Auditing Pay Per Click Accounts

We had some good participation this week. Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “Auditing PPC Accounts.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What analysis do you believe a PPC audit should include?

  • Analysis of CTR, CVR and CPA trends over time, to start with. – David Szetela (@Szetela)
  • My 1st thought is if the account is meeting the client goals at the desired cost. Straighforward and then dig from there. – Sarah Peduzzi (@sduzy496)
  • Everything – account structure, campaign settings, keywords, negatives, match types, bids, budgets, LP’s, ad extensions, etc. ‘Everything’ assumes goals/targets are defined and tracked. If not, start there. – Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield)
  • Loaded question… Depends on the Account Goals. Is your account driving Revenue or Leads. – Jessica Cameron Ruud (@Camruud)
  • Start by understanding goals of program, see if conversion tracking is working accordingly. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • I would always look at a search query report to ensure they’re not wasting money on irrelevant queries regardless of goals. – Francis Shovlin (@fmshovlin)
    • SQ’s are a great way to show the client easy improvements right away! – Harris Neifield
  • Obvious one firstly – Conversion / goals – metrics & set-up. – Andrew Baker (@AndrewBaker72)
  • There is so much. Making sure search and display are not in the same campaign. Duplicate key words, checking negative key words. – Derek Ostler (@DerekOstler)
  • Start with high level business goals & drill down to Micro Goals / KPI’s. Look at y/y growth & trends. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • First we get all the KPIs for the account as well as brief performance history (context for stats). Then we move onto the silent killers: account settings & conversion tracking. – Joe Kerschbaum (@JoeKerschbaum)
  • One of the first things I look at in a new PPC account is matched search queries and negative opportunities. – John Ellis (@JohnWEllis)
  • Big question. Ad copy quality-relevance & grammar, account structure & match types, landing page quality, # of bid changes, etc. – Tally Keller (@tallykeller)
  • Easiest one is change history. Is the account getting the love it deserves? – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
  • Quality Score assessment. Campaign and Adgroup Organization. Ad copy value prop compared to competition. Destination URL checks. – Stuart Draper (@Stu_Draper)
  • An audit should level-set between client & agency expectations. letting each know the others perspective. – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
  • Everything. I run & analyze comprehensive, long-term & seasonal data. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
  • Average position of keywords/ads, match types, conversion rates, return on ad spend, average quality score, ad extensions, etc. – Logan Durant (@THELoganDurant)
  • I like to take a high level snapshot of the account and performance to start with. Get bird’s eye view. Then dig in. – Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
  • Review account structure & campaign settings. Are they in tune with clients goals? Review key metrics: CTR, Conv. rate, Quality Score, Cost/Conv. Review ad copy > spelling/grammer, case, dest. URL. – Stephen Kapusta (@RunPPC)
  • Every client has different needs, but it is important to understand which account settings will drive the most effective leads. – Logical Media Group (@LogicalMediaGr)
  • Conversion Tracking, Campaign Structure, Impression Share, Keyword Robustness, and Personas Targeted; more or less in that order. – Doug Thomas (@ferkungamaboobo)
  • My belief is that an audit should focus more on the tactical items – don’t give away your secret sauce. Don’t give away secret sauce in terms of providing too many recommendations. – Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
  • First thing is you need to have clear goals with measurable results. Continuous optimization is key to being successful. – Cody Blair (@TheCodyBlair)
  • I think you look at not only the types of conversions but if they turned into repeat business. – Byran Cisler (@Bryan_Cisler)
  • Depends if its new acct or cross team. For new, mostly tactical. For cross team, mostly strategic (since tactics are a given). – Aaron Levy
  • An audit is the handshake, it should be firm yet inviting, not too aggressive and no tickling fingers – that comes later. – Chris Kostecki
  • Just auditing for basic best practice will usually yield many gems in an audit. – Jonathan Beeston (@searchbeest)
  • We take a look first to determine what the audit should include. Technical stuff & general best practices are usually important. – Martin Rottgerding (@bloomarty)
  • Q1.1 Should an audit be more performance based or technically based?
    • Depends on what client perceives as or says is their concern. – Theresa Zook
    • Performance has many different factors that can be argued on either site. Technical reviews are more absolute. – Christ Kostecki
      • Too many tactical details confuse clients. If trust exists, they may just want the bottom line impact of our expertise. – Harris Neifield
    • Both. We start with performance then get into the technical. – Bethany Bey (@Bethany_Bey)
    • A combo, I think. Performance weighs heavily on the technical setup and then the execution thereafter. – Sarah Peduzzi
    • In many cases the technical affects the performance so how technical affects performance is best. – Bryant Garvin
    • Audits are performance based. non-ppc evangelists (clients) don’t care as much for technical details, that’s what we’re for. Though technical analysis is what reveals performance details, client facing docs should be performance oriented. – Harris Neifield
      • Not true! I work for a client, and technical details are ALL I care about. – Tally Keller
      • I agree with you Tally having been client side. I want to know how technical will impact performance. – Bryant Garvin
    • If a client asks performance related questions I will rephrase my answers to what we will do to improve the account. – Matt Umbro
      • I disagree a little in that it proves experience/knowledge and many people would still rather pay you to do it all. – Bryant Garvin
        • I agree, but it also depends on how much time you personally can give to audits vs. working on existing accounts. – Matthew Umbro
      • I disagree. Most PPC mgmt tactics are all over the ‘net. People don’t/can’t take time to understand & use properly. – Theresa Zook
    • I focus a lot on account structure in audits. Poor structure often = poor performance. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
      • Same. I have a checklist of items we look for that are easily identifiable. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)

