Digging Into PPC Audits

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) hosts PPCChat with another great question set titled “Digging Into PPC Audits.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What is the first thing you look for when auditing an AdWords account? Why?

  • ROI. – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
  • I always look first to the settings tab. The biggest problems you’ll find are typically mistakes there. – Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
  • I tend to review account structure and see how things are setup – helps determine what I review next. I’m also always interested in the SQR to see what terms are losing money. – Matt Umbro
  • Check over all initial set up items: Tracking, Account settings, etc. If those are bust, likely the rest of the account too. – Gil Hong (@_GilHong)
  • Wasted spend. Its a great way to narrow down on problem areas and areas that are working great. – Jacob Baadsgaard (@jakebaadsgaard)
    • You’ll find a lot of inconsistencies, mostly. Geo and ad schedule settings are the biggest finds tho. – Mark Irvine
      • Agreed! I ask clients where they think their ads are showing up & then show them where they are actually showing. – Jacob Baadsgaard
  • I usually poke around top level structure to get a sense of how advanced the advertiser is, how well they structure. – Frederick Vallaeys (@siliconvallaeys)
    • Good point, though if I see 100s of campaigns I worry that the account is too segmented. – Matt Umbro
  • Settings are the most overlooked items by rookies. Quick scan of all settings, daily budgets and match type parity = big wins. – Jordon Meyer (@jordonmeyer)
    • It’s always interesting to see the rotation settings as well – if rotate indefinitely is setup I give a +1. – Matt Umbro
      • Right on. Or if the campaign type is Standard or Disp Select rather than All Features. – Jordon Meyer
  • I listen to the client. Why do they want an audit? What are their pain points? – Kyle Crocker (@kacrocker)
  • Negative ROI campaigns. Also look into the account structure. How granular are campaigns and ad groups, copy & kw quality, specific settings applied. – Heidi Smith (@heidinksmith)
  • Sort by clicks/impressions and start working my way down the account to look at structure + settings + targeting + conv points. – Jeremy Krantz (@JeremyKrantz)
  • Look at the account naming structure then conversions. Naming will tell me if the account was well thought out. – Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
  • It’s also important to know who was managing the account. Was it an agency? Or your prospective client POC? – Gil Hong
  • I make sure to look at keyword level final URLs, often times I’ll see ad URLs going to homepage when in fact they are set at KW. – Matt Umbro
  • One of first things is structure. I do a query-kw analysis. Look for how many queries match multiple KWs = lots of insights. – Josh Kelson (@JoshKelson)

Q2: What is the most insignificant portion of an audit? Why?

  • Ad extensions. There’s limited upside, but for some reason ppc types are obsessed with them. – Steve Gibson
  • It sounds weird, but actual performance is overrated. Clients come to you to see how they can improve…emphasize this! – Matt Umbro
  • Making accusations and empty promises. There is likely way more context that you don’t know on the account. – Gil Hong
  • You can look back at performance and provide charts/graphs, but it’s just a benchmark. Provide new ideas and strategy! – Matt Umbro
  • Budgets. Without the context of settings, TOD performance, match types, neg KWs, the budgets don’t really matter. – Matt Lukens (@tunadonut)
  • Subjective things like: Naming Convention and Ad Copy. While important, those things come after a solid foundation. – Jordon Meyer
  • Often times, clients don’t give admin access, thus you can’t see how conversions are setup. – Matt Umbro
  • Extensions are big vanity wins, but seldom move the needle. In my experience, extensions only attract ~5% of the clicks in acct. – Mark Irvine
    • More to show that the AM is being proactive, and most of the clicks are in brand campaigns. – Matt Umbro

Q3: How has the audit process evolved in more recent years?

  • I think “overall” (huge statement, I realize) general PPC knowledge has grown so accounts “tend” to be better than years ago. – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
  • Match types are a more important factor (especially as we shift away from broad) as well as CPCs which keep rising. – Jeremy Krantz
  • It’s much more about bringing new ideas to the table during the initial audit call than just reviewing past performance. – Matt Umbro
  • Way more features have come out for more missed opportunity on potential accounts. – Gil Hong
  • My experience has been the 2000-broad-match-keywords-in-one-ad-group-1-campaign account is more of an outlier than used to be. – Kirk Williams
    • Accounts are much more sophisticated now, even if they still aren’t built to max efficiency. – Matt Umbro
  • SO MANY THINGS! The knobs, buttons and levels keep multiplying so there’s way more to audit. – Jordon Meyer
  • More focus on segmentation. Not all conversions are of equal value. ROI of campaigns depends on value of conversions. – Matt Lukens
  • During audits, you also have to be much more cognizant of bid management platforms and how they have impacted the account. – Matt Umbro
    • Good point, more PPC tools/SAAS solutions out there that could be impacting the account than years ago. – Kirk Williams
  • I’d also add in that Charging for big audits is new. Can’t give away a playboook for nothing anymore. – Jordon Meyer
  • More things to look at – e.g. audiences/RLSA etc. – Steve Gibson
  • Its a lot easier to fall behind in PPC Management now because of all the updates. – Jacob Baadsgaard
  • It’s also more important than ever to point out new features and highlight where they could be used if they aren’t already. – Matt Umbro
  • I used to spend a lot of time looking at keywords back in the day, but now that keywords are dead. – Mark Irvine
  • More about strategy. PPC is changing so fast that most accts can’t keep up with new features & channels they should focus on. – Erika Schmidt

