DIY Google Ads audit – what, how and why.

PUBLISHED 24/05/2021

Google Ads are great for your business, right? It’s surprising how many business operators will nod along to this statement, yet will come up short when asked about the specifics...

Yes, Google Ads can deliver amazing benefits for your business, but unless you gain insight into what’s going on and make the necessary adjustments to optimise your activity, you could be wasting time and money. And the best place to start is with a Google Ads Audit.
A what now? Relax, this is something that you can do yourself. And if you’ve always just skirted around the edges of understanding Google Ads – like so many businesses in Australia – it’s also a learning experience that will give you a lot of insight into the areas where you can improve. Issues that don’t reveal themselves unless you care to dig into the details.
The what.
A Google Ads audit involves evaluating how effective your accounts are, focusing on any negative issues and fine-tuning so that you’re getting optimum performance from your activity. Can it be done just by pressing a button? Yes. And no. Although there are tools and services that claim to offer this type of easy functionality, the truth is that they are usually a ‘one size fits all’ offering that won’t take into account the many factors that make your business unique – such as its audience, goals and projected outcomes.
There’s nothing passive about a Google Ads audit, because of course it’s a research initiative that you’ll use to inform future business actions. Every audit needs a plan, so you must identify the areas you wish to review, note the status of each as you go and then create a hit list of the action you will need to take to address problems that you identify. Don’t be tempted to make changes as you identify concerns – it’s wise to complete every step of the audit, step back and formulate your action plan once you have all the information you set out to get, rather than taking a piecemeal approach.
The why.
No wise business operator invests time and money without first gaining full understanding of the situation at hand. Likewise, it never pays to set a plan in motion and then simply walk away. Google Ads, like any business undertaking, calls for understanding prior to the execution of a plan, after which regular reviews help keep you on track.
So before you jump in, what’s to be gained? A comprehensive Google Ads audit can identify areas where money is being wasted, reveal opportunities for growth, give insight into your audiences, validate business hunches you may have and aid ongoing management. In short, it’s a worthwhile process that shouldn’t be neglected.

