It takes money to make money. At least, that’s what “they” say. But making money shouldn’t take too much money, right? Or else what’s the point?
If you’re doing business online, one of the most effective and essential ways to make money is with Google Ads (also known as Google Adwords). How essential is it? Well, to put it simply, if you don’t have a Google Ads account, you might as well not be doing business online at all.
Yes, it really does make that much of a difference.
Of course, like any good tool, Google Ads isn’t free. This is where that whole “it takes to make money” principle comes into play. Google Ads allows companies to bid on certain keywords relevant to their business, competing with other companies over whose ad is displayed when users search those keywords.
It’s not always easy finding the perfect balance. You have to pick the right keywords and bid the right amount to ensure your ads are shown, while at the same time minimizing your cost in order to maximize profit from conversions. Optimizing a Google Ads campaign to decrease ad spending and increase ROI requires you to know that campaign inside and out, backward and forwards.
There’s no better way to do this than with a Google Adwords audit.
Benefits of Performing a Google Adwords Audit
Before I tell you how to audit a Google Ads campaign, I think it’s worth taking the time to explain the reasons why you should audit Google Adwords, the advantages that doing it provides, and the effect it can have on the success of your business.
To put it in the most fundamental terms, a Google Adwords audit helps you better understand how your current PPC strategy is performing. What are its strengths and weaknesses? What are its limitations? Where might there be missed opportunities, and how can you properly capitalize on those opportunities?
Below, I’ve put together a lengthy (but by no means exhaustive) Google Adwords audit checklist to take you through the most important features and functions of a Google Adwords account audit. Making these items a regular part of your audits (which itself is something you should be doing regularly) can help you to do the following:
- Evaluate ad performance
- Edit ad copy based on performance
- Track conversions to evaluate ad efficacy
- Translate conversion rate into ROI
- Optimize keyword use and bidding
- Reduce non-converting ad spend
- Increase relevance for user intent
- Identify opportunities for growth
- Gauge audience engagement levels
The Essential Google Adwords Audit Checklist
If you want to know how to audit a Google Ads campaign, you’ve come to the right place. Google Adwords is a complex system whose complexities and capabilities aren’t easy to assess at a glance. That can make it intimidating for those who aren’t already deeply familiar with how the system works.
In order to be as helpful as possible, the Google Adwords audit checklist below focuses first and foremost on the most essential items that should definitely be looked at anytime you perform a Google Adwords audit. I’ve also written the checklist to be as direct and easy to follow as possible.
That said, if you need further help or more information, don’t hesitate to contact LSEO directly. Our mission is to help businesses of all shapes and sizes to streamline and supercharge their digital marketing efforts. Let us put our expertise to work for you!
The first thing you should do when beginning your Google Adwords audit is to double-check your campaign settings. To do this, direct your attention to the lengthy sidebar menu dominating the left-hand side. In the lower third, you should see a tab labeled “Setting.” Click on it.
This will cause the tab to expand into a secondary submenu that includes another tab labeled “Campaign Settings.” Click on it.
In the central pane, you will be presented with a list of all your Google Ads campaigns. Scroll through it until you find the one whose settings you want to check or edit. Clicking the campaign name should then bring you to a new window with all of the campaign’s settings available for review.
There sure are a lot of them, aren’t there?
It’s a lot to sift through. So much so that, when you start a new campaign, it’s tempting to leave all the settings on Google’s default choices. If you do that, however, you’re not taking full advantage of the system’s capabilities. In fact, the only one getting taken advantage of here… is you.
You’re paying Google to use its advertising features. Any corners you cut, such as not tweaking the campaign settings to more precisely meet your needs, results in money lost by you and gained by Google. Your Google advertising budget is supposed to boost your ROI, not Google’s bottom line.
Look at the list of settings in the screenshot above one more time. You have control over all of that. That puts a lot of power into your hands. Take some time to go through each of the different settings, to get to know the different options available to you, and to choose the one that serves you best.
Now that we’ve gotten warmed up, let’s take a look at the real meat of any Google Adwords account audit: the ads themselves. Google’s ad formats have evolved a lot since the system was launched back in 2000, but that doesn’t mean the companies that use Google Ads have evolved along with them.
In 2017, Google ceased support for Standard Text Ads. Earlier this year, Google announced that it would no longer allow for the creation or editing of Expanded Text Ads. Despite both of these being long obsolete formats, you might be surprised to learn how many businesses still used them.
As of 2022, Responsive Search Ads (or RSAs) have become the default format for text ads on Google Adwords. If you’re one of those companies that have been clinging onto Standard to Expanded Text Ads, then you’ve got some catching up to do. Don’t worry; LSEO is here to help.
RSAs are ads capable of adapting themselves to accommodate a variety of different users using different search terms with different search intents. With RSAs, you can enter multiple headlines and descriptions, the various combinations of which Google will automatically test to find the ones most relevant to users.
This means that, instead of spending oodles of time and money on dozens of ads with small but significant differences, you can instead create a handful of ads capable of shapeshifting to meet the needs of potential customers. The versatility and effectiveness of RSAs make them a significant improvement over older formats. However, it also creates a slight barrier to entry for those who aren’t yet familiar with RSAs.
If you’re still using Standard or Expanded Text Ads, you don’t have to upgrade them to RSAs… but I would strongly recommend doing that. At the very least, RSAs are the new normal going forward, so it’s important that every ad group has at least one.
You can create an RSA the same way you would create any other ad. Select your campaign from the dropdown menu in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, then go down to “Ad Groups” in the sidebar and select the ad group you want to put the RSA in. Then, click on the “Ads” tab under “Ads & Extensions.”
Click the “+” button and select “Responsive Search Ads” from the list of available ad formats.
