The Big 3 Mistakes a PPC Audit Should Cover

The Big 3 Mistakes a PPC Audit Should Cover

Most PPC professionals will have had the pleasure (or displeasure?) to have to audit an account someone else has built. In most cases, this is part of an effort to win new business. Also, in most cases, you will find something that you consider not best-practice, or you will continue searching until you find something. Audits, in some way, are always rigged to find something wrong with accounts. If you are doing the audit, great, you might have a good way in with a new client.


If you are on the receiving end of an audit, then alas, someone will keep searching until they find something and will present that in the most negative light possible.


PPC Audits are a Race to the Bottom

Instead of rewarding great account builds that balance keywords, search queries and the client’s performance, we are simply just trying to gaslight each other’s expertise and skill set. In essence, these PPC audits are a race to the bottom, with PPC professionals dog-whistling the client to pay attention to the bad.


It’s like a sports team investing all its resources in defensive and ignoring the offensive altogether. You won’t lose, and sometimes you will draw, but you will not win. It’s up to the PPC professionals to steer away from this and prevent this downward spiral. And, it’s up to client’s to up their knowledge and avoids being led astray.


Here are some core ground rules for PPC professionals and clients alike.


#1 Agency Didn’t Care Enough to Do the Basics

If you had to agree on one thing that would disqualify an account straight away, then it’s the evidence of search query matching being monitored. Checking if the keywords are still matching to the right search queries is the bread and butter of handling a PPC account. All PPC professionals would agree with this, but, if being honest, will also acknowledge that this is not done enough.


Finding search queries being matched that have no logical place in the account is indicative, but discovering this has not been dealt with some time ago and gathering impressions, clicks and cost is worrisome. Seeing evidence that search query reports (SQRs) have not been performed in a while is an immediate disqualification of the PPC professional involved. The magic word in regards to SQR challenges is “active”.


Have an active approach to keywords and question the mix at least once a while, preferably each month for “younger” accounts and every quarter for “mature” accounts. This is also an excellent opportunity for PPC professionals to get their SEO colleagues involved and have a more extensive review of the search landscape.


#2 Agency Got Caught Up in Their Own Solutions

Another contentious area is either too little or too much innovation. PPC professionals are usually a bunch of people that love the techniques and intrinsic elements that comes with building accounts and seeing it perform. They love to experiment with new features and smart solutions. One of the risks is that PPC professionals lose themselves in the smart solutions that they want to offer their clients. This can be found in smart scripting, elaborate builds driving by (inventory) feeds, and utilising business data for obscure reasons just to name a few usual suspects. Just because it can be built, doesn’t mean it should be.


It’s probably a good idea to go into every audit with a strict idea of what the PPC activity means for the client, in most cases, the reason for existence is driving conversions. And considering that, how does the smart solution you are suggesting or analysing contribute to that? It’s quite typical to see implementations that would have cost significant resources to set up, only barely moving the dial for the client’s performance.


Forcing yourself to set measurable goals before you embark on a new innovation is a good start to ensure you don’t get lost in a fancy solution. It’s also a great way to set a go/no-go decision with the client.


#1 (Again) Agency Didn’t Care Enough

Next to too much innovation, there is obviously too little innovation. These things are quite easy to spot as more recent releases have not been fully implemented yet, such as new extensions and ad formats. Whereas too much innovation could just be overzealousness, too little is just carelessness. The latter is probably a worse crime than the former, almost similar to not having an active approach to query to keyword matching.


#3 Agency’s Goals > Client’s Goals

The last disqualifier is harder to spot, but as impactful as carelessness and missing the plot altogether. This is the infamous lock-in approach. Clients/advertisers tend to put their business up for pitch once a while and any agency should consider this standard practice. That’s why not planning for succession is doing a disservice to our clients. For example, hiding Google App Scripts in JSON containers is a great way to lock in automation.


Not explaining options such as purchasing bid management under agency shell or own shell using agency rates is a great way to hit the client in the pocket for leaving. Not maintaining a decent historical overview and logbook of changes is a great way to wipe the learning over the years. These are all practices of an agency putting their own interests over those of the client.


What Should Matter in a PPC Audit

In short, audits should look at these 3 areas:


  1. the (pro-)active involvement of the agency
  2. the match between implemented solutions and client’s business
  3. the ability for the client to leave the agency and maintain business-as-usual

These are the areas that should matter the most in an honest PPC audit; everything else is just noise. So, when you are at the receiving end of an audit, make sure these 3 areas are covered. When compiling an audit, use these as a guide. The only way to prevent a race to the bottom is for PPC professionals to be fair and honest to our clients on what actually matters.




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by albert somlith
About author
Albert Somlith

Co-Founder of PPC Ad Editor. I am a leader in digital marketing, specializing in strategic planning, implementation, and optimization.