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Investigate These 10 Factors During Your PPC Audit

PPC ads underperforming? Seeing inconsistent results? Worried about wasted ad spend? Uncover issues and opportunities for improvement with our PPC audit checklist. Get started with our top tips below.

Jan 16, 2024

8 m read

A pay-per-click (PPC) audit lets you fine-tune your paid marketing strategy, discovering what’s working well or needs recalibration. However, there are many elements to a successful audit. Understanding each factor can help make the process easier, setting you up for improved returns from your marketing efforts.

What Is a PPC Audit?

A PPC audit is an in-depth analysis of your pay-per-click campaigns meant to uncover obstacles impacting campaign performance and find opportunities for improvement.

Some things you might look at when you audit PPC campaigns include:

  • Keywords: Which keywords perform well and which need improvement or removal? Both positive and negative keywords factor into an effective campaign, and you should scrutinize each during an audit.
  • Ad Groups: Are ad groups thematically similar and well-organized? Relevancy is one of the most critical aspects of the Quality Score in Google Ads.
  • Ad Copy: Can you optimize your content further to improve clicks and conversions? Even if many people view your ads, your ROI will be low if they don’t act on what they see.
  • Landing Pages: Once visitors reach your site, how many then become customers? Often, the message of your landing page is vital to improving conversions, so an audit should take a detailed look at landing page performance metrics.
  • Budget and Bidding: Are you overspending? While automatic and manual bidding can both work, it’s essential to closely examine where your budget is going during an audit, as this can reveal opportunities to optimize your return.

Why Are PPC Audits Important?

The occasional PPC audit is crucial to the success of your paid marketing strategy, but why exactly? Ultimately, it comes down to one key thing — optimizing your return on investment.

Audits help pinpoint areas of underperformance you might otherwise miss because they look at everything at once. This gives you a better idea of how elements of your campaign work together — or don’t — allowing you to make decisions that will save you money.

A PPC campaign audit can also help:

  • Improve Market Adaptation: As the market changes, so should your campaign. Audits help you meet your audience’s needs and adapt swiftly to algorithm updates that determine where your ads appear.
  • Enhance Ad Relevance: Audits reveal reasons why ads might underperform, both by elucidating the metrics behind these units and comparing them against high-performing ads. These performance metrics can help you improve ad relevance and raise your Quality Score.
  • Refine Targeting: An audit can help you uncover information about your target demographic. After you extrapolate the targeting of your best ads, the information you gain can help you reach customers who are more likely to convert.
  • Asses Policy Compliance: Ads need to follow specific guidelines, which change over time. Factoring this compliance into your audit can help you stay ahead of the curve.

When Should You Run a PPC Audit?

A paid search audit takes time and may not always be ideal for your optimization needs. While the reasons you might consider one will depend significantly on the individual campaign, one rule of thumb you might follow is to consider an audit whenever a problem necessitates a comprehensive look at your entire account.

For example, an audit is one of the best optimization techniques if you have many underperforming keywords or low conversion rates across your entire account. Often, this broad underperformance isn’t due to any one specific thing – it’s indicative of a larger problem. An audit is likely to uncover what you need to change.

Another excellent time to run an audit is if your business or marketing goals change. Typically, your PPC campaign will reflect your goals from the ground up. To improve brand awareness, you’ll want to use different keywords, ad copy, and landing pages than you would use to sell a specific product.

Finally, a change in consumer behavior can also trigger the need for an audit. This kind of shift requires broad changes in your PPC campaign that would be difficult to implement in stages.

How To Conduct a PPC Audit With Google Ads

Ready to do a campaign deep dive? Follow these steps to complete a simple Google Ads audit.

1. Ensure You’re Tracking Conversions Correctly

Conversion tracking is essential if you want to analyze the performance of your PPC marketing, so the first step of any audit is to ensure everything is in order. Take a quick look at each goal and ensure it still matches your needs.

If you haven’t set up conversion tracking for a specific goal, simple URL tracking is easy to organize in Google Ads. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open your account and navigate to the ‘conversions’ tab under ‘goals.’
  2. Create a new website conversion action for a URL.
  3. Select what you want to track using the conversion goal matching your needs.
  4. Enter the Google tag into your website code manually, or use the available options for CMS, such as WordPress, if preferred.

2. Review Your PPC Account Structure

Google Ads has a hierarchical structure that makes managing your PPC marketing strategy easy. 

First, you have the account. Within your account, a campaign houses several ad groups of the same type, such as search or display ads, and each ad group holds thematically linked keywords. The last elements of account structure include ad copy and landing pages.

It’s generally simplest to start from the top during a PPC audit. Check account level settings first and ensure they match your needs. Next, dive into a campaign and check those campaign settings, such as goals, bid strategies, and targeted devices.

Ad groups require the most time during your audit, as you may need to prune ineffective keywords or add negative keywords to refine your strategy. Ensure all search terms are relevant to specific groups and your ad copy and landing pages also match.

3. Revisit Your Keywords

Keywords are the engine that drive your PPC campaigns, so it makes sense that you’ll need to spend a lot of time evaluating them during a PPC audit. 

For each of your keyword groups, look at specific metrics like:

  • Impressions, 
  • Cost-per-click (CPC), 
  • Click-through rate (CTR), and 
  • Cost-per-acquisition (CPA). 

