Google Ads audit: how to conduct it + checklist
Any work on any existing project begins with an audit – PPC is no exception.
To simplify the audit of the advertising campaign and not to miss the slightest detail, we have compiled a checklist with every factor you want to track on. But before you start checking its points, ask the main question: “What is the purpose of the PPC here?” Make sure you are clear about your brand goals. Well, now to the point!, pulvinar dapibus leo.
Check the conversion tracking for PPC audit
When we start auditing a new Ads account, we are faced with the question: “Can we trust the data that we see?”. This part is about how to measure the accuracy of conversion tracking and the success of your ad campaigns.
Google Analytics vs Google Ads
How do we audit the credibility of conversion tracking? Google Analytics will only count one conversion per session. It means, for example, if a user fills out the same contact form several times in one session, it will still be one conversion. Google Ads, on the other hand, counts every completed form. In general, of course, it depends on the conversion tracking settings, but we’ll talk about this later in the article.
E-commerce will be counted every time per session in both Google Analytics and Google Ads.
For conversions set up via the Google Ads tag, you can view the “View-through conversion” data. But if you import conversions from Google Analytics to Google Ads, then such data will not be available.
Correctness of work
How to audit the correctness of work? There are 3 common mistakes associated with conversion tracking:
- conversions are counted twice (1 action taken = 2 conversions counted);
- conversions are duplicated (2 different conversions = counted for 1 goal);
- conversion does not match the name (the name is “Submitting the form” = in fact it is “Click on the button”)
How do we audit the correctness of conversion tracking in Google Ads account? To view data in your Google Ads account, go to the conversions tab.
For the initial audit of your Google Ads account, you need the following data:
- The source with which account this conversion is recorded. “Analytics” means from your Google Analytics account; “Website” means that you have Google Ads tag installed on the website.
- Conversion tracking status for PPC audit:
- No recent conversions. Appears when conversions have not been counted for about a week. Analyze the historical data in your account: it may be natural for this conversion to be counted once every 1-2 weeks. If you see a sharp decline in statistics, it is important to find the reason. Analyze the pages on which the conversion was triggered. Check the data on these pages in Google Analytics to see if the page loading speed has increased or they are not working correctly.
- Tag Inactive. Appears for conversions that are set through the Google Ads tag. It is assigned if a page with this tag has been deleted (or the code has been deleted) and the system could not find it on the website.
- How many conversions should be accounted for in one session:
- One: only one conversion will be counted per visit.
- Every: Every conversion will be counted. If a user fills out the same form twice on the website, then there will be two conversions. But in fact, we still get one lead … Usually, it is used to track purchases in an online store.
- “Include in ‘Conversions'” setting, that is, whether the conversion-action is taken into account in the Conversion-column. Yes, Google has such excellent column naming. The point is that we create not only macro- but also micro-conversions to track user behaviour on the website. We need to make sure that we count macro conversions (forms, checkout) in conversions so that the statistics in campaigns are the most representative.
How do we audit the Google Ads account? Clicking on the name of the conversion opens its settings. Select the Webpages tab to see which pages it fired on. On this tab, the following columns are important to us:
- Webpage, that is, where exactly the conversion was triggered. It is important to understand whether the conversion is triggered in the right place or not. For example, often, the conversion should only work on the Thank you page, but should not be on the Contact page;
- Tag, that is, how many conversions were generated on this particular page. It is important to understand if any conversions are triggered when you reach the same page, but are named differently. This may be why you have your conversions counted twice.
When you are assured that the conversions are working correctly, you need to audit their accurate accounting. To do this, open your Google Ads account → desired campaign → desired period.
Open the keywords tab → Search terms → filter your search queries by conversions.
Does one search term have 2 or more conversions? Perhaps it is worth analyzing this because one user could have made several different conversions in one session. To do this, select a segment → Conversions → a conversion action. You will see what conversions were made for this click during the selected period.
How do we check conversions in Google Analytics to conduct a PPC audit? Let’s figure it out together with the PPC agency Penguin-team.
Go to the Conversions menu. Here, when auditing, it is worth analyzing the following columns:
The goal is the name of the conversion (is the name correct).
Goal type. Most often there are 2 types:
destination: the conversion is triggered when the user reaches a specific URL;
event: conversion was created using a code or GTM and set to the site code.
Conversions in the last 7 days.
Recording: whether conversions are enabled and counting in your account. You need to understand if any important conversions have been turned off.
In Google Analytics, go to Realtime Report → Conversions tab.
Real-time conversions are displayed here. All of them need to be checked: go to the website, take the targeted action (click on the button, fill out the form) and audit which conversions worked.
This will help you understand how conversions actually work (since the conversion does not always match the name). If conversion tracking isn’t set up at all, it’s important to fix this first after auditing your PPC ads!
