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Auditing an AdWords Account: The Marketers Guide

For better or worse, AdWords is the lifeblood of many businesses. AdWords offers a unique advantage over other forms of advertising because it’s measurable. As a marketer or a business owner AdWords gives you the power to very easily measure your return-on-investment.

With it’s highly relevant and targeted platform; it gives you the opportunity to focus your advertising budget on a specific target audience that is looking to buy. Such laser focus gives businesses the upper hand in both profit and ROI, making Google AdWords a must.

From the marketer’s point of view, however, you’re sure to know that AdWords Accounts require an audit pretty regularly for prime optimization. This guide will help you know the why’s, where’s, and how’s of auditing an AdWords Account.

Why Audit Your AdWords Account?

There is No Such Thing as a Perfect Account: No matter how efficient, user friendly, or even successful your AdWords Account is, problems are sure to arise. This is because there is no such thing as a perfect account, and treating your account as such could lead to tedious problems down the road. Understanding that every account will come with issues allows you a window of preparedness when the time comes.

Performance Issues

Your AdWords Account may be showing some performance issues, and a Google AdWords audit will help you know what they are and why they’re happening. Perhaps your ads are lagging, there’s poor storage, or data just isn’t being recorded like it should. An audit will expose these problems and more, allowing you to correct them.

Avoid Wasting You or Your Client’s Ad Budget:

Most businesses have a set budget for their advertisements, and it’s up to you, as the marketer, to maximize their campaign performance with the budget given. Avoid wasting your own budget and the budgets of your clients by consistently monitoring your AdWords Account so that it’s as efficient as possible.

Where Do I Start?

Select the Correct Date Range:

The date range is important because of ad activity. Some ads may experience more traffic during the week, while others have peak interaction on the weekends. To choose the correct date range, use the “Time view” in the Dimensions tab of your AdWords Account.

At least 30 days of data…If Not More:

A monthly date range is the typical time frame to measure ad performance, but you can do more. 30 days of data is the minimum, but you can actually add more days of data if needed.



The More Information You Have the Better Decisions You can Make:

With longer date ranges, you have more information to work with, which leads to better decisions. Monitoring ad performance over a longer period of time gives you a much more accurate view of ad performance because you can see developing patterns, down times, and high times in customer interaction.

Compare Your Data to the Previous Period:

If you want to know how your ad campaigns did one week, compared to the week before or after, you can compare date ranges.

This option can be found in the “Campaigns Section” of your AdWords Account. Simply click the down arrow located in the date range in the upper right corner of the page. From here, set the “Compare” option to “ON.” Then, set the date range you want, go to the “Compare” section, and select whether you want to compare the previous period, the same period a year ago, or you can make a custom comparison. Finally, click “Apply,” to get things started.


Context is King:

You can always guesstimate how well performance is doing from week to week, but this is no way to make decision. Context is the best way to improve your ad campaign and comparing date ranges of data is the most effective way to get the data you need.

Understand your KPIs:

Your KPIs or “Key Performance Indicators” are what will tell you how well your ad campaign is actually doing.  Your AdWords KPIs will vary from business to business, but these are the most important:

  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of visitors who are completing a desired action.
  • Cost Per Conversion: Tells you how much it costs for a user to complete a desired action on your website, whether it is filling out a form, signing up to an email list or buying your product.
  • Quality Score: How AdWords determines how well your ads are doing on landing pages and what you can improve on, cause there is always something to improve.
  • Clickthrough Rate: The percentage of users who see your ad and click on it. The higher the number the better your ad is performing. Remember a high CTR means little if your visitors aren’t converting or you’re not tracking conversions.
  • Return on Ad Spend or CPA: Your return on investment after all expenses. The best way to showcase your campaign’s overall profitability.
  • Lifetime Value: Expected sales from the average customer over the estimated lifetime of your business.

What Metrics are Most Important to Your Company:

Deciding which metrics are most important to your company will help you decide which ones to cater to and focus on. This depends heavily on the type of ad campaign you’re creating and your target market.

Choose Your Columns Carefully:

The columns in your statistics tables will help you glean important information about your account. Some columns are more helpful than others to your specific campaign or business, so you must choose which columns you’d like to see carefully.

