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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jun 9 , 2020

Google Ads campaigns can be a serious ROI driver — if your program is optimized, that is. 

Letting your Google Ads campaign run on autopilot without much thought might be alright… for a while. But think of your campaigns like a car. Without regular tuneups and gas refills, you’re bound to end up on the side of the road, watching others (like your competitors) pass you by.

Too many businesses launch a digital ads program and then simply let it run without any changes or further testing. ROI inevitably drops over time, but inertia can keep a campaign running long after its expiration date.

Google Ads campaigns are no exception. No matter how well your ads are set up in the first place, it’s vital to run a periodic Google Ads audit. This can help you establish whether your account is still performing as it should be, and what changes could be made to improve it. It can also help you spot mistakes that may be buried under iterative changes.

hawksem blog - google ads audit

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

When should you conduct a Google Ads audit?

If you’ve never conducted a Google ads audit before, now is a great time to start! Afterwards, performing audits every three months or on a quarterly basis should be sufficient. 

You want a good amount of data, so resist the temptation to audit your ads program too often. 

What are the Google Ads audit steps?

Much like a content or overall PPC audit, a Google Ads audit reviews every aspect of your account. It’s a time when you assess the strength of your overall Google Ads program to ensure your efforts are cohesive and well aligned, not working against one another.

Let’s break down the steps.

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.) 

Next, you want to check the structure of your account, ensuring that your campaigns and ad groups are organized correctly and that your reporting is accurate. Make sure your campaigns have a point, whether it’s geotargeting, demographics, or something else. Location settings and device targeting also need to be correctly configured.

2. Nail down your bid strategy

Make sure you’re using the right bid strategy, budget, and delivery methods. This part of the audit will show you if there are high-performing campaigns worth allocating more of your budget towards. 

Perhaps you’re spending too little on certain ads, or using a bid strategy that made sense at an earlier point in your company’s growth. Make sure you have the right budget in terms of costs per click (CPCs) and that you’re spending the right amount on each group.

Pro Tip: Confused 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.)

3. Examine your keywords

Ten or fewer relevant keywords per ad group is ideal. It’s also wise to make sure you’re leveraging negative keywords. This will help better qualify your clicks, reduce irrelevance, and will 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 spend on unqualified queries.

4. Dig into campaign and ad performance

Check for underperforming or low-quality ads. These should be flagged for extra attention or potential removal. It’s a good idea to have two ad variations in each group for A/B testing and rotate ads frequently to avoid audience fatigue. Next, check that all calls to action (CTAs) are direct and relevant.

This is a good time to ask questions like:

  • What happens when somebody clicks on your ad? 
  • Is your landing page clear with a good headline and call to action? 
  • Do you have the right number of landing pages? 
  • Do your forms work and provide a “thank you” message? 
  • Does the conversion page properly track views? 
  • Are conversions tracking correctly
  • Do you have a solid mobile strategy? 

Pro tip: This is also the time when you want to make sure you’re not double-counting conversions. Trust us: it happens more often than you might think.

hawksem: google ads audit article

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

What should you avoid when it comes to a Google Ads audit?

There are a few don’ts when it comes to auditing your ads, 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 not only ensure you’re optimizing your program, but it’ll be easier once the first one is done.

Don’t feel like you need to fix things during the audit. Unless you uncover some kind of 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 is likely to show you a more efficient way of doing so as different aspects of your account and campaigns reference each other.

What should you do after a Google Ads audit?

After the audit is complete, it’s time to go through the report and develop an action plan to address the issues. 

It might be helpful to create a doc of key takeaways and performance metrics, along with strengths and weaknesses of your current Google Ads campaigns. Plan a virtual meeting (if you work with a team) to discuss all of these key points and determine what actions need to be taken when.

Obviously, crucial issues should be dealt with right away, so your action plan should include prioritization to ensure that you deal with things in an optimal manner. 

Pro tip: It’s a good idea to make sure your plan doesn’t involve leaving anything on autopilot for an extended period of time.

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 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 it to know your paid search ads are the best they can be. 

Need more Google Ads help? Let’s talk.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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