By: Chris Gregory
If your PPC campaigns have been under-performing you might start getting worried about where your money is going and how much you’re wasting. If your campaigns aren’t performing up to par, we have some bad news: money that could have been in your pockets may have gone to your competitors.
It’s not all bad news though, the good news is there are several opportunities you can take advantage of to improve and maximize your campaigns. Here’s a quick guide on how to maximize your PPC campaigns with a strategic audit.
#1 Be Clear About Original Goals
Before starting your PPC audit, make sure you’re crystal clear about the goals you set when you first launched your campaigns, along with the strategies you implemented. Now, open your Google Ads account, select a campaign, and set your date range to the last 30 days.
For each of these steps, it will be assumed that you’re in a specific campaign with that date range set.
#2 View Your Change History
You can now select the change history link, located on the left side of the navigation bar. This allows you to see when changes have been made to your campaign; the type of change; and who made it. This should be the first place you review during your PPC audit to gain context. When you do this, be careful not to accidentally click or undo any recent changes because this could have a negative impact on the campaign.
#3 Manage Your Conversion Tracking
This data is crucial, allowing you to accurately determine your cost-per-lead or cost-per-acquisition figures. To view it, select the tools icon in the upper right corner; then, under the management section, select conversions to see your goals.
As part of this, make sure that all of your conversions are being tracked. Each landing page, for example, needs to have the appropriate conversion devices. These can include phone numbers and contact forms, with each URL having the right tracking scripts embedded.
#4 Review Your Network Settings
These are key for accurate data collection, vital for costs-per-lead. To view and manage these settings, pick the settings link; click on networks to expand it; and then opt out of these networks to make sure both boxes are unchecked.
Best practices dictate that display campaigns should be kept separate from search campaigns because this allows you to more effectively manage costs. Test your search partners option at the cost-per-lead level; this will help you to see if it’s performing as well as managed campaigns.
#5 Protect Your Budget with Targeting
This control can protect your budget from clicks outside of your target area, allowing you to focus ad spend on clicks more likely to convert.
To review this, choose settings and then click locations to expand it.
Review the targeted locations. Are they geographically accurate for your campaign? Now, expand the locations option by clicking on it and, under target, make sure you’ve chosen the middle option: people in your targeted locations. Under exclude, make sure you’ve picked the top option: people in, or who show interest in, your excluded locations.
When you make these selections, you’ll have greater control over who sees your ads, making your overall ad spend more effective.
#6 Audit Your Campaign Structure and Relevance
From keyword selection to landing page text, Google Ads is all about relevance. All campaigns, for example, should have appropriate keyword segmentation and well-defined ad groups, optimized for core products and/or services that align with your company’s targeted cost-per-lead goals.
To view your campaign structure and relevance, expand the ad groups and then, within an ad group, select the link for keywords. Review that list for similarity.
Now, choose ads and then extensions. Review ad copy, referring to the keywords in the list and checking for accuracy and spelling.
Ideally, the keywords you select will drive the construction of your ad group. It should then carry through to the Google Ad copy and the corresponding landing page. You can find more information about reviewing your keywords in a PPC audit.
#7 Enable Extensions
Although extensions used to be considered nice add-ons to your campaign, they’re a have-to-have for good ad rank today.
To see which ones you’ve enabled, select the ad and extensions link, then the extensions tab. There are plenty of options to select from and your campaigns should have a core set enabled.
#8 View Average Positions
During this part of your PPC audit, it’s all about finding the sweet spot—meaning for click-through rates and conversions. This is crucial for your cost per lead and, if optimizing for position is mismanaged, then it can be quite costly for your campaign. This is especially true with mobile devices where, if your ads aren’t near the very top, then they likely aren’t being seen or interacted with.
To audit this part of your PPC campaign, expand the ad groups. Is the average position column showing select columns? If no, choose to modify columns; then click performance; and then choose the checkbox of avg. pos. Apply.
You can segment by device and see the average position across all devices; you can then choose segment, by device, and review average position for each device.
#9 Use Negative Keyword Lists
These are important to have to help prevent unwanted clicks, and there are two different places to look for negative keyword lists because you can add and apply negative keywords at the individual ad group level or apply them as lists and then share across multiple campaigns.
To review them in a list, look to the top of the interface and then select the tools icon. Then choose the negative keywords list link, and you’ll be able to see all the available lists. Or, you can select keywords and then negative keywords from the navigation.
What if you don’t see negative keywords in either place? If so, then you don’t really have controls in place to manage errant clicks other than match types, which is a costly oversight.
#10 Don’t Forget Automation
When you take advantage of automation, you can lower click costs and improve production. You can benefit from using built-in rules for campaign management or create your own scripts to maintain ad position. To view your automation, click on the tools icon in the upper right corner. Then choose measurement, then rules, then scripts.
Now, What’s Next?
Now that you’ve conducted your PPC audit, you’ve likely found items to fix, items to improve.
And, if the list is of any significant length, then it’s time to prioritize that list, first focusing on items that are budget wasters. What is contributing to high costs per leads? Put those near the top. After you’ve taken care of the big items, then you can focus on the less critical but still important items to reduce waste even further.
In some cases, you might discover that your campaigns need even more significant changes, such as regrouping of keywords, revamped messaging and landing pages, and so forth—which may mean you need a complete overhaul. In that case it may be best to get a fresh set of eyes to look at your data. The best place to start is by contacting dedicated PPC consultants to help you audit and optimize your campaigns for the best results.
Chris Gregory is the founder and a managing partner of DAGMAR Marketing, an award-winning SEO agency based in Jacksonville, Florida. DAGMAR‘s work was recently recognized in Search Engine Land’s international search marketing competition, garnering the Best Local SEO Initiative award.