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Hosted by Julie F Bacchini, this week’s PPCChat session was focused on the client’s expectation from PPC audit, Formal checklist while performing audits, General advice on doing audits and more.


Q1: Do you regularly perform audits in your PPC work? If so, what do you most frequently audit?


Depends on how you define “audit”, but I am auditing search term reports weekly in most accounts. Such a mess with close variant matching. @robert_brady

Yes! usually it’s on account takeover, but it’s also when Google makes a major change – rip exact match – that you have to audit your whole strategy. @JuliaVyse

I have been doing a ton of audits lately! Lots of Google Ads and some with Facebook and other channels in the mix too. @NeptuneMoon

Audits are a regular occurrence in the sales process and as a paid service. I’d say at least someone in the office is doing an audit every week. Also cross audit internally quarterly. Google Shopping & Search Campaigns. @scright

I’m always looking to update ad copy, make sure I’m bidding enough on keywords and make sure I’m using the right bidding strategies, just to name a few. @MaverickAdverts

We strictly do audits during the sales process as a conversation piece for a sales meeting. @SEMFlem

On average, for current/internal work, I perform one quarterly. Typically when there is a staffing change or any under performing account. In addition, one is always done for new business pitches. @JonKagan

I feel like the most common audits are Google and FB accounts. Focus on structure, and best practice. @jord_stark

But we only do them if they’re asked for, and they are super high-level unless paid for. @SEMFlem

Yes! More often during agency work (lots of onboarding, periodic QA, etc) but I also think it’s a great way to find opportunities for existing accounts/campaigns. I try to look at everything from settings to structure to performance by asset (keyword, ad, audience). @akaEmmaLouise

We perform quarterly audits on internal accounts and we also do a lot of audits for sales. @jord_stark

I audit quarterly for existing accounts and as an onboarding activity for new accounts. @jennifer_lash

We do perform audits. We usually do them when we onboard a new client and do it as an added service.  Most of our audits have been for Google accounts. @adwordsgirl

I don’t audit as much as I should (gasp!) but I do have checklist made for weekly, bi weekly and monthly optimizations depending on account size. @anna_arrow

Yes, it’s important to do this at least quarterly if not monthly, weekly, daily depending on the ad size. Sometimes you outsource & others it is collaborating with your internal team. It’s the only way to truly own your channel is to never be satisfied/always improve. @RyBen3

Yes, the frequency of audits depends on the spend of the client. @ynotweb


Q2: What do you find most clients expect from an audit? Is there a gap between what they want and what can be delivered?


Yes, and also, they don’t know. Many clients expect an audit as due diligence when we take over an account and provide recommendations. But every so often, we get someone who wants us to just show up and ‘fix everything’. @JuliaVyse

Con’t – they expect recommendations, actions and ideas. but they also often expect us to wave a magic wand or challenge a platform or something vague and just make it better somehow. @JuliaVyse

If complimentary, just a high-level demonstration of what they’re doing wrong and how we have the knowledge/skill to fix it. @SEMFlem

Most of the audits I do are for internal purposes. Make sure that there was nothing going afoul or looking for ways to improve performance. A handful were part of the sales process. @mikecrimmins

We just look for what’s going wrong with the account. Maybe they’re spending too much money in some areas that aren’t converting. Maybe their landing pages are no good. Could be anything. @MaverickAdverts

They want a health check on their accounts, it’s like going to the doctors – they want to good and bad news. If there is only good news – that’s fine. If there’s bad news – sit them down, detail the issues and the next steps to better health. @scright

In my experience, I don’t think clients always know what they’re looking for in an audit other than recommendations or to “just fix it”, or they have a specific problem in mind they’re looking to solve and want a clean cut magic solution to it. @jennifer_lash

Of course they also want to know if their current diet (agency) is doing the best for them. Sometimes that diet can just be altered slightly and remain the same. Sometimes you need a new diet. @scright

I come at audits from a more financial + outcomes standpoint, then try to identify root causes. So what are you currently spending, where is it going, what is it doing, and why is that happening (good or bad). Then it’s all about what to do next. @SamRuchlewicz

As the client, I’d expect to have a list of things that are just not ‘best practices’ or things that we might not have caught which are losing money. Almost a SWOT type analysis – where are our strengths, weaknesses, opps and threats to our account + action items. @RyBen3

In a lot of sales audits I feel like they want the meat and bones strategy moving forward. However, if we just fork that over why do they need to work with us? So they end up getting a overall checkup and basic best practices and from there we pitch strategy. @jord_stark

