Introduction:

A comprehensive PPC audit checklist takes countless hours of testing and iterating to properly create.

Most existing examples are too specific to adapt for yourself, and all of that effort could be in vain if you haven't accounted for how complicated SERPs are. That's why we've created this PPC Audit Checklist. This is an in-depth framework that covers the core focus areas that should be reviewed for each new campaign or after 3 months of data has been collected. 

This checklist will walk through setting up goals, ensuring campaign settings are optimized, allocating budget, reviewing keywords, choosing proper ad extensions, and much more. Before moving into this audit keep the following quote in mind.

Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make. - Bill Bernbach

Goals:

Input basic information

The first step is to record basic information about the account being audited. These details will be useful for automating basic tasks later on in the process.

If you haven't already, you can set up Zapier to launch instances of this checklist template in the future and push information you already have stored in other tools into any task's form fields automatically, based on a trigger like changing a lead's status from "qualified" to "customer".

Fill out the form fields below.

Determine account goals

Whether you are putting this together for a client or are part of an internal team, you will want to think about what the goals are for the account.

  • Was the account setup based off of old KPI's?
  • What are expected conversion rates?
  • Has the target market changed?

Fill out the form fields below.

Using the Members form field below, assign the individual who will approve the account goals.

Approval: Account goals

Will be submitted for approval:
  • Determine account goals
    Will be submitted

Choose data sources

List the data sources you will be using for this audit and how they will be accessed. When conducting an audit it is important to make sure your data is as accurate as possible.

PRO TIP: Downloading the data from Google, Bing, etc... and incorporating it into an Excel spreadsheet can make it easier to analyze and visualize the data. This also allows you to show the data to clients and your manager to support your recommendations. 

Fill in the below form field with the data sources you will be using. You should also upload any data you are analyzing to keep track of it. 

Select the time frame

Select the time frame of this audit.

The time frame being analyzed will greatly impact the insights that you gain. We typically recommend that you have at least 3 months of data.

Fill out the form fields below.

Tracking:

Verify AdWords tracking code is added to your site

Check that your AdWords tracking code is properly added to your site.

To verify the conversion tag you have added on the page is correct you can use Google Tag Assistant. To do this just follow these steps:

  • Install Google Tag Assistant
  • Open your thank you page in a new tab
  • Click on the tag assistant icon
  • Enable it and reload your page

You will then see the list of tags that are being fired on your page. This will include your conversion tag.

Ensure conversion actions have been defined appropriately

Review current conversion actions and ensure they are relevant.

A conversion action is a specific action that you have defined as being valuable to your business. Examples of this could be an online purchase or a phone call. You can setup conversion actions for different sources. Some of these sources could include website actions, an in-app action, an app download, and calls. 

If you need to track multiple instances of the same kind of conversion, such as a form submission, you will need to create multiple conversion actions. 

Campaign settings:

Verify the ‘Delivery Method’ selected

Verify the delivery method being used.

The delivery method that you choose will determine how long your budget will last. The default choice for most accounts is "standard" delivery. This is because Google will optimize the delivery of your ads and spread them out throughout the day. You may miss out on some searches but it ensure that your budget will last.

If you choose "accelerated" your budget will most likely get fully utilized. Google doesn't optimize the delivery as much as they do with "standard". Additionally, the funds are usually heavily used for morning ad placements. This can cause your ads not to be shown in the afternoon. 

Verify the ‘Ad Rotation’ option selected

Verify that the correct option is selected for ad rotation. 

Ad rotation is the method that Google Ads are delivered on both the Search and Display Networks. If you have more than one ad in your ad group then they will be forced to rotate. Google doesn't allow more than one ad from your account to show at a time. 

To review your ad rotation settings you will need to ensure that "all features" are enabled. From the ad rotation section, you can choose the frequency that your ads will be served relative to each other. Please be aware that ad rotation settings are not available in a Smart Display campaign. 

