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The Ultimate PPC Audit Checklist

Regular visits to the dentist, eye doctor and physician are routine for many people. You visit when you’re well, and more often than not, you visit when you’re sick, need new glasses, or a dental cleaning. Well, you’re not the only one that needs a health checkup – your PPC campaigns need one when they are healthy AND when something seems wrong. They are integral to the continued success of a paid search campaign. PPC audits, much like a visit to the dentist for a cleaning, can find underlying or hidden issues that you can’t see on a daily basis. They can seem daunting, but if you go in with a game plan, you’ll actually have some fun. Below is my go-to checklist of questions for PPC audits.


ppc audit checkmarkAre your campaigns running for both Search Network and Display Network?

  • Pro tip: Only have campaigns set for one or the other, never mixed.

ppc audit checkmarkIs Enhanced CPC on? Is this the right method for the campaigns?

  • Pro tip: I prefer off and to control bids manually.

ppc audit checkmarkWhat Ad Delivery Method is on? Is this still relevant?

ppc audit checkmarkWhat Ad Rotation preference is on?

  • Pro Tip: I prefer “Rotate Evenly” since I am constantly testing ad copy.

ppc audit checkmarkAre you segmenting by device?

  • For example, if you see in Analytics that mobile is converting well for a campaign, break it out into its own campaign to better control spend.

ppc audit checkmarkIs Location Targeting correct?

  • I often see accounts that have targeting overlapping. For example, United States AND a specific city. This could have been done by mistake and the reason why you are pulling conversions in places that you might not offer a service or product.


ppc audit checkmarkAre the campaigns and ad groups tightly themed?

  • Pro Tip: The better you group your campaigns and ad groups, the better the relevancy, the better the QS and the better your overall portfolio.

ppc audit checkmarkHave you taken an in depth dive into your keywords?

  • What proportion of keywords are broad, modified broad, phrase and exact?
  • How is each type performing? Pro Tip: I look at CTR, Conversion and QS.
  • What can you change to increase performance? Pro Tip: I take a hard look at the keywords that are not performing and make the decision to pause, lower bids, or move to another ad group.

ppc audit checkmarkDo you have a campaign just for branded terms?

  • Make sure brand keywords aren’t in the same campaigns or ad groups as non-brand keywords.

ppc audit checkmarkHave you refreshed your negative list recently?

  • Pro Tip: I always make sure that my negative list on the ad group level is working. i.e., If I have one ad group for “White Chocolate Candy” and another for “Dark Chocolate Candy”, I make sure that the former has a negative broad for “dark” and the latter has a negative broad for “white”.
  • Is your campaign level negative list too extensive? Is it blocking potential traffic that can convert?

ppc audit checkmarkAre you using your campaign budgets effectively?

  • Check to see if you are hitting your budget cap early in the day in well-converting campaigns. If so, consider raising it by adding more money or reallocating money from other not-so-hot campaigns.

ppc audit checkmarkHow many ads are running per ad group?

  • Pro Tip: I like to keep it at 2 ads per ad group, no more, no less.

ppc audit checkmarkWhen was the last time you ran an ad copy test?

Deep Dive – Metrics to Compare

ppc audit checkmarkQuality Score change over time – this is a great litmus test to see if there have been any drops in relevancy for your keywords, ads, landing page and entire user experience.

ppc audit checkmarkBudget Share vs. Conversion Share – you can look at this from the campaign level, down to ad group and keyword level.

ppc audit checkmarkDay Parting and Hour Parting – figure out your optimal and least optimal times of the day and days of the week and schedule your bids accordingly.

ppc audit checkmarkROI by Impression

ppc audit checkmarkLanding Page metrics – This is where Google Analytics is absolutely needed. Check out metrics like time on page, bounce rate, interaction with page and the conversion path to optimize and improve the landing page.

  • This is the best place to start to find out if you need to test a new landing page, or simply test portions of the landing page already active.

This checklist is something I personally use, though I know many other PPC-ers have their own tips. But no matter how an audit is performed, or what metrics you prefer to look at, every PPC campaign needs one to ensure continued good health.

If you have a metric that you think should be on this list as well, comment below!

Thanks to Katie Saxon (@ksaxoninternet) and Mel (@Mel66) for their valuable input!

Sarah Peduzzi

About Sarah Peduzzi

Sarah Peduzzi is a Paid Search Project Manager. Her background includes SEO, direct response web and landing page design, email marketing and public relations. She graduated with a degree in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh and has always been interested in publishing, especially genres like science fiction and fantasy. Her creativity, coupled with an affinity for numbers and the psychology behind search, led to a natural fit in Paid Search. She especially enjoys spreading the love for Paid Search at the LunaMetrics AdWords seminars. She'll be inducting her next wave of AdWords nerds at the LunaMetrics AdWords training in Boston.When she’s not obsessively reading industry blogs, she is either reading a new book or trying to write one.


9 Responses to “The Ultimate PPC Audit Checklist”

Eric says:

Hi Sarah – thanks for this great list. What is the best way to look at quality score over time. I was trying to figure that out the other day and couldn’t find a report for it. Thanks

Hi Eric, thanks for stopping by! Glad you liked this list.

There are a few ways you could figure out QS over time. It just depends on how in depth you want to go. Below is one option.

First: Add the quality score column to your keyword tab.

Second: Pick a good time frame for your data.

Third: When you export the keyword data, make sure you add a segment for Time –> Week. I generally do Week just to get a good look. Now you have a whole bunch of data to play with!

The fun part is narrowing down your keywords. Choose the keywords that convert the best for you (or whatever level you need to look at) and filter for that keyword(s) alone.

Copy into another sheet. Construct an Excel area or line chart that has Time as the X-axis and QS as the Y-axis. For added data insight, add in conversions over time as a secondary Y-axis and see how QS affected conversions. Or you can use that secondary Y-axis to see the Average Position compared to QS.

Hope this helps! Doing this kind of involved audit does take time, but the rewards are well worth it.

Eric says:

Thanks for the reply – this worked perfectly!

Benjamin says:

Hi Sarah, good list!

I’m not sure your answer to Eric is accurate unless something in AdWords has changed recently. As far as I know AdWords will only show your quality score ratings as of today but won’t show historical data. The same scores will show even if you change the time period. So, in the report you mentioned each week will show the same quality score even though the time period has changed. Take a look at your own reports and let me know if you see otherwise.

I’d be happy to be proved wrong as this is a feature I’ve been waiting for.

I’d like to have access to that QS-in-the-past functionality as well.

I’d add ad extensions to the list

Hey Benjamin,

Thanks for taking the time to comment – I really appreciate it!

You brought up a really good point, and I’m bowing to your expertise in this matter. Your comment got me into the rabbit hole of QS again (always fun) and I think you’re right. The item on the list might have been too lofty to pull off with excel and the UI alone. I did find some other useful resources however. There are some Adwords-specific scripts that I found as well as paid tools that seem to do just that – track QS over time. Both things seems to pull directly from the UI, so fluctuations over time must be in there somewhere, buried where no ppc-er may see for now…(Sorry Eric for getting your hopes up!)

If you’re curious, I found this tool http://www.tenscores.com/ (I haven’t used or heard of it, but hey look what they do).

Anyways, thanks again for your feedback. Next list will be updated to reflect this convo. :)

That’s a great one to add to the list, thanks Beate!

Eric says:

I actually started to notice that after digging deeper into the reports. I thought it was something I was doing wrong, so it’s good to know what was actually going on.