Reviews, settings, groups and more – your Google Ads audit, one step at a time.
Most business tasks are best broken up into bite-sized chunks in a logical sequence, and your Google Ads audit is no different. Below is a summary in brief of how best to tackle your first audit.
Decide where you’re headed.
It’s good to have an agreed destination before you set off, so your first step is to consider the goals of your business and your account. You might have more than one conversion goal, so work out what your primary goals are and the performance outcomes you’re aiming for. Clear definition is key here. Set concrete conversion goals for your company as well as Google Ads, be sure you can track your performance beyond the ads themselves and decide whether there have been any changes in your target audience. If there are any grey areas at all, resolve them before taking the next step.
Take a look at your account structure.
If you’re a small business with a single product or service, reviewing your account structure can be remarkably simple. For more complex situations it always pays to have a hierarchy around which to structure your campaigns and ad groups. You can choose to organise them around business objectives, persona targets, product or service lines or even subject matter. There are no rules as such, but be sure to structure in a way that will give you control of fine details regarding bid, budget, ads and management.
The result you’re after is a group of campaigns that are easy to compare to one another and give logical, meaningful reporting for the ad groups within them. Also consider whether the campaigns represent the various campaign level segments such as geotargeting, campaign level bids, dayparting and campaign level budgets.
The setup – Campaigns and Accounts
Reviewing your account settings is a step that can be done quickly, and you can then move on. Well…until next time. Reviewing of account settings is a task that you’ll want to revisit regularly, comparing results to your audit and making adjustments accordingly. It’s not difficult, but it’s by no means is it a once-only job – think of this more as maintenance.
Prior to making any adjustments focused on improving performance, consider how appropriate your geographic targeting is, how appropriate your device targeting is, as well as the details of advanced location settings, bid strategy, budget and dayparting. Are they all the right fit, considering your goals? If you have dynamic search ads in place, are they being used in the right way, for appropriate reasons? Carefully considering every aspect of your settings is an investment in the accuracy and focus of your campaigns.
Ad Groups are not Keyword Groups
That’s ‘Ad Groups’ referring to a group of ads, rather than a group of keywords. It’s easy to confuse the two, but clearer if we pause to think about the human side of the process – what the searcher intends to achieve, and where we’re sending them to.
No business can afford to take their foot off the pedal simply because their keywords are on point. If the ads themselves, assets such as landing pages and quality scores are poor, conversions are never going to be spectacular.
When you’re conducting your audit, consider these aspects of your ad groups:
• Do they complement and augment one another?
• Are the max CPC’s set at the best possible level?
• Are your best ad groups getting enough of the budget?
• Do your ad groups have 10 or less keywords?
Keywords and the importance of big picture thinking
By their very nature, keywords tempt us to focus closely and look at fine details. But there’s a risk in this – we can fail to step back enough during our audit to see patterns and trends. When you do spot these patterns…stop. Note them, but don’t dive in and start implementing updates. This is an audit, remember? Updates can happen later, when you have a complete folio of the information that you need.
Always keep the relevant campaign in mind when you look at keywords, concentrating on the specific subject matter. Use those goals that you identified at the beginning of the audit as a measure of the intent of your keywords.
Don’t drown in detail when you’re faced with really big campaigns – you’ll get bogged down if you try to put each keyword under the microscope. Instead, pull out samples to help find patterns and problems. Sample, sort and learn.
Do you have keywords with low quality scores, or high impressions but no conversions at all? When you run a search query report, does it show up any keywords that are off-topic for the subject matter and conversion goals? Are there keywords that have a ‘no’ status for showing right now? Do they have give negative matches or conflicts when you want them to be running? And are there any terms that aren’t in line with the CPC, CTR, or conversion targets you’ve set? This is the perfect stage of the audit to be asking questions like these.
Don’t forget the Ads!
An easy, effective way to test Ads is to set up even rotation indefinitely and give each Ad Group two versions, let’s say ‘A’ and ‘B’. Check them at regular intervals, determine the winner and add a new ‘B’ version to the cycle. Simple.
While some businesses rely on Google’s algorithm to decide the ratio used to serve ads and perhaps make use of dynamic tools, leaving your system on cruise control is a bad idea.
When it comes time to audit ads, be sure to:
• Check if any ads have mid or low quality scores
• Look at whether your ads are using calls to action in their headlines
• Run two-ad variations in each ad group
• Use dynamic keyword insertion and test its performance against a static headline
Landing pages – partners in enhanced performance.
While landing pages aren’t in the same box as Google Ads, they can and do directly affect the performance of your Google Ads campaign and the metrics you see. They might not show up on quality scores, but analysing them is important nonetheless.
Consistency of wording and terminology is key to optimising conversion rates. Check for great headlines, calls to action, forms that work and dedicated tracking numbers. It’s also important to check the quality scores of ads linking to each landing page. Finally, you may choose to add extra landing pages or in fact cut down on them, depending on the performance that you’re seeing.
Documentation, implementation…and insight.
Needless to say you’ll need to keep thorough, comprehensive notes as you conduct your audit. Very few audits wind up being the business of just one person, after all – this is information that will most likely be shared. Be sure that your document follows a logical sequence and a clear format. Keep your eye on the future, too – are you creating a one-off, or an even more valuable template for future audits?
When your audit is done, its time to create and schedule an action plan for one or all of the areas you’ve audited. This is the path towards empowerment and improvement! Once the wheels are turning and your business starts to see the benefits that grow from the actions your audit sparked, it’s unlikely you’ll ever go back to run your Google Ads on autopilot again!
If you’d like to know more about Google Ads audits or indeed anything to do with maximising your business benefits through Google Ads, simply contact us today.

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