How to Utilize Google Ads Audits for Ecommerce Growth

February 22, 2024

How to Utilize Google Ads Audits for Ecommerce Growth

Google Ads is an integral part of the digital advertising ecosystem, but it’s a complex and ever-changing platform. New features like Demand Gen campaigns and Shorts placements are dropping all of the time, and in the age of AI, advertisers need to be prepared to take full advantage of Google Ads capabilities. 

Google Ads demands a strategic approach to make sure your advertising efforts are both effective and efficient. Regardless of whether your digital marketing is handled internally or you’ve partnered with an agency, regularly performing a Google Ads audit is crucial. But how do you audit your Google Ads strategy? 

This article serves as a guide to how to audit Google Ads, pointing out common pitfalls advertisers and agencies frequently make, and how to turn your observations into actionable steps to achieve your business goals.

Introduction to Google Ads Auditing

A Google Ads audit is an in-depth review of your account’s setup, strategies, and performance. It’s a deep dive into the details of your keywords, search terms, ad copy, and more. The goal? Identifying waste, misallocation, and untapped opportunities, ensuring that every dollar you spend is laser-focused.

Even if you think your Google Ads strategy is working fine, an audit can identify inefficiencies that might be lurking beneath the surface. It’s not uncommon for businesses to partner with agencies to manage their Google Ads campaigns only to find that a lack of thorough oversight can lead to poorly structured campaigns, misinformation, and inadequate targeting. 

By peeling back the layers, you get a transparent view of what’s working, what’s not, and where improvements can be made.

Google Ads Audit Preparation & KPI’s

Before diving into the data, it’s paramount that you define your overall business goals with Google Ads. Are you looking for leads? More sales? Increased brand visibility? Understanding these objectives will guide the focus of your audit. 

Conversions Metrics

Properly defining and setting conversion goals is crucial, as they not only measure the success of campaigns but also guide strategic decisions and optimizations.

The first step in any audit is scrutinizing how you attribute conversions and verifying the conversion actions being tracked. Incorrect or redundant conversion tracking can lead to misleading performance data, potentially skewing the entire account strategy.

Data-driven attribution offers a more nuanced understanding of what’s driving conversions, compared to more simplistic models. Google Analytics is a great starting point, but Triple Whale is a better way to aggregate data from more sources and streamline your analytics processes. 

Either way, once you’ve ensured the data is accurate, evaluate the volume and effectiveness of conversions by examining both the quantity and the quality of these conversions. Look at metrics like Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) and Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). These indicators reveal the direct influence of your advertising efforts on your budget.

Google Ads Audit Checklist

Google Ads is a complex platform with a huge breadth of data, so it can be easy to overlook key metrics. A Google Ads Audit Checklist is a comprehensive list of every aspect of your advertising strategy that you are going to audit.

Your Google Ads audit checklist might include elements like campaign structure, ad copy, keyword strategy, and bidding tactics. 

Key Performance Indicators

The elements on your checklist will be measured against the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you’ll analyze against your overall goals. Some KPIs you’ll likely review include:

  • Spend Analysis: Start by examining the overall spend and its distribution across campaigns. Is the allocation aligned with your goals? This high-level view can quickly highlight misalignments or areas of overspending.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): A low CTR might indicate a disconnect between your ad copy and your target audience or chosen keywords. This is a fundamental metric informed by the relevance of the ads to the audiences they are reaching.
  • Impression Share: This metric reveals the percentage of times your ads were shown out of the total eligible instances. A low impression share, especially due to a low budget or ad rank, can indicate opportunities for strategic adjustments.
  • Performance Trends: Analyzing performance over various time frames can reveal trends, seasonal patterns, and shifts in performance.

If you’re working with an agency, your approach to the audit should be as collaborative as possible. Transparency is key, and an outside perspective on your tactics can reveal missteps and missed opportunities, which should be a learning opportunity for both of you.

Through thorough preparations and a focus on critical KPIs, businesses can execute detailed audits that drive new, innovative strategies.

Analyzing Google Ads Performance

Your audit will need to do more than just examine data; it should naturally lead you to actionable insights. 