Q2: Between the audit, the client call (if applicable) and any other analysis, how much time should you spend on the audit process?

  • Depends on purpose of audit. Audit to get a new client is different than stand-alone audit, IMO. – Theresa Zook
  • 80%. – David Szetela
  • Depends on the size of account and potential size of a new agreement (ie: larger engagements will require more time up front). – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • Depends on the priority of the account. Have standard checklist for easier stuff, go deeper when necessary. – Luke Alley
  • Depends on how large/complex the account is. – Robert Brady
  • Largely depends on size of client & dataset. $1k/mo and and 500 clicks will warrant less time than $100k/mo. – Aaron Levy
  • Depends on the hierarchy of resources. Entry/Jr’s should work existing while Sr’s do audits & prospect. – Brian Gaspar
  • Totally depends on the acct size and how long it’s been since last audit. I just spent three full weeks auditing 10 accounts. – Tally Keller
  • Really depends on the prospect – and what it means for the agency. – Chris Kostecki
  • Depends on many factors – existing client or new business, size of account, etc. can be a few hours for bigger projects. – Harris Neifield
  • As much time as it takes to have a opportunity for a noticeable change in account that helps accomplish the goals of the client. – Cody Blair
  • Agree with most, depends on size of account. Sometimes focusing on a small part rather than everything can yield more insight. – Blair Kerrison (@blairkerrison)
  • We spend at least 20 hours…depending on the size of the account!
  • Depends on size ($ or #’s) of the accounts you are auditing. The more data there is the more you have to analyze and present. – Bryant Garvin
  • And to be honest, it depends on how much they paid for it. – Robert Brady
  • If it’s “standard”- about 30mins on the digging and 45mins on the writing. – Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
  • We look at really puzzling accts as a group sometimes. Perspective/approach is often based on experience w/similar accts. – Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
  • Depends on clients’ relationship with your company, the size of the account, and what they’re willing to pay for. – Stephen Kapusta
  • Q2.2 What about the client call to review the audit? Do you have a call or just write up observations and send over?
    • I’m long-winded–i do a write-up. I know others who do video-conf but I prefer client have detailed report for future ref. – Theresa Zook
    • Always write it up, have a call if there’s something substantial worth discussing. – Harris Neifield
    • Writeup, with a followup call to discuss. – Melissa Mackey
    • A write-up which gets sent to sales, then sales talks to the client. Our sales team knows SEM. – Bethany Bey
    • Definitely need a call to walk through the findings. Even if the audit is well-documented, there are always more questions. – Tally Keller
    • Call first to review findings, then send them over. No peeking! – Chris Kostecki
    • Both. Writeup so they have something to look at to keep organized, and then walk them through to answer questions. – Bryan Cisler (@Bryan_Cisler)
    • Always write it up, but push for a follow up call. Too much room for miss-interpretation. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
    • Audit call is when the sale is made – do they agree with findings, agree with your approach – need to talk it over. – Chris Kostecki
    • Both – deliver a report AND go over it over a call. If you can’t show commitment to their problems now, then when will you? – Francis Shovlin
    • For a standard audit (best practices) we have a template to cover the basics and then some. We also offer a call after. – Martin Rottgerding

