Audit Your Google Ads: How to Spend Less and Earn More
If you are operating and managing your own Google Ads it can be difficult to know exactly where to begin. For many small businesses that do marketing in-house, you can typically start by having a consultation with the Google Ads team once you get your account set-up. Unfortunately, the problem is that there is often a lot that you can be doing for your Ads (which involves spending less and earning more) that Google may not tell you because this gets into more advanced practices.
This article isn’t intended to knock the professionals on the Google team by any means, I myself have found them to be very helpful in the past; however, I do want to give you some independent fixes that could be getting you better results without increasing your bids all the time. The strategy is key with Google Ads, and when you get over the learning curve of managing yourself, there is a lot you can improve for your individual business.
Tips to Auditing Your Google Ads for Success
Google Ads almost always works when you know how to effectively monitor your campaigns, keeping in mind that you also need to have solid business development and branding in place before you can be successful. The goal with Ads is profit, so increasing your conversions and sales on your website. In order to be successful, your strategy really needs to be tailored to your individual business, but there are some tweaks anyone can make to have a successful go at it! Here are some tips on auditing your Ads, so that you can spend less and get more conversions with your advertisements.
1. Data Analysis is Key for Determining Spending
This sounds like a pretty basic point, but I want to start a general here and then get more specific in subsequent sections. Let me be clear, data-driven decisions are the best choices when you are determining how to spend on Ads. If you can look at your analytics and determine what is acting as a successful keyword and driving traffic on your site, then that is a smart budget adjustment. The problem is that general budget increases to get your ad on page one of a search, won’t necessarily do anything if people were not hoping to find your company/industry in the first place. Look at data for what is performing well, and don’t put as much money (or attention) into what is not.
A quick word about profit & advertising costs. If you know you are making a profit while spending money on your ads, then you DO want to increase the amount you are funneling into it—this is just best practice in advertising (the whole spend money to make money theory). If you are getting a good ROI on your Ads campaigns, keep it yet. One of my favorite quotes about advertising came from Henry Ford:
“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”
The issue arises when you are funneling a bunch of money into Google Ads and are not seeing results. Also, remember that it may not just be Ads you need to look at. If you feel like you audit, look at analytics, and keep a close eye on your campaigns and you still aren’t seeing the results you should be, it may have to do with your website, brand image, reviews, or other relevant business issues. Ads works when all of those things are in place.
Bottom line. Look at your data and analytics regularly and often. You may have a learning curve at first, but in the end, you will be able to make the kind of corrections that save money and see a far better ROI once you get the hang of it!
2. Incorrect Audience Targeting
One of the errors that can lead to excessive spending without seeing the kind of conversions you want is targeting your brand’s audience incorrectly.
You could be:
- Targeting the wrong location
- Bidding at the wrong time of day or days of the week
- Targeting the wrong kind of devices
- Advertising on the wrong networks
Look into demographics about your audience (for example, where you sell your products) and data on what days/times or devices perform best to make these kinds of adjustments.
3. Errors in Keyword Targeting
There are a lot of mistakes made (and solutions for them) with keyword targeting. In fact, poor keyword targeting is one of the most significant problems for high-paying and underperforming Ads accounts. The biggest mistakes often fall in one of two categories: (1) targeting over-inclusive keywords or (2) targeting non-converting keywords. I’m going to break-down some solutions for each category:
Error #1: Targeting Over-Inclusive Keywords
Unfortunately, Google Ads is not one of the places where casting your net wide is a good thing. You do want to have enough keywords and keyword combinations to make sure you rank in relevant searches, but using “overly-broad” keywords is not likely to get you anywhere. In fact, it is likely to just get you a lot of junk.
