The Only 100-Point Google Ads Audit Checklist You’ll Ever Need for Search Campaigns

January 6, 2021
Posted in Paid Search
January 6, 2021 Jen Lopez

The Only 100-Point Google Ads Audit Checklist You’ll Ever Need for Search Campaigns

If you are a PPC marketer, or in charge of marketing for your company or business, you know the importance of constantly checking in on your programs to ensure they are functioning properly and as efficiently as possible.

Here at Eboost Consulting, we get asked to audit PPC accounts within Google Ads quite often. Since Paid Search is one of our core service offerings, we have some experts on our team who love auditing accounts – looking for things that the regular PPC manager or previous agency may have missed or opportunities for making the account even stronger.

While ultimately the review shared with our prospective client may be summed up into “What’s Working?” and “What Needs Work?” – our actual auditing process can be far more in-depth, taking a top-down approach to understanding and evaluating your Google Ads account. Additionally, once a prospective client chooses to work with EBoost Consulting, that full audit may be passed to the Google Ads Campaign Manager for review and cross-checking prior to beginning the PPC strategy development, restructure or account takeover process.

Here is the 100-point Google Ads checklist that our team goes through, specific to Search campaigns, in order to understand and evaluate Google Ads accounts, using that top-down approach:

Account-Level

  1. Is the account active?
  2. Are there any pressing notifications?
  3. What type of billing is set up? Are any credit cards in danger of expiring soon? Is payment up to date?
  4. Are any other accounts linked to the Google Ads account and if so, what is the purpose? (Google Analytics, Google Merchant Center, Search Console, etc.)
  5. What is the monthly budget and the goals, as described by the client?
  6. What is the account spending and what is performance over the past year?
  7. Is conversion tracking set up and working properly? Are the conversions created in Google Ads or pulled in from Google Analytics or some other source?
  8. What types of conversions are being tracked? Is there a value associated with them? Are they, or should they be, included in the Conversions column and used to influence bid strategies?
  9. Does any conversion tracking appear to be broken or have concerning statuses?
  10. Is auto-tagging turned on?
  11. Are there any tracking templates being used for the URLs?
  12. Are ad suggestions automatically applied after 14 days (we usually like to keep this setting off)?

Campaign Settings

  1. Review all campaigns and campaign types, outlining the different types for your review.
  2. Are Search campaigns running on Google Search only, or Search Partners Network as well?
  3. What is the ad rotation and does it make sense for the account’s goals?
  4. What is the location targeting and are the right settings in place to ensure ads are showing in the proper locations or the locations expected by the prospective client?
  5. What is the language targeting? If set to a specific language, would you recommend All Languages and why or why not?
  6. Review bid strategies and make a list of the ones being used that you’ll want to review for each individual campaign.

Campaigns

  1. How are the campaigns broken out? Does it follow the site architecture? Is there another breakout happening? Do you find the structural breakout valuable or lacking?
  2. Are the campaigns segmented by match type, location, device, brand vs. generic, search vs. display or any other segmentation? Is this serving the account well? Would you recommend any other breakouts and why or why not?
  3. What types of search campaigns are running – Standard Search, RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads), DSA (Dynamic Search Ads), etc.? Are there any search campaigns you’d like to add or test considering the budget and goals?
  4. Are any campaigns limited by budget, and if so, how is their performance over the last 30, 60, 90 days?
  5. Is there any impression share lost to budget or rank at the campaign level for campaigns performing above or near goal? How can more impression share be garnered?
  6. Are any bid strategies enabled and if so, how are they performing and are they limited at all? How are average CPCs relative to your research on the industry?
  7. Are there any concerning CTRs at the campaign-level relative to your research on the industry? If so, note these campaigns for further research as you work down the checklist.
  8. Review the Auction Insights and tell us your thoughts. Are these the competitors you’d expect to see? Are you comfortable with their Position Above Rate and their Outranking Share? How do these competitors likely compare to your own business from a budget and performance perspective?
  9. How are campaigns performing when reviewed by device? Are any device bid adjustments being used at the campaign-level?
  10. How are campaigns performing when reviewed by day or week, hour of day, or other time-related segmentation? Are any ad scheduling or bid adjustments for time-related segmentation being used at the campaign-level?
  11. How are campaigns performing on Google Search vs. Search Partners Network? Any adjustments?
  12. Are there any campaigns that should be paused based on performance?
  13. Briefly review paused/removed campaigns, as well as active and enabled campaigns, to ensure you also know what has been tested in the account previously. Anything worth retesting and if so, why?