Start by examining account performance over various time frames, including daily, weekly, 30-day, and 90-day periods. This approach allows for a comprehensive understanding of short-term fluctuations and long-term trends, offering insights into the immediate impact of changes and the sustained performance of campaigns.

Google Ads has trend graphs that can be customized to display various metrics such as cost, CTR, conversions, and CPA. These visuals can make it easier to identify patterns, spikes, or declines in performance.

Break this data down by campaign, ad group, keyword, or even specific ads to pinpoint where you’re seeing fluctuations. This granular approach helps in identifying which elements of your campaigns are driving performance and which may be underperforming.

Aligning your data analysis with your business calendar can reveal how external factors, such as product launches, sales, or collection drops, influence your Google Ads performance. Observing how your ads perform during these key business moments can offer valuable insights into customer behavior and campaign effectiveness.

By reviewing performance trends, businesses can uncover not just what went wrong, but opportunities for growth and efficiency.

Common Issues Uncovered in Google Ads Audits

  • Double Counting Conversions: Often due to multiple tracking actions set up for the same conversion event. This inflates performance metrics, giving a false sense of success.
  • Underutilization of Features: Failing to utilize features like enhanced conversions and data-driven attribution can limit the accuracy and effectiveness of conversion tracking. 
  • Inappropriate Conversion Windows: The conversion window should reflect the customer’s purchase journey. A standard 30-day window may not suit all products, especially those with longer consideration phases. 
  • Mixing Brand and Non-Brand Campaigns: Brand campaigns usually yield lower CPCs and higher conversion rates, so mixing them with non-brand campaigns can skew performance metrics and hinder effective budget allocation.
  • Inadequate Campaign Segmentation: Failing to segment campaigns based on products, services, or customer funnel stages can lead to poor targeting and messaging. 
  • Overloaded Ad Groups: Ad groups crammed with an excessive number of keywords make it hard for ads to get high relevance scores. Ideally, ad groups should be tightly themed around specific products, services, or user intent to ensure ad copy and landing pages are as relevant as possible to the keywords.
  • Neglecting Match Types and Negative Keywords: Not utilizing the appropriate keyword match types or failing to regularly update negative keyword lists can lead to ads appearing for irrelevant searches, resulting in wasted spend and poor campaign performance.
  • Failing to Consolidate Campaigns: Consolidating similar campaigns allows the algorithm to leverage more data, improving its ability to target and convert effectively. 
  • Copy-Paste Tactics: Agencies managing multiple accounts might fall into the trap of applying a one-size-fits-all approach, using the same strategies across different clients without tailoring them to each client’s unique needs and objectives.
  • Budget Misallocation: A budget that’s too low relative to your goals may not provide the algorithm enough room to optimize. You might not be showing your ads enough, missing out on potential conversions. A well-funded campaign allows for more extensive testing and learning, leading to better performance.

Post-Audit Steps

After completing a Google Ads audit it’s crucial to take strategic actions based on the audit’s findings to optimize the account and enhance campaign success. 

If you’ve identified issues with conversion tracking, you’ll need to fix those first. This might involve checking conversion actions, ensuring they align with business goals, and verifying the setup on platforms like Google Tag Manager or the website backend.

Next, pause any elements that are consuming the budget without contributing to conversions. This could include irrelevant keywords, poorly performing ad groups, or ineffective placements. For instance, if a broad match keyword is generating significant spend without conversions, refining the keyword or adding negative keywords to exclude irrelevant traffic would be a good response.

Then, you’ll need to optimize and rebuild the ad copy, ad groups, and campaigns. This involves using best practices for ad group structure and keyword targeting that uses ad creatives that resonate with the target audience.

Adopt a full-funnel approach, segmenting campaigns by their objectives (awareness, consideration, conversion) and ensuring each campaign is tailored to its specific target audience and goal. 

Ad Group Structure

A well-structured account allows for more precise budget allocation, ensuring that funds are directed toward high-performing campaigns and not wasted on underperforming ones. When campaigns are logically structured, it’s easier to analyze performance data and make informed decisions.

Moreover, Google rewards well-organized accounts with better Quality Scores, which can lead to lower cost-per-click (CPC) and higher ad positions. This is because a structured account typically has more relevant ad groups, ads, and landing pages, which are key factors in determining Quality Scores.