For example, I was helping a small business with their Ads recently, and a Chicago-Based photography and video company had “Chicago” and “Video” as keyword options. They wound up getting a lot of traffic for people just looking for videos of Chicago—not traffic looking for a videographer in Chicago. In a PPC campaign, this is no good. I had to go into their Google Ads and did two different things to troubleshoot this junk traffic (and PPC over-spending):
- Add negative keywords to their campaign. If you do some research it is pretty easy to find negative keywords you should be using in your specific industry. Google Ads support can also give you a list of recommendations. This will help you to decide what keywords you don’t want to target and therefore not have PPC losses on words that are not driving traffic.
- Analyze their search terms report closely. If you analyze your search terms report you can learn a lot of valuable information to make adjustments. For example, you can find out what search queries ultimately lead people to your page (through them clicking on the ad). It will also allow you to figure out which are performing poorly and will need to be added to your negative keyword list.
Doing both of these things can really help you to eliminate over-inclusive keywords and make sure the clicks you are getting are the most accurate possible, which will in turn save you money and boost conversions.
Error #2: Non-Converting Keywords
The second largest problem is using keywords that are non-converting. What this means is that you need to look at what keywords are performing well and which are not and make a decision about which to add to your negative keyword list. By looking at performance data (i.e, conversions) you can figure out which keywords are more relevant and valuable to your advertisement.
Here are some steps you can take to figure out what keywords are not working well and build your own analysis:
Step 1: Export a keyword report,
Step 2: Add the data into a spreadsheet & create a pivot table to determine which keywords are not performing well and what might be able to cut costs.
Step 3: Cut costs by “pausing” non-converting keywords.
There are many things you can do to audit your Google Ads, and the things I’ve mentioned in this post are just a starting point. As I mentioned, data analysis is really key here—you want to make sure you are checking your Ads performance regularly and doing what you can to make adjustments so that you stay within your budget! Learn about more ideas for an audit here.
Do you know of any helpful Google Ads audit tricks? Let us know in the comments section below!
Amanda DiSilvestro is the Editor-in-chief for Plan, Write, GO. She has been writing about all things digital marketing, both as a ghostwriter, guest writer, and blog manager, for over 10 years. Check out her blogging services to learn more!
How to Write For Google
Are you writing your SEO content based on the latest best practice tips?
I originally wrote this SEO copywriting checklist in 2012—my, how things have changed. Today, Google stresses quality content even more than before, conversational copy is critical, and there are revised SEO writing “rules.”
I’ve updated the list to reflect these changes and to provide additional information.
As a side note, I would argue that there’s no such thing as “writing for Google.” Yes, there are certain things you should do to make the Google gods happy. However, your most important goal should be writing clear, compelling, standout copy that tells a story.
I’m keeping the old headline in the hopes that I can convert some of the “write for Google” people to do things the right way.
Whether you’re an in-house SEO content writer, a DIY business owner, or a freelance SEO copywriter, this 27-point checklist will help you write engaging, Google-happy content—every time.
Items to review before you start your SEO writing project
– Do you have enough information about your target reader?
Your copy will pack a powerful one-two punch if your content is laser-focused on your target reader. Ask your client or supervisor for a customer/reader persona document outlining your target readers’ specific characteristics. If the client doesn’t have a customer persona document, be prepared to spend an hour or more asking detailed questions.
Here’s more information on customer personas.
– Writing a sales page? Did you interview the client?
It’s essential to interview new clients and to learn more about their company, USP, and competition. Don’t forget to ask about industry buzzwords that should appear in the content.
Not sure what questions to ask to get the copywriting ball rolling? Here’s a list of 56 questions you can start with today.
– Writing a blog post? Get topic ideas from smart sources
When you’re blogging, it’s tempting to write about whatever strikes your fancy. The challenge is, what interests you may not interest your readers. If you want to make sure you’re writing must-read content, sites like Quora, LinkedIn, Google Trends, and BuzzSumo can help spark some ideas.
– Did you use Google for competitive intelligence ideas?
