They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but since I prefer oranges, I recently found myself at the local GP’s office. As I settled into my chair opposite the doctor’s desk he asked, “So… how is everything going?”
Overall, I was feeling pretty good aside from some days where I would struggle with fatigue towards the latter part of the day. Upon conducting some blood tests, it was revealed that I was in fact suffering from a Vitamin D deficiency – a prime reason behind my recent struggles with my mid-afternoon fatigue and perhaps symptomatic of too many Netflix binges!
Put simply, my body was not operating at 100% efficiency and by addressing this deficiency, I was able to unlock new levels of energy, efficiency, and overall performance both in the workplace and in my social life. The experience reminded me of the importance of regular maintenance to ensure everything is operating at optimal levels with maximum efficiency.
You may be wondering… how does this all relate to Google Ads?
Like the human body, an active Google Ads campaign is a complicated beast with a multitude of factors that dictate overall performance. Whilst you don’t need to be a qualified Doctor in order to carry out regular check-ups, it is critical that you conduct periodical maintenance on your campaigns in order to ensure you’re achieving the very best results possible. This process is known as optimisation and can be the difference between good and GREAT results.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is via Google Ads Audits – a detailed optimisation process which helps to measure key metrics to ensure you’re spending your pay-per-click (PPC) marketing budget efficiently and effectively based on your specific conversion goals.
This article will not only explain the benefits behind conducting a Google Ads Audit, it will also outline the exact process involved in implementing this technique across your campaigns to help improve performance, lower Cost Per Click (CPC) costs and improve Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) metrics.
Table of Contents
Objectives Of This Guide
The objective of this article is to help you understand:
- How to conduct a full Google Ads audit to improve the ongoing performance of your campaigns, helping to ensure you are achieving an optimal return on investment (ROI).
- The value and benefit of regular optimisation and ongoing analysis when competing with Google Ads within a competitive landscape.
- Which key metrics you should focus on when optimising your campaigns, as well as vanity metrics which are irrelevant to your ongoing performance.
By the end of this article you will learn:
- How to develop an effective Google Ads strategy that will help you generate maximum engagement and conversions aligned to your business goals.
- The ability to efficiently pin-point areas of opportunity for growth and improvement when conducting an in-depth analysis of your current campaigns.
- Identify specific campaign metrics that can be tweaked in order to stretch your advertising dollars further, helping you to remain competitive against other companies on Google advertising within your space.
What’s The Problem?
Like the case with my ad hoc trip to the local doctor, companies often aren’t keeping a close enough eye on the health of their Google Ads campaigns.
Businesses often run campaigns on autopilot once they have been set up, failing to schedule regular maintenance to ensure optimal peak performance at all times and presuming that Google’s automated strategies will take care of it.
If you’re spending budget on PPC campaigns, it is easy for your marketing dollars to melt away through inefficiencies, and without a detailed understanding of which metrics to focus on, you can find yourself generating fewer conversions for a higher cost, alongside a raft of missed opportunities.
Even if you are contracting your Google Ads campaign management out to an external marketing agency, there is a risk that agencies employ a “set-and-forget” approach that can quickly decay and cause campaign performance to plateau or even dip from a lack of ongoing maintenance and optimisation – not ideal considering these services are often not cheap!
Without a clear understanding of which metrics are paramount to campaign success, and those which are classified as “vanity metrics”, marketers can often find their campaigns are misaligned with their conversion goals, key performance indicators, and company objectives.
Failing to understand the value of efficient Google Ads optimisation can lead to your campaign suffering from a variety of performance issues, with some common issues including;
- Being regularly outbid by your competitors.
- Spending your campaign budget too quickly.
- Paying for expensive clicks which drain your budget without converting.
- Generating traffic from irrelevant visitors and sources.
- Losing a substantial amount of impression share (so your potential customers are seeing your competitors, not you!).
- and many more!
Why Does This Matter?
Google is constantly changing its algorithm to provide an improved search experience for users, placing a heavy reliance on regular campaign optimisation in order to generate the best results.
