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Google Ads: Auditing & optimizing a new account

Google Ads
(© christianchan – stock.adobe.com)

When you work with Google Ads day in and day out, it’s relatively straightforward when it comes to putting a campaign live. However, if you run your own business and haven’t used the Google Ads platform before, you must know how to set up the account, campaigns, and ad groups correctly. A single mistake, such as using broad match keywords, can be very costly.

Regardless of where and how you work with Google Ads, even if you work for an agency and have dozens of clients, it can still be helpful to have a checklist on hand as you audit a new account.

This blog post will look at how to audit and check over a new Google Ads accounting when taking on a new client or starting a new position. It will also look at some simple ways of optimizing a Google Ads account in 2021.

Check the change history

If you are taking on an account rather than starting it from scratch, you want to check the change history. To get a feel for the type of optimization a previous owner or admin of an account was doing.

You can also get an idea if anyone was actively managing the account over recent weeks and months.

Establish target KPIs

Before you start digging into the account and auditing it, get to know the target cost per conversion and targeted number of conversions, and any other key metrics. It’s challenging to know what to adjust and optimize a campaign if you are unsure what the target metrics are.

It would help if you always looked at the volume of data that is in the account too. If the account has had thousands of conversions, impressions, and clicks in the last month, then great. If the account only gets 4 or 5 conversions per month, then it is more of a challenge to establish what needs changing, as the data will not have reached a level of significance.

Conversion setup

Whether or not you are inheriting an account or making one from scratch, ensure that conversation actions are set up correctly.

Ensure that all important actions carried out on the site and from ads are being recorded.

Having conversions set up correctly is essential for tracking the success of your campaigns. With conversion data, you can track the cost per conversion and the conversion rate.

The easiest way to set up conversions is by using Google Analytics.

Ensure that Google Ads and Google Analytics are linked.

Once Google Ads and Google Analytics are linked, you can import goals from Analytics into Google Ads as conversions.

If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your website, then you should get this up and running as soon as possible. This YouTube tutorial has an excellent step-by-step guide on setting up Google Analytics.

If possible, you will want to go beyond website conversions, such as form completions and phone call clicks, and bring in CRM data from the sales team. If you know how much each keyword cost per “won customer,” for example, then you can optimize accordingly. It’s great having lots of phone calls and live chat conversions, but if you have 1,000 of each and none of them result in a customer, then there is a good chance you’re wasting money.

Keywords

Generally speaking, you will want to be using exact match keywords. Exact match keywords are shown between brackets – [exact match] and phrase match are shown between quotation marks – “phrase match.”

If all of the keywords are broad match, there is a good chance that the account is wasting a lot of money. Using broad match keywords is an expensive rookie error. Using broad match keywords is one of the most costly errors a person can make with Google Ads. There are some instances when you might consider using some broad match keywords, but it is generally a bad idea.

Putting 10 or more keywords in each ad group is also thought of as a beginner’s error. You will generally want to keep the ad groups very tight, with 2 or 3 keywords in each.

With a small number of keywords per ad group, you can make your ads specific to the keyword(s) and increase your click-through rate.

Negative keyword lists

In the main menu bar at the top of the Google Ads interface, you can find the negative keyword lists by clicking on “tools and settings,” and then under “shared library,” you should see “negative keyword lists.”

You should also check specific Ad Groups.

Ensure that the keywords lists are extensive, and if they don’t have any negative lists, it can be a huge opportunity to make the account and the cost per conversion much lower.

Campaign settings

Check the campaign settings. Go into a single campaign and click “settings” on the side menu, usually located near the left.

Check the networks that have been selected. You won’t want to have “display” and “search network” ticked in most cases. A typical rookie mistake is combining Display and Search campaigns together. If you do use Display ads, you will generally want these to run in a separate campaign.

If you are unsure, you can segment reports to see how each network is performing. Click on a campaign, then click “segment” and then “network (with search partners).”

Check the location settings, too; this is also very important. If the account belongs to a local business, then make sure that only the local area is targeted.

  • Location options – you will generally want to target “People in, or regularly in your targeted locations.”
  • Reporting – You will generally want “Call Reporting” turned on too (as long as you’re industry is compliant)
  • Bidding strategy – the bidding strategy you use will depend a lot on how many clicks and conversions you get each week. For example, if you run an eCommerce store with thousands of clicks and conversions each week, automated bidding strategies will probably work well.

For a typical business website, which generates form-completions and phone calls, it is often best, to begin with manual bidding or “maximize clicks.” You can use an experiment to test the efficiency and the volume versus an automated bidding strategy if you wish. Manual bidding, however, does tend to give you a bit more control over everything. Be aware, too, that although you give Google a daily budget, it will sometimes go well over the daily spend, especially with some automated bidding strategies.

