PPC & Media

The 10 Minute PPC Audit

As a PPC Specialist, I’m often asked to audit PPC accounts for current and prospective clients. Sometimes this is a deep and thorough analysis of every component of the account, keyword inventory, ad copy, landing pages, etc. Other times, we’re just looking for a quick assessment of the health of an account. Are there opportunities for improvement here? Do you see any major flags that should be immediately addressed?

So what does one look for in a quick audit of an account? Here are the 10 steps to a 10-minute PPC audit.

Step 1: Judge a book by its cover

It’s more of a way of life, really.

This is likely your first introduction to this account so don’t plan to dig too deep for details. You won’t know the details of every KPI, competitive differentiators, and seasonal patterns so don’t expect to know why every decision has been made. Right now you get to sit back and judge based on very limited information. Enjoy Embrace it.

Step 2: Settings

This is the best place to start, as you can learn a lot about the complexity of an account without needing to know much about the specific advertiser. A few key things to consider:

  • Mobile bid modifiers – There are always exceptions to the rule, but more often than not if you see all -100% mobile bid adjustments, it probably means a mobile strategy really hasn’t been considered.
  • Ad schedule – Showing ads all days and hours? Zero bid adjustments?
  • Delivery method – Rarely do you see Accelerated delivery, but if you do, check across every campaign for it. There are few instances where this makes sense, so unless it’s only set for a few key campaigns, you might have a problem.
  • Bid strategy – No right or wrong here, but you can learn a bit about how the account is managed. If all bids are being set manually, you should expect to see constant bid changes by your manager. If every campaign is set to CPA bids, your manager might be more hands-off.

Step 3: Change History

See how frequently changes are being made to the account using the Change History tool. There’s no correct answer here, but you’re looking for signs that there is constant testing and adjustments being made. That may happen a couple times a week or a couple times a month, but if you’ve got extended periods of emptiness, you might want to take note.

AdWords Change History
While you were all playing with new presents and sleeping off that holiday ham, she was making ad changes


Step 4: Automated Rules

Limited change history is forgivable when you’ve got automated rules in place to perform many of the regular tasks for you. Some common uses for automated rules might include bid adjustments, scheduling ads, or controlling budgets and cost.

Step 5: Trending Performance

How has the performance been trending? Are conversions generally rising and cost per conversion generally falling? You may need to know a little more about seasonal patterns, but look at the past 6-12 months, or do a year-over-year comparison to ensure the account is getting better with time.

Improved Trending Performance

The Nitty Gritty

Step 6: Campaign Structure

Every person managing a PPC account is going to have a different perspective on how to organize campaigns, naming conventions, etc. I try not to judge (too much) based on these factors, but there are a couple rules of thumb I try to stick to:

  • Networks – Please tell me you’re not targeting Search and Display network in the same campaign. I. Just. Can’t.
  • How many Ad Groups per Campaign? How many Keywords per Ad Group? – I generally try to stick to 10-20 of each, but there are thousands of ways to successfully organize. Some love the idea of a single keyword per ad group. Mostly I’m looking for major outliers here. Multiple campaigns with a single ad group and 100+ keywords? That’s a major problem.

Step 7: Ad Copy Testing

Now is not the time to review ad copy and critique click-through rates and calls to action. In 10 minutes, I’m looking for two things.

  • Is ad copy specifically tailored to each individual ad group? (hint: if your ad group has 100+ keywords in it how could it possibly?)
  • Has there been ad copy testing done with any regularity? Are there paused ads, variations of headlines or CTAs, testing of destination URLs? I don’t care right now if they are good tests or not, I just want to see that someone has been trying.


Step 8: Keyword Match Types

Download all active keywords and sort by match type. Count. I’m looking for a healthy balance of keyword match types, preferably with a much heavier emphasis on Exact match than on Broad match.

Step 9: Negative Keywords

Do you have any? A lot or a little? This is another example where you aren’t looking for specific queries, duplication across campaigns, or concerns with match types. You’re just trying to gauge if negative keywords has been an ongoing consideration, which would suggest that over time a list would accumulate. If I see a few dozen negative keywords in the first ad group I’ve opened, you passed.

Step 10: Ad Extensions

Have you seen an AdWords ad recently that didn’t have any ad extensions? Looks so sad and un-clickable. With so many options available to enhance your ads, there’s no reason a campaign shouldn’t have at least one or two extensions applied. In fact, AdWords is now including ad extensions as part of their ad rank algorithm, so it’s practically a must.

Missing Ad Extensions
C’mon Capella! You’re better than this.


If I’ve gone through steps 1-9 with more than a minute to spare, I might use that extra time to check the quality of ad extensions. Are sitelinks using the additional description lines, are extensions being used at the account, campaign, or ad group level, or are any beta extensions in place?


That’s it!

Time yourself and see how many you can get through. Remember, there’s a time and a place for deeper analysis, but if you want a quick look to see if your account has been getting the all-star treatment, this is a good place to start.

Craig Galyon

Craig Galyon - Digital Media Team Manager

Craig Galyon (pronounced "Craig") is the Digital Media Team Manager at SwellPath, with a background in PPC, Display, Rich Media, and Social advertising. When he's not managing killer media strategies for his clients, you'll find Craig brewing beer and playing competitive kickball. Rarely together.

3 Responses to “The 10 Minute PPC Audit”

  1. SearchCap: The Day In Search, January 6, 2014

    […] The 10 Minute PPC Audit, SwellPath […]


Leave a Reply

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Get Our Newsletter

To keep up with the latest news from SwellPath on digital advertising, analytics, and SEO, sign up for our newsletter.