The nitty-gritty paid search account health check: Part 2

Welcome to the second and final post in a two-part series about paid search account audits. If you haven’t read the first post, be sure to check it out here! Without further ado, let’s dive right into the good stuff — the remaining analyses standing between you and a perfectly manicured paid search account.

Keywords and negatives

Keywords are essentially the building block of your search campaigns, so needless to say, there’s always room for an audit. Here are some things to review:

  • Are there any keywords that are spending money without converting?
    • I look at this in different time frames, including the past 30 days or longer time frames, such as “all time,” because there could be keywords flying under the radar that may not be spending money quickly but that are slowly spending — like a small leak that can do damage over time.
  • Are there any keywords that are below the first page bid?
  • Are there keywords that haven’t really done anything because their bids aren’t competitive enough to obtain exposure?
  • Are all match types present? Or is there a strategy in place pertaining to match type?
  • Are there any keywords that are converting well but that are in lower-than-necessary positions?
  • Are there keywords that are converting but at a suboptimal cost that could be improved by decreasing bids?
  • Are any keywords suffering from low quality score?
  • Are any keywords suffering from low impression share, and if so, what is the root cause?
  • Are there any keywords that aren’t triggering ads? Why?
  • Are any keywords too broad and, if so, are there keywords in the account that could better qualify intent for the same query?
  • Are there any keywords that are too specific to generate traffic? If so, are there broader keywords in the account that could capture the same intended queries?
  • Are any keyword themes or groups missing that could promote the intended product or service?
  • Are search terms mapping as intended?
  • Are there many negatives? Is there an opportunity to improve mapping, impression quality or cost per lead by adding more negatives?

Bid review

An infinite number of factors can be analyzed when reviewing keyword bids. Much of the account success can be attributed to bids.

The main question to ask yourself is this: Is a clear bid strategy defined? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Do the bids seem to correlate to performance trends?
  • Does the bid strategy correspond to the goals?
  • Are budgets maxed out, to the point that decreasing bids may actually generate more exposure?
  • Do the keyword positions align with performance, or is there room for improvement (e.g., top performers in low positions or low performers in high positions)?
  • Does the bid strategy take into account different conversion types with different values?
  • Are there keywords below the first-page bid?
  • Are there keywords that haven’t received impressions because the bids are too low?

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Budget optimization opportunities

This is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s worthwhile to look at budgets to ensure that they are allocated most effectively based upon the ROAS of each campaign.

Another thing to spot-check for: Make sure that keyword impressions aren’t being limited because budget caps are lower than, or close to, keyword bids. I’ve audited accounts in competitive industries where this has been an issue. Likely, keyword bids were increased (manually or via automation) over time after budgets were set. The bids then become close to or above the budget, and the keyword stops showing.

If you can’t afford to increase budgets for your campaigns, but you can’t afford to decrease keyword bids without losing out on valuable impression share, consider grouping similar performing campaigns with similar goals together in shared budgets. It will need to be monitored closely, but it can help to ensure that you can capture that impression share.

Audience performance analysis

There’s so much room for potential with audiences. I love auditing this part of accounts. Because there are so many different ways to slice and dice audience data, I’ll leave you with this list of things to consider:

  • First and foremost, are audiences being utilized?
  • Are the audiences in play performing better than the campaign average?
  • Could performance benefit from a bid increase or decrease?
  • Could the audiences be further segmented?
  • Are there behaviors on-site that aren’t currently captured with audiences? (Think micro-conversions or indicators of interest or research.)
  • Are audiences being used as strategically as possible? And by that I mean, are audiences being used to connect the dots between the buyer’s journey to support and streamline funnel activity?

Campaign settings

This used to be one of the first things I looked at, but now I typically save it until I’m almost finished; some of the settings are tried and true, while others really depend on the account performance.

For example, I rarely ever recommend any ad rotation other than “rotate evenly” (or “rotate indefinitely” when there were more options). However, my recommendation for ad delivery would depend on whether the account was maxing out its budget each day and whether it was maxing out too early in the day. This might also be paired with automation recommendations around budgeting or bidding, which would also tie back to previous analyses of the Predefined Reports (Dimension reports, in the older UI).

A few things that I look for (aside from device, geography and ad scheduling, which we’ve already reviewed):

  • Bidding. Review this to ensure that the current method seems to be producing good results, or if testing a different setting could yield better results.
  • Ad rotation. Review this to ensure that ad tests are receiving equal distributions.
  • Ad delivery. Review this to ensure that budget is being utilized most effectively, and also to ensure that nothing is left on the table.
  • Network. Review this to ensure that search and display are separated (I recommend keeping them separated, always). I also review Search Partner performance to ensure that these ads are performing as expected. If Search Partners aren’t enabled and haven’t been in the past, I recommend testing them. Within Bing, certain partners can be excluded; however, Google requires that the entire network is either enabled or disabled.
  • URL parameters and tracking templates. Review this to check if there are messy URLs at the ad or keyword level that can be simplified at the ad group or campaign level.

Settings are somewhat subjective — we all likely have preferences and, again, it also depends on goals and performance — but at the very least, make sure that the campaign settings aren’t just set to the defaults. (Search network with display select, anyone?)

Based upon the answers to these questions, there may be recommendations to alter the structure of the campaigns.

On-page optimization

Once you’ve identified all of the optimizations that could be made within the account, it is time to shift your focus toward improving conversion rates on your landing pages. Improving landing page conversion rates has the potential to positively influence all of your campaigns, so even mild improvements can have a big impact. Here are a few posts about conversion rate optimization and some ideas for landing page tests worth running.

What else do you like to look at when auditing your account? Let us know on Twitter!

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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