Check out the sites positioning in the top-10 and look for common characteristics. How long are competing articles? Do the articles link out to authoritative sources? Are there videos or infographics? Do the articles include quotes from industry experts? Your job is to write an essay that’s better than what’s already appearing in the top-10 — so let the competition be your guide.
– Did you conduct keyphrase research?
Yes, keyphrase research (and content optimization) is still a crucial SEO step. If you don’t give Google some keyphrase “cues,” your page probably won’t position the way you want.
Use a keyphrase research tool and find possible keyphrases for your page or post. As a hint: if you are tightly focusing on a topic, long-tail keyphrases are your best bet. Here’s more information about why long-tail keyphrases are so important.
If you are researching B2B keyphrases, know that the “traditional” keyphrase research steps may not apply. Here’s more information about what to do if B2B keyphrase research doesn’t work.
– What is your per-page keyphrase focus?
Writers are no longer forced to include the exact-match keyphrase over and over again. (Hurray!) Today, we can focus on a keyphrase theme that matches the search intent and weave in multiple related keyphrases.
– Did you expand your keyphrase research to include synonyms and close variants?
Don’t be afraid to include keyphrase synonyms and close variants on your page. Doing so opens up your positioning opportunities, makes your copy better, and is much easier to write!
Are you wondering if you should include your keyphrases as you write the copy — or edit them in later? It’s up to you! Here are the pros and cons of both processes.
— Do your keyphrases match the search intent?
Remember that Google is “the decider” when it comes to search intent. If you’re writing a sales page — and your desired keyphrase pulls up informational blog posts in Google – your sales page probably won’t position.
— Writing a blog post? Does your Title/headline work for SEO, social, and your readers?
Yes, you want your headline to be compelling, but you also want it to be keyphrase rich. Always include your main page keyphrase (or a close variant) in your Title and work in other keyphrases if they “fit.”
– Did you include keyphrase-rich subheadlines?
Subheadlines are an excellent way to visually break up your text, making it easy for readers to quick-scan your benefits and information. Additionally, just like with the H1 headline, adding a keyphrase to your subheadlines can (slightly) help reinforce keyphrase relevancy.
As a hint, sometimes, you can write a question-oriented subheadline and slip the keyphrase in more easily. Here’s more information about why answering questions is a powerful SEO content play.
– Is your Title “clickable” and compelling?
Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Focusing too much on what you think Google “wants” may take away your Title’s conversion power.
Consider how you can create an enticing Title that “gets the click” over the other search result listings. You have about 59 characters (with spaces) to work with, so writing tight is essential.
– Does the meta description fit the intent of the page?
Yes, writers should create a meta description for every page. Why? Because they tell the reader what the landing page is about and help increase SERP conversions. Try experimenting with different calls-to-actions at the end, such as “learn more” or “apply now.” You never know what will entice your readers to click!
– Is your content written in a conversational style?
With voice search gaining prominence, copy that’s written in a conversational style is even more critical.
Read your copy out loud and hear how it sounds. Does it flow? Or does it sound too formal? If you’re writing for a regulated industry, such as finance, legal, or healthcare, you may not be able to push the conversational envelope too much. Otherwise, write like you talk.
Here’s how to explain why conversational content is so important.
–Is your copy laser-focused on your audience?
A big mistake some writers make is creating copy that appeals to “everyone” rather than their specific target reader. Writing sales and blog pages that are laser-focused on your audience will boost your conversions and keep readers checking out your copy longer. Here’s how one company does it.
Plus, you don’t receive special “Google points” for writing long content. Even short copy can position if it fully answers the searcher’s query. Your readers don’t want to wade through 1,500 words to find something that can be explained in 300 words.
Items to review after you’ve written the page
– Did you use too many keyphrases?
Remember, there is no such thing as keyword density. If your content sounds keyphrase-heavy and stilted, reduce the keyphrase usage and focus more on your readers’ experience. Your page doesn’t receive bonus points for exact-matching your keyphrase multiple times. If your page sounds keyphrase stuffed when you read it out loud, dial back your keyphrase usage.
