A guide to Auditing Google AdWords

When we begin auditing a search campaign in Google AdWords we start by looking at settings, keywords and landing pages.    Settings refers to everything from bid strategy, location targeting, device targeting, language settings and more.  Keywords refers to the words and terms the campaign associates with in order to appear in relevant searches.

There are a few reasons you might be wanting to audit an AdWords campaign.  Regular account optimization on your long running accounts, analyzing young accounts for initial optimization, you’ve seen a sudden increase or decrease in a certain metric such as CPC or CTR, or maybe you’ve been tasked with assessing someone else’s account.

Whether you’re auditing your own AdWords campaigns or examining someone else’s, it’s always nice to have a list to reference.  This is the list I use.  It’s always growing and changing based on current best practice and features of AdWords that come and go, so I’ll update this post accordingly.

My focus during any PPC evaluation is always:

  • lowering cost per click (CPC)
  • raising click through rate (CTR)
  • targeting more potential customers
  • providing value and ease of use to a user who finds my ad

Keeping these things in mind always keeps the train on the tracks and everything from account organization to optimization generally falls in line behind that.


I always start with settings since this is the foundation of a campaign.

In campaign settings starting with Campaign Type check the following:

Network – Is this campaign showing on the search network only, or on display networks as well.  What you’ll want depends on your objectives, but generally, if I’m running a search campaign, I dont want those ads on the display network as well.  A display campaign would run entirely different in most cases and you won’t have that control.

Standard or All Features – The standard option keeps things simple, but you  don’t get nearly the optimization functionality that you get with All Features.  By Turning on All Features you activate:

  • Advanced social and experimental settings
  • Ad scheduling and ad delivery method options
  • Advanced location options
  • Mobile app extensions
  • Advanced keyword matching
  • IP exclusions
  • Dynamic tracking URLs
  • Remarketing lists for Search ads

There are other features in this setting, but the main ones you’ll probably be adjusting the most are those above.

Networks – By default the search partners option is turned on here.  I have never had this work well.  Always turn this off.

Devices – Once you have some data in your campaign, or if you already know that you’re targeting certain devices this is where you’ll adjust the bid for mobile, desktop computers, and tablets.  If you want to turn one of them up all the way adjust the bid to +100%.  If you want to turn one completely off, change the bid to -100%.

Locations – In this section you can target many different location types and demographics such as income tiers.  Looking at your historical data can tell you which locations to target and which to exclude based on metrics such as CTR, CPC, and conversion rate.

Languages – thi only affects the Google display network, so when Optimizing a search campaign this is a non issue, but for optimizing a display campaign, AdWords “looks at a user’s Google language setting or the language of the user’s search query, currently viewed page, or recently viewed pages on the Google Display Network (GDN).”

Bid Strategy – This is a whole other ball of wax and has a huge impact on your campaign.  If you dont know which strategy to use for your campaign, start by reading Google’s documentation here.

Budget – This is a simple one, yet budget isnt directly correlated to clicks.  As you’ve probably noticed budget is most efficient at lower numbers and gets less efficient as budget goes up.  Google is a business after all.

Ad Extensions – Make sure the global ad extensions that you want to span all of the ad groups in the campaign are here.


Keyword quality score – This is a big one.  Your keyword’s quality score is highly dependant on how relevant your ad copy is, as well as the landing page that ad points to.  The keyword(s) should be found in both of these things.  The more relevant your ad and landing pages are, the better your quality score.  The better your score, the more often your ad will be served and the cheaper it will be to serve it.  make sure you have landing pages that are relevant to your most searched terms, and optimize current page copy for most searched terms.  This changes periodically so this is worth revisiting regularly.  

Example: If your most searched keyword is “baseball hitting drills” and the ads point to the home page, but the home page doesn’t say “baseball hitting drills” on it, the relevancy score of the keyword will be lower than it could be, which makes the cost higher and makes it not served as often as it could be.

You can find what people are typing into Google in the keyword tab under Search terms.

Adwords Keyword search terms

Single keyword add groups – Make sure you add highly searched terms as exact match terms in their own single keyword add groups (SKAGs).  If you have only a few ad groups that have a ton of keywords in them, your ad copy and landing pages probably won’t be very targeted to your keyword.  It’s worth the time it takes to separate out your most popular words and put them into their own groups with relevant ad copy.

Multiple keyword match type ad groups – Within these SKAGs ad a  broad match, exact match, and phrase match type of that keyword.  Then keep an eye on those types and see which one performs the way you want.  different keywords and different goals make different match types a priority, or sometimes, leaving all 3 is best.

Add additional keywords and keyword phrases based on search terms currently being used but that are not being specifically targeted in your keyword list.  Often, the searcher may not be searching for what you think they will be because you know the industry lingo and they dont.  

Remove duplicate keywords – The more keywords you have in your search campaign, the easier it is to have some duplicate keywords that are competing against each other in different ad groups that you don’t realize. If this is the case they are competing against each other and driving up your costs by bidding against themselves.  You can easily check this by opening the keywords for the campaign as a whole, and sorting by keywords alphabetically

This concludes this post on an AdWords search audit.  In a subsequent we’ll be tackling:





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