There are two primary options. You can choose "optimize" or "rotate indefinitely."

Below are instructions as provided by Google.

Set ad rotation for your campaign
  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Click All campaigns in the navigation panel.
  3. Click the campaign you’d like to change.
  4. Click Settings in the page menu.
  5. Click Additional settings.
  6. Choose Ad rotation.
  7. Choose an ad rotation method: Optimize or Rotate indefinitely.
  8. Click Save.
Set ad rotation for multiple campaigns at once
  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Click All campaigns in the navigation panel.
  3. Click Settings in the page menu.
  4. Check the box next to the campaigns or ad groups you want to change.
  5. Click Edit.
  6. In the drop-down menu, select Change ad rotation.
  7. Choose an ad rotation method.
  8. Click Save.
Set ad rotation by ad group
  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Click Ad groups in the page menu.
  3. Click the ad group that you’d like to change.
  4. Click Settings in the page menu.
  5. Click Ad rotation and then select a method.

Verify your Ad Schedule settings

Choose a relevant ad schedule.

If you have specific times that you would like your ads to show then this is the section you should modify. However, if no one searches for your specific keyword during the time that you have chosen then your ad will not appear. You can also use this section to increase or decrease your spend on specific days and times.

By default, Google ads campaigns are set to display "all day."

Check if ‘All Features’ has been selected for your campaign

Always make sure "All features" has been selected for your Search campaign. This makes sure that any advanced options will be accessible for that campaign. Not having this selected will limit features and could impact ROI. 

Verify if you want to opt for ‘Search partners’ from Search Network

Confirm search partners being used.

If you have a campaign that will be using the Search Network it will automatically include all search partners. This is a default option. 

It is also important to note that Google Ads will not provide partner-level reports on ad performance that utilize search partner sites. 

Follow these steps to review your current settings: 

  1. Sign into your Google Ads account
  2. In the page menu, click Settings, then click the campaign you want to include or remove search partners to.
  3. Click Networks.
  4. Check the box next to "Include Google search partners" to enable ads from this campaign to appear on search partner websites, or uncheck it to disable this campaign’s ads from showing on search partner websites.
  5. Click Save.

Check the number of ad variations per ad group

Review the number of ad variations per ad group.

If you are conducting a search network campaign then Google recommends creating at least 2-3 ads per ad group.  Another good rule of thumb is to review the number of impressions your ad group will receive and make sure it is in line with what you need to hit your conversion goals.

Determine if dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) should be used

Decide if dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) will be used.

Dynamic keyword insertion allows you to create ads that serve up more relevant and personalized ads based off of the searchers' keyword. This feature is available on Google Ads and other ad networks. For a more in-depth understanding of DKI, we would highly recommend this guide put together by WordStream.  

Budget & bidding:

Check that budget is sufficient

Check the current budget and make sure it is appropriate.

Within Google Ads you can set a daily budget for each campaign. Your budget should be based on your traffic or conversion goals. Make sure that you review this to ensure you have sufficient budget to hit your metrics. 

Validate your bidding strategy

Validate the bidding strategy.

It is important to have a solid bid strategy behind your effort. You can choose a Manual CPC strategy or utilize one of the automated strategies that Google Ads has created. Make sure that you have taken the time to understand all the bid strategies available. That way you can determine which strategy is best for hitting your KPI's. 

If goals do change you can always update your strategy by following these steps:

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. In the page menu on the left, click Campaigns.
  3. Select the campaign you want to edit.
  4. Click Settings in the page menu for this campaign.
  5. Open Bidding and then click Change bid strategy.
  6. Select your new bid strategy from the drop-down menu.
  7. Click Save.

Google also put together a great article on how to determine your bid strategy. It can be seen by clicking here

If you would like to learn more or need a refresher on bid strategies we have included a very informative video below. 

Verify bid adjustments

Review your current bids per interaction. Then determine if adjustments need to be made.

