The PPC Audit: Rewards for a Critical Eye

You might be a small business owner, new to search engine marketing, and questioning the effectiveness of your initial PPC account structure. On the other hand, you could be an experienced PPC professional needing a new perspective on an established account. Without a doubt, the needs of these two PPC extremes may be entirely opposite. The PPC beginner could simply need assurance on the current set-up of their new marketing strategy, while the PPC veteran may be looking to improve stagnant account performance.

Regardless of the experience level and the needs at hand, a full PPC account audit provides a valuable solution under both circumstances. In fact, our team at Hanapin Marketing often performs PPC audits for both internal and external purposes. A thorough PPC audit sheds a lot of light on the strengths and weaknesses of account structure and performance.  While professionally performed account audits are available and offer a number of benefits (plug alert: Check out Hanapin Marketing’s PPC Audit Services), anyone can perform the process under the right direction. And lucky for you, I’m here to help!

What is a PPC Audit?

Before getting into the how-tos, what exactly do I mean by a PPC audit? A PPC audit is nothing more than an in-depth review of account structure, performance, and goals. In the review, a number of questions need to be addressed. Most importantly, are you targeting your account to meet your marketing expectations and goals? Questions that follow revolve around PPC account set-up and account maintenance best practices, target audience, and properly utilizing the search marketing tools available. Below is a comprehensive guide on how to strategically review a PPC account from the basic to the more advanced procedures.

The How-to Guide to PPC Audits

Core Structure

Account Structure (Themes) – The first thing to check is to make sure that each account campaign is tightly organized around a theme. Campaigns are often easiest to organize based off the structure of a company website, and frequently revolve around individual products, services, or corporate solutions. Likewise, ad groups should continue to follow suit with the overarching campaign theme and should further segment a theme into even more targeted areas.

For example, a bakery could structure campaigns by dessert types (e.g. cookies, brownies, cakes).  Ad groups would then be targeted toward the respective larger themes (e.g. red velvet, wedding, and chocolate for the “Cake” campaign).

Keywords – With the campaign and ad group structure used above, next you will want to review that you are using keywords that add value to your PPC account. This will include evaluating the benefits and detriments of using broad, phrase, or exact match keywords. Also, you’ll want to evaluate if longer tail keywords provide more value to your account, or if short tail (more general) keywords accumulate the most conversion actions.

Ads – Is your ad text up-to-date? Does it provide a call to action? Does it include high performing keywords? Do you provide two to three key benefits in the ad? Are you experimenting with dynamic keyword insertion? Are you A/B testing? Does your ad delivery best match your budget constraints and buying patterns of your potential audience? If yes to all of these, great work and move on. If no, a few new ad texts and some minor changes and you are on your way to some higher click through rates.

Landing Pages – Landing pages are a very important part of a PPC audit as this is an element that is not only the area for you to ultimately convince your customer to convert, but also an element that can benefit from constant testing. Even more, search engines critically care about your landing page quality, and their determination of this can affect your Quality Scores. Could your account benefit from geo-targeted landing pages, shorter form instructions, less text, more pictures, straightforward navigation, etc? A PPC audit stands as the opportune time to brainstorm landing page optimizations, and you will want to spend a considerable time evaluating if you are getting the most out of your landing pages.

Exclusions – When performing PPC audits for external accounts, we often see that both negative keywords and site exclusions are areas often overlooked or forgotten. Accumulating a strong list of negative keywords and site exclusions greatly reduces the amount of irrelevant traffic delivered to your site. Double check to make sure you are appropriately restricting your traffic and also make sure you aren’t leaving out any worthwhile traffic with a poor exclusion choices.

Advanced

Display Network– The Display Network is Google’s collection of websites and publishers that allow Google AdWords advertising to display on their Web properties. The advantages of the Google Display Network rely in the ability to contextually or manually target text, image, and video ads to a larger audience of viewers. During the PPC audit, it is important to deviate Search Network performance from the Display Network. One best practice is to separate campaigns by the two Google networks. For example, remember that bakery from earlier, the bakery PPC manager should have a “Cookies” search network campaign and a “Cookies DN” display targeted campaign. Furthermore, adding managed placements to an account can increase your control over the Display Network and help you in targeting those sites even more.

Image Ads – Image ads are only allowed on the Display Network (thus, not on Google Search properties) and can be either static, motionless ads or dynamic, animated ads. Image ads not only provide unique general advertising efforts, but can also provide more impactful branding of your product and company.

Specific benefits include:

  • Ability to visually capture the attention of a potential audience
  • Typically increases CTR as well as relevancy of clicks
  • Increase your brand awareness and prominently display your company logo
  • Compared to text ads, image ads provide more space to promote a product

Location Targeting

  • Geo-Targeting Campaigns – With a little help from Google Analytics, you will be able to isolate specific geographic areas that your ads perform better. A PPC audit is a great time to implement new geographically targeted campaigns and ad text.
  • Geo-Targeted Ads Text – Once campaigns are targeted to a particular region, state, city, or customized area, you can then creatively customize your ad text to more directly captivate audiences in those locations.
  • Geo-Qualified Keywords – A geo-qualified keyword incorporates locations with the keyword (e.g. “ppc management Indianapolis”). Target those location-oriented searchers by implementing these impactful keywords in your ad groups.

Ad Scheduling  & Position Preference – One of the last places you’ll want to review is your account ad delivery options.  In Google, you have the ability to manipulate not only when, but also in what position your ads will be displayed. Analytics will be a helpful tool to use when determining the time of day your ads should be displayed. Moreover, you will be able to adjust the percent of your max bid you are willing to spend during a particular hour of the day. For example, during the audit, you may find that your ads perform very poor between the hours of 2AM to 5AM. It is advisable to reduce your max CPC bids to 25% during those hours.

Wrapping up

Hopefully, this provides a great jumpstart to your PPC audit. If you are looking for even more advanced options for optimizing your account (conversion optimizer, Google tools, etc.), you might like to check out a post I did earlier this month on Wordstream. Basically, while the PPC audit procedure is intensive, it is a great opportunity for a PPC manager to evaluate their account with a critical eye. At the same time, opening yourself up to new PPC tools, tips, and tricks discovered during the course of the audit may seem like an intimidating risk to take, let me assure you, the rewards will outweigh the risks and will instill new life into the account.

Alright, best of luck out there!