When I first get access to a Google Ads account to carry out an audit I break it into buckets to make it digestible.
- Conversion tracking – Check it’s tracking correctly, check the conversion figures match Analytics & what the client sees.
- Attribution settings – Check the attribution window, I prefer position-based in most cases (unless data-driven is available).
- Campaign structure – Are campaigns & ad groups set up by intent?
- Which networks are being utilised
I then check that the account setup makes sense and lines up with the business objectives that the client has provided.
Next up is a performance analysis:
- Audiences – How are they being used & are they relevant?
- Bid adjustments – Are they being used?
- Search terms report – provides context into quick wins & how much waste there is
- Neg keywords – Do they exist? How strict are they?
- Change history – Get a rough idea of what’s being implemented recently and how much attention went into the account.
- Targeting – Are the locations correct and are there any areas that stand out?
- Are there any stand-out performance quick wins in the Audience targeting & Account settings (disable auto-apply ad suggestions!)
- KPI performance – Is everything going in the right direction based on the client’s goals?
Doing the above should provide an answer to questions such as “what’s working & what isn’t working”, it’ll also provide a good insight into seeing what the previous strategy was (if any).
Going deeper you can then look into the Keyword metrics:
- What keywords are stand out performers in terms of being on target and way off target?
- What does Auction Insights tell you? Segment by time to see performance trends.
- Check the Search Impression Share & see if the budget is limiting performance.
- What does the Ad setup look like? Do they follow best practices? Do they contain relevant headlines, are there any underperformers that can be paused for quick CTR gains?
- Are there any high performing keywords that are limited by being surrounded by poor performers?
- Are there keywords that competitors use that this account doesn’t?
- How do the landing pages compare with the competition when looking at Auction Insights?
From doing the above you should be able to put together a list of quick wins and then write an action plan of what needs to be done in order of priority.
Here’s some bonus tips of things to look out for when first starting a Google Ads account:
- Search Campaigns: By default, Google allows search and display placements to be served together. Make sure your Search campaigns are only on the Search Network.
- Display campaigns: Google defaults to audience expansion for Display campaigns, this means you lose the ability to see which audience is driving results.
- Don’t be afraid to get granular with Campaigns, by segmenting by campaign you make it much easier to scale down the line. Go one step further by using labels & naming structures.
- Get comfortable with Keyword Match types & different campaign structures such as Alpha/Beta, SKAG & STAGs etc. There’s no cookie-cutter structure, each has its place.
- It’s nearly always best to disable the search partners placement, although it can be worth enabling it as a test once you have a clear understanding of your account performance.
- Most of your time in the first few weeks of a campaign’s life with be spent looking through the Search Term Reports & adding negative keywords to improve your campaign relevance & reduce waste.