Sometimes the source or type of interaction from of a click can be worth more than others. Bid adjustments allow you to specify if you would like to increase spend to get more exposure based on certain types of interactions. Examples of the choices you have include time of day, location, device type, etc...

Targeting:

Check location targeting

Make sure the locations chosen are correct.  

You want to make sure that you are targeting customers that you feel will convert the best. If your ideal customer is only in English speaking countries then it wouldn't make any sense to have your ads running in non-English speaking countries. This would be wasted spend and artificially inflate your customer acquisition costs.

Set proper device performance and targeting

Make sure that targeting is properly selected.

For both display and video campaigns you have the ability to target specific operating systems, ad inventory, device types, wireless networks, and more. Make sure you have fine tuned these to show up to the right people at the right time on the right device. 

Ensure proper demographic specifications, if any

Select demographic information for your target audience.

If you have a specific demographic that you are targeting then you will want to make sure you have that setup properly. Follow the below steps to create demographic groups:

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. In the page menu on the left, click Campaigns.
  3. Click the name of the campaign to which you want to add demographic targeting. You can add demographic categories to Search, Display, and Video campaigns.
  4. Click the name of the ad group to which you want to add demographic targeting.
  5. In the page menu on the left, click Demographics.
  6. Click the demographic you want to target along the top of the page:
    • Gender
    • Age
    • Parental status (Display and Video campaigns only)
    • Household income (currently available in the U.S., Japan, Australia, and New Zealand only)
  7. Check the box next to the specific demographic groups you want to target.
  8. Click the Edit drop-down in the blue banner that appears along the top of the table, then select Enable. To exclude demographic groups, select Exclude from ad group.

Check the display ad placements for inappropriate websites

Make sure inappropriate websites are on the exclusion list.  

If you have a list of websites or know of types of sites that you don't want your ad showing up on then you should include this in the negative site list. This is important from a branding standpoint. If your ad appears on a site then the common online user will associate your ad with the site they are viewing. Below are the step-by-step instructions provided by Google:

Exclude individual sites from ad groups or campaigns
  1. Select Keywords and Targeting > Placements, Negative in the type list.
  2. Click Add negative and select the type of negative site (campaign or ad group).
  3. If prompted, select the destination for the new negative site and click OK.
  4. Enter the negative site in the edit panel.
Add multiple negative sites
  1. Select Keywords and Targeting > Placements, Negative in the type list.
  2. Click Make multiple changes.
  3. Under "Destination,” select My data includes columns for campaigns and/or ad groups or Use selected destinations.
  4. Type or paste your changes into the grid.
  5. Click Process.
  6. To continue, click Finish and review changes.
  7. To add the pending changes to your account, click Keep.

Ads:

Verify ad guidelines are followed

Verify ad guidelines are being followed.

Each company should have branding guidelines and style guides created that should be followed. Ensure that all ads are compliant with internal policies.

Additionally, Google has guidelines and an approval process that has to be adhered to. Please be sure to review Google Ads policies.  

Typically any ad created will go through a standard review process to ensure quality and compliance. Most ads are approved within 1 business day. If it hasn't been reviewed or approved by the end of 2 business days then you need to contact them. 

Use keyword in ad copy

Use keywords in the ad copy.

Ads are driven by keywords. If your keyword is not in your ad then your ad will not perform or show up very much. Your quality score will also be very low due to irrelevance. This is because Google wants to show ads that are in line with user search intent. 

One good strategy is to use Single Keyword Ad Groups. This is also lovingly called "SKAGs." The strategy is exactly what the name implies. Your ad should have just one keyword associated with each ad group. This allows you to ensure that your keywords are directly in line with the search terms you're trying to convert on. 

Ensure the landing page is appropriate

Make sure your landing pages are following best practices.  

Unbounce put together a great best practices article that can be seen here. Below are eight core items that should be checked for each landing page.

