8 Fixable Shortcomings That A PPC Audit Would Uncover

By Carrie Albright | @Albright_C | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

We’ve all been there: A new account comes across your desk and you get to spend the next few days digging in and finding all the flaws that you can then turn into “quick wins” for your team. But what will someone uncover when they audit your account?

While your account may be in good, even great, shape, there is always something to find. Today I break out 8 specific oversights we often see in accounts. These are accompanied by easy fixes to the shortcomings, so you needn’t worry about a public shaming. Take a look and see if you can’t confidently bust through each of these frequent offenses:

1) Bid settings: Have you been running on eCPC for a year with no idea of how it’s actually doing? While it’s handy having Google foot some of the work with enhanced bidding, my personal experience has often found that eCPC isn’t actually improving my metrics. So how do you figure this out for yourself?

To fix this: When an eCPC setting is enabled, Google will begin running a split test within your campaign. Half of the time, the keywords are bidding as they’d like, the other half is done with Google making its best decision for you. You get to see a hybrid of this data in the interface, but what about the actual numbers? To access this, you need to reach out to a Google rep and request your eCPC data. When you get it, it’ll look something like this:

eCPC 3 samples of performance

What we see here is that in several campaigns across these very different accounts, eCPC just isn’t getting the hang of it. From here we can make the decision to continue with eCPC or try our hand at manual bid changes, conversion optimizer, or an automated rule.

2) Audiences: First and foremost, please tell me you’re segmenting Converters. Whether its to remarket to them for e-comm or exclude them as we commonly do for lead gen, you can’t treat them the same and an “All Visitors” audience with no exclusions will be an easy target for an auditor. Are you missing entire combinations of site visitors? You have the suggested visitor groups, but what kind of funnel can you build to better customize your targeting? Here’s just a snapshot of how one might segment audiences by not only site interaction, but also duration of the list. You can see that the Free Trial lists targets the 30 day free trial period, as well as just a bit beyond. While the paid signup may be of ultimate importance in this account, those who’ve started the free trial and have yet to begin a paid membership deserve a fine-tuned remarketing strategy.

Audience List

3) Cross pollution: How are your keywords funneling? Do you continually have a search term applied to multiple keywords? If this is the case, you need to build a better “negative cushion” around your keywords, or tighten up your match type targeting. By inconsistently funneling keywords, you not only lose some pretty clear relevance were you better targeted, but it also muddies your data. You don’t need “migraine headache cures” going into both “migraine headache treatments” and “migraine cures” and reducing your CTR by being a bad pairing. You also don’t want wasted spend if you’ve custom-selected your landing page for each type of keyword.

Here is a sample search term report that has been pivoted to show the list of search terms and then the count of keywords to which they were applied over the past 30 days.Search Query Keyword Pivot

In this table, we’ve gotten a count for how many search terms are paired with 1 single keyword, 2 different keywords, 3 keywords, and so on up to 8, which is the most that occurs within this account. From here you can go through the results and build negatives to keep traffic funneling properly, so that the count of search terms with more than 2 or 3 keyword matches stays to a bare minimum.

Cross Pollution of KW

4) QS: What percentage of your keywords fall into “6 or below?” And how much is being spent on them? While Quality Score can be as elusive as any other cryptozoological creature, ignoring it won’t keep your account in good shape. Instead, you want to keep a careful eye on the keywords that may slip outside your comfort zone now and again.

To fix this: Pull a keyword report in which you can see the QS score for your keywords and the spend you’re allotting to them. This is a simple “housekeeping” task, but one that has a big bullseye on it for an auditor.

Quality Score Spend Distribution

5) Ad copy: Are you testing? If you’ve read any of my posts, heard me speak, or run into me on the street, there are two things I’m always talking about: First, food. But second, TESTING. If you’re not testing, you’re missing out. Every test has something to teach you and even in a low volume account, being able to offer a different experience to your users allows you to better understand the traffic you want to promote in your account.

To fix this: There are many ways to approach ad testing. Here are a few thoughts from beloved  PPC Heroes Jeff the Prez, Secret Jake, Kit Kat Kurtz, and the Ultimate Nerd.  Whet your appetite with these and get rolling!

6) Over spenders: While past performance is useful, one of the best things a pair of fresh eyes can bring to an account is freedom from this history. Instead of wondering if something will resume it’s previous performance, a cold-hearted third party can empirically call out a placement or keyword that’s overspending and not earning its keep.

To fix this: Regularly go through your keyword performance and watch for those top performers who have been outside your acceptable CPL. If a keyword falls into this category too often (for example, my max is 60 days running), pause that sucker before anyone calls you out! Although you may have your reasons for leaving it on, remember that happy auditor just waiting to point out the wasted spend that you’ve allowed to occur on your watch….

7) Negatives: Rule #1 of breaking out an account by match type is to embed those negatives! Proper usage of negative keywords keeps your PPC house nice and tidy.

To fix this: A feature I love taking advantage of is the shared negative library. It’s an easy way to create groups of negative keywords that you can then apply to the appropriate campaigns as needed.Example of Negative List in Shared Library

And once you’ve done this, make note to review this list from time to time. As things shift, you may find yourself overlooking a negative here and a keyword there and suddenly you’ve built a hole in your negative armor.

8) Your account is so last season: I’m constantly amazing at the accounts I see that still haven’t taken advantage of some of PPC’s best features. While not every suggestion performs flawlessly in every account, this is an easy area to improve and also to impress your client with your thorough PPC coverage!

To fix this: What of this list have you yet to try?

BETAS  – don’t know what to look for? Check in with your Google and Bing reps for the latest, or keep your eyes peeled for blog posts revealing new opportunities!

AdWords scripts

Dynamic Remarketing

Search Companion Marketing

Dynamic Search Ads

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads

Similar Audiences

Flexible Bid Strategies

Top Performer Segmentation

Low Quality Score campaign

Facebook ads

Bing PLAs

3rd party remarketing

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

While this list is not exhaustive, it certainly calls out some of the features or strategies being used by your peers. If you haven’t gone through these and truly considered how they would or would not apply to your account, the time is now!

These 8 easy fixes should help keep you covered in the event that outside eyes are peeking into your world of PPC, but what else do you commonly find? What are your go-to “quick wins” that your fellow PPC Heroes can easily improve to make this a safer world for online marketing?