When applicable, for example, with the “maximize clicks” bidding strategy, it’s essential to set a maximum CPC bid limit – the maximum cost per click you are willing to spend every time someone clicks on one of your ads. Google wants to spend your money, and they will spend a lot of it if you don’t set up your daily budget and maximum CPC correctly.

You can use Google’s Keyword Planner to get an idea of how much to bid.

If you want to use a bidding strategy such as “target CPA” – target cost per action, you need at least 50 or more conversions per month for this bidding strategy to work effectively. If you only have 15 conversions per month, that’s not enough data to give to Google and for this bidding strategy to work.

Limited by budget

If campaigns are “limited by budget,” then check the budget compared to the average CPC. If the average CPC is more than a third of the daily budget, it might be worth examining the quality score, the bidding strategy and seeing if the keywords can be changed or optimized.

Search impression share

When on the Campaigns tab – the view that shows you the names of all your campaigns, take a look at the “search impression share” column.

This looks at the total searches for the keywords in your campaigns and how often you show up. For example, if your Search Impression Share is 10%, you are only being shown in 10% of searches.

You can improve this by increasing budget & bids, increasing relevancy & quality score, and improving your landing page. Whether or not it is a good idea to increase your budget and bids will depend on the cost per conversion and the cost per customer – if that data is available.

Ad type & performance

Regarding search network ads, take a look at each ad group and see what format of ads are being used and what type of ad extensions.

For example, are responsive ads being used, and how many different headlines are in use?

Responsive ads can be highly effective. However, your ads will need a relatively high number of impressions, clicks, and conversions. If your ads only get a few dozen impressions per month and have 12 different headlines in a responsive ad, it will never get enough data to optimize correctly. By the time the data regarding each headline reaches a level of significance, the industry and Google Ads itself will likely have changed.

Check to see if ads and ad text are being tested. It depends on the volume of impressions, but you will generally want three ads per ad group, testing slightly different ad text. The strategy can be a lot different, however, especially if you are using responsive ads. However it is done, there should be a way to test and optimize ad text.

Ad extensions are also important. Are call extensions or call ads being used? If you are selling high-end products such as cars, or real estate, potential clients will almost definitely want to speak to someone. People tend to shy away from call-only ads because they are not always available to take a call, but a 24/7 phone answering service can solve this issue.

Locations & bid adjustments

How you use locations will relate directly to how you segment and split up your campaigns. If you run Google Ads across the United States, for example, then it might be a good idea to split out campaigns by time zones or even individual states.

When you are in each campaign, you can click on “locations” in the left-hand side-menu, and look at specific states, cities, and towns. You can see how much of your budget is spent on each location and the cost per conversion.

If the cost is too high, then you can use bid adjustments to reduce the average cost per click in a specific area. If the cost per conversion is really low, then consider increasing bids.

Ad schedule & bid adjustments

You can create a specific ad schedule for each campaign. Just be careful that you don’t completely exclude particular times of the day or night – This is surprisingly easy to do and will result in your ads not showing at all for specific times.

Run a report in the “Reports” section of Google Ads, or using Data Studio to see which times of the day are most profitable for each campaign and also in your account overall. If you have lots of data, it may be good to make bid adjustments for each specific campaign.

For example, if you spend lots of budget between 8 pm and 5 am but get no conversions, you may want to either completely exclude these times from the schedule or reduce bids by a large percentage.

Devices & bid adjustments

You will often get a significant difference in costs and conversions when comparing different devices. Take a look at the cost per conversion for each device; if there is a significant difference, it may be worth adjusting bids. As with all bid adjustments, this will depend on your targets in relation to cost per conversion and cost per customer. If mobile conversions are twice as expensive as desktop conversions, but both come up with the target cost per conversion, then you should probably leave them both.

Demographic & bid adjustments

Run a report in Google Ads or Data Studio, and see which demographics perform best per campaign and keep the customer’s target market in mind. For example, if you are selling personal training services targeted at young men, consider this when reviewing data related to age and gender.

Side by side campaign overview

Look at and compare all of the key metrics for your campaigns. If one campaign is performing much better than another, try and figure out why this is. You may also want to see if the poorly performing campaign can be optimized or even paused.

You can also do the same thing with Ad Groups. If there is a big difference in performance, is it because of the keywords, the ads, or the landing page?

Conclusion

Once the audit is completed, be sure to check key metrics each day or week and keep tweaking and optimizing the campaign so that it performs as well as possible. The most significant error to make with a Google Ads account is usually to use broad match keywords and use many keywords in each ad group. Be sure to check the “search terms” report frequently, as even with exact match keywords, some unwanted search terms can trigger your ads.


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