"10 Steps for Conducting a PPC Audit"

What Is a PPC Audit?

A PPC audit is a thorough evaluation of a paid advertising campaign to optimize performance, ensure efficient budget utilization, and identify growth opportunities within the paid advertising landscape.

“Maximize Your ROI: A Guide to Optimizing Your PPC Strategy with Our 10-Step Audit Checklist”

What Is a PPC Audit?

A PPC audit involves thoroughly examining your PPC campaigns to identify strengths and weaknesses. Its primary goals include optimizing campaigns, reducing costs, discovering new opportunities, maximizing ROI, rectifying errors, boosting conversions, and generating valuable insights.

How Do I Run a PPC Audit?

Conducting a PPC audit involves gathering and evaluating data from your paid ad campaigns. This process can be carried out manually or with the assistance of PPC tools, such as Advertising Research, as depicted below.

While PPC audit software can assist, fully automating the process isn’t recommended. Manual assessment is crucial for a comprehensive audit.

A thorough PPC audit evaluates campaign settings, costs, ad groups, and ad performance to pinpoint both successes and areas for improvement.

However, a superior PPC audit goes beyond this, examining competitors’ strategies and aligning adjustments with your target market.

The 10-Step PPC Audit Checklist

Conducting a PPC audit can seem daunting, but the benefits justify the effort.

To simplify the process, adhere to this 10-step PPC audit guide.

Tip: Before beginning, reassess your conversion objectives. Clearly defining your goals (such as signups, sales, or leads) will enhance the precision of your analysis.

1. Organize the Data 

Begin your audit by downloading and structuring your paid campaign data into spreadsheets.

These spreadsheets will facilitate the evaluation of your campaigns and enable the creation of a PPC audit report for distribution among your marketing team.

Here’s the process:

Download your Google Ads data in either Excel or Google Sheets format.

Title the spreadsheet with the current season and year, such as “PPC Audit Summer 2024.”

Examine each campaign individually, identifying issues such as low impressions and successes such as high conversions.

Identify patterns among successful and unsuccessful campaigns.

Using these spreadsheets will allow you to gain a comprehensive overview of your campaigns, track your advancements, and guide any enhancements you make to your PPC strategies.

2. Check Your Settings

Access your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts to review the settings and ensure they are configured correctly, minimizing potential errors.

During the review, consider the following:

  1. Check if your conversions are accurately tracked. Verify the tracking statuses within your Google Ads account to ensure all conversions are being recorded correctly.
  2. Evaluate the consistency, specificity, and descriptiveness of your naming conventions. Confirm that your naming conventions for campaigns, ad groups, and other elements are uniform and clearly indicative of their purpose.

Ensure that ad groups are organized logically into relevant categories and subcategories to streamline campaign management and optimize performance.

To verify the link between your Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts:

  1. Navigate to your Google Ads account.
  2. Go to “Tools and settings” > “Setup” > “Linked accounts” > “Google Analytics (GA4) and Firebase” > “Manage & link.”
  3. Locate your Analytics property and confirm that the status is displayed as “Linked.” If not, follow the prompts to establish the connection.

3. Review Ad Content

Review your ad copy to ensure it effectively communicates your unique selling proposition (USP), which differentiates your product or service from competitors.

Consider whether your USP has evolved since the campaign’s inception and whether it aligns with current market trends and audience preferences.

Optimize your ad copy to emphasize your USP and resonate with your target audience, increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversions.

See How Your USP Stands Up to Your Competitors’ USPs

Examine competitor ads to verify the uniqueness of your USP.

Find Your PPC Competitors

Identify your PPC competitors by using the Advertising Research tool. Enter your domain and click “Search.”

Proceed to the “Competitors” tab.

You’ll find a list of paid competitors ranked according to their level of competition.

Here, you can see who’s bidding on the same keywords as you, their number of paid keywords, their paid traffic volume, and their estimated Google Ads budget. Identify your top competitors and open their websites in separate tabs by clicking on the arrow icon to understand their messaging.

Analyze Your Competitors Ad Copy

Proceed to the “Ads Copies” tab in the Advertising Research tool. Enter a competitor’s domain in the search bar and click “Search” to analyze the copy they use in their ads, gaining insights and inspiration for your campaigns.

In this report, you can examine the headlines, URLs, and descriptions employed by your competitor in their ads.

Examine your competitors’ strategies closely. What are their unique selling propositions (USPs)? Calls to action? Promotions and deals? Pay particular attention to which keywords prompt specific ad copy. To explore this, click on “Keywords” beneath a particular ad.

