Auditing PPC Campaigns … Without Access to an Account

As many PPC marketers know, having access to AdWords makes auditing PPC campaigns much easier!  Sometimes, we’re unable to get access to certain prospects’ AdWords accounts. If you’re in a similar situation (or you’re just sick of waiting around for log-in credentials), I recommend you think about the following when trying to determine how well a prospect’s account is doing.

1.       Is your prospect bidding on its own name/website?

  • Are its competitors?
  • Is it using Google Ad Extensions, such as sitelinks, local extensions, and social extensions?
  • Is it using different ad variations or is the same ad showing up every time?
  • Do the ads have branding and registered trademarks?

2.       Is your prospect showing up for non-branded searches?

  • If so, search obvious “negative” keywords in conjunction with a relevant search query, such as “free,” “pictures,” “videos,” etc. If the company is showing up, negative keywords are underutilized, and it is wasting marketing dollars.
  • Is it using different ad variations or is the same ad showing up every time?
  • Is the company showing up for several different keyword matches (i.e. long-tail keywords, including color, model, etc.)?
  • Do the ads have clear value propositions or unique selling points?
  • Do the ads have a call-to-action or incentive?
  • Does the landing page relate directly to the ad?
  • Does the landing page follow conversion conventions?

3.       After clicking through to your prospect’s landing page …

  • Are users being sent to the homepage or some internal page that could be harming conversions?
  • Are they being sent to a relevant page?
  • Does the page contain only one call-to-action?
  • Does the page provide unique selling points?
  • If the landing page is for lead-gen, is the form “above the fold” and only asking for required fields necessary for a quality lead? Is the call-to-action on the form “submit” button or is there a strong call-to-action that indicates what a user will receive if a form is filled out?
  • Does the landing page have testimonials and other credibility indicators?
  • (Read more about the characteristics of quality landing pages.)

4.       If your prospect is in e-commerce (selling products online) …

  • Is it using product extensions? Are its competitors?
  • Is it using product listing ads? Are its competitors?
  • Does the prospect have Google seller reviews/ratings (stars)? Do its competitors?
  • Are the ads being sent to the most relevant product(s)?
  • (Read Fathom’s e-commerce PPC checklist)

5.      Use competitive spy tools (such as SpyFu) to analyze how it compares to its top competitors and …

  • See how your prospect’s ads compare to competitors’:  Are competitors using ad extensions (local, social, phone, etc.)?

  • Determine if competitors are offering better selling points, such as free shipping, 20% off, etc.
  • Examine competitors’ use of calls-to-action that are reflected in both the ads and landing pages: Is your prospect doing the same?

6. Search branded and non-branded keywords on

  • Is the company showing up?
  • Is its competitors?
  1. After visiting the company site and browsing the Web …
  • Are you seeing its ads on other sites, using remarketing/retargeting to bring users back to the company site?
  • Do the remarketing ads you see send users back to the original page or do they offer something unique to help get users to convert?

The above are just a few ways to “audit” a potential client’s account from a distance to determine how its paid search campaigns are performing. Obviously, having a prospect’s account log-in credentials will allow you to see actual performance and have a better understanding of successes and failures. However, if you do not have log-in information, the above steps will help give you a better idea of how a campaign is set up, if it’s following best practices, and which potential areas you might ultimately address when delivering a report.


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