They expect to find things that they won’t discover on their own. Campaigns on search & display (bleck). Lack of negative keywords (or none). Terrible bidding strategies with a low daily budget cap. You find a lot of crap that should have never be implemented. @jdb426

I don’t think clients are expecting anything in particular. I think they’re more interested in knowing how they can improve and how we’re going to do that. @adwordsgirl

99% of the time, they are looking for the smoking gun. Whether or not it is merited is a different question. @JonKagan

Most clients are reactive, not proactive, and don’t even think about an audit (in our experience) A3. Process is always in flux and varies by client. @ynotweb

If I were a client, I would hope to get from an audit: -What’s going well that can be scaled -What’s going okay that can be improved -What’s not going well that should be eliminated or revised Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve presented it that way in the past though. @akaEmmaLouise


Q3: Do you have a formal process or checklist you use when performing audits? Does it vary by platform?


Yes, and yes. This is one of those cases where I don’t think bespoke methodolgies are a good idea. better to compare like w like. @JuliaVyse

I use a spreadsheet template to make sure I check all of the different parts of the account every time. @mikecrimmins

Definitely have templates. We want to spend as little time as possible on them while accomplishing the purpose. @SEMFlem

One of the next steps for me in terms of systemizing the company is putting together actual checklists like this. I typically look at the same things (ads, keywords, conversion performance, QS, budget allocation, overall structure, etc) but it’s not written down. @CJSlattery

I have a list of things I look at, for sure. And it does vary by platform, but the general purpose is the same – find things that are either glaringly wrong or that could benefit from some modification or testing. @NeptuneMoon

For a full audit we have a formalized checklist for search, shopping, paid social, and display with our best practices. Once a year we review those best practices to see if they need an adjustment of score, add/remove questions. @360vardi

We have a formal rubric that I came up with that rates your account on performance, structure, and technical aspects. But for potential clients it’s up to the person doing the audit. @jord_stark

Internal auditing we have a 306090 day checklist for our own accounts and an audit checklist for auditing others internally. Our formal process is dependent on requirement but we follow most of the internal structure. Different per platform and campaign type. @scright

Depends if it is new biz or internal. But always start with the basic: Settings and brand coverage, then expand from there, and keep a checklist. @JonKagan

Yep! I created a document a little while back that I use to make sure I don’t miss anything. Because more of the audits I do are Google, it’s just for Google. I’ve been thinking about creating a Facebook/IG one but haven’t gotten around to it. @adwordsgirl

Don’t you just need to follow Google’s recommendations, add them all, get a good score and you’re good!? No audit ever needed. @mcgregor212

I didn’t personally until last year, but as I was creating a QA process doc for builds, it fit into a framework for audits as well. Details vary by platform but structure is similar (list of “common issues” I look for first, then dig into each level of the campaign) @akaEmmaLouise

Yes for smaller clients a mini audit format is used in a Word doc, for larger clients it’s a large excel spreadsheet with much more thorough scoring and features. @AmoreDigital


Q4: Are there things you tend to find frequently when auditing Google Ads accounts?


Settings mistakes, broken automated rules, match type misalignment, and a treasure trove of issues in SQR and/or YT/GDN ad placement triggers. @JonKagan

Weird bid strategies, and tracking issues. usually, it’s not wrongdoing, it’s daily/weekly tactical changes that aren’t apparent, and major tracking issues that no-one found. @JuliaVyse

Hopping in a little late today but I am shocked how often I find accounts running broad match only keywords and there brand vs non-brand mapping is just a cluster. @KyleShurtz

Pretty much always see a lack of fundamentals – bad keyword matching, sub-optimal bidding, and budget use, cookie-cutter ads…@SEMFlem

Bad geo-targeting, few or no negative keywords, dreadful ad copy, and terrible landing pages or the same landing page for EVERYTHING. @NeptuneMoon

Shopping Campaigns not segmented – all products in one ad group & campaign. All keyword match types in a single ad group. No ad copy testing. No audience bid adjustments. Infrequent or little negatives added. Set and forget the campaign. @scright

It depends on who is running the account (agency or in house). The glaring stuff almost always boils down to structure. Or you can tell when someone, doesn’t have time to work on the account when they only do the basic stuff. @360vardi

What all of you said. Geo-targeting the whole world, negative keywords not being done, keywords that spend a lot but never convert, etc. @mikecrimmins

Targeting people who are in or interested in your location. Similar KWs spread through a bunch of different campaigns. Ads with 2 headlines and 1 description. Little to no extensions. Ineffective shared budgets. To name a few. @jord_stark