Q4: How do you make your audit findings/presentation stand out?

  • Like mentioned previously–have a plan for the future based on the past. – Jacob Baadsgaard
  • I like to walk the client through live examples of the changes I will implement and explain how they will work. – Matt Umbro
  • Many specific actionable insights based on data that can be implemented rapidly. – Tim Mayer (@timmayer)
  • Old-school “plop factor”…it makes a thud when it hits a table. Easy to read findings, best practices and next steps. – Jordon Meyer
  • Make it conversational, include examples/screenshots, and also include relevant case studies for validated results. – Gil Hong
  • By including business/conversion strategies. Business optimisation and conversion optimisation far bigger levers than ppc stuff. – Steve Gibson
  • Overall strategy – new tactics, testing, thinking outside the box – rather than focusing on small changes that get you there. – Heidi Smith
  • My audits have lots of numbers in them. Client’s reaction to numbers will often be more revealing about the relationship. – Mark Irvine
  • Start with summary of my understanding of business and user/customer needs, and let them be the expert there. – Matt Lukens

Q5: What is your criteria for giving a free audit vs. a paid one? Why?

  • My audit rule of thumb: (1) Overview Strategy Proposal (part of sales IMO) = free (2) Deep dive, true account audit = $$. I also refuse to call the first one an “audit”, I don’t think it is. But I believe some people do. – Kirk Williams
  • I’m happy to give you an audit. However, my free one is going to be lofty high lvl stuff, rather than tactical strategy. – Mark Irvine
  • Free Audit = prospective client. Paid Audit = usually in-house looking for a tune up. – Gil Hong
  • A paid audit goes much more in-depth and gives specific action items – it’s more of a guide. – Matt Umbro
  • If you want it free, it will be high level and a sales pitch for ongoing PPC mgmt. – Kirk Williams
  • Terrible but client size helps dictate. Give more away for free to SMBs to get the contract. Deep dive audit $$. – Rachel King (@rachelking237)
  • A “Free Audit” is not an audit; it’s to show the client you’re not an idiot. A true audit is a lot of work and that = $$. – Jordon Meyer
  • Keep the freebie high level. Throughout presentation, call out where a stronger partnership ($$$) would add detail. – Matt Lukens
  • A free audit is much more top-level and likely part of a proposal. If you want the “deep dive” you have to pay for it. – Heidi Smith
  • Assume the client has a freebie audit from 3rd party (Finch, Wordstream). Differentiate by understanding their business. – Matt Lukens

Q6: How do you use the audit to spearhead new ideas and get the potential client excited for your management?

  • By talking about the results I expect them to achieve. – Steve Gibson
  • Helps to open up the conversation for potential limitations the client may have with marketing, legal, budget, etc. – Gil Hong
  • “This is unrefined. Let’s refine it together by helping me understand what makes your business unique.” – Matt Lukens
  • I’ll present real examples of what I’m talking about – for example, i’ll setup a sample Shopping structure. – Matt Umbro
  • If Audit = “Sales Pitch”, then you do need to actually follow through w/ those ideas in your “Deep dive." For example, if you “sold” GSPs, you have to actually deliver that, even if it’s not going to be a major driver of lead. – Mark Irvine
  • Glaring oversights in settings, extensions, KW coverage is go-to. Usually find gold nuggets. – Rachel King
  • Uncover quantitative potential for growth & profit and everyone gets excited. Stay positive, don’t linger on past mistakes. – Jordon Meyer

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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)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
• Frederick Vallaeys (@siliconvallaeys)
• Gil Hong (@_GilHong)
• Heidi Smith (@heidinksmith)
• Jacob Baadsgaard (@jakebaadsgaard)
• Jeremy Krantz (@JeremyKrantz)
• Jordon Meyer (@jordonmeyer)
• Josh Kelson (@JoshKelson)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Kyle Crocker (@kacrocker)
• Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
• Matt Lukens (@tunadonut)
• Rachel King (@rachelking237)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
• Tim Mayer (@timmayer)

Digging Into PPCChat Streamcaps

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; works at WebRanking in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Connect with Paul @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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