Be Sure to Include all the Necessary Statistical Columns to Aid in your Analysis: For the most accurate analysis, you’ll want to include all necessary statistical columns. You can identify these by finding which one’s measure value, conversion, clicks, cost, and performance.

Example: Value/conversion; converted clicks; cost/converted click


The Audit


This is where you’ll begin your Google AdWords audit. Through the settings tab, you’ll be able to see the finer points of how your AdWords account and how your campaigns are operating.

  • Are you targeting BOTH Search & Display in one campaign? If so, you found your first problem. Both are different in their own ways and thus should be treated as such.
  • Device Targeting: The devices you’re targeting with your ad campaign are those giving maximum conversions, which means they should be getting a large share of your budget.

Mobile vs. Desktop:

Customer demographic is the biggest indicator of which device(s) you should be targeting. Searches performed on mobile devices is a growing trend, therefore you should be creating mobile friendly ads and landing pages.

What Makes Sense for Your Business?: Knowing which device to target depends upon what makes the most sense for your business. Are your customers primarily on mobile devices? Or are they using desktops? The more you know your customers, the more informed your decisions would be.

  • Ad Rotation: Google’s default option is they’ll show the ad that is expected to receive more clicks. If you’re auditing your account(s) on a more frequent basis and you’re split testing your ad copy, then it make sense to choose the “rotate evenly” option. This way your ads are getting equal share of impressions and you can make better decisions on their performance.
  • Location: Are you targeting the places your users are in? Wherever your users are is a location you should be targeting.
  • Language: Understand your audience to be sure you’re not running your ads in a language they won’t be able to understand.
  • Ad scheduling: This allows you to see when your ads are performing better. Days of the week and hours in the day are the main performance measurements and the data returned can help you form a solid day-parting strategy.


Account Structure


Most often you’ll have only a few campaigns, unless your account is large. Each campaign should be based around a broader theme and will contain your ad groups. Before you start, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your campaigns easily distinguishable?
  • If you are an e-commerce company, do you have separate campaigns for each product category?

Your structure should be easy to understand and in most cases mirror the structure of your website.

Ad Groups:

Ad groups contain your keywords and ads for each specific campaign. Ask yourself the following questions to see if your ad groups are easy to use and understand:

  • Are your ad groups sub-categories of your campaign?
  • Example: Campaign: Shirts. Ad Group: Men’s Polo Shirts. Keyword: Men’s Red Polo Shirt.
  • Do you have more than 20 keywords? If so think about keeping it between 10-20.

Keywords: Broad vs. Phrase vs. Exact

The match type you choose is important in controlling when your ads are shown and are critically influential of your Quality Score. 

Broad Match:

These are great at generating lots of impressions for your ads, but also will show your ads for searches that don’t relate to your business. The way you can control your broad keywords is by adding an (+) in front of it. This is known as a broad match modifier.

Example: If you have a broad keyword such as ”red polo” your ad could show for variations like “red pants” and “blue polo.” So by adding a (+) in front “+red +pants” now your ad will only show for searches that contain “red pants” in the search query. Variations such as “pants red” or “red stripe pants” will also trigger your ad. This is an effective way to find new keywords for your ad group.

Phrase Match:

By adding quotation marks around your keyword such as “red polo shirts” your ad will only show if a search query contains that exact phrase in the search. A search for “red polo shirts for men” can still trigger your ad. Again, this can be useful in finding hidden keywords.

Exact Match:

The most precise keyword targeting. By adding brackets around your keywords such as [men’s red polo shirts] your ad will only be triggered if a search query contains that exact phrasing.

Mine Search Query Reports:

You should frequently mine your search query reports because they will return valuable information on what people are specifically searching for and can lead to finding those important long-tail keywords. Mining your search query report will also show you irrelevant search terms that don’t relate to your business, now you have the power to exclude this term from triggering your ad in the future. Consistently monitoring your search terms report can save your business money in the long run.


        • Focus on Long-Tail keywords: when bidding on competitive keywords, you’re going to notice you’re spending a large amount of your ad budget with little ROI. Finding these long-tail keywords can lower your cost-per-click and increase your ROI. The more precise your keyword, the more likely someone searching for that keyword practically has their credit card in hand, waiting to by your product/service. Using a (paid) service such as Long Tail Pro will no doubt help finding these profit generating keywords.