See lots of terrible ads, lots of ad groups where everything is just lumped together. Saw an account recently for a BIG company where they had hundreds of random keywords all just lumped together in one ad group. @CJSlattery

I’d say it varies by the type of entity currently doing the work: a. Large agencies — lack of cost/return transparency, little-to-no alignment across platforms or to organizational KPIs, antiquated structures, limited controls + segmentation, poor creative. b. In-House – falls into either (a) everything is broken because no one knows what they’re doing + they’re way too busy to manage it or (b) good structure & management, reasonable alignment, but there’s “meat left on the bone” from an optimization + scaling standpoint. C. small agency – these can either be the best or the worst. At worst, it’s like the big agency on steroids b/c they’ve contracted out to lots of vendors, all of whom are taking a cut and none of whom actually care. At best, they’re diligent + doing an overall solid job @SamRuchlewicz

Not testing ad copy for a long period of time, having KWs, ad groups that spent a lot of a long time and didn’t provide any value. @360vardi

Mostly we find unused options (extensions, ad types), but we also discover outdated messaging, forgotten or no longer appropriate audiences/geos, as well as new players in the market. @ynotweb

Oh gosh. Bad ads, geo-targeting that targeting a larger area than necessary, not actively adding to the negative keyword list, not managing bids when the account in manual etc. @adwordsgirl

I see far too much broad match only accounts. Funny story, though, just worked on a restructure where client said broad match was outperforming the new keyword structure so I guess there is still hope for broad match only accounts? @anna_arrow

I frequently see too many keywords per ad group and ads that are using the old format. Another common theme is accounts that don’t split out exact match and broad match, meaning less efficient spend overall. Also really poor conv tracking –…  @AmoreDigital

Broad match with lots of bad search terms coming through. This is honestly where we see the most waste in accounts. Lack of account organization. We see a lot of accounts with 1 campaign, 1 or 2 ad groups. Conversion tracking not set up properly. @keithaldrich

I always use the editor and use the duplicate keywords function. many times I find duplicate keywords with same match type in separate ad groups. @mcgregor212

It really depends where the account came from. If it’s a new onboard, I start with the v basics of structure, match types, settings, etc. For existing accounts, I look more into performance by audience/demographics, placements/networks, ad elements, etc @akaEmmaLouise


Q5: Are there things you tend to find frequently when auditing Facebook accounts?


LOTS! the organic team & paid team share the account, so naming conventions, agreed on tracking, overlapping audiences and all kinds of silliness. Audience overlap is a major one tho. please PLEASE exclude your audiences from each other when testing! @JuliaVyse

All campaign Objectives are targeting conversions. Target conversion: Purchase. @jord_stark

EVERY campaign set to “conversion” objective, no real in-depth remarketing strategy, and terrible creatives. @KyleShurtz

Facebook shows poor creative, a lot. And frequencies that are cringe-inducing. Also, tagging – if you want to have decent data about FB in Google Analytics, you have to tag your links! @NeptuneMoon

In general: No enough creative testing. Not excluding retargeting audiences from prospecting. And just stagnant campaigns with little to no changes from launch. Disregarding current best practices those are the most common. @scright

Accounts with small budgets targeting millions of people. If you don’t have the budget, tighten up that targeting. Lack of account structure. Most often they create a new campaign for each new ad. Making too many changes before “learning” occurs. @keithaldrich

Users bidding against their own terms. They test a Lookalike audience in one campaign and then use that Lookalike audience in a 2nd campaign with the same end goals (usually conversions). @RyBen3

Most common: – Lack of naming convention – Insufficient data for optimization target (e.g. conversions campaign with only 1-2 convs in a month) – Location target set to “Everyone in” when they want “People who live in” – No negative audiences (e.g. recent converters) @akaEmmaLouise


Q6: What is the craziest thing(s) you’ve found during an account audit?


I saw one time an account that had spent 80% on a broad match keyword. Crazy part was all the search terms were for their competitors. THEY WERE STILL HITTING GOALS. I couldn’t believe it. I told them straight up they need more aggressive goals and a restructure stat @KyleShurtz

This is a recent one that stands out. Big company. Almost all keywords in 4 ad groups. 8,000 active keywords that had received ZERO impressions in the last 180 days. Doesn’t even include the additional 32k inactive KWs. @CJSlattery

Going way back now, I took over an account that had no negative keywords. NONE. there were quite a few….adult themes. that emerged from those sqrs. ooof. @JuliaVyse

An account that was built by Google was targeting only one-word broad match terms?!? SO. MUCH. WASTE. @NeptuneMoon