Adgroups

  1. How are the adgroups broken out and does it make sense? Are these SKAGs (single keyword adgroups) or not? (We typically do not recommend SKAGs except for special circumstances)
  2. Does each adgroup have a clear theme?
  3. Are there sufficient keywords or types of keywords in each adgroup?
  4. Are any adgroups considered “budget eaters” – as in taking the majority of a campaign’s budget, not allowing many other adgroups in the campaign to serve? If so, should these adgroups be broken out into their own campaign?
  5. What is the default max CPC per adgroup and is it being actively used?
  6. Are there any adgroups performing well that are losing impression share to rank that should be reviewed?
  7. Are there any adgroups that should be paused based on performance?
  8. Are there any adgroups with a higher number of impressions and a low number of clicks (i.e. low CTR), that should be looked into further?

Ads & Ad Extensions

  1. Are there any ads disapproved, and if so, why?
  2. Are there at least three enabled and approved ads per adgroup?
  3. What types of search ads are running or have been tested (expanded text ads, responsive search ads, etc.)
  4. Are all ads making the most of the allotted character count?
  5. Are ads using the optional ad text areas – like Headline 3, Path 1 and Path 2?
  6. Are ads using initial caps instead of sentence case?
  7. Do ads have a clear CTA (call to action)?
  8. Are ads highly relevant to the keywords in the adgroup (depending on impression volume for the adgroup, this may not be necessary, but for high volume adgroups, it is recommended)
  9. Do ads contain the brand/company name for further brand awareness? Any special characters like a registered trademark?
  10. Do ads showcase an offer or promotion? If not, are there any available?
  11. Do ads focus on features/benefits or solve a user’s problem?
  12. Do the ads contain any type of urgency?
  13. Are any special features being used in ads, like a countdown timer or pulling in business data from a feed? Is this functionality working properly?
  14. Do a quick review of competitor ads and tell us how the prospect’s ads would compare. Do they offer anything we don’t? Does their offering, wording, tone seem more appealing?
  15. Are ads labeled for easier review and testing?
  16. Are ads using a https final URL? Is it an option?
  17. Is the URL being triggered from the ad-level or is it being overridden by a keyword-level URL?
  18. Are all relevant ad extensions being used?
  19. Are ad extensions strong enough, or could there be improvements?
  20. Are any automated extensions in use? (We prefer to turn this off in most circumstances)
  21. Looking at the poorest performing ads, are there any notable themes?
  22. Looking at the best performing ads, are there any notable themes?

Keywords

  1. Are the keywords within each adgroup closely themed? Are there any missing themes that seem very important to the build?
  2. Are there multiple keyword match types in use?
  3. Are there any duplicate keywords in an adgroup or across campaigns that could be cannibalizing each other? Feel free to use the Google Ads Editor duplicate keyword tool to check this more easily than in the engine.
  4. Are keywords of the same match type serving from the same adgroup or campaign (without cross-negatives), and potentially cannibalizing each other and driving up costs?
  5. What is the percentage of Exact, Broad, BMM, Phrase match keywords in the account, and where is the volume coming from?
  6. How does the average CPC and other performance metrics compare across different match types?
  7. Looking at performance by keyword match type, should any match type be removed from the account?
  8. How many keywords are below the first page bid estimate? How important are they to the health of the account?
  9. How many keywords have low search volume and what is the percentage of keywords with this status? Any adjustments based on this?
  10. How many keywords are “rarely shown due to low quality score” and what is the percentage of keywords with this status? Any adjustments based on this?
  11. Are any keywords disapproved, and if so, what is the disapproval reason?
  12. Are there any keywords that should be paused based on performance or reviewed on a deeper level?
  13. Are there any keywords with a high number of impressions and a low number of clicks (i.e. low CTR), that should be looked into further?
  14. Pull a Search Terms report for the last year, last 90 and last 30 days. Should any keyword or keyword themes be negated? Should any be added.
  15. Review Negative Keywords, either individually or as a shared list in the library. Is the list robust? Are there any basic negatives that should be added?