– Did you edit your content?
Resist the urge to upload your content as soon as you write it. Put it away and come back to it after a few hours (or even the next day.) Discover why editing your Web writing is so very important. Also, don’t think that adding typos will help your page position. They won’t.
– Is the content interesting to read?
Yes, it’s OK if your copy has a little personality. Here’s more information about working with your page’s tone and feel and how to avoid the “yawn response.” Plus, know that even FAQ pages can help with conversions — and yes, even position.
– Are your sentences and paragraphs easy to read?
Vary your sentence structure so you have a combination of longer and shorter sentences. If you find your sentences creeping over 30 or so words, edit them down and make them punchier. Your writing will have more impact if you do.
Plus, long paragraphs without much white space are hard to read off a computer monitor – and even harder to read on a smartphone. Split up your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Please.
– Are you forcing your reader onto a “dead end” page?
“Dead-end” pages (pages that don’t link out to related pages) can stop your readers dead in their tracks and hurt your conversion goals.
Want to avoid this? Read more about “dead-end” Web pages.
– Does the content provide the reader with valuable information?
Google warns against sites with “thin,” low-quality content that’s poorly written. In fact, according to Google, spelling errors are a bigger boo-boo than broken HTML. Make sure your final draft is typo-free, written well, and thoroughly answers the searcher’s query.
Want to know what Google considers quality content — directly from Google? Here are Google’s Quality Raters guidelines for more information.
– Did you use bullet points where appropriate?
If you find yourself writing a list-like sentence, use bullet points instead. Your readers will thank you, and the items will be much easier to read.
Plus, you can write your bullet points in a way that makes your benefit statements pop, front and center. Here’s how Nike does it.
– Is the primary CTA (call-to-action) clear–and is it easy to take action?
What action do you want your readers to take? Do you want them to contact you? Buy something? Sign up for your newsletter? Make sure you’re telling your reader what you want them to do, and make taking action easy. If you force people to answer multiple questions just to fill out a “contact us” form, you run the risk of people bailing out.
Here’s a list of seven CTA techniques that work.
– Do you have a secondary CTA (such as a newsletter signup or downloading a white paper?)
Do you want readers to sign up for your newsletter or learn about related products? Don’t bury your “sign up for our newsletter” button in the footer text. Instead, test different CTA locations (for instance, try including a newsletter signup link at the bottom of every blog post) and see where you get the most conversions.
– Does the page include too many choices?
It’s important to keep your reader focused on your primary and secondary CTAs. If your page lists too many choices (for example, a large, scrolling page of products), consider eliminating all “unnecessary” options that don’t support your primary call-to-action. Too many choices may force your readers into not taking any action at all.
– Did you include benefit statements?
People make purchase decisions based on what’s in it for them (yes, even your B2B buyers.) Highly specific benefit statements will help your page convert like crazy. Don’t forget to include a benefit statement in your Title (whenever possible) like “free shipping” or “sale.” Seeing this on the search results page will catch your readers’ eyes, tempting them to click the link and check out your site.
– Do you have vertical-specific testimonials?
It’s incredible how many great sales pages are testimonial-free. Testimonials are a must for any site, as they offer third-party proof that your product or service is superior. Plus, your testimonials can help you write better, more benefit-driven sales pages and fantastic comparison-review pages.
Here’s a way to make your testimonials more powerful.
And finally — the most important question:
– Does your content stand out and genuinely deserve a top position?
SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into the content. If you want to be rewarded by Google (and your readers), your content must stand out — not be a carbon copy of the current top-10 results. Take a hard look at your content and compare it against what’s currently positioning. Have you fully answered the searcher’s query? Did you weave in other value-added resources, such as expert quotes, links to external and internal resources (such as FAQ pages), videos, and graphics?
If so, congratulations! You’ve done your job.
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