An account was using some default Analytics goals as conversions in PPC. When time on site, and page visits is your goal, you get a really stellar conversion rate… impossible, but amazingly so. @jord_stark

We had a client providing a card to get lower prices on medication for free. They bid on the most random things like “trash bags”. Their CVR was 25% (because it was free and didn’t ask them anything except their name, email, phone). @360vardi

Recently a lingerie brand who was spending thousands on appearing for Tractor related terms. I’ve done a few audits in the lingerie and sex toy industry so things get a bit crazy there but that’s for. @scright

OMG. An account that was ALL BROAD MATCH. The client was spending $14,000 a month on that. Naturally, we corrected that and, if I remember correctly, they saw a massive decline in ad spend and a 76% increase in conversions… @adwordsgirl

I am working on a project now for a client buying programmatic through 3rd parties and one of the 3rd parties actually said in response to a question I had her ask “remember, clicks on your ads are an added bonus”. @NeptuneMoon

Probably the most obnoxious was a client who had no conversion tracking set (NONE!), the only “metrics” used were impressions, clicks + CTR and GA was (quite literally) never checked. Oh, and 90%+ of the clicks that platforms reported didn’t exist. @SamRuchlewicz

I think I’m going to win this question… I once saw the single broad match keyword “next day” running worldwide. @stevegibsonppc

Hi Everyone and Happy New Year! I have found an “annoying” amount of misspellings in the ads themselves. @IamNextSTEPH

Turning this into a case study. Took over a YT accnt from another agency who boasts 70%+ VTR. Client is sports supplements. Found that 40% of the spend went to content targeted to kids. No one had ever checked the settings in targeting. Now they are in big trouble.@JonKagan

All broad match keywords, no conversion tracking, one campaign and one ad group for everything with 2 ad variations. @jennifer_lash

Oh boy. – Pure broad, non-brand keywords in a brand campaign – “Remarketing” campaigns with no list applied – Display (not Smart Display”) campaigns with no targeting at all – Lots of spend but no conversion tracking whatsoever. @akaEmmaLouise

I once found millions of dollars in profit from people misspelling “suite” as “sweet”. We almost added it as a negative until we saw that it was actually misspelled by true potential customers. @CourtEWakefield


Q7: If the accounts you’re auditing are a total disaster, how do you present that to the client?


I try to be somewhat tactful but at the same time we owe it to these businesses to give our expert opinion. So I hit em with the cold hard truth. @KyleShurtz

It depends on the client mood, but generally speaking I go with, “there’s lots of opportunity for improvement. Here’s what we propose in the next 30-60-90” @JuliaVyse

I just rip the band-aid off. Maybe this is why I suck at sales, but I really deliver it to them straight. Tell them it’s a disaster, tell them why it’s a disaster, and tell them what it’s going to take to fix it. Sometimes the answer is “start over completely.” @CJSlattery

We present audit findings as “Quick Wins” and position them as opportunities. No blame or finger pointing is needed. @Mel66

I like to present a “potential impact” range. If the account is really bad, I might say a 100-200% improvement in return, or whatever number I’m feeling. @SEMFlem

I’ve been told my bedside manner is more like House than it is like a real person, so I usually just do brutal honesty. If it’s good, I’ll tell you. If it’s bad, I’ll tell you. @SamRuchlewicz

Honestly – present the facts. One thing I never do is use a paid audit as a sales pitch, it’s a chance for education around what is happening, why it’s bad and how it can be fixed. Your expertise sells itself. @scright

Always position it as opportunity to make things better. You don’t have to spell out that the current resource didn’t/isn’t doing a good job. The data will communicate that. @NeptuneMoon

This one really depends. If it’s in-house or they have a good relationship with whoever is managing it, you don’t want to trash it. You go “good job on this, here’s what we found that can improve it. @360vardi

Depends who set it up and whether it’s profitable. If there are in-house people involved, it can get pretty tricky. @stevegibsonppc

Positive presentation – “lots of opportunity for improvement”, “so much room for growth”…give proposal for what to do moving forward rather than dumping on what was done in the past so much. @jennifer_lash

Prospects like when you give them numbers, even if you’re making crap up. @SEMFlem

I just let them know what my recommendations would be moving forward. Tell them what my priorities would be, and what are some short/long term goals for the future. @jord_stark

Make it about $$. They don’t care that it’s harder to manage for you, they care that it’s costing them money. Frame it that way every time. @CourtEWakefield

Well, fortunately the total disasters are generally things we’ve inherited. I’m not big on pointing fingers or making someone look bad, so I generally go the “I see a lot of fat and easy wins here” route. @ynotweb

I try to find ANYTHING that’s good (even if just the “intent” of the campaign/structure) then let them know we found a *lot* of opportunities for improvement. Maybe even a revision of strategy that would work best with a total restructure to improve account health. @akaEmmaLouise

I usually tell clients that the audits will only go over things that need to be improved. We’ll do a call with them so they understand why xyz is an issue and let them know that we’re going to fix it. They’re usually pretty good about it. @adwordsgirl


Q8: If the accounts you’re auditing are actually well set up and functioning efficiently, how do you present that to the client?