Leverage this data to assess how competitors address users’ needs in their ad copy. Then, strive to enhance your strategies and outperform them.

Review Your Ad Copy for Accuracy

While it may seem straightforward, reviewing your ad copy for accuracy is crucial and often overlooked. During your PPC audit, be vigilant for errors such as spelling and grammar mistakes, mismatched display URLs, outdated promotions, and expired pricing.

Find Optimization Opportunities

Enhancing ad content is a process that requires time and effort, but your audit can reveal insights for bolstering headlines, URLs, and descriptions. Effective ad content should feature a unique selling proposition (USP), a compelling call to action, relevant keywords, alignment with keyword intent, and a display URL that reflects the landing page’s content, all complemented by an attention-grabbing headline.

Ensure You’re Using Ad Assets

Ad assets, formerly referred to as ad extensions, are supplementary links that offer additional information and facilitate enhanced engagement with your ads. Here’s an illustrative example:

Google automatically selects assets to enhance ad performance, although not all assets are auto-generated. Ensure that you’ve configured all relevant ad assets to allow Google to optimize selections for each ad. Lastly, verify the accuracy of all your assets.

4. Check Your Quality Score

A higher Google Ads Quality Score signifies lower ad costs and better ad placement compared to other advertisers. Quality Scores span from 1 to 10, as per Google’s guidelines.

Each keyword’s Quality Score is determined by factors such as expected click-through rate (CTR), ad relevance, and landing page relevance.

To check your Quality Score, navigate to your Google Ads account and click on the “Campaigns” icon. Then, select the “Search keywords” section.

Click on “Search keywords,” then locate the columns icon (three bars) in the upper right corner of the table.

Under “Modify columns for keywords,” select “Quality Score.”

Here you’ll find your Quality Score. Adjust your table settings to view different components of your Quality Score. If your Quality Score is 7 or lower, there’s room to improve. To increase it:

  • Optimize ad relevance by aligning your ad’s message with the intent behind its keywords.
  • Ensure your landing page is relevant to your ad and delivers on its promises.
  • Organize your keywords into tighter ad groups.

5. Analyze Your Keyword Targeting

To analyze your keyword targeting effectively:

Optimize Your Ad Groups

Reviewing your ad groups is crucial for optimizing keyword targeting in your PPC campaigns. Start by examining your PPC audit spreadsheet to pinpoint any weak areas, such as low impressions or conversions, which can help identify ad groups needing improvement. Ensure your ad groups are tightly themed, with keywords that share the same target. Aim for around five to 10 keywords per group to maintain focus. Remove keywords with low search volumes or impressions, as they may not be driving sufficient traffic. Additionally, adjust your keyword match types to align with your PPC goals and budget.

Uncover New Ad Group Ideas

Discovering fresh ad group concepts can broaden your audience reach.

For novel approaches to structuring keywords into ad groups, navigate to Keyword Manager and select “Create list.”

Input one to five seed keywords (general search terms associated with your business) to formulate or adjust your ad groups. Next, provide your domain for enhanced keyword clustering, then click “Create list.”

Afterward, navigate to the “Mind Map” tab. In this example, you’ll observe 763 keywords.

Review the “Clusters” report to examine the breakdown of each keyword cluster by intent, Keyword Difficulty (a metric indicating the challenge of ranking within the top 10 organic results for that term), and monthly search volume. Additionally, the tool identifies clusters with the highest ranking potential.

Utilize this report to pinpoint new ad group opportunities or methods to optimize your existing groups.

Refine Your Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are terms that you can incorporate into your campaigns to ensure that your ads don’t display when users search for them.

Leveraging negative keywords is essential to avoid unnecessary spending and irrelevant traffic.

In your Google Ads search terms report, you’ll find insights into which search terms are triggering your ads and how your ads are performing for those searches.

To access this report, navigate to “Campaigns” > “Insights and reports” > “Search terms.”

If you observe a search term that is triggering an ad with low engagement rates, it indicates that your ad isn’t meeting the user’s expectations for that term.

Utilize these search terms as starting points for enhancing your negative keywords lists.

6. Analyze Competitors’ Keyword Targeting

Analyzing your competitors’ keyword strategies can provide valuable insights and give you a competitive advantage.

Here’s how you can integrate competitive keyword research into your PPC audit:

Check Your Competitors’ Past and Current Ad Positions

Assessing the advertisements your competitors have previously run unveils the keywords they’re targeting, aiding in identifying gaps or sparking inspiration for your ad groups.

