How to conduct an AdWords audit for e-commerce?
Preview article: In this article, we’ve put together a series of steps and key questions to help you conduct an AdWords audit, which can further help you find possible problems or gain valuable insights. We discuss topics such as: campaign settings, account structure, but also small optimizations that need to be adopted to bring the best results for your business.
There’s always something in your AdWords account that can be improved. How do you find the problems and how do you solve them? Through a regular audit of the account. This method applies both to people who personally manage their campaigns, but also to entrepreneurs / companies who choose to work with a specialized Google AdWords agency. Why? Because it’s important to make sure you understand how your AdWords account is evolving and how you can support the advertising efforts on Google platforms with other channels or business decisions.
Now you’re probably wondering: what does an AdWords audit entail? This is the process of evaluating the effectiveness of the account. An audit can reveal hidden problems or valuable insights that can be solved or exploited to increase performance. While there are multiple automated tools and online services that offer audit notes or algorithm-based solutions, they often lack the context of your marketing goals and target audience.
We thought we’d help you out with some of the steps you need to take to ensure that you have a well-established account and that it delivers the best results for your business.
The initial settings
Account objectives and conversion tracking
One of the most important steps to take after opening your AdWords account is defining and setting relevant conversions: sales, newsletter sign-ups, phone calls etc.
Once the most important actions are identified on the website (conversions) and defined in the account, a html code is generated. It must be entered in the code of each corresponding page of the website (for example: Conversions = Sales => the code must be entered in the “Complete order” page). Depending on the complexity of the website or the platform used, this process may be quick or may require the assistance of a developer.
Neglecting the conversion tracking process automatically generates data that doesn’t reflect reality and doesn’t help you truly measure the effectiveness of your advertising investment on AdWords. The easiest and fastest way to verify the correct installation of the html code is to use a Google add-on: Tag Assistant, which shows you the tag installed on each page.
Once you have made sure that your account details have been recorded correctly, you can start analysing them. Depending on the purpose of the audit, the selected time interval may differ: for a general audit we recommend a period of 12 months, and for specific campaigns we recommend a minimum of 3 months. Why? Because a period of 30 days, for example, does not necessarily reflect the possible implications of external factors (e.g., seasonality).
Another important aspect for data analysis is the chosen metrics. Ask yourself if the ones you are currently using fully reflect your account goals. Some of the most used metrics for measuring results specific to online stores are: Cost, Conversions, Conversions Value, Avg. CPC, Return on investment, Avg. cost of conversion (cost / conversions). If you want to use other metrics that are not listed in the predefined column catalogue, you can create a metric from scratch (e.g.: cost of sale).
AdWords Account Structure
While creating a campaign may seem like the easiest step, it’s good to know that any wrong or uninformed step can negatively affect the overall performance.
Below are some questions to help you assess your account organization when conducting an AdWords audit.
- Is there a common template used for choosing campaign titles or are they randomly named? It is a good practice for the name of a campaign to follow a structure, so that you can immediately remember its contents and settings (e.g., S_Women_Watches_Brands [CPA] – here we expect to find a Search campaign dedicated to Women’s Watches, the ad groups being created based on the Brands available in the online store, and the bid method is target CPA)
- Are the campaigns organized around themes relevant to the final results, such as: product catalogue (Brands: Fossil, G-shock, Cassio or Categories: Outdoor toys, Kids room, Childcare products), services catalogue (Dentist Services: Routine check-up, Orthodontic services etc.), the general objectives of the company (e.g.: sales, brand awareness, activity locations), target audience features (e.g., Women / Men)?
- Do you include the search and display network in the same campaign? We recommend that you treat search campaigns separately from display campaigns.
- Is campaign geo-targeting set correctly?
- Is device-based targeting appropriate? (e.g., if the website / landing page is not mobile optimized, then it is recommended that the campaigns be carried out exclusively on desktop, so as not to waste the budget). Another recommendation in this regard would be not to rush to break campaigns depending on the device. Why? If you don’t notice big differences in desktop vs. mobile performance, you can adjust your budgets in the “Devices” tab. Breaking down campaigns by device means doubling your work, so don’t do it, unless absolutely necessary.
- Are the bidding method, budget and ads delivery method aligned with the company’s available resources, but also with its advertising objectives?
The image below shows the structure of an AdWords account:
It’s important to understand the difference between ads and keyword groups and to separate them conceptually. Sometimes we mix the two ideas and miss the big picture. We think too much about word groups before thinking about the purpose of a user’s search and the destination we are guiding him to.
You can have the best organized keyword group, but it will perform poorly because your ads and landing pages have flaws. We recommend that you focus on ads, landing pages, quality scores, and last but not least, on your potential for driving users to conversions.
Your goal should be to populate each ad group with a granular list of keywords that share the same semantics. This will make your ads more relevant and more likely to be found in specific user searches. Below you will find this principle illustrated by two examples of ad groups for Fossil Women’s Watches. It is obvious that using the first ad group you can target women interested in Fossil watches using personalized messages. In the second group, the chosen words can cover a wider range of interests, and the message of the ads requires a more general language.