Are particular keywords underperforming or blowing the competition away? Do some have high impressions but low CTR? Others have low impressions but high CTR? 

Look for these discrepancies to see if you have any keyword mismatches. This can happen when you bid on a keyword that doesn’t have a transactional search intent. You may get lots of impressions but very few clicks or conversions. 

Consider removing any keywords that don’t match the theme of a particular ad group, don’t align with your offering, or don’t have many conversions. You can use the Quality Score during optimization, as this rates a specific keyword’s relevancy, CTR, and overall effectiveness.

If possible, you should also add new long-tail keywords, branching off from high-performing terms to capitalize on previous success. You’ll need to perform PPC keyword research to find these phrases, which is one similarity between search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).

4. Review Negative Keywords

Once you’ve investigated how your keywords are performing, it’s time to take a look at your negative keywords. These are terms you don’t want to target, i.e., though you don’t want to show up in search for.

During the audit, think about the audience you’re currently reaching based on your high-performing keywords. Which customers don’t convert, and how can you filter these visitors out? Often, it’s as easy as adding a few new audience-specific negative keywords.

In Google Ads, you can add negative keywords at the campaign or ad group level. Simply navigate to the keywords tab, then to negative keywords, and select what you want.

5. Revise Keyword Match Types

A keyword’s match type determines how closely a user’s search must compare to your term. For example, an exact match requires the user to type the term word-for-word, but a broad match factors in potential synonyms, spelling mistakes, and other variations.

Phrase match, the last kind, is stricter than a broad match. However, it still targets additional keywords that have a similar meaning. Like negative keywords, you can adjust matching rules to hone keyword performance and eliminate traffic that doesn’t convert.

If you’re showing up for extraneous searches that don’t feel related to your keywords, exact match may help you better reach your audience. Though, beware, switching to it will also lower your impressions.

6. Check Your Targeting Settings

Google Ads lets you select specific targeting settings to fine-tune the audience you reach. Confirming these settings should be part of any PPC account audit checklist. 

To do this:

  1. Enter a campaign and navigate to the settings page.
  2. Check the location settings and target the specific countries or cities you want.
  3. Take a look at the audience settings and adjust for factors such as age, sex, and income.
  4. Adjust interest targeting within the audience settings.
  5. Check the device and network settings for further refinement.

As you’re doing this, consider your campaign performance. Could your performance improve by fine-tuning or opening up your targeting?

7. Take a Close Look at Your Ad Copy

Now it’s time to evaluate your ad copy — accessible through the ‘assets’ tab of your Google Ads dashboard. The headline is typically an excellent place to start. Is it engaging? Does it convince someone to keep reading the rest of the content? If not, enhance it and compare the results with A/B testing.

Next, take a look at the rest of the content. You generally want your message to be simple, concise, and easy to read. Plus, it should include your keyword. Ensure it extols the benefits of your product rather than simply describing it.

Finally, check the call-to-action (CTA). It should convince users to do something, and this message should be consistent with your landing page. If you have a deal, make sure to include that, too!

8. Reassess Ad Extensions

Ad extensions, also found in the assets tab, provide additional information and functionality for your ads. For example, a call extension can add a phone number to your ad, while an app extension lets users download an app. These are often incredibly beneficial to your customers and increase the chance of click-throughs.

Google Ads provides performance metrics for extensions. If any extensions aren’t performing, consider swapping them for different ones to capitalize on the available content space or simply remove them to see how your ads perform without them.

You should also review automated extensions. While convenient, you’ll occasionally need to check their accuracy. Manual extensions are typically better if you want consistent, targeted messaging or have specific goals.

9. Optimize Landing Pages

If you have a low quality score, your landing pages may be the culprit.

Landing pages generally work best when they convey similar messaging to your ad copy, as visitors reach these pages through your ads. When conducting a paid search audit, start by analyzing the consistency and quality of your pages. SEO and PPC actually share many quality metrics at this level, so the tactics you use when crafting a good article often translate to your landing pages.

Generally, you should simplify the content of landing pages whenever possible. Scannable, easy-to-read text, enhanced by the occasional image or video, can increase engagement. Bullet points are also king here.

End the message with a compelling CTA. Think about what you want your visitors to do, whether it be to call your business, buy a specific product, or sign up for your newsletter. After you complete all optimizations, evaluate the new landing page against the old one using A/B testing.

10. Reexamine Your Bidding Strategy

Google Ads offers several bidding methods, accessible through the ‘campaigns’ tab under ‘shared library’ and ‘bid strategies.’ Learning about each option can help you choose the one that best meets your business goals.

Once you get started, keep an eye on your spending and consider switching to manual bidding when you have enough data and experience to make the leap. If you’re worried about this hands-on approach, start by investing a portion of your budget first to test bids or adjust your bids based on locations, times of day, and other factors. Make sure you’re spending enough, though. I often see companies testing a strategy with a tiny budget. And while I understand the desire to protect your marketing funds, not investing enough in these tests may result in poor results that aren’t indicative of the test itself.

Bonus: Align With Your SEO Strategy

Did you know you can supercharge your PPC strategy by aligning it with your SEO strategy? Rather than siloing these two search-dependent marketing channels, consider unifying them into a search-first strategy to maximize their efficiency and effectiveness. Want to learn more? Schedule a free SEO consultation today.

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