Conversion Tracking Checklist
Google Ads – account audit:
- the count is correct (one or every)?
- on which pages is it triggered?
- does macro conversion count?
Google Analytics – account audit:
- are all conversions displayed when checked through a real-time report?
- are conversions working correctly?
3 Trickiest And Most Common Conversion Tracking Troubles
When auditing the advertising, there may be such pitfalls:
- Are the number of clicks with conversions nearly the same as the total number of clicks? It is unlikely that the product is selling at such an incredible rate. Chances are, the conversion tracking code is installed on the homepage, not the thank you page.
- Very high conversion rates with very low real sales? It is possible that conversion tracking is happening on the product description page and not on the thank you page. Or just a click on the “Buy” button is tracked, and not the order confirmation page.
- Is your conversion rate suspiciously low? Maybe not all conversions count. Maybe some customers buy by phone, but call tracking is not implemented. Or maybe the tracking code is not installed on all pages.
ROI / ROAS Metrics
ROI / ROAS are one of the most important metrics in all advertising. What is essential when auditing Google Ads account? The return on investment is what matters. Advertising costs should pay off. If the account you’re auditing doesn’t pay off on advertising costs, it’s gonna be tough.
If during an audit of PPC advertising you see hundreds or even thousands of conversions, but at the same time they do not turn into actual sales, then “bad” is not even a word.
To calculate ROI in Shopping campaigns, it is convenient to use The Panda from the Penguin-team PPC Agency – a special tool that automates the calculation and provides business metrics taking into account the margin of items.
Take a look at monthly, weekly, and daily conversions during your PPC audit. Is there any growth? Okay. Not? You’ll have to figure it out.
At the same time, evaluate which campaigns bring the most conversions.
Conversion cost – CPA
If the cost per conversion (action) is already low enough, you can focus on increasing your conversion volume.
CTR, CPC, share of impressions at the top of the page and at the topmost position also need to be taken into account, but there are no good or bad numbers here: everything depends on the main metric – return on investments. But improvement still never hurts.
The correct structure of the Google Ads account
On the second stage of the PPC audit of the Google Ads account, answer:
- How many ad campaigns are in your account?
- How many are active?
- What is the principle behind the campaigns?
There are several basic principles for separating campaigns:
- by region. For example, separate campaigns for LA and NY, so that both local competition and differences in search queries inherent in a particular region can be taken into account;
- by website category;
- by the conversion rate of keywords;
- by the frequency of keywords. For example, separate campaigns for high-frequency and low-frequency terms;
- by device. Separate campaigns for desktop, tablet and mobile;
- Scheduled. For example, you can divide your campaigns based on data on which days and hours they work most efficiently.
Account structure is a very important point for optimization, you need to pay particular attention when auditing. If the structure is incorrect, the budget will be spent ineffectively. So if you already understand the principle of organization in the Google Ads account during the PPC audit, it will be easier for you to find strengths and weaknesses and immediately see opportunities for further optimization.
Important! When analyzing the account structure, be sure to add the impression share column. To do this, click on the Columns button above the report and select from the list “Search impression share”, “Search Lost IS (budget)” (in the search or display network), “Search Lost IS (rank)”.
Search Impression Share is a metric that gives you an idea of how much impressions you’re getting for each campaign. Search Impression Share for each campaign should be at least 80%. If it is lower, optimization is needed.
To increase the percentage of impressions received, you need to work with the campaign settings or create new campaigns, which means changing the current account structure. Therefore, this metric needs to be analyzed right now, at the initial stage of the advertising campaign audit.
How to optimize advertising campaigns while auditing
In the third step of the PPC audit, clarify the following questions for yourself:
- the number of keywords in the ad group;
- the number of ads in the ad group;
- types of ads in the ad group;
- how ads are written;
- quality of landing pages.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into each question.
Number of keywords in the ad group
An ad group should contain no more than 15-20 keywords. The best amount is 5-10. If your ad group has more than 20 keywords, it’s probably time to optimize it, divide it into smaller and more relevant groups.
Why is the number of keywords in a group important? Remember, there are ads configured for each keyword with the same settings. The more keywords there are, the more likely it is that they differ in the subject matter. And this already leads to a decrease in relevance.
How to audit PPC here? Keep in mind the Quality Score, which is influenced by 3 factors: CTR, Landing Page Relevance, and Ad Relevance.
Ideally, ad groups should be structured according to the SKAg principle, when there is only one keyword in one group in 3 match types. This structure improves the quality score and decreases CPC, according to multiple studies.
The quality score determines the cost that the business will pay per click. To make your ads more relevant to the user and Google, that is, to increase the Quality Score, write a keyword in the ad title. Based on this “rule”, if there are many keywords in the group, then it will be impossible to write a relevant heading for each ad. That’s why you also need a granulated structure of campaigns.
