What Is a PPC Audit? Why Are PPC Audits Important? And How Do You Do a PPC Audit?

PPC audit analysis charts.

Online advertisers want to know how they can get more out of their search marketing programs. PPC audits are just the thing to help them do that. Let’s look closer at the answers to questions like:

What Is a PPC Audit?

A PPC audit is an analysis of a PPC program to determine how it could be optimized to get a better return on investment.

PPC is complex. Even if you’re managing your accounts according to best practices, odds are that you’ve missed something — especially if you’ve been working on the account for a while.

In addition, things change rapidly in paid search. What worked yesterday might not work today.

Google Ads posted 27 new features and announcements during the first six months of 2020. This included new features, new releases, new policies, updated interfaces, altered learning paths, discontinued features, and much more.

Layer on top of that the many small changes that don’t warrant a separate announcement, and that’s a lot of change. This is why keeping up with Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising and other online ad networks is a big job.

Why Are PPC Audits Important?

PPC audits are important because they help advertisers resolve inefficiencies with their PPC programs — including problems they may not even be aware of that could be wasting ad spend.

Here are a few scenarios where a PPC audit can help:

  • Your PPC program was doing great, but now you’re not getting the same results. What changed? What do you need to do differently?
  • Your PPC program delivers great results, but you wonder if you could do even better. What opportunities are you missing?
  • You’re just getting started with PPC and are struggling to get good results. What are you doing wrong?
  • And the most common: You are still getting traffic but your costs are spiralling out of control.

For all these scenarios (and others), a PPC audit is the best way to analyze your program and get recommendations to improve it.

By the way, PPC audits aren’t just for the benefit of advertisers. Poorly targeted advertising can be annoying for those doing the searches. And the opposite is true: When PPC advertising is done well, searchers appreciate it. In fact, 75% of people say paid search ads make it easier for them to find the information they’re searching for.

How Do You Do a PPC Audit?

A PPC audit examines all your digital advertising networks and conducts analyses to determine how to optimize them.

Generally, it’s best to delay a PPC audit after making significant changes. You’re relying on data to tell the story of what’s happening in an account, so ideally you want to accumulate a few months of data. Significant structural ad program changes can disturb the statistics and make data analysis more difficult.

PPC audits can vary greatly in depth and detail. I like to group them into two general categories:

  1. Tool-based PPC audits
  2. Comprehensive PPC audits

Let’s look at each of these categories in more detail.

Tool-Based PPC Audits

A tool-based PPC audit can be performed in-house or by an outside consultant or agency.

These audits use software-based auditing tools often in combination with some almost trivial form of human analysis.

You’ll see this type of PPC audit performed most often by agencies or consultants to promote their PPC management services. They’ll audit your PPC program for free. Then, they’ll return recommendations that they’ll offer to implement for you at their regular fees.

There’s nothing wrong with this. But these types of audits have limits and can vary greatly in how useful they are. It depends on how heavily the audit team relies on their tools, and how much time they spend getting to truly understanding your business and goals.

Things change rapidly in paid search. What worked yesterday might not work today.

Considering how many of these “free” audits need to happen to land a new client, most do not include the effort to understand your business. They are thus superficial, failing to take into account the many nuances of your clients, personas, products, seasonality, competition and more.

Comprehensive PPC Audits

Typically, an experienced outside consultant or agency conducts the comprehensive PPC audit to bring a new perspective to your ad accounts. They start with interviews and evolve to dive deeply into what drives traffic.

Comprehensive audits should cover all the main advertising networks and platforms you’re in. This may include:

  • Google Ads
  • Microsoft Advertising
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Google Display & Video 360
  • Retargeting

Typically, PPC audits put a strong focus on the Google Ads network because of its market domination. Google holds about 92% of the search engine market worldwide (as of July 2020). In comparison, Bing only has about 3% and Yahoo has about 2%.

Sample Google Ads Audit

When auditing these networks and platforms, PPC experts vary in what they analyze. If you had five PPC experts doing an audit, you would get eight different opinions. Fortunately, most would agree much of the time, with the subtlety being based upon expertise.

Let’s look at a sample for Google Ads. In Google Ads, a PPC audit may analyze the following types of information.

1. Account basics:

  • How is the account organized?
  • Is conversion tracking set up?
  • Is the account linked to Google Analytics?

2. Campaigns:

  • Are campaign settings set correctly?
  • What bidding strategies are employed?

3. Targeting:

  • What locations are targeted?
  • Do you need location bid adjustments?
  • What devices and audiences are targeted?

4. Ad groups and messaging:

  • How are ad groups organized?
  • Have any ads been disapproved? If so, why?
  • Is ad messaging consistent and error free?

5. Ad formats and campaign types:

  • What types of campaigns and ad formats are being used?
  • How are the following used: Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs), Ad extensions, Promotion extensions, Shopping campaigns, Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA), Display remarketing campaigns?

6. Keywords:

  • What keywords are being targeted? What is their Quality Score?
  • What keyword match types are being used?
  • How complete is the negative keyword list?

With PPC Audits, You Get What You Pay for

At Bruce Clay, we only conduct comprehensive PPC audits run by SEM experts with no less than 10 years of experience. Complementing their experience is a suite of powerful in-house PPC tools. This allows us to dive deep into optimizing existing PPC efforts to uncover missed opportunities.

Do we charge for this service? Yes. But this is a case where you get what you pay for. You can pay half as much for bad advice, but why would you?

Consider how much of your ad spend you might already be wasting if you’re not managing your PPC program well. (By some estimates, 61% of ad spend is wasted.)

So when you consider what type of audit to get, consider carefully. A “free” audit might sound like a good deal. But it will never be as detailed or insightful as the one with hands-on, expert analysis and interpretation.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you increase your targeted PPC traffic, conversions and revenue, contact us for a no-obligation quote.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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13 Replies to “What Is a PPC Audit? Why Are PPC Audits Important? And How Do You Do a PPC Audit?”

A PPC campaign audit would reveal the wrong features of your campaigns and enhance you to reframe them for the accomplishment of it. When you choose to do a PPC audit, you would be able to identify your campaign’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as assess conversion rates, keyword performance, and other metrics that affect your bottom line.

It’s a very useful blog regarding PPC. I have always been confused about a thing, that on the same day I can see different ad position for the same keyword.

Thanks for sharing these points, These are really helpful to optimize paid campaigns

Great information about PPC campaign auditing. Doing a proper audit can help in optimizing the campaigns further.

Thanks for sharing these points, These are really helpful to optimize paid campaigns

PPC audit help to save your time for run campaign.

Thanks for the share. I had never heard of a ppc audit.

PPC allows you to get your brand out there and draw more people to your site as the organic results are growing. PPC can also help raise the organic results as time goes on. PPC directs the right customers at the right time to your ads.

Very Informative article regarding PPC. Some times google ads shows in bottom position without any competitor why?

Very informative PPC post. How do you estimate CTR percentages per industry ?

What would be a cost range on such a service

Great information. It explains many things that I should be doing.

PPC definitely has changed! We used to get double or triple the calls we do now when we use Google Ads.


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