What to look for when conducting an AdWords audit in the ad groups:
- Do your ad groups consist of approximately 10 or fewer keywords?
- Are the ad-groups aligned with each other and complement each other instead of competing with each other?
- Is the maximum CPC value set to an optimal level for each ad group?
- Are you highlighting the ad groups that work?
At this point, an important aspect to follow is the type of matching of the selected keywords, and a good ad group strategy should include a variety of matches aligned, of course, to the campaign’s objectives. Why? Because each serves a single purpose: for example, broad match is great for researching keywords used to search for a product / service, while exact match helps to show ads to people directly interested in that product / service. You can start by using modified broad match and later you can juggle several types of matches.
It is also important to check the tab called “search terms”. It shows you the list of words that led to the display of your ads. Are those terms relevant to the campaign / ad group? If you notice that they are not related to the topic, it is recommended to add them as negative keywords, and if they turn out to be terms used by consumers to search for products / services in your portfolio, it is important to bid for those as well.
Here’s how match types work when triggering search terms:
Other relevant questions we recommend you to consider:
- Do you use negative keywords lists in your campaigns? (e.g., Competitor names)
- Do you find ad group words with 0 conversions, but with a large number of impressions / clicks, and these words weren’t stopped?
- Are there any low-quality keywords?
- Are there budget constraints on keywords relevant to the campaign?
It often happens that the ads are left running without their performance being periodically analysed. It is also common for certain ads to be overused / over-tested, in contexts that diminish their relevance, such as using the same ad for two contrasting consumer segments. Make sure that each ad group contains at least three versions of ads with different message or different CTA (call to action). At pre-set intervals, you can evaluate the “winner” and even enter new versions.
You may be wondering: why is it so important to choose landing pages? Is the homepage not good enough? If you are an online store and the purpose of your campaign is to sell a certain brand of watches, it would be more appropriate for the landing page to be the catalogue displaying models from that specific brand. The pages used to direct traffic and the filters must be chosen strategically, as they have a significant impact on the outcome.
You also need to make sure that the user’s path to order completion (in the case of online stores) is optimized and intuitive, and that the website display is suitable for all types of devices (e.g., desktop, mobile, and tablet).
AdWords audit optimizations
Ad extensions are an important feature of the Google AdWords interface. When auditing extensions, consider the account you’re analysing and whether the extensions truly add value.
Some examples to keep in mind:
- Sitelinks – Check if it is implemented and if it leads to more relevant information about the initial product / service.
- Location extensions – Check if it is implemented, if the business has a physical location.
- Call extensions – If enabled, does it work exclusively during business hours? Were they analysed along with the rest of the metrics on the account?
Ad extensions are known for exponential increases in click-through rates, so this is an aspect that should be considered during an account audit.
In terms of Quality Score, it’s good to know that whatever you will find requires time to be corrected. Compared to structural settings or errors, there is no unique way to initiate corrective action. The most important in this audit step is to report and analyse a sufficient amount of data. As such, it is a good practice to keep your Excel spreadsheets for a few weeks so that you can compare the evolution of the indicators and draw conclusions about your progress.
The reason we added this item to our list is because we still see accounts where this type of campaign isn’t fully implemented or exploited.
Remarketing campaigns have become a necessity to increase ROI (Return of Investment), but also to maintain an active digital relationship with your audience. Most of these take place in the Display network (various sizes images, HTML code design created through Google Web Designer or dynamic design).
If you are not yet part of the Remarketing club, it is time to join, and we guarantee that the results will be observed fast (if everything is implemented correctly, of course :D). You can find out more details directly from the Help Center.
Last but not least: Google Analytics. Based on the same principle mentioned above, not all companies have a GA account or it is not linked to the Google AdWords account. Why is this correlation important? We will let Sean Quadlin (Product Marketing Manager @Google 2015) briefly explain some of the benefits.
Do you want to learn more on how to improve your campaign performance? We have illustrated several methods in this infographic.
What’s next after conducting the audit?
As you go through the steps of an AdWords audit, you’ll spend a lot of time comparing performance expectations to reality, and you’ll need to organize your notes. The hard work starts only after you’ve documented each item and prioritized it. Now the action plan can be shaped. It’s up to you to use your knowledge and develop something that really brings value.
Do you have any questions for us? Address them below or contact us!
Optimized is the only boutique agency in Romania specialized in e-commerce PPC campaigns (Google Ads and Facebook Ads). With more than 10 years of experience in digital marketing (including 4 years in Google Romania) and ecommerce entrepreneurship (3Pitici.ro), we have developed effective tools to help your online store get results in PPC campaigns.
Our strategies are not generic, but strictly applied to e-commerce. We work with stores that want to profitably scale PPC campaigns, with clear objectives, aware that marketing is an investment.