cost-effective and which are draining your budget.
  • Dive into the search query report: It’s important to look beyond the keywords themselves to the queries they trigger. This will allow you to ensure the search intent is correct and that you’re reaching your target audience.

Ten or fewer relevant keywords per ad group is ideal. It’s also wise to leverage negative keywords. This will help better qualify your clicks, reduce irrelevance, and keep queries from triggering ads in multiple groups.

After all, your ad groups should complement, not compete with, each other. An effective way to measure this is by checking search term cross-pollination. Few queries should trigger multiple groups.

And don’t forget about match-type keywords as well. Too often, companies will stick to just running broad match keywords, which can result in high ad spend on unqualified queries.

Need more Google Ads guidance? We’d love to help.

4. Evaluate ad copy and creative elements

Your ads are the face of your PPC campaigns; they need to:

  • Capture attention
  • Communicate value
  • Encourage clicks
  • Stand out from the competition

Review ad copy for relevance and clarity

Your ad copy should clearly articulate the value proposition and be directly relevant to the keywords in each ad group. It should answer the user’s query or offer a solution to their problem.

Include a strong call-to-action (CTA). This should be compelling and direct, guiding users on what action you want them to take next. For example, learn more, sign up, get a quote, or make a purchase.

Test Creative Variations

  • A/B testing: Regularly test different headlines, descriptions, and display URLs to see what combinations perform best. Even small changes can significantly impact click-through and conversion rates. “[I like to test] offers, price points, call to action, emotional messaging vs. time sensitive, social proof,” says Yadegar.
  • Use ad extensions: Leverage ad extensions to provide additional information and ways for users to interact with your ad, such as site links, callouts, structured snippets, and call extensions.

5. Optimize your landing pages

A well-optimized landing page can dramatically improve your conversion rates and overall campaign success.

Ensure Message Match

Make sure there’s a strong message match between your ad copy and your landing page content. This coherence builds trust and keeps the user engaged from click to conversion.

Focus on user experience

Page speed is crucial for keeping potential customers engaged. Ensure your landing pages load quickly across all devices to reduce bounce rates.
In addition, your landing page should be easy to navigate, with a clear value proposition and a straightforward path to conversion. Use headings, bullet points, and images to break up text and make information easy to digest.

6. Fine-tune your conversion tracking

Without accurate conversion tracking, you’re operating a blind strategy and will be unable to gauge the effectiveness of your ads.

Verify and validate conversion actions

  • Make sure that your Google Ads account is connected to your Google Analytics account.
  • Confirm that you’re tracking a comprehensive range of conversion actions relevant to your business goals, such as purchases, sign-ups, leads, and phone calls.
  • Review the setup of your conversion tracking regularly to ensure it’s correctly implemented across your website and landing pages. Look out for tracking pixels that might be missing or incorrectly placed.

Use your data to drive your strategy

Use the conversion data you gather to identify which keywords, ad groups, and campaigns are delivering the most valuable actions. This insight allows you to allocate your budget more effectively towards high-performing elements.

Beyond volume, consider the value of conversions. Prioritize campaigns that drive higher value actions or customers with a greater lifetime value.

7. Review bid strategies and budget allocation

Bids and budgets are essential parts of maximizing your Google Ads ROI.

Review bid strategies

Review your current bid strategies to determine if they align with your campaign goals. Whether you’re using manual bidding, enhanced CPC, or automated bidding strategies like Target CPA or ROAS, ensure they’re effectively driving your desired outcomes.

Don’t hesitate to test different bid strategies and make bid adjustments for various campaigns, especially if certain campaigns are not meeting expectations. Sometimes, a shift in strategy can lead to a better performance.

Pro tip: If you need clarification about the types of bid strategies available, Google will make recommendations based on your campaign performance to guide you in the right direction. (As with everything else, though, be sure to monitor performance and avoid leaving the campaigns on autopilot.

Optimize budget allocation

Identify your most effective campaigns and consider reallocating your budget towards these ads. Invest more in what works and scale back on what doesn’t.

You also want to keep a close eye on your spending to ensure you’re not exceeding your overall budget while making the most of opportunities to capture valuable traffic.

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Audits are an effective way to be confident that your ad campaign isn’t stagnant or lagging. (Image: Rawpixel)

8. Conduct a competitive analysis

A thorough competitive analysis provides insights into where you stand among your competitors and highlights opportunities for improvement.

Use auction insights

Google Ads’ Auction Insights gives you data on how your campaigns rank against competitors for the same keywords. Pay attention to metrics like impression share, overlap rate, and outranking share.

Identify opportunities and challenges

Look for areas where competitors are outperforming you and identify why. This might reveal gaps in your keyword strategy, bidding approach, or ad copy that you can address.

In contrast, identify where you’re leading and double down on these campaigns. Whether it’s through superior ad copy, more appealing offers, or better landing page experiences, use your strengths to further widen the gap between yourself and the competition.

What is a Google Ads audit?

A Google Ads audit is an in-depth review of your Google Ads campaigns. The aim is to gather information to effectively optimize and enhance its performance.

