How to Audit Your Google Ads Agency
Let’s face it: Google Ads is an intimidating yet immensely powerful tool. There are a plethora of different metrics, campaign settings, bidding strategies, account structuring methods, and other complicated concepts that take a lot of time (and experience) to fully understand.
That’s what agencies are for! ...Right?
Yes, but not just any agency will do. Since Google Ads is such a powerful tool, it’s important to place that power in the right hands!
However, the complexity of the Google Ads platform makes it easy for subpar agencies to get away with doing little or poor quality work. There is almost always room for improvement. Curious how we know this?
We’ve inherited plenty of neglected and poorly-optimized accounts from agencies that really weren’t doing a great job. The sad truth is that some agencies dream of finding clients that either don't know how to check the quality of their work, or are trusting enough not to care.
When we first take over accounts like this, our clients are often shocked at how much money, time, and talent were wasted on ads that were only vaguely helping achieving their marketing goals.
Wondering if you’re in a similar situation?
If you’re spending money on a Google Ads agency, you have every right to ensure that you’re getting what you pay for: RESULTS.
So how are you supposed to know if your PPC agency is actively and intelligently working on your account without getting so involved that you might as well do it yourself?
We’ve made a list to help you.
So without further ado, here are the top ways to tell if your Google Ads agency sucks.
Empty Change History
This comes as a surprise to some, but Google Ads keeps track of every single change that is made to your account. Not only is this the easiest way to check if your agency is doing their job, but it’s also the most important. If the change logs are barren, this is a huge red flag.
Even when marketing objectives have been met, a proactive agency should be making frequent changes. There are always opportunities for experiment, bids that can be adjusted, and new keywords to explore. If your account’s change history is empty, it’s a sure sign that your PPC agency sucks.
Reporting on Worthless Metrics
Unless you hired your agency to vaguely promote “brand awareness”, what you really care about is the return on income of your ads.
Do you care about how many users saw your ad yet didn’t take action? No, of course not.
At the end of the day, the amount of impressions or clicks that your ads received aren’t important. These metrics can be useful for insights, but your agency’s primary focus should always be on what's most valuable for your business.
When you meet with your agency, are they reporting on what really matters? Or, are they reporting on metrics that look nice, but really don’t mean much for your business?
Don’t be impressed if the click-through rate improved or the total amount of impressions increased unless it translates to an increase in conversions as well.
Junk Terms in the Search Term Report
Now this one is definitely more “nitty gritty”, but is still extremely important. Unless your agency is ONLY using the Exact keyword match type, there is always a chance that your ads will show up (and waste money on) completely irrelevant search terms. The risk for this is even greater when using the broad match type.
A good agency should be adding “junk” search terms into a list of keywords to exclude on a regular basis.
To check what search terms your ads are spending money on, simply open up the “Keywords” panel of your desired campaign and select “Search terms”. Then, spend some time going through the different search terms that users typed when they clicked on your ad. It would be a good idea to apply some filters to only show terms that did not convert or have a minimum amount of clicks.
Pro Tip: A great way to avoid showing up for irrelevant searches while maintaining volume is by adding a “+” symbol in front of your broad match keywords. This ensures that your ad only appears when the exact keyword was typed into Google (and not a variation of it).
Junk GDN Placements
If your agency is running Display campaigns, it’s important that they actively monitor the quality of websites (or apps) that your ads are running on. Unless you’re only targeting specific websites, there will always be accidental or junk clicks from websites you want nothing to do with. You’ll know what these sites are when you see them, but a good example would be something like “babygames.com”.
Although it’s impossible to avoid 100% of unwanted GDN clicks, the key is to look at how much of your campaign’s budget is being spent on them. To check where your ads have been displaying, select the desired Display campaign, go under “Placements”, and click “Where ads showed”.
Pro Tip: To preemptively avoid many junk clicks, consider disabling your ads on Mobile App placements and excluding specific website categories (such as games).
Running “bare minimum” search ads
High quality ads are crucial to the success of all digital advertising platforms, and Google Ads is no exception. Although only two headlines, one description, and a URL is required to launch a search ad, Google offers many additional search ad features that your agency should be taking advantage of, such as:
- Headline 3
- Description 2
- Path 1 & Path 2
- Ad extensions
- Call out extensions
- Ad snippets
Why is it so important to use these optional features? To put it simply, it makes your ad take up more space on the page, especially when your ad wins the top page position in an auction.
The more noticeable your ad is compared to your competition, the more likely it is to be clicked (or at least read). When used correctly, each additional character on your ad can help increase the CTR and even CVR.
Poor Campaign Structure
Don’t be fooled by those who claim that “account structures don’t affect performance”, or that “it’s only to help you manage the campaign”. Proper campaign structuring is crucial to the success of your campaign. Here are some common Google Ads campaign structures mistakes and why they are indeed mistakes:
- Targeting many different locations in the same campaign.
It’s generally okay to include similar locations in the campaign, such as USA and Canada. When two locations have significantly different CPCs (costs per clicks) and cultures (affects behavior), you’re going to want to separate them so that you can adjust your bidding accordingly.
- Placing bids on the ad-group level.
By default, when you create a new Ad Group, all of it’s keywords will use the same bid. However, since each keyword has a different intent, it’s almost always more effective to overwrite this by setting a unique bid for every individual keyword.
- Putting unrelated keywords in the same Ad Group.
In an ideal situation, it’s always best to have slightly modified ads for each keyword theme. This means that each Ad Group needs to contain keywords that fit within that theme, otherwise, the ad that appears won’t be as relevant as it could be.
- Only using the “broad” match types.
Not only will using a single match type restrict your bidding adjustment options, but it could also produce unwanted clicks. For example, someone who searches for “Slack” is more likely to be interested in Slack (the software) compared to someone who searches for “what to do with my employee who slacks off”. With a strictly “broad” match type, ads could show up for both of these searches. Not good!
I hope this list helps you understand the complexity of Google Ads and the need for competent agencies. Of course, this list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding out if your agency sucks.
If you’re at all doubting your PPC agency, I strongly encourage you to take matters into your own hands and see how things are running under the hood.
Don’t have the time? Book a consultation with us for a free account audit! We’d be happy to investigate the quality of your account and show you where improvements can be made.