Number of ads in an ad group
Is there only 1 active ad in an ad group? The previous account owner may not have tested the new ad variations. This limits the scope for optimization.
Too many ads in the group? Perhaps the test was not finished, or maybe it was not conducted at all. If there are many ads, testing is more difficult: each of the ads needs some traffic to get representative statistics, and it takes time.
The best option is 2 or 3 different ads in an ad group. With this number, you can comfortably work and conduct tests.
Types of ads in the ad group
Search campaigns must contain expanded text ads (3 titles and 2 descriptions). You can still find working ads in the old format in your accounts. Stop them from showing because can affect your campaign rankings in a bad way.
It is advisable to create ads of 2 types in display campaigns: usual banners and responsive ads. This will allow you to receive impressions on as many websites as possible. Many accounts only have one type of ad.
Ads copy writing
When auditing your account, check both text and image ads for mistakes. They spoil the user’s impression of the company, and at the same time, they can be a signal that the account needs more attention in general.
Landing page quality
Make sure that the ads lead to relevant landing pages; pages must have a good loading speed and allow the user to convert without any setbacks.
Working out the settings when auditing Google advertising
To launch an advertising campaign, many parameters should be configured: type of ads, user locations, languages, ads rotation… All these settings allow you to make the campaign as effective as possible for business goals. And when we start working on a new project, all these settings need to be carefully checked.
Search campaigns use Search with Display Network exclusion. If your search campaign is not getting enough traffic, you can create an experiment campaign and turn on Display Networks. As a result, you will get a Display Expansion on Search campaigns.
In this case, both Google Search users and Display Network visitors will see your ads. At the same time, the priority remains with the search network: placement on the GDN is possible only under certain circumstances, if, according to Google Ads forecasts, the budget is not used up in full. That is, the system will evaluate the effectiveness of the display ads in the GDN. If the ad is recognized as effective, and the Search budget outlasts, this display ad also will be shown on some website.
Disable search partners or not disable? That’s the question. We’ve written about this in tons of articles. We advise you to have search partners at the beginning. Then, after collecting statistics, check their effectiveness – and then decide whether they are useful to you or not.
To check statistics when auditing your Google Ads (AdWords) account, open the campaigns report → the Segment button above the report → Network (with search partners).
Is the conversion cost for Search Partners lower than for network? Great, let’s have it!
Are conversion rates close to zero and clicks just taking away your budget? Better to turn the partners off.
Make all decisions data-driven, base it on numbers – and only then it will benefit the business.
By default, ads are shown on all devices, so we analyze the performance of individual devices. To do this, go to the Devices tab.
FREE audit of Google Shopping campaigns – leave your request to get step-by-step report and plan for optimization to boost your store!
As you can see on the screenshot above, in our case mobile devices perform poorly. You can lower the bids (set an adjustment) or completely disable the display of ads on mobile devices.
From our experience, most websites simply are not mobile-friendly. Therefore, first, you need to do website optimization, and then set up advertising.
Make sure your campaigns are shown in a location where the business can provide services. Check geographic data statistics. Perhaps some areas have good results, while others, on the contrary, are not effective. This data will help you prioritize your geo-targeting correctly.
Location target types
Remember when auditing the Google Ads account about the location settings. By default, ad serving for people with “the places they’ve shown interest in”.
One caution: often this setting does not work correctly. Campaigns get a lot of impressions and clicks from people in irrelevant locations. For example, campaigns from the United States receive impressions in India and Pakistan, when the company does not provide shipping outside of the US.
To view statistics by location, go to User location report.
This report should always be viewed when you see a geotargeting setting in a campaign, using the setting “Reach people in, regularly in, or who’ve shown interest in, your targeted locations (Presence or Interest)”. And if your concerns are confirmed, switch it to targeting on people who are in or regularly visit your targeted locations.
Another step in auditing your Google Ads account is to make sure that your target audience is set up correctly considering its language. Previously, Google determined the language based on the language of the interface of Google products (Search, email, etc). Now the analysis has become more efficient and includes the interface language, request history, and other data, which allows producing a more accurate result.
You can’t say unequivocally that some bidding strategies are more efficient than others – everything should be tested.
Each strategy has its own advantages. Therefore, in this section of the settings, look at the results of advertising campaigns, and it will already help you understand what other strategies you can try.
Each account must have at least 3 extensions for ads. For almost every account, you can add extensions with a phone number, callouts, and sitelinks. If you can add more, great!
On the one hand, ad extensions help us make the ad more attractive to the user, and on the other, they increase the ranking of ads for Google.
When you audit an advertising campaign and see no extensions there, this is another point to your proposal for optimization.
Rotation of ads
Rotation is useful for a/b testing of any hypotheses about your ads. For most accounts, the suitable rotation type is Optimize: it shows the most effective ads. In this case, for correct testing, you need the “Rotate ads indefinitely” setting.
