Save Time With The Ten Minute PPC Audit

By Sam Owen | @SamOwenPPC | Associate Director of Paid Search at Hanapin Marketing

It’s series week on PPC Hero and we continue our run-down of time-saving techniques we’ve adopted in the past 12 months. This week Eric has already looked at building out your account and Carrie has dived into quick and dirty quality score techniques. Today we’re going to look at the ten minute ‘sense-check’ audit.



A well-researched, in-depth audit of a PPC account can take you a lot of time and require a decent amount of manpower. When you have multiple accounts to be looking after, this can mean either you aren’t able to get round to auditing accounts very often, or that you don’t have much time for the other things you need to do.


Over the past 12 months I’ve really started to make use of the following 9 questions to get to grips with simple mistakes that can be fixed in my account – I call this my 10 minute audit, although if you encounter problems it might take a little longer. Essentially what we are doing is checking that there aren’t any parts of the account that don’t make sense.


Am I waiting too long to pause keywords that aren’t working?

This, along with ‘are my bids set too high?’ is one of the first questions I ask when I dive into an account. Avoiding wasted spend is crucial! Knowing when to keep going and when to pause (or bid down) a Keyword is also important. These are the simple rules I use to help with this:

  • 0 Conversions and >4x CPA goal spend
  • 1 Conversion and >3x CPA goal
  • 2 Conversions and >2x CPA goal
  • 3 Conversions and >1.5x CPA goal
  • 4+ Conversions and >1.2x CPA goal


You should be able to calculate this pretty quickly using a filter within AdWords – I have these 5 filters saved so I can just quickly pull them as an option every couple of weeks.


Set up of a fitler in AdWords to detect keywords spending four times your CPA
Quick and easy filter to find rogue overspending keywords


Do I have paused keywords that worked?

This is another no-brainer, every now and then a keyword will get paused and then for some reason, possibly lagging conversions, or not enough data used in the first instance of pausing, I will find keywords that need to be enabled again. The quickest way to do this is to filter your keywords for status = paused or deleted and conversions > 1. Then look down CPAs to see which keywords have been wrongly stopped.


Is my daily budget allocation set up optimally?

It  might seem a little straightforward, but note down all of your campaigns that spent over their budget yesterday. Now sort your campaigns by CPA and see if you have campaigns with a worse CPA that could have their budgets reduced to allow that campaign to expand. If you want to take more than the ten minute audit approach you could also try the Excel Solver.


Are there any disapproval issues to deal with?

It seems really straightforward but ignoring disapproval issues happens quite a lot, especially with Bing, where you tend not to get as vocal a notification about it as you do on Google. This is a simple 30 second check for all ads that are currently live.


Are my PLA feeds set up properly?

In a ten minute audit I’m not asking you to go through your entire Google Merchant Center account to analyse quirks of your feed – remember we’re trying to skim through to make sure nothing is totally broken. This is a really simple check of how many impressions you had in your PLA campaigns for yesterday. I’m checking first to see if this is at zero, but after that if it is way below the average for the history of the campaign.


Am I using irrelevant keywords?

This requires you to do two quick sorts of your keywords list. First, sort by impressions – are there any keywords showing up that are getting way more traffic than they should. Perhaps you didn’t want that super generic broad match to be going so crazy?

Second, sort by spend. Skim down your first 50 or so most expensive keywords and make sure nothing unusual is in your list. While it may seem insignificant, these rogue keywords are the things that can irk a boss or client (‘You spent HOW MUCH on [insert irrelevant keyword]??’).


Am I using the right destination URLs?

I’m really looking for two things again here. Go into your dimensions tab and sort by clicks. If you have tracking codes, download this data into Excel and strip those out (use text to columns to remove everything after the ‘?’ symbol). I’m looking to see if any URLs that show up look out of place, or part of an old system for directing traffic.

Second, make sure that your ad group name and your URLs seem to add up. If your Nike Red Shoes ad group is going to something is probably up.


Do my ads have any misspellings?

This is one of the trickiest to do in 10 minutes, particularly if you have a lot of ad variations. You can download your data, paste into word and see if any words get squiggly red lines under them for a quick solution. You can also use a pivot table in Excel of your description lines to see if any extras sneak in that are from bad spellings like this:


An Excel Pivot Table highlighting a misspelling in an AdWords ad


Are my location targets set up correctly?

Make a list of all the places you want to advertise, now check through your campaign location targets and compare them against that list. Is everything set up properly? The most common issues I see are US-only campaigns in an account targeting the US & Canada, or US & Canada campaigns in an account targeting only the US.


Hopefully these 9 quick and easy audit tips can help you iron out your accounts in ten minutes and still manage to catch major issues and oversights. If you have any other important but quick audit reports to sense-check your account, let us know about them in the comments below!