Best Practices for Ad Group Settings

  • Thematic Ad Groups: Structure ad groups around specific themes, products, or services. This ensures that the ads and landing pages are highly relevant to the keywords. For instance, if you’re selling athletic wear, separating ad groups for “running shoes” and “yoga pants” allows for more targeted messaging.
  • Focused Keyword Groups: Limit the number of keywords in each ad group to maintain relevance. Ideally, each ad group should contain closely related keywords that mirror the user’s intent. Overloading ad groups with too many keywords dilutes their effectiveness and complicates management.
  • Ad Copy Relevance: Tailor ad copy to the theme of each ad group to ensure it speaks directly to the user’s search intent. This increases the likelihood of clicks and conversions, contributing to a better Quality Score and lower CPC.
  • Landing Page Alignment: Ensure that the landing page for each ad group is directly relevant to the ad’s message and the user’s search query. This coherence between keywords, ad copy, and landing page enhances user experience and conversion rates.

Keyword Targeting Optimization

Utilize a mix of exact, phrase, and broad match types to balance reach and relevance. Start with exact and phrase match keywords to target specific queries, and consider broad match for broader reach, applying it cautiously and monitoring its performance closely.

Beyond CTAs like “Shop Now”, adding emotion and relatability can increase engagement. “Discover Your Perfect Fit” or “Embark on a Style Journey” can evoke a stronger emotional response, making the ads more appealing.

Regularly test different keyword combinations, ad copies, and landing pages to find the most effective mix. Use Google Ads’ testing features to compare performance and make data-driven decisions.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can be added to your Google Ads campaigns to make your ads only appear for search queries relevant to your products or services. By carefully selecting negative keywords, you can prevent your ads from being triggered by unrelated or undesirable searches, thus conservatively using your budget and improving the overall efficiency of your campaigns.

Here’s how to effectively utilize negative keywords in your Google Ads strategy:

  • Frequent Review: Make it a routine to review your search terms report. This could be done daily, as some experts do, or at least weekly. This practice helps in identifying irrelevant search terms that are triggering your ads.
  • Implementing Changes: Based on the review, promptly add irrelevant terms to your negative keyword list to prevent your ads from showing for those searches in the future. This proactive approach helps stop the wastage of ad spend on irrelevant clicks.
  • Brand vs. Non-Brand: Separate your negative keyword lists for branded and non-branded campaigns. For instance, ensure that branded terms are added as negatives in your non-branded campaigns to prevent internal competition and control costs.
  • Generic Negatives: Create a list of generic negative keywords that are not related to your offerings, such as customer support terms or unrelated product terms, to further refine your targeting.

Measuring Success Post-Audit

You may see immediate improvement from some changes, like better click-through rates or reduced wasted spend due to tightened keyword targeting and improved negative keyword lists. 

Monitoring these early indicators can provide quick feedback on the audit’s effectiveness.

But it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a learning period of around a month for Google’s algorithms to gather data and optimize performance. After this time, campaigns should stabilize and start showing reliable performance metrics.

Over two to three months, the impact of broader strategic changes, such as new campaign structures, bid strategies, or audience targeting adjustments, should become apparent. You can compare performance metrics like ROAS, conversion rates, and overall revenue generation before and after the audit to gauge the long-term impact of the changes.

Remember that post-audit changes should not be one-off; continuous monitoring and iterative optimization based on ongoing performance data are essential. This might involve further refinements to ad creatives, additional adjustments to bid strategies, or exploring new opportunities identified during the audit. 

Regular audits, coupled with strategic post-audit actions, ensure that Google Ads accounts remain optimized, responsive to market changes, and aligned with business goals, ultimately leading to sustained campaign success and improved ROI.

About the Author: Laura Benoit is a Senior Media Analyst at adQuadrant. Originally from Boston, MA, Laura moved to San Diego in 2021 and enjoys exploring California via beaches, hikes, and burrito shops. A graduate of Emmanuel College, she began her marketing career in higher education before transitioning to digital marketing agencies where she’s been for the past 5 years.

More Articles