Automatic rules, scripts, adjustments
This is something that is often overlooked when PPC auditing. We set up ads, but suddenly everything changed – magic! We set up again, everything changed again. When auditing your account, immediately check your automatic rule settings, installed scripts, and adjustments, ’cause they can cause you a lot of troubles if unidentified.
Quality of targeted traffic
To analyze the quality of targeted traffic, evaluate keywords, match types, search terms, negative keywords, and key-level quality scores.
Analyze the keywords in each campaign for a complete PPC account audit. Make sure to add only relevant keywords for this business. If your keywords have a fairly high CTR, but few conversions, this is a wake-up call: the terms may be irrelevant.
Inappropriate and ineffective keywords that waste budget, don’t bring conversions, should be included in the list of negative keywords. If the keywords work fine and consistently bring clicks and conversions, they can be placed in a separate group (if you have chosen the SKAg principle). Use the Alpha / Beta approach to test and choose on which keywords to focus.
You can automate PPC tasks through the Hub of PPC Tools (Komondor PPC Software). This is a set of tools for collecting keywords, negative keywords, checking the loading speed; and more. All tools are made by the Penguin-team with the participation of PPC specialists. Check it out, it’s free!
Analyzing Keyword Match Types
Another must-have when conducting the Google Ads PPC audit. By default, a broad match type is assigned to all keywords. This drives more traffic but significantly worsens the conversion rate, as visitors can come to the website for search queries that are very loosely related to your topic.
Therefore, the broad match must be used very carefully.
There are many strategies for using different match types. Most campaigns use the broad match modifier.
Analysis of search queries
The search terms report is one of the most important for the audit of Google Ads campaigns:
- it helps to assess the quality of traffic;
- shows inappropriate search terms;
- shows well-performing queries that can be added to the keyword list.
Branded search terms
Make sure you have your branded queries under control. Not in every case, it is worth using them, but if suddenly competitors use your brand queries for their sales, then you should definitely fight for the first position.
Negative keywords audit
Check for negative keywords. Is there any? Well, that’s promising. You may need to add more – you will now in from the search terms report. If you see a lot of irrelevant terms in the tab while PPC auditing, then it’s time for exclusion.
We also recommend that you check your current negative keyword lists to ensure that all negative keywords are relevant and are not cutting off some of the traffic you might use.
Keyword Quality Score Analysis
First, add the proper columns to the statistics report. To do this, go to the Keywords page → Columns → select Quality Score from the list.
For most keywords, you’ll see a Quality Score from 1 to 10.
Keywords with a quality score below 5 require optimization. Divide the keywords into more relevant groups, write appropriate headings for ads and possibly change the match type. You can also track the quality score for keywords using the QS tracker script, which makes it easier to track the dynamics of change.
We mentioned that Quality Score affects an ad’s ranking, which in turn affects the cost per click and the position at which the ad will appear in the search results. Therefore, optimizing the quality score is a very important part.
We also recommend checking the quality score of the account as a whole (also graded from 1 to 10). It will help you understand whether you need to create a new account or continue to work better in an existing one: if the value is 6+, everything is fine, if it is below 5 or less, it is better to create a new account. It’s easier to achieve a good quality score in a new account than to try to improve it in an existing one.
Quality Score for the account and each word will be available after loading the QS tracker script: you will see the new Quality Score folder on Google Drive for the same email as for the Google Ads account.
The following signs can become an omen for you to work on your overall account.
Check out the Change history report to see how much work is actually being done in your account. If this is your account, then the collected data will not be of great interest. But if you are auditing someone else’s account, these numbers will be useful to see the big picture and track if someone interrupting the work.
IP exclusions – account audit
In order not to show ads to company employees and to prevent click fraud (fake clicks target pay-per-click ads), it is better to check if some audience is excluded by IP.
If not, you should create a separate audience by adding employees’ IP addresses to it and exclude it.
Final checklist of Google Ads audit
- Conversion tracking accuracy and the following metrics:
- conversion volume;
- Account structure:
- the number of advertising campaigns in the account;
- the number of active advertising campaigns in the account at the time of the audit;
- how the campaigns are structured, what is the logic behind them.
- Campaign structure:
- the number of keywords in the group;
- the number of ads in the group;
- types of ads in the group;
- quality of landing pages.
- Campaign settings:
- type of campaign;
- network search partners;
- location variations;
- bidding strategy;
- ad extensions;
- rotation settings;
- automatic rules;
- bid adjustments.
- Traffic quality:
- match types;
- search terms;
- branded terms;
- negative keywords;
- keyword quality score.
- Additional checking:
- Change history;
- IP exclusion.
Yeah, that is one heck of the list for Google Ads audit. Don’t forget to share it with colleagues and use it to make sure that nothing is left out of sight!
Need to audit Google Shopping campaigns? Drop us a message and we’ll do it for you!