Whilst these changes can often be small and insignificant tweaks, larger updates can drastically affect Google Ads performance which can mean going back to the drawing board to adapt your campaign.
Outside of algorithm changes, there are a host of other reasons behind revisiting your campaigns to check if they’re operating at the level you were expecting (or that they could be!).
Changes are regularly being implemented to Google Ads which leave campaigns with features being deprecated. Recent examples include the release of new ad types and bidding strategies, as well as major changes to how Google uses match types.
Where campaigns might have previously been well set-up, regular changes in the competitive landscape can result in your campaign success and ROI suffering badly.
Market conditions, the way people search, and what they expect from a company, can also present missed opportunities if not regularly reviewed.
Through the strategic implementation of a detailed Google Ads Audit, marketers can unlock a vast array of benefits within their ongoing campaigns, including but not limited to;
- Discovering areas of inefficient advertising spend or wastage.
- Improving ongoing conversion rate optimisation.
- Outlining new areas of opportunity to extend or expand campaigns.
- Identifying detailed audience insights to refine campaign targeting.
- Confirming and proving various assumptions from ongoing results.
By understanding the levers and metrics that can achieve the above benefits, you can take back control of your campaigns and reduce wasted resources to get more out of your online lead generation strategy.
At Living Online, we run Challenger Campaigns to support companies who outsource their Google Ads activity to third parties, to ensure they are getting the best results from their investment. This also ensures all elements of the contract are being upheld and can provide a useful perspective into return on investment and value.
What’s The Solution?
If you’re pouring money into Google Ads but are unhappy with your results, or perhaps you’re just unsure if the results are really as good as they can be, the natural next step is to conduct a Google Ads audit – otherwise known as Google AdWords Audits or PPC Audits.
These intricate audits analyse a significant number of components that measure every aspect of your ongoing Google campaigns, helping to ascertain areas that need to be optimised, tweaked, or improved.
This includes analysing the structure and quality of your campaigns, your keyword and audience targeting and competitive analysis, as well as your bids, budgets, ad copy, and more.
We will now analyse the various components within a Google Ads Audit to explore the range of mandatory considerations, metrics, and outcomes that are generated during the exercise.
Do You Have An Efficient Campaign Structure?
Well, here’s where we begin. Critically analyse your campaign structure to ensure it has segmentation that allows for optimal allocation of budget across various keywords.
At the Campaign level, campaigns should be segmented by major differentiators including geographical location, the channels being utilised, business services, audience funnel (top of funnel vs bottom of funnel) and by performance (high converting vs low converting).
Meaningful naming conventions are incredibly important and should follow a clear method for identifying differentiating features, both in Google Ads and Analytics. By getting these ducks in a row from the start, it will allow for continuous review, adjustment, and improvement, without needing to recreate, duplicate or otherwise.
The Importance Of Keywords
Keywords are key! Key to your ads being found by your intended audience that is. They should be highly relevant to the product/service being offered, and specific. In terms of keyword match types, campaigns should feature a mix of exact match and phrase match. The latter of which saw changes in early 2021 that had them expand to also include broad match modified keyword match types.
Broad match keywords can be useful to gather data needed by Google for optimisation. However, in general these should be ignored particularly for campaigns with small budgets where every dollar needs to go towards the keywords most likely to convert.
These keywords should be utilised interdependently in a way that allows the campaign to focus budget on the most highly profitable keywords and their match types, while at the same time enabling the campaign to capture relevant search queries with an efficient campaign structure.
Here are some tips on how to optimise your campaign keywords:
- Make sure your keyword strategy is relevant and specific. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what users at each stage of the funnel (top vs bottom) would search for.
- Use search term reports to see what keywords need to be added and use tools to find new relevant keywords like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Google Keyword Planner.
- Regularly review keywords and cull if they are spending, but not resulting in high-quality leads (e.g. if you have limited budget, your strategy may be to spend it all on keywords promoting your high ROI products and services).
