Google AdWords Audit Checklist: How to Optimize Your Campaign

Google AdWords is a vital advertising tool for many businesses. However, like anything else, it must be audited and maintained regularly to ensure that it remains fully optimized. Here is a checklist to follow.

Google AdWords logoGoogle AdWords is a vital advertising tool for many businesses. It allows you to focus your advertising budget on customers who are ready to buy, giving you a steady stream of eager new prospects. It also allows you to start with whatever budget you’re comfortable with, making it a tremendous resource for small businesses.

However, many business owners are not maximizing their campaign performance, so they are leaving money on the table month after month. Like anything else, your Google AdWords campaign must be audited and maintained regularly to ensure that it remains fully optimized. Here is a checklist to follow.

Keywords commonly trip up both new and experienced AdWords users because there are so many factors to consider. To optimize your keywords, I recommend using three distinct tactics, each of which addresses a common problem.

  • Pruning: The goal of pruning is to remove unprofitable keywords from your list, including those that are irrelevant and those that, for whatever reason, simply do not perform well for you. To start pruning, run a Google AdWords Search Terms report from the Keywords tab of your account. Any keyword that does not show solid performance should be removed or paused. Also consider adding negative keywords, which tell AdWords not to display your ad if a particular word appears in the search string.
  • Fishing: The goal of fishing is to find new keywords that will be profitable for your campaign. Again, run a Google AdWords Search Terms report and look for keyword phrases that are performing well, but are not yet in your Ad Groups.
  • Replanting: Replanting is a process to optimize your top performing keywords while limiting your budget for new or unproven keywords. Move your top keywords into their own campaign, and focus on tweaking your ad copy and landing pages to tightly match those keywords. Likewise, move unproven keywords to their own campaign and reduce their budget until you get more data on them. Replanting allows you to improve your quality score, increase your click-through rate, and maintain better control over your advertising dollars.

Your ad copy is an excellent place to optimize your AdWords campaign, since it is virtually impossible to write perfect copy on the first, or even the tenth, try. Here are a few ways to optimize your ads.

  • Split testing: Never allow just one ad to run in an ad group. Always run at least two ads so that you can compare their performance.
  • Offer: No matter how good the rest of your ad copy is, a weak offer can sink your AdWords campaign. Remember that a great offer minimizes customer risk and overcomes the tendency for procrastination. Review your competitors’ offers, think through what would appeal to your ideal customer, and split test different offers in your ads.
  • Extensions: Ad extensions factor into your quality score, and also play a role in improving your click-through rate, so make sure you are taking advantage of all of them. The Review extension, with a third party endorsement, is particularly useful in building credibility.
  • Other factors: Other areas of your ad copy that should be audited include your headline, display URL, and description. Make sure that each section is clear and succinct, focusing on how you can solve a problem or fulfill a need for your prospect. Ensure that your entire ad is internally consistent, easy to follow, and has a strong call to action.

Landing Pages
Your landing page is your opportunity to close the sale, turning visitors into leads and customers. It must be laser-focused to match the ad, reassuring the prospect that she is in the right place and explaining what to do next. Optimizing your landing page is not easy, but it’s critical to your campaign performance.

  • Dedicated landing pages: One of the most common mistakes that business owners make is using their homepage as a landing page for ads. A secondary mistake is using the same landing page for lots of unrelated keywords. Make sure your landing page is 100 percent congruent with the keywords and ads in each Ad Group.
  • Congruence: As mentioned above, your landing page must be fully congruent with your ad. This means that the landing page copy should match the keywords, and the landing page offer should repeat the offer made in the ads.
  • Call to Action: It sounds crazy, but I have reviewed countless landing pages that do not explicitly explain what the visitor needs to do to start the buying process.  As a consumer, it’s frustrating when it’s not clear what to do so most prospective customers will leave rather than try to figure it out.  So make sure your landing page has a clear call-to-action, ideally above the fold so the visitor does not have to scroll to find it.