  • 1
    Does your landing page headline match the message on your ads?
  • 2
    Does your page message have the clarity of a 30-second elevator pitch?
  • 3
    Does the writing focus primarily on benefits rather than features?
  • 4
    Are you using a relevant and original main image or video that shows it being used?
  • 5
    Do you make it clear what the visitor will receive by clicking your CTA?
  • 6
    Have you optimized your landing page to get a paid search quality score above 7?
  • 7
    ave you removed extraneous links (like the global nav) – to remove page leaks?
  • 8
    Do you have clear goals for this landing page and campaign?

Check for any offer or time-bound messaging

Make sure time-bound offers have the correct runtimes. 

If your organization runs special campaigns for discounts, holidays, or special events it is important to keep track of the dates these offers are valid. In the form field below list, any offers that have run over the audit analysis period. 

Check your ads for grammatical or spelling mistakes

Review ads for spelling or grammar mistakes.

Be sure to triple check for any grammatical errors. A great tool to use is Grammarly. You might even want to ask a colleague to take a look. It never hurts to have a fresh pair of eyes. 

Make sure ad has clear call-to-action

Ensure each ad has a clear call-to-action.

The newspaper industry has a great saying, "never bury the lead." This is extremely relevant when writing your ad. Make sure you clearly state why people should care to read your offer. Then you need to encourage them to take an action. 

Prepare A/B test review

Review current A/B tests that are running in the account. Are there any insights or issues?

If the account isn't running any A/B tests then that is something you should plan on doing. There is always something that can be improved. Be sure that you setup a control and a variant so that you can accurately determine what is working and what isn't.

Verify display campaigns are using both image and text ads

Verify display campaigns are using text and images. 

The more real estate your ads can take the better. Having both text and image ads will increase your ads distribution through the display network.

Keywords:

Check your search terms for negative keywords

Look over the campaign keywords and make sure negative keywords are being used. 

Choosing the proper keyword to associate with your ads will determine success or failure in your PPC efforts. If you need a refresher on conducting keyword research we have put together an in-depth Keyword Research Checklist. You can easily apply it to your Process Street account with one simple click.  

Record negative keywords being used.

Check keyword match types

Review the keyword match types that are associated with each ad. Then determine if they are correct. You can access the Keywords list by clicking on the Keywords tab in Google Ads. 

Keyword match types will allow you to control the type of searches that will trigger your ad to appear. If yous goal is impressions and you want to get more eyes on your ad you could utilize broad match types. However, if you have a keyword that you know converts very well but is more targeted then you will want to use an exact match type. 

Below are some additional resources:

Learn how to use the different keyword match types with your Google AdWords search campaigns. You'll learn about broad, phrase, exact and negative keyword match types. Plus broad match modified keywords and close variants. - Benjamin Mangold from Loves Data

Ensure there are no keyword conflicts

Review the account to ensure there are no keyword conflicts occurring. 

If a keyword conflict is happening you will want to compare your keyword list versus your negative keyword list. When a conflict occurs your ads won't show, even when they are set to active, due to them being blocked. The first place to look for conflict would be in the search query data.

Below is an example tracking document that was developed by Google. You can get it here

Identify new search query opportunities

Brainstorm new keyword ideas.

There are countless ways to find inspiration for new keywords or search queries. Make sure you take some time to get into the mind of your ideal customer. Think about what keywords they would use to find your product. What "job" is your product solving for? Working through the JTBD (Jobs to Be Done) framework can be extremely helpful. 

Verify proper search query triggered keyword results

Go to the Keyword tab of your campaign or adgroup and verify the which keywords are triggering your ads. You can do this by looking over the Search Query Report. 

To access the Search Query report follow these steps:

  • Log into your Google ads account
  • Click on the "Keywords" tab
  • Select the keywords you want more information on
  • Click the "Search Terms" button 

You will then be presented with a result like this:

Check the number of keywords per ad group

Check the number of keywords per ad group.