- Ensure that all undesirable search terms are applied as negative keywords.
- Regularly revisit the keywords you are targeting, as your budget can quickly be absorbed by less relevant keywords.
Analyse Your Ads – In Isolation
When critiquing your ads, in the first instance, its recommended to firstly analyse them in isolation from your competition, with your digital marketing and business objectives clearly in focus.
Do this by ensuring keywords are directly relevant to the ads themselves and are aligned throughout the user experience. Be sure to include an optimum number of ads per ad group to enable effective split-testing optimisation by Google’s algorithm, and make use of expanded text and responsive search ad formats.
Also consider whether the text within the ads need to be updated. Ask:
- Are there new call to actions which can be added, such as lead magnets or a new live chat service?
- Are there additional benefits that can be called out in the ads since they were last reviewed?
- What insights have you gained from your other marketing efforts and customer feedback that you can incorporate into your ads?
- Is your spelling and grammar absolutely bang on?
Analyse Your Ads – In The Marketplace
Next up, look at your ads amongst your competitors and market. Your ads are a direct reflection of your brand, website, people, and product or service, making it critical that the following aspects meet your own digital objectives, but also stand apart from competitors.
Analysing what your competitors are including in their ads. Search for your high priority keywords in Google, and look at how your ad compares to your competitors.
Look at their headlines, descriptions, ad copy, landing pages, call to actions.
Ask yourself how can you make your ad stand out enough to attract potential customers who might otherwise click on your competitor’s ads? Don’t copy what they are doing, but instead, look to better their ads by making your own more persuasive and compelling.
Adding The Right Extensions
In October of 2013 Google modified the core Ad Rank calculation to include an ‘expected impact from your ad extensions and formats’. This marked a change-up from the previous policy, where CPC and Quality Score where the sole determinants in Ad Rank. As Search Engine Land stated, “Extensions and formats now play a role in the price you pay per click and in the position your ads display”.
As a result, it is recommended that a Google Ads account features as many extensions as possible, but only where appropriate and that add value to the business. Adding a single new ad extension improves CTR by 10-15% on average, so you can’t afford to leave them empty! (AdEspresso). Adding irrelevant extensions will hurt your CTR.
The types of extensions include the following, and when implemented should be optimised for mobile and adhere to the advertising policy for that particular extension.
- Sitelink extensions – for special offers or time-sensitive information
- Location extensions – for businesses with multiple locations
- Call extensions – where the business has location specific phone numbers
- App extensions – if the business is app-focused
- Callout extensions – to communicate additional features and benefits
- Structured snippet extensions – for use communicating pre-defined headings
- Message extensions – allow contact from mobile phones via text message
- Affiliate location extensions – suitable for listing relevant retail stores
- Price extensions – allow a multiple product or service showcase
- Promotion extensions – for promoting relevant sales and offers
- Lead form extensions – used to collect form data directly from the ad
Another huge reason for including ad extensions is that it makes your ad bigger! It stands out amongst others by taking up more space, providing more opportunity for your potential clients to act.
How Have You Set Up Your Targeting?
Audience targeting gives you the ability to show your ads to people with specific interests, namely, people who are interested in your products and services. The essential requirements that should be closely evaluated include:
- Location targeting
- Device targeting
- Channel targeting
- Language targeting
Also consider ‘targeting exclusions’ including; the exclusion of sensitive content, exclusion of domain placements with high CPA, audience exclusions in line with your campaign progression, and even IP exclusion when faced with exceptional circumstances like click fraud.
Targeting Via Campaign Channels
Targeting using different Google channels can be valuable to impact the intended audience with the right type of communication and content. It is important to review your channel mix regularly to ensure campaigns are optimised for marketing objectives as well as for regular Google updates.
There are a number of campaign types available, including Search, Display, Search Remarketing, Display Remarketing, and YouTube.
- Search Ads are hands down the most effective channel for reaching people who are demonstrating purchase intent when they type a transactional search term into Google Ads. There are multiple ad types available, including Expanded and Responsive Search Ads. As new formats are released regularly by Google, adjustments should be made to take advantage ASAP.
