How to Conduct a PPC Audit

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Every now and then, it’s a good idea to take an objective look at your pay-per-click campaign, clean things up and take stock of what’s working and what’s not. Cutting the waste and reallocating those resources can do big things for your ROI, and what better time to do it than the start of a new year? Here are a few key areas to evaluate.

Clean out your retired ads

If you’re testing the way you should be, you have quite a few iterations to your PPC ads. And many of them may still be lurking around in your AdWords dashboard. Now’s a good time to take a look and ditch those non-performers for good.

But wait: Before you ditch those old ads for good, they’re worth a look-over. Some prefer to keep a separate file of defunct ads for later reference and to avoid duplicating efforts to rule out specific ad elements. Old, non-performing ads can also be a brainstorming tool. You never know when reading something that you know doesn’t work will spark a brilliant idea for something that does.

Evaluate your landing pages

Just like your ads, it’s possible that you have some old landing pages still floating around. Ideally, they’re not published, but it’s possible you have an active page or two that shouldn’t be. Even if it’s not part of your website’s hierarchy (e.g., it’s not linked to from any other page on your site), it could still be attracting a wayward visitor here and there. And that means you’re wasting the potential to convert those visitors who could be landing on the sales pages that have proven their worthiness.

Like your PPC ads, old landing pages can spark fresh ideas. They’re worth a look-over before you abolish them for eternity.

Targeting metrics

It’s not just your creative that you should be checking out as part of a PPC audit. With so many settings and options in the AdWords dashboard and most advertisers running multiple, simultaneous campaigns, it doesn’t take much to have some mis-matched targeting settings. Take a look at each campaign and make sure you’re targeting the right audience and not excluding anyone who could be a valuable prospect.

Things may have changed over the course of the last year (or however long it’s been since you’ve audited your PPC campaigns). Maybe you’ve discovered a new niche audience that has an interest in your products or services, or maybe you’ve introduced a new product that targets a different audience. If your more general PPC ads don’t yet include these individuals, now’s your chance to make sure your targeting options are inclusive.

Remove all that seasonal stuff

If you’re conducting an end-of-year or beginning-of-year audit, the holidays are over. Any seasonal references, ad extensions pointing to holiday-oriented pages on your website, ads with special holiday discounts and so on should be disabled.

If you tend to use the same messaging or creative year-over-year, it’s fine to keep them around but inactive. Or, if your PPC campaign was particularly effective this holiday season, you might want to keep them around to build off of them next year. Just make sure you’re not touting end-of-year clearance sales well into February.

Take stock of budgets and ROI

Review your budget settings carefully. Take a look at your CTRs and conversions. Is it time to shift some of your budget to a better-performing ad group? Maybe you have seasonal campaigns with more relevance this time of year that you should allocate some additional funds to, or other ad groups that for whatever reason don’t perform well during certain months.

Take all your historical analyses into account and make budgetary decisions that make the most sense for your business, based on the current environment, competition factors (is your biggest competitor ramping up efforts to target a highly-desirable term?), and performance. Making the most efficient use of your budget will only produce better results.

Check out your destination URLs

Make sure that your destination URLs match up to the appropriate landing page and that none direct to your home page. The home page is usually the worst page to direct a PPC visitor to, simply because it lacks specifics and often doesn’t appear to be closely targeted to what the user is searching for. That’s why landing pages produce much better results. You can hone in on a specific product or service, speak to the precise user demographic reaching the page, and tout the right benefits to convert visitors.

It’s possible that you turned on an ad group in a rush and neglected to re-set the destination URL to the appropriate landing page. That’s the beauty of an audit: Even though every marketer gets extraordinarily busy from time to time, audits ensure that silly oversights aren’t hurting your ROI.

There are dozens of other specifics in the entire PPC funnel that should be periodically reviewed, but these are a few of the most influential factors that could make or break your ad campaigns. Audits seem like a daunting process, but a few hours of your time will pay off handsomely if you can boost your ROI dramatically by fine-tuning the specifics.