If you type the term “paid search audit” into the search engine of your choice, the results will be an inundation of blog post upon blog post upon webinar upon whitepaper about how to execute paid search audits. You’ll even notice many agencies out there advertising “Free Audit!” The quantity of information is overwhelming — but you’ll quickly notice that the amount of quality information leaves something to be desired. I’m here to help guide you through these muddy waters. I want to talk about five key issues to consider when thinking about paid search audits, and how to weigh the benefits of having a third party execute your audits.
1. Full, actionable audits are not free
As I mentioned above, there are plenty of advertising agencies out there providing free audits. And while yes, the audits they provide are free (though typically not very detailed), they come with a hidden agenda. These companies want your paid search business.
The value you’re going to get from an audit really comes down to the intention behind the audit. These tend to fall in two buckets:
- Companies that want to steal your business. These audits are going to provide you with details around what you’re doing wrong without looking at the bigger picture or your bigger business opportunities.
- Companies that want to help you improve your business. These audits are made for your team to take action on. They’re a bit slower and a bit more thought-out to help you and your team drive improved results for your business.
If you’re happy with your current agency — or even if you have a in-house team that you trust, but are looking to identify additional growth opportunities — go with the latter. You will not receive a “free” audit, but you will receive a full analysis of your account and strategy with action items for your team, without the pressure of someone trying to take your business.
2. A comprehensive audit is more than just checking for best practices.
Typically when people think about paid search audits, they think about making sure that best practices are covered, features are being fully utilized, etc. I think audits go a bit deeper than that.
Knowing and following best practices is one aspect of a comprehensive audit, but that’s definitely not the single factor that will drive improved results for your business. Full, comprehensive audits should contain:
- A best practice review including a look at your account structure, conversion measurements, and feature adoption
- A performance analysis of your targeting performance analysis, messaging, and landing page(s)
- An advanced analysis of your audience(s) and upper funnel and testing strategies
3. There’s more to a paid search audit than just looking in AdWords
While Google AdWords is typically where advertisers spend the bulk of their budgets, there are many other platform opportunities out there. A paid search audit can help you uncover opportunities in other platforms such as Bing Ads, Yahoo Gemini, and YouTube.
Beyond identifying opportunities across platforms, a paid search audit can help you uncover issues with:
- Google AdWords and Google Analytics integration
- Google AdWords’ integration with your backend CRM
- Google AdWords’ integration with third party tools (including call tracking tools, LP testing tools, etc.)
- Any third party bidding platform integration
4. Not just anyone can execute an unbiased, actionable audit
It’s likely that whoever is running your paid search efforts is doing a great job. You probably have full trust in all the work they’re doing, and that’s great! That’s also the exact reason they are not the person or team you want to execute an audit on your account.
A truly unbiased review of your paid search efforts needs to be executed by someone who isn’t close to the account. This unbiased review gives an opportunity for real growth opportunities to shine and real cost efficiency wins to show themselves.
Hiring an agency to execute your audit not only provides this unbiased look, but also allows you to take advantage of that agency’s years of experience. You’ll benefit from the wins and learnings they’ve had with other clients — something an in-house resource just can’t provide.
5. Don’t only seek an audit when you’re unhappy with results
Every single company can benefit from a paid search audit. Even if you have a team of experienced digital marketers running a program that is driving great results for your business, you’re still not an exception to this rule.
If you’re seeing great results in your current efforts, an unbiased paid search audit will identify how you can do more of the things that are working — and fewer of the things that are not. A full audit will also help dictate future strategy, and taking advantage of an agency’s experience to build a testing plan will help you drive even better results that what you’re seeing now.
However, if you are unhappy with results, or you suspect that there might be some additional untapped opportunity — that’s even more of a reason to get a paid search audit. You want to make sure you invest in a fully comprehensive audit that is not only actionable, strategic and looks deeper than simply your AdWords account — but that is executed by an organization with a depth of experience across verticals and across industries.