- Search List Remarketing Ads (RLSA) are also text ads that allow advertisers to amend content based on a searcher’s previous actions, with the aim of being more persuasive and progress users further in the buying funnel.
- The Google Display Network (GDN) is often less effective than Google Search given the ads are reaching people who are not demonstrating purchase intent. It can be effective provided performance is monitored for acceptable CPAs, specific websites are selected to target, and click fraud is monitored closely.
- Remarketing on GDN will generally have a higher CPA than other competing channels however, the CPM will generally be lower which makes it a strong choice for branding campaigns. It too is susceptible to the same click fraud issues as using the GDN.
- YouTube advertising can work well for products and services also benefiting from television advertising campaigns. The effective use of this medium is heavily dependent upon the quality of the video creative.
Double Check Your Bids And Budgets
Google Ads recommends advertisers take advantage of their automated bidding strategies, however, with great power come great responsibility right? Well in some cases, choosing the manual option to have control over your account can be extremely beneficial. Regularly review the bidding strategy being used and run experiments to see if alternatives would generate better results, leaving you to revel in your earlier decision.
Analysis of bids and budgets should include the following performance opportunities:
- What bid levels are being set for a new campaign and keyword visibility metrics?
- Are appropriate bid adjustment being applied to device type, genders, ages, household income, and placements, to target those more likely to convert?
- Are interactions being optimised, particularly call adjustment for mobile?
- Is conversion rate affected by location and are your bids adjusted accordingly?
- Is there seasonality in your business to be optimised for?
- Is ad scheduling in place, or should it be, to assist with budget allocation?
- Is budget segmentation implemented effectively?
- How are budget constraints affecting performance?
Benchmark And Measure Campaign Performance
Benchmarking campaigns provides a comparable starting point for analysis of performance. Changes and outcomes should be measured directly and recorded incrementally to see performance changes through progression.
Aspects that should be measured and reported include:
- Tracking Conversions and ensuring the highest value conversions are included and optimised for, including purchases and leads rather than newsletter signups – unless of course that is important for your business revenue model.
- Relying on Analytics Data. All accounts should have conversion actions active to track campaign results and for effective optimisation. Review the count, conversion window, and conversion value to determine if each is appropriate.
- Measuring General Performance (by campaign, ad group, and ad) should include Cost Per Acquisition, Conversion Rate, and Cost Per Conversion. Consider pausing, or allocating less budget, towards the ads, ad groups, and campaigns that have metrics that aren’t meeting expectations.
Examine Your Google Ads Performance
As important as it is that quality benchmarking and measurement are in place, it’s just as important to review your Ad performance for the metrics that can be analysed and improved. Evaluate these apples of wisdom:
- Quality Score – Google’s rating of the overall user experience that your ads and landing pages provide when users search for your keywords. By sorting and exporting the lower values, it will identify where improvement of landing page content is necessary.
- Click Through Rate (CTR) – helps you understand your customers and is a means of optimising what has been learnt.
- Top and Absolute Top metrics – replaced Average Position Score in 2019 and provide a clear view of where ads appear on search pages. With these, improve the location of your ads and determining if bidding or ad rank should be adjusted.
- Click Share – Represented as a percentage, a metric that indicates how many clicks your ads received versus a Google estimate of how many clicks it could have had. It provides insight into how effectively your ads are engaging users compared to the competition.
Examine Your Website And User Experience
No matter how compelling your marketing, or how great your product or service is, if your website doesn’t reflect this and doesn’t convert, your business will be limited in its online success. With an underperforming landing page, your funnel may work, but the leaks in it mean that you need to pour much more into it, to get that all-important ‘dribble’.
A review of your website user experience can help and will ultimately contribute toward more successful Google Ads and more impactful spend. So ask:
- Is your website mobile friendly and easy to navigate across all devices and browsers?
- Is your website’s page loading time fast – especially on mobile?