There is no rule that dictates how many keywords you should have per ad group. You will need to determine this as you review your accounts. However, many argue that 20 should be the maximum. The thought behind this is that if you have more than 20 keywords then your ad copy is probably not as aligned with search intent as it could be. Your results will be too broad to get the best conversion. 

Remove keywords with zero impressions

Remove any keywords that have zero impressions.

If your keywords are getting zero impressions then they are just taking up space in your account. They are also distracting and can clutter your account. 

Quality score:

Check your keyword's quality score performance

Check keyword quality score.

To check the relevance of your ad in comparison to the keywords that are associated with it, you will want to look at the Quality Score. 

The easiest way to check this is by following these steps:

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. In the page menu on the left, click Keywords. 
  3. Hover over a keyword’s status in the “Status” column. You'll be able to see ratings for expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.
AdHawk also put together a short tutorial.

Eliminate keywords with poor quality score

Eliminate any keywords with a quality score under 7. 

To remove poor performing keywords all you need to do is go to the Keywords section in the page menu and then click on Search Keywords or Display/Video keywords. Select the keyword you want to remove and choose Edit then Remove.

Ad extension:

Ensure GMB is linked to your Ads account to enable location extensions (if applicable)

Make sure location extensions are setup. This can be done by linking Google Ads with Google My Business.

By connecting Google My Business (GMB) to your Google Ads account you will be able to enable location extensions. If your business doesn't utilize a physical location and only handles support through email then this might not be as important to you. However, if your a business focusing on a specific geographic area or want to make your contact information more easily accessible, then this would be good to setup. 

Location extensions will attach your address, a map to your location, or even the distance to your business to the ad you are running. Users will then be able to click the additional information about your location for further details. This could direct them to your location page or even a call button. 

Check for campaigns with missing ad extensions

Review your campaigns and make sure that all extensions that are relevant have been enabled. You can go to the Ads & extensions tab to see which extensions are currently enabled. 

Remove any non-performing automated extensions

Remove any extensions that are not converting. 

If an extension isn't bringing any value then it might be distracting from your ad. Be sure to review their performance.

Check the status of ad extension (approved or disapproved)

Check the current approval status of each ad extension.

Make sure your call extension is scheduled during operational hours

Look over your call extensions and make sure they are scheduled to only run during business hours

Nothing is worse than a hot lead turning cold. Don't have call extensions running if no one can answer the phone. This is a simple fix that could dramatically impact your campaigns.  

Check if ‘call reporting’ is enabled to track conversions from your call extensions

If you are using call extensions make sure that call reporting has been turned on. 

Please note that this is only available on the Search Network. Call reporting runs off of Google forwarding numbers. It lets you track the performance of your call extensions and call-only ads. This report will give you information on call duration, the start and stop time, the callers' area code, and if the call was successfully connected. 

Remarketing campaigns:

Validate remarketing code has been added correctly

Validate that the remarketing code has been added correctly.

Remarketing allows you to show ads to individuals who have already visited your website. You do this by putting snippets of code on your site. You will need to ensure that the global site tag and event snippets are properly setup on your website. The global site snippet works with Google's conversion tracking and remarketing products. This allows you to target your ads to relevant visitors through tracking cookies. 

NOTE: With GDPR and other privacy updates it is important to inform your site visitors about any data collection processes. 