Landing Pages

  1. How many different landing pages are being used?
  2. Export all active landing pages and run through a 404 checker – are any going to dead pages?
  3. What are the conversion rates by landing page and is this above or below average for the industry based on your research?
  4. What is the mobile speed score and mobile-friendly click rate of the landing pages and do any need improvement?
  5. Are any landing pages performing significantly better or worse when compared to the overall account performance? Are there any swaps that should be made?
  6. For ecommerce landing pages: Review all (or a few, depending on how many) landing pages being used for best practices and a strong UX (user experience). How visually appealing is the page? Does the ad flow well into the landing page – is it what you would expect to see as a user? Is there enough copy on the page and is it related to your keywords and ads? Any glaring issues? How easy is the checkout process, can it be improved? Is there any mention of secure payment options? Any reviews, “as seen on” or testimonials on the page? Any other improvements?
  7. For lead gen landing pages: Review all (or a few, depending on how many) landing pages being used for best practices and a strong UX (user experience). How visually appealing is the page? Does the ad flow well into the landing page – is it what you would expect to see as a user? Is there enough copy on the page and is it related to your keywords and ads? Any glaring issues? If there is a form, how many fields are there and can it be condensed? Is the submission button a good contrast, and how is the wording on the button? Is there a phone number on the page being tracked? If so, is it clickable from mobile? Are there any credibility cues or testimonials? Any other improvements?

Audiences

  1. Review the Audiences tab in Google Ads, to understand the audiences added to the account, and if they are added at the campaign or adgroup level, as well as what type of audience it is (Affinity, In-Market, etc.)
  2. Review the targeting setting for all audiences and note whether they are targeted audiences or observations. Based on the goal, is the audience targeting selection correct?
  3. Do any audiences have bid adjustments based on positive or poor performance? Should they?
  4. Are there any audiences (first-party or Google-hosted) that should be added as observations for more data collection? If so, what would you recommend?
  5. If any RLSA campaign(s) is running, has the audience being targeted in that campaign been negated from all other campaigns to allow for proper funneling of traffic?
  6. Are any other audiences excluded? Should they be?

Demographics & Locations

  1. Review age, gender, parental status and household income demographics for your account. Do any segments within these categories perform higher or lower than the average account performance over the last year, 90 or 30 days? If so, should any bid adjustments or exclusions be in place?
  2. Would you consider breaking out any demographics into their own campaign with special or more targeted messaging?
  1. Review your geographic report and your user location report for comparison. Is significant traffic coming from user locations outside of your selected geographic locations? If so, detail which settings should be updated or which exclusions should be made.

Recommendations & Attribution

  1. Go to the recommendations tab in Google Ads. What is the optimization score?
  2. After a thorough review of the account, do you agree or disagree with this optimization score (this number is automated by Google based on certain variables and account settings. In our experience, oftentimes for more complex PPC accounts or accounts using more advanced techniques, the optimization algorithm doesn’t truly account for everything working together and gives a lower score than we would personally give)
  3. Review the suggested optimizations in the Recommendations tab. Any suggestions worth implementing that are not included above?
  1. Review your attribution report in Google Ads and detail out your findings and recommendations based on your review.
  2. What are the top paths by different dimensions, conversion actions and lookback windows? Are multiple paths being touched prior to conversion? If so, are you potentially undervaluing any campaigns or campaign types (i.e., non-brand campaigns) based on your attribution model?
  3. What are the average number of days to conversion? Can this be improved by the addition of an RLSA or Display remarketing campaign or some other tactic?
  4. How many average ad interactions before conversion? Can this be improved, and if so, what would you recommend?
  5. Review the model comparison tool and compare the current attribution model with all other available models (Last click, first click, linear, time decay, position-based). Is the best model being used for the client’s goals? Is this model limiting the amount of conversion data, and potentially impacting the function of your bid strategies?

Whew!

This list will keep you busy for a while… and ensure your account is delivering maximum performance and ROI.

We hope this checklist helps you perform effective, efficient Google Ads account audits and helps you improve your campaign performance significantly.

Here is a link to a Google Sheet you can use to audit your account.

Would you add anything to this list? Any questions we can help answer? Drop them in the comments below.

Happy account auditing!

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