Of course, a huge part of your actual Google AdWords audit is the ads themselves. Checking in on the details of your ads will give you much needed insight to how they’re performing and what you can improve on. Use this list to check whether your ads need some fine tuning:

  • Do they follow Google guidelines? A successful ad should follow the guidelines put in place by Google. If not, you can be violating Google’s AdWords policies, which could be costing you or your client money and could potentially lead to a suspended account.
  • Clear CTA? A clear and concise call-to-action lets your customers know what “action” you want them to take. Whether it’s downloading an e-book, signing up for your email list, or buying your product.
  • Do they include your relevant keywords? Your ads should contain your high-quality and relevant keywords. This will help you reach your target audience, when you want to.
  • Do the ads reflect the copy on their landing pages? Your ads should clearly reflect the copy on your landing pages. This creates an unmistakable sense of fluidity and continuation and lets customers know they’re in the right place.

Quality Scores:

Quality scores give you a clear view of how your ad is doing. Improving your quality score will save your campaign money in the long run and affects your overall ad rank.

Ad Extensions: Ad extensions are easy and highly effective. In fact, ad extensions offer one of the biggest ROIs for both time and effort. They actually improve CTR up to 20% on the average ad campaign.

Display Ads

Using the power of the Google Display Network (GDN) your ads can be placed automatically on websites and mobile apps, when your keywords are related to the site’s content. You can also manage the sites your ads show on, if you want to target specific webpages, demographics, topics, etc.

Are you targeting the right people?


      1. Demographics: Pay attention and understand your audience. The more you know your target market the better. For example, if you were targeting young female adults, it would not make much sense to place your ads on webpages that are historically targeted towards males.
      2. Interests: This is more generic but also highly useful. Knowing the interests of your target audience give you more options for display ads. If your target audience is into hiking, you can place display ads on fitness sites, health food sites, etc.

Exclusions: Like negative keywords lists, Google AdWords allows you to exclude your ads from automatically showing on sites irrelevant or inappropriate to your audience. To utilize this tool, simply:

  1. Navigate to your display campaign
  2. Click on the Display Network tab, then the “+Targeting” button
  3. From here you can add and manage your exclusions for both your campaign and ad group.
  4. As always be sure to save your changes.


Utilize the Keyword/Display Planner:

The Display Planner feature allows you to utilize information on effective placements, times, and groups by planning what you’ll display, where you’ll display it, and when. To find the keyword and display planner, navigate to the Tools drop down at the top of the page.

Install Conversion Tracking on your Landing Pages:

Each of your landing pages should be tracking conversions in order to know how your ad campaigns are doing. Installing conversion tracking is of utmost importance as it returns a wide breadth of invaluable information for your business. To learn how to install, go here.

If you’re not tracking conversions, then why even audit your account? Some businesses don’t install tracking conversions on their landing pages, which begs the question: why not? This tool is one of the best and most important improvements you can make. Don’t wait; install conversion tracking NOW!

Compare data with Google Analytics for deeper insights:

It’s always good to have a number of data resources to study and research. By comparing your data with the Google Analytics data, you gain a deeper understanding of how your ad campaigns are actually doing. The different takes on performance paints a clearer picture of effectiveness, which helps you make better-informed decisions about changes to your account.

Outside Resources such as Heat Maps can be Great Tools to Improve your Landing Pages and thus your AdWords Campaigns:

A Heat Map is another tool that allows you to monitor visitor engagement on your webpages. By creating color-coded images, heat maps reflect the most, as well as the least, engaging parts of a page. This is usually measured by, either eye tracking or mouse tracking on the landing page.

Heat maps are important in gathering useful data on where you can improve your website and/or landing page.

This guide will help even the savviest marketers make their ad campaigns even better. A Google AdWords audit may seem tedious, but it is the most effective and successful way to tell how well your AdWords Account is shaping up. By diving deep into your account, fixing errors, and continually striving to improve your campaign, you’ll be doing yourself a service, as well as your clients.