Tracking is the only method you have for determining how well your AdWords campaign is performing. Make sure that each of the following forms of AdWords tracking is set up properly in your account:

  • Webform conversion tracking to measure how many visitors complete your webforms
  • Shopping cart conversion tracking to measure how many visitors complete online orders
  • Website call tracking to measure how many visitors call after clicking on your ads
  • Call extension tracking to measure how many people call using the number displayed in your ads
  • Offline sales import conversion tracking to measure how many sales are generated offline via phone calls or in-person

Optimizing and maintaining your Google AdWords campaign is an ongoing, never ending process. A regular audit procedure will determine which portions of your campaign are working well, and which need some attention. Although it may seem lot a lot of work, following an audit checklist like this can be completed quickly if you break up the tasks over the course of a week or two.

Want more Google AdWords tips and advice? I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my complete Google AdWords checklist.

Better Together: Pair Google Analytics With Google AdWords for Stronger Campaigns

If you have not yet linked your AdWords campaign with Google Analytics, you are missing out on some much deeper tracking possibilities that can ultimately help you build a stronger campaign. Here are a few things you can do with Google Analytics.

If you have had a Google AdWords campaign up and running for a while, you are probably already familiar with the various AdWords tracking tools. With a simple bit of code, you can track every conversion that takes place on a particular “thank you” or receipt page. You can also import offline conversions, which are a bit more complicated to set up, but very much worth the effort. If you have not yet linked your AdWords campaign with Google Analytics, however, you are missing out on some much deeper tracking possibilities that can ultimately help you build a stronger campaign. Here are a few things you can do with Google Analytics.

User Behavior Tracking
Google AdWords lets you track conversions. However, it doesn’t give you much insight about the visitors who did not convert. Learning more about their behavior on your site can help you identify areas that you can improve, ultimately increasing your conversion rate.

For example, Google Analytics will tell you how many pages the prospect visited, the amount of time they spent on your website, and whether or not they immediately bounced away. In other words, you can track the user behavior of your AdWords traffic to see what those prospects are doing.

Think of AdWords conversion tracking like a light switch. It’s either on or off. You either have conversions or don’t. And when you don’t, then excuse the pun, but you’re in the dark about why the AdWords visitors are not converting. This is why Google Analytics is such a great tool to add as you analyze your advertising performance.

E-commerce and Funnel Tracking
Google Analytics allows you to go deeper than Google AdWords conversion tracking does. If you sell products online, you can use Google Analytics’ e-commerce tracking to monitor specific information about product revenues, transaction details, and length of time from initial interest through completed sale.

Multichannel funnels in Google Analytics allow you to see each incremental step that buyers go through on their way to a completed sale. For example, your AdWords campaign may be driving 100 sales per month, but your AdWords reports do not tell you if those customers interacted with any other marketing campaign. By using the Multichannel funnels reports, you’ll see if organic search, referrals, email marketing, or another channel is playing an important role in your AdWords conversions.

Prospect Segmentation and Retargeting
Retargeting, or displaying your ads to prospects who have recently visited your site, is an important part of a solid Google AdWords strategy. Google Analytics can streamline this process for you by automatically segmenting your visitors and creating lists of people who are likely to buy. If you prefer to create your own segmented lists manually, Google Analytics helps you drill down to find your prospects’ demographics, location and online interests.

Split Testing Landing Pages
Success with AdWords advertising is not just about correctly setting up and optimizing your campaigns within Google AdWords. You must also properly setup and optimize your landing pages to maximize your sales. That means split testing your landing pages to find the best copy and layout for your target market.

Luckily, Google Analytics provides a simple and free tool called “Experiments” to split test your landing pages. By using Experiments within Google Analytics you can test two different landing pages to see which one converts more visitors into sales.

Layer New Dimensions onto Reports
The power of the Google Analytics and Google AdWords pairing is even more evident when you run reports within Google Analytics. For example, you can review ad performance for per ad placement on the page, mobile user behavior per keyword, and many other reports to learn more about your ads performance.

Of course, these techniques are just the tip of the iceberg. Both Google AdWords and Google Analytics provide strong, dynamic tools for monitoring your website and ad campaigns. When paired together, they allow you to sift through the data in whole new ways. Think outside the box, play around with the tools, and find your own preferred tracking combinations.