This will take you to a page for creating and editing RSAs.
When creating an RSA, remember that Google will be testing all possible combinations of headline and description, so the more copy you feed it the more likely users are to see a relevant ad that drives conversion. You can include up to 15 headlines and up to 4 descriptions, so don’t just do the bare minimum; make full use of the tools you’re given.
Another important thing to consider when running down your Google Adwords audit checklist is ad eligibility. Ads have to be reviewed and approved by Google before they can actually run. There are a number of reasons why an might be disapproved by Google, and there’s also the possibility that your ads will be limited by budget, bidding target, or policy.
To find out if you have any campaigns with disapproved ads, navigate to the “Campaigns” window pane via the left-hand sidebar, then check the “Status” column. When conducting a Google Adwords audit, resolving any issues with ads that have been disapproved should always be a priority.
Next up on our Google Adwords audit checklist: keywords.
Before anything else, it’s a good idea to take a look at your Search Terms Report. To do this, direct your cursor to the tab in the left sidebar menu that reads “Keywords.”
Click “Keywords,” then click “Search terms” to get your Search Terms Report.
An important note: in the digital marketing industry, people sometimes use the phrases “search terms” and “keywords” interchangeably. While it’s true the two concepts are inextricably linked, search terms are different from keywords in one very important way.
Simply put, keywords are precise words or phrases targeted by a business in a PPC campaign. Search terms, meanwhile, are the words users type into the search box that actually trigger your ads to display.
In a perfect world, these two things would overlap 1 to 1. In real life, however, it doesn’t always work that way. You could very well be losing money paying for ads shown to users whose search intent is completely irrelevant to your business.
The Search Terms Report is a comprehensive list of which search terms users are typing to trigger your ads. This is a good way of identifying irrelevant search terms that could be costing you big money with zero ROI. For instance, if you’re in the business of selling hot sauce online, but your ads are repeatedly triggered by users searching for tips on how to grow peppers, that’s a serious problem.
Once you’re done looking at your Search Terms report, direct your cursor to the tab in the submenu right above, “Negative keywords.”
Negative keywords are valuable tools that too few companies utilize. They enable you to better zero in on the keywords you’re trying to target, while weeding out irrelevant search traffic. Using the data from your Search Terms report, you can now add negative keywords to your campaign. This will tell Google not to display your ads for irrelevant search terms, saving you a lot of money in the process.
Adding negative keywords is easy. Simply click the “+” button in the upper left corner of the negative keywords pane.
This will bring you to a new page where you can add negative keywords to your campaign manually. You can also create or reuse a preexisting list of negative keywords that you created earlier.
Making sure your ads are seen by the right people is important. Making sure those ads are successfully driving conversions is even more important. That’s where Conversion Tracking comes in. An exceptionally useful Google Adwords audit tool, Conversion Tracker shows you in hard data what is and isn’t working.
As with keywords and search terms, keep in mind that there’s a crucial difference between ad clicks and website conversions. Just because a lot of users are clicking on your ads doesn’t mean they’re actually taking the next step (this usually means making a purchase, but depending on your business it could also mean scheduling an appointment, requesting a quote, or submitting their contact information).
Conversion Tracker enables you to keep a headcount of specific conversion actions, as well as which ads are facilitating those actions. There are actually a wide array of conversion types you can track, including purchases, buttons, form-fills, app installations, phone calls, and more.
Tracking conversions is one the most important things you can do with Google Ads, and thus should be a critical part of any Google Adwords account audit. If you’re not already using the Conversion Tracker, here’s what you need to do:
First, find the “Tools and Settings” button in the horizontal menu bar located in the upper right of Google Ads.
Click it, then find the “Conversion” tab under the “Measurements” submenu.
If you’re not already tracking conversions, you will be taken to a page that looks like this:
Click the blue button labeled “New conversion action.” You will then be presented with multiple options regarding the kinds of conversions you want to track.
This is a good time to evaluate what conversion actions you consider worthy of tracking and which ones are irrelevant. Just because an action is trackable, doesn’t mean it’s valuable. If you’re an ecommerce company, you’ll probably want to focus on purchase actions first and foremost. Tracking other conversions, however, can tell you a lot about the people coming to your website and how they interact with your content.
Once you have Conversion Tracking set up, check in on it often. Performing a Google Adwords audit isn’t something you should do just once, but regularly. The kinds of conversion actions you prioritize now might not be the same later.
Pro-tip: Keep an eye on your ad conversion repeat rates. Every conversion has a repeat rate, with a repeat rate higher than 1 indicating that you’re tracking multiple conversions from a single ad click. If you’re an ecommerce business where a single customer might make separate multiple purchases, that’s great. In other cases, though, the conversions you’re tracking might not properly square with the amount you’re actually receiving.
Audit Google Adwords the Right Way! Call LSEO Now
The Google Adwords audit checklist above is just a small taste of all the features you can (and should) utilize to ensure your ROI is as high as possible while keeping your CPA as low as possible. There’s a lot more I could get into (and I probably will in a future blog post): impressions, ad groups, ad extensions, landing pages, A/B testing, quality scores, etc.
The truth is you could easily fill a book with tips and tricks for how to audit a Google Ads campaign properly. Google Ads is a big, powerful, sometimes unwieldy beast. If you have the knowledge and resources to harness it fully, it can be a game-changer for your company.
Chances are, though, unless you’re an experienced digital marketing professional already, you probably don’t have the knowledge and resources required. That’s okay, because LSEO does.
Here at LSEO, it’s our job to know the ins and outs of the Google Ads system, so you don’t have to. If you’re looking for high-quality, professional PPC or SEO marketing help, look no further. LSEO is the marketing agency for you.
Contact us today!