ppc account audit
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Do You Make These 7 Mistakes In PPC? Discover Our Most Common PPC Account Audit Findings

Have you ever wondered if you could get better results from your AdWords account?

At our agency, we’ve done hundreds of ppc account audits. We’ve found that many of the accounts we audit are unknowingly wasting ton of their budget… sometimes tens of thousands of dollars!

In fact, we’ve found that the average AdWords account wastes up to 61% of its budget.

Here’s the good news — there are common mistakes we’ve noticed across the accounts we’ve audited. When fixed, our clients have been able to save thousands of dollars while doubling (or even tripling) their leads and sales… practically overnight.

So here are the top 7 takeaways from our AdWords audits — use these findings to take a second look at your own account, optimize performance and leave your competitors in the dust. Ignore them at your own peril.

Here we go —

1. Fix Bad Keyword Targeting

ppc account audit

According to a recent analysis of 2,000 AdWords ppc account audits, up to 90% of keywords in an account never convert. Most of these are never found and paused. As a result, they can end up burning away most of your budget.

To find wasteful keywords in your account, sort your keywords by the “conversions” column and identify terms that ran for at least 90 days and produced zero conversions. Pause these immediately.

Cash-Saving Pro-Tip #1: Many accounts make the mistake of not using enough negative keywords or none at all. By not consistently & proactively adding negatives to your account, you’re going to pull in tons of junk clicks from irrelevant searches.

For example, let’s say you’re selling food. You want to show ads for search terms like “buy pizza” or “buy peanut butter.”

You don’t want to show for terms like:

  • “free pizza”
  • “how to get free pizza”
  • “peanut butter costume”
  • “peanut butter information.”

The buyer intent and relevance of those terms is practically zero. So to block these terms from triggering your ads, you could add “free”, “costume”, & “information” as negatives to your account.

(For more ideas on negative keywords, check out our Big Daddy negative keyword list. It will give you a big head start on blocking search terms that will never convert.)

Cash-Saving Pro-Tip #2: Most importantly, make sure your keywords, ad copy, and landing page align. They should be grouped into tightly-themed ad groups for better organization.

For example, let’s say you are selling t-shirts. You have 4 different types of shirts to sell: white t-shirts, green t-shirts, blue t-shirts, and red t-shirts.

Instead of lumping the keywords for all these types of shirts into one ad group, peel them out & stick them in their own ad groups by color type. This accomplishes 2 things:

  • Targeted Messaging: Instead of seeing a general ad for “T-Shirts,” the person searching for “red t-shirts” will get served an ad & sent to a landing page focused on “Red T-Shirts.” This boosts not just click-through rates, but conversion rates as well
  • Easier Analysis:  Suppose all your ad groups have a CPA (cost per acquisition) of $18, except for green t-shirts which has a CPA of $58. You can now easily identify that “green” t-shirts are underperforming & quickly figure out how to optimize that part of your campaign.

2. Have Proper Ad Testing

If you’re not consistently testing new ad copy, you’re going to be stuck with status quo results.

Rule of Thumb: Test only two ads per ad group. Make sure that ads are set to “Rotate indefinitely” so you can test the ads until you find a definitive winner.

Find an ad that won? Pause the loser & test a new ad. Repeat this cycle ad infinitum to continually get better results over time. Yes, it can really be that simple.

That said, here are a few other principles that will help you get a better yield from your ad testing efforts.

Know Thy Numbers

In a recent keynote, marketing legend Jay Abraham stated a sad but simple fact: most businesses don’t know their numbers.

If you don’t know your numbers, how do you know how much you can spend to acquire a customer? What if you’re significantly under-spending and falling behind or overspending and losing money?

If you don’t know basic things like your business’s profit margins, you won’t know if you are turning a profit or losing money on your campaigns.

To make sure you don’t fall into a similar trap, keep your eye on the ball of the metrics that matter: metrics like CPA, clicks, conversion rate, and customer lifetime value.

Here’s the rule to follow: Spend less to acquire a customer than the customer’s lifetime value. In simpler terms, always spend less than you make.

Trust Thy Numbers

Which ad you think will work best isn’t always the ad that actually performs best.

Seasoned copywriters and PPC experts are still sometimes shocked at the results they get when they test one ad vs. another.

You have to be willing to accept what the data says and not be so stubborn as to stick with what you hope to happen. A common mistake is stubbornly trying to get a set of keywords to convert even though they’ve repeatedly failed to do so over time.

Sometimes, the data is telling you to move on. Avoid overspending on things that aren’t working so you can double down on what is working… and double your results.

Use Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are a proven way to increase the click rate on your ads. They give your ad more real estate on the search engines while also providing more opportunities to compel and convert your prospects.

There are several ad extensions you can experiment with. You can add an address, callouts, reviews, social shares, phone number, site links and more.

Different extensions will be appropriate for different ads & businesses, so you’ll need to cherry-pick the ones that are right for you. But at the very least, we recommend all advertisers use callout extensions — it’s free ad space you can’t afford to pass up.

3. Test Your Landing Pages

adwords account audit Landing Page Optimization

If you’re not testing your landing pages, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.

At WebMechanix, we’ve seen triple digit increases in results by running simple A/B tests on landing page copy.

Imagine getting twice the results from the exact same amount traffic on your landing page — how would that change your business?

Rule of Thumb: Start with testing your highest-traffic landing page first — send 50% of visitors to the original “control” page & 50% to the “experiment” page. Just like with ad testing, let these run until you have a clear winner landing page (with at least 99% confidence.)

Then, implement the winner & run a test on the next highest-traffic page — keep it simple and focus on the smallest changes that will generate the biggest possible wins.