Q3: When performing PPC audits, do you “score” accounts (give a grade or number rating) or just provide your analysis? Why?

  • Just analysis. There is too much “it depends” to score things. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
  • Never “score.” (Are we in grade school?) Markets, industries, budgets differ too much to make meaningful. – Theresa Zook
  • Nope, no scoring system. – Harris Neifield
  • Also, when I’m new to an account/business I don’t know why things are the way they are. Perhaps what looks bad is for a reason. – Richard Fergie
  • Just provide analysis. The percentages usually tell the story (ie 30% of keywords have QS<4). – Robert Brady
  • Just give them an anaylsis. Ratings are subjective. – Francis Shovlin
  • Just recommendations. Scoring could get ugly IMO, and lets be serious would you ever give someone an F (even if deserved)? – Aaron levy
  • I favored a score card, it levels the different audits, and makes sure a bad day isn’t causing them to get a horrible review. – Chris Kostecki
  • Just provide analysis & areas that need improvement. Every client is different, and a made up scale doesn’t make much sense. – Stephen Kapusta
  • We use numerical scores bc ours are tied to financial incentives: $ if scores hit agreed-upon goals. Not ideal, but necessary. – Tally Keller
  • Just analysis. Scores/grades paint with broad strokes. Every account is different and deserves to be treated differently. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a score in my head though. I feel like the @pitchforkmedia of analysts sometimes. – Michael Wiegand (@mwiegand)
    • Agreed. Every client has different benchmarks & opportunities, often specific reasons for not already doing something. – Sam Vandermark (@SammiVandermark)
  • I haven’t up to now, but not a bad idea. Gives the 30,000 ft view before diving into details. – Luke Alley
  • Not a fan of scoring PPC audits, but I know many potential clients like it… not clients I want though. – John Ellis
  • I think you would need some sort of point system across each item you analyze in order to give a score. – Luke Alley
  • I don’t give a Grade. Nobody want’s to see they suck 😉 Seriously! Even my 13 year old who doesn’t care hates bad grades. – Bryant Garvin
  • If you ask empirical questions, scores based upon response: yes no maybe Audits are not just for clients, agencies need to know too. – Chris Kostecki
  • I don’t score. I don’t want them to get too distracted with those numbers. I would rather them focus on the analysis. – Bryan Cisler
  • I don’t score them but if I did, damn right I would give someone an F if they deserved it. Redo and improve. – Harris Neifield
  • I don’t score the acct. but show them the before & after w/ the reason behind the changes. They usually like that. – Josiah Colt (@_kingjosiah_)
  • A score would only be applicable to standard problems. For more “advanced” audits for experienced inhouse SEMs it wouldn’t help. – Martin Rottgerding
  • The data, percentages, analysis, work to do presented in Audit if done right will have them scoring themselves (or prev agency). – Bryant Garvin
  • Bad grades can motivate improvements or discourage ppl. can’t take that risk with potential new business though. no scoring. – Harris Neifield
  • If you’re focussing on the sort of things that can easily be scored then you can be replaced by an overseas drone or a computer. – Richard Fergie

Q4: Should potential customers pay for a PPC audit? Why or why not?