To create or edit your remarketing event snippets and global site tag please follow the below steps:

    1. Sign in to AdWords.
    2. Click on the tool icon  in the upper right and click Audience Manager under the section labeled “Shared library”
    3. On the left, click Audience sources. This opens a group of sources from which you can create remarketing lists.
    4. In the “AdWords tag” card, click SET UP TAG.
      • If you’ve already set up a tag, select Edit source from the 3-dot icon in its upper right of the “AdWords tag” card. If you’re just getting the code, skip to step 6.
    5. Select which type of data the tag will collect, standard data or specific attributes/parameters.
      • You can also choose to include the user ID parameter with the tag. This will collect the user IDs of people who visit your website so you can show more targeted ads.
      • If you select specific attributes or parameters, you can choose the business type that best represents your products and services. 
    6. Click CREATE AND CONTINUE.
      • This button will say SAVE AND CONTINUE for an existing tag.
    7. When the installation screen appears, your global site tag and event snippet will be ready for use. You can copy the code, use Tag Manager, download the tag, or email the tag to a webmaster.
      • To integrate remarketing into your site, copy the code and paste it between the <head></head> tags of the website.
      • The global site tag must be added into every page of your site. The event snippet only needs to be added into the specific pages you want to track for dynamic remarketing events.
    8. Click DONE.
    9. In the following “What’s Next” confirmation screen, click DONE again.
      • Optional: If you previously added the global site tag from another Google product such as Google Analytics, make sure you add the 'config' command from the AdWords tag (highlighted below) to every existing instance of the tag. Note that "AW-123456789" is only an example of an ID. You'll need to replace this part of the 'config' command with your customer ID in the global site tag box.
            <script async src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=AW-123456789"></script>
            <script>
            window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
            function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
            gtag('js', new Date());
             
            gtag('config', 'AW-123456789');
            </script>
      • Optional: If you’re using an event snippet for remarketing and don’t want the global site tag to send an extra hit, add the highlighted portion below to your global site tag’s ‘config’ command.
            gtag('config', 'AW-123456789', {'send_page_view': false});

    Validate remarketing lists are properly collecting visitors

    Make sure that your remarketing lists are properly collecting visitor data. If the data isn't showing impressions or you see a lot of zeros then you should ensure that remarketing snippets have been properly installed.

    Verify the remarketing lists created

    Be sure that the remarketing lists created are relevant to your ads and are properly named. Using a consistent naming convention will help you stay organized. 

    Metric review:

    Review primary KPI's

    Review primary KPI's for the account.

    There are many metrics that can be analyzed when conducting a PPC Audit. Each account is different and has specific goals created for them. Below we have listed a few common metrics that are reviewed. 

    • 1
      Average Position
    • 2
      CTR (Click Through Rate)
    • 3
      CPC (Cost Per Click)
    • 4
      CPA (Cost Per Conversion/ Acquisition)
    • 5
      CVR (Conversion Rate)
    • 6
      CPM (Cost Per Impression)
    • 7
      Other

    Validate budget utilization

    Make sure the budget was properly utilized. You should include notes on why the budget was or wasn't fully used. This can be input in the form field below.

    Report/Action items:

    Prioritize action items

    Now that you have completed the audit you should write down your major takeaways and prioritize action items.

    The best place to start is to identify any concerns. List anything that you noticed was wrong or incorrectly setup. From the list of concerns, you should be able to identify quick wins. Some examples could be that the remarketing pixel isn't setup correctly or that incorrect demographic information had been chosen for an ad. These would be easy fixes that could make a significant impact.

    After you have written out quick wins then you should put together a list of next steps. Think about what would make the most impact in the quickest amount of time.

    Create a report (if needed)

    Decide if a report needs to be made. If you do need to put together a client facing report then it should, at a minimum, include the following:

    • Areas of concern
    • Quick wins
    • Action items

    Every organization has a different structure or tool utilized to create a PPC audit report.  If you are unsure of what tool you should use we would recommend reviewing this article by Wordstream

    Using the Members form field below, assign the individual who will approve the audit report.

    Prepare report for review

    After your report is complete you will want to email it or print it. 

    PRO TIP: A great way to merge your data from Process Street with your report is through our integration with WebMerge. 

    To send the email you can use the email widget below. All you need to do is customize the message and upload your file. 

    Then just make sure everything looks okay and hit "Send".

    Approval: Audit report

    Will be submitted for approval:
    • Prepare report for review
      Will be submitted

    Sources:

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