- Is your landing page text compelling and provide the right information users would be looking for?
- How effective are your website Calls To Action?
- How do your website and landing pages stack up against your competitors?
- Is it time for a complete website redesign, or can you make easy and cost-effective tweaks to achieve your objectives?
- Are the call to actions on Google Ads aligned with the user’s stage of purchase intent?
Consider undertaking Conversion Rate Optimisation and User Experience audits of your landing page, and run experiments designed to identify improvements to these. As an example, an experimental change might be to address ‘buyer fears’ on landing pages, which has been reported to increase conversion rates by up to 80% (Hubspot).
Evaluate Competitor Bids And Performance
Where opportunities exist, a targeting strategy might be to bid on competitor brands. Research will allow keyword search volume to be identified and any trademark restrictions to be adhered to. Before doing this, identify any instances of competitors bidding on your own brand.
If there are none, it is important to decide whether or not you want to start a bidding war. By bidding on another brand, your competitors will likely retaliate and bid on yours, increasing the CPC for your brand name and potentially taking away ready-to-convert customers.
Aggressive approaches can be highly successful however, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each.
Refine And Expand Your Future Strategy
For continuous improvement, plan to review, refine, and look for further opportunities to improve the performance of your Google Ads.
Focus on improving Return On Ad Spend (ROAS), Return On Investment (ROI), Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)/ Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), and Effective Revenue Share (ERS) on a continual basis.
Continually explore ways to expand Google Ads through targeting new keywords, products and services, and locations.
Experiments are a great way to test a theory and letting the data decide. Use them to see what changes to ad copy, strategies, landing pages, and more, will provide you with the best possible results.
What Are The Benefits?
The process of conducting a Google Ads Audit can be time consuming and complicated. However, it is also one of the most effective ways of conducting deep analysis on your current campaigns to identify areas of opportunity, or to refine your existing activity to ensure all metrics are optimal and your budget is being spent efficiently.
You may have all your campaigns fully optimised for maximum conversions at efficient Cost Per Acquisition and balanced bids. If this is in fact so, an audit can provide reassurance and confidence that they are set up perfectly.
Whilst it’s possible your campaign requires zero changes, in reality, this is extremely rare due to Google’s highly dynamic landscape.
Campaigns consistently require tweaks and changes to achieve optimal results which enable you to get more “bang for your buck” from your advertising dollars.
With small adjustments, marketers can improve on key metrics like Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), Click Through Rate (CTR), which translate into better return on investment and ultimately help to improve the company’s bottom line.
Implementing A Google Ads Audit
As you can see from this article, there are an extensive number of factors to explore and analyse through a detailed Google Ads Audit.
This process requires a deep understanding and a significant investment in time and resource to acquire the data, however it can be critical to the future success of your campaigns, and indeed your business.
Once you have the data, the logical next step is implementing the suggested changes for your Google Ads to start dominating your competitors!
All of this can be done yourself by following the above guidelines, however companies often prefer to bring in third parties who speak fluent “Google” to ensure the job is efficiently executed.
Third party providers also offer the benefit of a non-biased, external approach to Google Ads audits, as companies can at times be too close to their campaigns which can lead to some elements being missed if done internally.
Ultimately, it is a good idea to trust the process to the professionals.
Let’s Supercharge Your Google Ads Today!
If you’re wanting to work with an award-winning team of search engine marketing experts with years of experience navigating the fluctuating waters of Google, we invite you to work with the Living Online team.
Our elite team of digital gurus understand the Google Ads landscape, with a deep knowledge of getting the most out of our clients’ budgets. Further to this, our list of numerous digital marketing awards has positioned us as one of Perth’s leading digital agencies, so you know you’re in good hands.
We’ve worked with companies of all shapes and sizes and welcome the opportunity to work with you on optimising your Google Ads campaigns so they stand out from your competitors, without draining your marketing budgets unnecessarily.
If this sounds like a logical next step, gather your Google Ads login details and contact us to begin a discussion around how we can help your business.