Here are a couple other tips to improve the performance of your landing pages.

Don’t send people to your homepage!

The homepage is a horrible place to send people to from your ad because it has little-to-no relevance to the searcher’s intent.

This leaves them confused on where to go next, not to mention they are faced with dozens of links and distracting elements that lead them to places you don’t want them to go.

Rule of Thumb: Don’t make your users think. Send them to a page that offers exactly the information they expect based on the keyword they searched and the ad they clicked.

Have dedicated landing pages for specific keyword sets

Did you know that companies see a 55% increase in leads when they increase the number of landing pages from 10 to 15?

A great way to improve campaign performance is to improve the congruency between the different elements of your campaign.

You see, searchers demand a tailored experience that exactly fits their needs and expectations. For instance, A woman searching to adopt a cat will not be pleased with a landing page from a pet store with a picture of a dog. It’s related but not related enough.

Rule of Thumb: Make sure you have an ad and landing page that’s as congruent as possible with the specific terms users are searching.

An ideal campaign will leave a consistent “scent-trail” where the keyword searched is matched by the language of the ad, which is matched by what language & imagery is delivered on the landing page.

This creates a “frictionless” experience for the user, making it easy for them to say “yes” to your offer without having to think about what they’re looking at or expected to do next.

4. Avoid Testing Irrelevant Things

There should be a process and methodology to your testing. You should only monitor metrics on things that produce tangible results.

Avoid Vanity Metrics

Beware of vanity metrics that look great on paper but don’t actually produce profit.

Cost per lead (CPL) is a great example of a metric that seems important, but isn’t always a leading indicator. Because more leads are great… if they deliver more sales and net profit.

The ads with the best CPL could have the lowest profitability. Digital Marketing Institute found hundreds of ppc campaigns with excellent CPL but no profit.

The same principle goes for metrics further down the value chain: An ad could have the greatest CTR in the world, but it’s still a stinker if all those clicks fail to generate a single qualified lead or sale.

So track your PPC metrics, but always tie them back up to numbers that matter: qualified leads, sales and revenue. And test accordingly.

5. Bid On Your Own Brand

People don’t bid on their own brand search terms because they typically already have the #1 spot in SEO.

But this is a critical mistake because anyone, including your competitors, can steal your audience for cheap by bidding on your brand.

To protect yourself, make sure you have an ad running for terms like “[your brand name]” or “[your brand name] + review.” Doing this will help capture more people who might have clicked elsewhere and keep you from getting sniped by competitors.

Plus, here’s a hidden benefit: you can increase your conversion rates on branded visitors.

We’ve had lots of success boosting lead gen by using ads to divert people to conversion-optimized “squeeze pages” instead of less-optimized pages on the main site for terms like “[COMPANY NAME] + [SERVICE OFFERING].”

Test this tactic out on prospects searching for your brand’s services and let us know how it works for you.

6. Spend More Time On Your Account

A shocking study of 400 AdWords advertisers found that over 50% did nothing in a given week in their account.

A review of 2,000+ PPC accounts revealed that 72% accounts haven’t been touched in a month.

Think of your PPC campaign like taking care of a plant: If you water and prune it on a regular basis, it will grow beautifully… and even bear fruit! If you ignore it, it will wither away — and so will your ROI.

Start pruning your campaign on a regular basis by doing the regular activities that ensure success: adjust your bids, pause underperforming keywords, add negatives, test new ad copy, test your landing pages. Every little bit adds up to a better return, but you must be consistent to get results.

Rule of Thumb: If you spend 2X more time than the average marketer optimizing your campaign, you will reap 10X the rewards.

7. Have Great Tracking

This is, hands down, the #1 oversight AdWords marketers make.

Most advertisers fail to add proper, complete tracking to their accounts. According to Hubspot, you are 17 times more likely to see the same or greater return if you measure your ROI.

We’re constantly surprised at how many high-spending PPC accounts fail to have conversion tracking installed — failure to set this up is like taking all your money and throwing it into a black hole, hoping for something to come back.

While AdWords conversion tracking is the bare minimum, we recommend the following additions to get a more complete picture of your campaign’s performance:

  • Setup Google Analytics goals
  • Setup Analytics events on key landing page elements (e.g. form fields, button clicks, etc.)
  • Tag your campaign parameters with Google’s URL builder
  • Setup qualitative analytics tools to understand users’ landing page behavior (we like Hotjar)

Great tracking will make all of the above findings easier to discover and fix. Without it, improving campaign ROI (much less performing an AdWords audit) is practically impossible.

Rule of Thumb: That which gets measured, gets managed.


While others struggle, you can increase profit and lower costs by learning from the mistakes other advertisers have made.

Starting tomorrow, I challenge you to do these 7 things. I guarantee you’ll be pleased with the results:

  1. Fix overly-broad keyword targeting.
  2. Prevent poor ad-testing by knowing your numbers — cold.
  3. Test your landing pages.
  4. Don’t test for unimportant things (i.e. vanity metrics.)
  5. Bid strategically on your own brand keywords.
  6. Set up & confirm proper tracking.
  7. Check up on your account at least once a week, if not more.

Feeling overwhelmed & need help? You’re in luck.

We’re giving away a free AdWords PPC Account Audit ($4000 value) to help qualified companies get their campaigns on the right track. We’re AdWords-certified professionals who can help you avoid the common pitfalls of ppc management.

Click here to sign up for a free AdWords audit to learn if you qualify..

About the writer
William Chou
William Chou
William Chou has years of experience in the world of corporate digital marketing. He is proficient in SEO, paid media, email marketing, and copywriting.

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