  • Doing a paid audit can be a great sales tool for potential clients who can’t yet commit to ongoing management. – David Szetela
  • Really depends on your business model, can make cases for both. – Chris Kostecki
  • Not necessarily. Need to audit to discuss potential/why old agency sucks, but could be (& often is) a whole offering. – Aaron Levy
  • If you can get a potential client to pay YOU for an audit then I think you do it all day long. Good luck with it! – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
  • As a follow up question, if a client does pay for an audit what additional deliverables (if any) should they receive?
  • We don’t charge prospects for an audit; it’s usually part of a huge full service agency package. – Melissa Mackey
  • I want to say ‘yes’ (in our field, PR, we used to charge for ‘initial consultation’, which is similar) But market may not bear. – Eric Bryant (@GnosisArts)
  • Regarding free audits – “You get what you pay for” – a sales pitch (do you think it’d say you’re doing great?). – Robert Brady
  • If you do audits as part of the sales process you can still put a price on it – and offer it back if a contract is signed. – Martin Rottgerding
  • If I’m pitching, no. If they come for an audit, yes. If they come to me & request a pitch–I do a less detailed audit n/c. – Theresa Zook
  • No, audits are part of the sales process – can’t charge them for us trying to sell them. – Logan Durant
  • Probably not. Unless they want a ton of work done, or we’re very unlikely to get business out of it, charging isn’t ideal. – Harris Neifield
  • Have seen some success with a nominal fee that is then applied to the account setup. – Chris Kostecki
  • Feels to me like I’m the only one who does stand-alone audits? Unconnected w/a pitch? – Theresa Zook
  • Doing a paid audit can be a great sales tool for potential clients who can’t yet commit to ongoing management. – Elizabeth Marsten
  • Not sure I’d want a possible client to sign in order to recover a modest audit fee. They need to want to work with you. – Harris Neifield
  • Paying smthing for an audit mkes thm commit psychologically at a different level. Thy don’t vlue as much if thy dnt pay smthing. – Josiah Colt
  • Charging for a simple audit is like calling a potential client using 1-800-Collect. – Logan Durant
  • We have all seen the audit groupies that seem to go around to 10-15 agencies to pick their brains. If you need clients, don’t charge – if you want to limit client growth, charge em. The more discerning you are the more you charge. – Chris Kostecki
  • A free audit should be high level, very vague w/ no action items. Paid audits have detailed, actionable items. (How it should be). – Roger Sikes (@rogersikes)


More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
• Andrew Baker (@AndrewBaker72)
• Bethany Bey (@Bethany_Bey)
• Blair Kerrison (@blairkerrison)
• Bryan Cisler (@Bryan_Cisler)
• Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
• Byran Cisler (@Bryan_Cisler)
• Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
• Cody Blair (@TheCodyBlair)
• David Szetela (@Szetela)
• Derek Ostler (@DerekOstler)
• Doug Thomas (@ferkungamaboobo)
• Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
• Eric Bryant (@GnosisArts)
• Francis Shovlin (@fmshovlin)
• Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield)
• Jessica Cameron Ruud (@Camruud)
• Joe Kerschbaum (@JoeKerschbaum)
• John Ellis (@JohnWEllis)
• Jonathan Beeston (@searchbeest)
• Josiah Colt (@_kingjosiah_)
• Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
• Logan Durant (@THELoganDurant)
• Logical Media Group (@LogicalMediaGr)
• Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
• Martin Rottgerding (@bloomarty)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michael Wiegand (@mwiegand)
• Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
• Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Roger Sikes (@rogersikes)
• Sam Vandermark (@SammiVandermark)
• Sarah Peduzzi (@sduzy496)
• Stephen Kapusta (@RunPPC)
• Stuart Draper (@Stu_Draper)
• Tally Keller (@tallykeller)
• Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)

I Audited This Streamcap

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; WebRanking SEM Manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, SEO Blog Author. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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