While the depth of your audit can vary based on time and resources, a comprehensive analysis typically includes the following:

  • Examining your Google search and shopping ads
  • Comparing branded versus non-branded campaigns
  • Analyzing ad performance and ad rank
  • Assessing performance across devices
  • Reviewing bidding strategies
  • Evaluating ad extensions
  • Reviewing negative keyword lists

Typically, you will review or compare the above elements based on certain metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs).

Some of the most common metrics to explore in a Google Ads audit include:

  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Conversion rate
  • Cost per conversion
  • Quality score
  • Impression share
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Ad position

Additionally, you may want to review your ad copy and conduct competitor research to give you further insights.

Yadegar says, “While it’s common to think you need an audit when things are ‘not performing well,’ that’s not the case.”

Why do Google Ads audits matter?

Google Ads audits help you unlock actionable insights into your pay-per-click (PPC) marketing strategy and generate more ROI.

Here are some key reasons you should be conducting regular Google Ads audits:

Actionable insights

Google Ads audits dive deep into your campaign data to provide clear, actionable insights. By analyzing performance metrics like conversion rates and CTR, your audit can pinpoint exactly what’s working and what’s not, offering a roadmap for immediate ways to improve.

Refine your ads strategy

The audit process should examine the alignment of your ads strategy with your business goals. It assesses the relevance of your keyword choices, the effectiveness of your ad copy, and the efficiency of your bidding strategies.

When you consider these together, you can ensure that your approach remains aligned with your overall company goals while remaining competitive and cost-effective.

Benefits from the audit process itself

The structured nature of the audit process itself brings discipline to campaign management. Regular audits will encourage your teams to review campaigns and make adjustments where needed regularly.

This systematic approach ensures no aspect of your Google Ads performance is overlooked. In turn, this maintains the health and performance of your campaigns.

Enhance your Google Ads performance

By identifying underperforming ads and suggesting optimizations, audits help in reallocating resources more effectively. You will stop wasting ad dollars on campaigns that aren’t delivering how you want them to and maximize your overall ROI.

Uncover new opportunities

Beyond optimization, Google Ads audits reveal new opportunities for expansion and improvement. Whether through untapped keywords, emerging market trends, or innovative ad formats, audits can give you new ideas for reaching your target audience more effectively.

When should I conduct a Google Ads audit?

If you’ve never conducted a Google Ads account audit before, now is the time to start.
Kick off with your first audit ASAP to get the lay of the land.

After that, every quarter is your golden window for a fresh audit. This timing hits the sweet spot, letting your campaigns accumulate enough data to analyze without missing a beat on optimization opportunities.

Why quarterly? It’s all about balance: frequent enough to adapt to changes, yet spaced out to gather meaningful insights.

Plus, syncing with Google Ads’ latest features can improve your audit effectiveness, keeping you ahead of the curve.

You should also perform an audit when you see changes you can’t explain.

“You should consider doing a Google ads audit when there’s fluctuation in performance, both good and bad,” Yadegar says. “When things are bad, an audit can help uncover what’s wrong and help steer you in the right direction, but equally, when things are good, doing an audit helps capture those winning learnings that can help a campaign scale.”

Pro tip: Stay up-to-date with the latest Google Ads updates here. They often add useful features, capabilities, and analytics to make your ads and/or Google paid search audit more effective.

What to avoid during a Google Ads audit

There are a few don’ts when it comes to any audit, most of which have to do with what happens once the audit is complete.

Audits aren’t a one-and-done project (if only!). While your first one will provide helpful insights, planning regular repeat audits will ensure you’re optimizing your program and make it easier once the first one is done.

Also, don’t feel like you need to fix things during the audit. Unless you uncover a critical issue—such as somebody uploading the wrong set of keywords for an ad group—you don’t want to stop the audit until it’s complete.

The finished report will likely show you a more efficient way of doing so, as different parts of your account and campaigns reference each other.

Pro tip: Audits can be more challenging if you have a high account or ad volume. Google’s disapproved ads auditor can help. It was released in early 2022 to help advertisers view disapproved ads across all accounts at once. A few months later, the destination requirements policy changed to clarify the disapproval reasons and make necessary changes easier.

What to do after a Google Ads audit

After the Google audit is complete, you can go through the report and develop an action plan to address any issues that were uncovered.

It can be helpful to create a doc of key takeaways and performance metrics, along with the strengths and weaknesses of your current Google Ads campaigns.

From there, you can plan a virtual meeting (if you work with a team) to discuss the key points and determine what actions to take and when.

Obviously, crucial issues discovered during your PPC audit should be addressed immediately, so your action plan should include prioritization to ensure that you do so optimally.

The takeaway

Leaving your Google Ads account to run on automation and algorithms can result in leaving money on the table. Periodic audits are an effective way to be confident that your ad campaign isn’t stagnant or lagging.

Audits can help you move to the next level of PPC marketing, keep your advertising strategy evolving with your needs and budget, and greatly improve your sales and conversions.

It takes time and effort, but it’s worth knowing your paid search ads are the best they can be.

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2022.

Shire Lyon

Shire Lyon

Shire is a passionate writer and marketer with over eight years of experience as a writer and digital marketer. She's well-versed in SEO, PPC, and social media, helping businesses both big and small grow and scale. On her downtime, she enjoys hiking, cooking, gardening, reading, and sailing.