Begin by selecting a competitor for evaluation.

Navigate to Advertising Research, input their domain, click “Search,” and proceed to the “Ads History” tab.

You can use the “Advanced filters” menu to exclude keywords that include that competitor’s brand name.

This action will generate a comprehensive report detailing the keywords your competitor is bidding on and the ads they’ve displayed over the past year. Additionally, you have the option to export this report as a spreadsheet.

Afterward, proceed to the “Position Changes” tab.

This report shows you new, lost, improved, and declined positions for keywords your competitor is bidding on. 

Find Keyword Gaps

Discovering overlooked keyword opportunities can inspire strategies for reaching broader audiences. You can uncover such opportunities using the Keyword Gap tool.

Simply input up to four root domains of your competitors along with your own, then click “Compare.”

Switch the keyword type from “Organic keywords” to “Paid keywords.” Then, navigate to the table and switch to the “Missing” tab to observe keywords that you don’t rank for but all of your competitors do.

This can unveil pertinent keywords that you may consider bidding on for your own campaigns.

7. Assess Your CTR & Conversion Rates

Analyzing your click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate is essential for enhancing ad performance.

A low CTR may result in a poor Quality Score, while a high CTR coupled with a low conversion rate could indicate wastage on low-quality traffic.

You can monitor your CTR within your Google Ads account dashboard.

Here are some strategies to boost your CTR:

Ensure ads display during peak conversion hours.
Adjust your CPC bidding approach.
Experiment with various ad copies.
Fine-tune audience targeting.
Streamline ad groups, ensuring a cohesive theme and alignment with keyword intent.
Enhance ad assets by offering pertinent, current business information and setting up relevant manual ad components.
Note: Optimal CTR benchmarks vary across industries; research your sector and analyze successful ad rates to set targets.

Next, assess your conversion rates.

If both CTR and conversion rates are low, prioritize improving CTR initially.

If CTR is satisfactory but conversion rates lag, potential issues may lie in:

Landing page optimization for conversions.
Alignment between landing page content and ad promises.
Evaluate your landing page to identify performance enhancement opportunities.

8. Review Location Targeting

Assessing and refining your location targeting can minimize unnecessary expenses.

You might be squandering funds by displaying ads in regions beyond your service area or missing out on revenue by neglecting lucrative locations.

Concentrate on these key aspects:

Identify prime-performing areas. In Google Ads, navigate to “Campaigns” > “Insights & reports” > “When & where ads showed” to review location performance.

Ensure your targeting aligns with your store/branch locations and areas where delivery is feasible, if applicable.

Exclude regions where sales are not possible or where demographics diverge from your target audience.

9. Review and Adjust Your Bids

Analyzing your bidding approach and current performance aids in optimizing bids for maximum ROI.

While automated bidding suits beginners, transitioning to manual bidding may enhance performance over time.

For manual bid adjustments, scrutinize at least three months’ worth of PPC campaign data.

Evaluate various bid factors such as mobile ad effectiveness in specific campaigns or ad groups to determine bid increases or decreases.

In Google Ads, adjust bids based on:

  • Device
  • Location
  • Schedule
  • Call interactions
  • Demographics (age, gender, household income)

For Google Ads advanced accounts, additional bid adjustments can be made for:

  • Targeting methods (Search Network vs. Display Network)
  • Remarketing lists

10. Find Wasted Spend

The primary objective of a PPC audit is cost-saving—achieved through maximizing returns and minimizing wasted expenditure.

While significant fixes from the audit yield savings, immediate adjustments for quick gains are equally essential.

Ensure adherence to these key best practices:

  • Schedule ads for optimal conversion times.
  • Optimize mobile ads for mobile devices.
  • Align language targeting with your customer base.
  • Exclude home and office IPs.
  • Set delivery method to standard (not accelerated).

Further money-saving actions in PPC campaigns involve:

  • Targeting a smaller geographic area to reach pertinent customers.
  • Lowering bids on high-click ads.
  • Adjusting keyword match type to broad match.
  • Refining negative keywords to avoid blocking relevant traffic or attracting irrelevant visitors.
  • Changing ad rotation setting to “Optimize” for prioritizing well-performing ads.

Run Frequent PPC Audits & Optimize Your Ads

Regular paid search audits every six months or when beginning management of a new account are advisable.

Remember, there’s always room for further optimization, particularly when utilizing tools like Advertising Research.