I like to stick with the same approach and tell them that the account is in good shape. My angle is typically here are some ideas for growth or expansion. @KyleShurtz

I compliment them on running a tight ship and pivot. audits aren’t always sales engagements, so I have room to talk about cross-channel growth and bigger business goals. @JuliaVyse

Honesty – we just tell them the account is in great shape and we look forward to making it even better. We can usually find SOMETHING to improve upon though. @Mel66

With the same brutal honesty as when it’s terrible. “I’m really impressed. This is well set up. I think we can squeeze some more performance out in these places, and let’s look at growth here, here, and here.” @CJSlattery

I am upfront about it and give the last team a pat on the back. Then I suggest experimentation strategies and present them with some ideas that can potentially make their account even better. @jord_stark

(Disclaimer: this probably makes me *zero* friends in the biz dev side) — but I tell exactly that. Sometimes I have nitpicky things (because I’m a perfectionist) that I’ll mention, but I tell them that their current partner is doing + good job and keep on keeping on. @SamRuchlewicz

If things are well set up and running well, I will absolutely say that. I also add the places where I think there is opportunity. @NeptuneMoon

Truthfully – if the agency or person running is doing a good job then the purpose of an audit is to tell them that and not just focus on mistakes. Hopefully @Digital_Liam can attest to my honesty in audits of healthy accounts! @scright

These are the best! I am genuinely excited and tell them things that they are doing really well (give credit where credit is due). If there’s no obvious optimizations, suggest new tactics/features/experiments that can help them scale their current success. @akaEmmaLouise

Tell them the account looks in good shape to continue optimization and finding areas of opportunity/growth, try to include an idea or two that demonstrate the areas of opportunity @jennifer_lash

“I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that the account is well set up. The bad news is that means it’s harder to improve the ROI.” @stevegibsonppc

Always room for improvement. So the question is only, in which way would they prefer to improve: save money, increase sales, or get better ROI? The answer isn’t always obvious. (and sometimes the answer is “world domination”) @ynotweb

You have to tell the truth. last thing you want is get the account and they expect you to do much better. Sometimes you get an account because the agency managing it doesn’t communicate well, or in-house person left or doesn’t have time anymore. @360vardi

A reiteration: An audit isn’t a sales pitch, it isn’t time to nitpick and point score against the incumbent agency. Be honest. Be Clear. Educate. Provide next steps for improvement that anyone can implement, not just yourself. @scright

The same way we do with bad audits – we tell them what there is to improve and how we’re going to do that. @adwordsgirl

Internal work, give them a high five. externally, if you can make a mountain of a molehill @JonKagan

Always good to be honest and up front with the findings while sprinkling in new ideas/strategies. @mcgregor212


Q9: Any general advice to share on doing audits and delivering those results to clients?


Do more of them. build the audit muscle and offer it as a consult product. It’s not always going to lead to big new business, but it will help you get better at noticing improvements you can make in your own work. @JuliaVyse

Create a repeatable process for your auditing. Don’t be like the old me and re-create the wheel every time. Creating that process really helped overall. @mikecrimmins

Yes. Always, always, always TALK them through the audit. Clients aren’t experts in paid media, they’re experts in their business, so they might not understand every metric you’re putting across. It also might highlight that certain things are in place for a reason @AmoreDigital

Focus on the big pieces as that’s where the big gains will come from. Be honest with clients about expectations. Praise their existing people if they did good work. The goal is to find the people you can help, not to close every prospect. @stevegibsonppc

A reiteration: An audit isn’t a sales pitch, it isn’t time to nitpick and point score against the incumbent agency. Be honest. Be Clear. Educate. Provide next steps for improvement that anyone can implement, not just yourself. @scright

I believe in being absolutely frank with clients and presenting them with solutions to the issues we’re telling them they have. If you do that, clients tend to understand that you’re looking out for them and they’re quite amazing about it! @adwordsgirl

Deliver the results as quickly as you can. Use scripts, tools, ready made formats. @360vardi

Keep it straight forward and back it up with the numbers. @jord_stark


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