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The ultimate guide to Google Ads audits (2022)

In this guide for users old and new, we will look at the importance of Google Ads audits and work our way through to a handy checklist that you can refer to at any point.


When we use the word audit, what does your mind immediately jump to? Do you imagine a very official looking individual investigating every nook and cranny, every document in the office? While audits can be a very formal process, they’re also a useful tool to help examine for any areas for improvement within a business; so why wouldn’t we look closely at our Google Ads?

What is Google Ads?

Let’s start at the very beginning, while we’re not in The Sound of Music, the beginning is certainly the best place to start.

What used to be known as Google AdWords is now Google Ads – a range of various advertising options across Google.com, their partner sites and apps. Simply put, Ads are a clever way to get businesses (and marketers) in front of prospective customers using the search bar to find answers to their questions, or which visit sites within the Google Display Network.

Ads can also target audiences on YouTube, Maps and Apps (and this isn’t an exhaustive list!).

Google Adwords launched nearly 18 years ago, and I think we can all agree that a lot has changed in those years both on and offline. Google Ads is basically an organic evolution that meets the needs of contemporary businesses, marketers and customers; with one of the biggest requirements being mobile optimisation. Ads are with the user every step of the way which has given marketers a better understanding of the buyer’s journey from awareness to decision making.

A well run Google Ads account is pivotal to the success of a business, but there are certain things that may hinder the process; this is what an audit should be looking for.

What is a Google Ads Audit?

A Google Ads audit is the process of evaluating how effective your accounts are. There are a couple of options available to a business, with one being automated tools/software and the other being a manual audit.

While an automated audit may seem appealing and time saving, they are often too generic, which means that they don’t have the context of your wider business goals.

What’s important is that you make the time, or hire someone that can, to manage your Google Ads and the subsequent audits. You will also have to prepare for the audit i.e. what exactly is going to be reviewed and what is its importance?

Why is it Important to Audit Google Ads?

It is important to audit Google Ads because no matter how successful the Ads are, their relevance can dwindle in time meaning that there are bound to be new developments that call for further optimisation.

It also comes to the age old question of money – without auditing the Ads your budget could go to waste on less-than-applicable content for your audience. Which in turn could mean a decrease in revenue from these channels.

With time, comes change, and keywords are not exempt. While it’s important to research keywords, it is also imperative to update them. By keeping up with current trends you allow yourself to be seen by more people, and the more people you engage with, the better the chances your revenue will increase.

By keeping your Google Ads up-to-date you are able to get to know your audience better, what content works for them and what needs to be improved, or (in the worst case scenario) removed. Timing with Google Ads is everything and being able to develop a more relationship selling approach where a business can see the buyer’s perspective.

The benefits of an audit include:

  • Finding areas of waste
  • Identifying new opportunities
  • Enhancing ongoing management processes
  • Gaining audience insights that can be applied to the account and other marketing channels
  • Validation of assumptions

How to Conduct a Google Ads Audit

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, and we appreciate your patience. We’ve gone through the basics and the importance, and think you’re ready for the hows.

  1. Where do I start?
  2. Before you even start making your fancy cover page for an audit report, you must first define the benchmarks against which you’ll be measuring your performance. Without a clear indication of what success looks like, you’ll be up the creek without a paddle fairly quickly. A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) or a PESTLE analysis (optional):

    • Political
    • Economic
    • Social
    • Technological
    • Legal
    • Environmental

    These analyses will take some time, but are important stepping stones to help visualise what the audit is supposed to accomplish.

    Keeping up with these on a regular basis will also inform any changes that may need to happen to the campaign(s) that’s running.

  3. OK I’ve done everything on point 1, now can I write the report?
  4. Not quite, the next step is about reviewing the account structure in order to optimise time and budget spends.


    Having the right hierarchy can positively impact the amount of time required for managing campaigns and yield better data for decision making.

    Search Engine Journal


    By organising your Google Ads account you can better structure your use of campaigns and ad groups.

    The organisational side of things is up to what works best for you, but there are wrong ways to structure accounts that will be detrimental to performance. You will want to do it logically and in a way that gives you the optimum amount of control on smaller details such as bid, budget and ads.

    You’ll want to look at the demographics of your campaign, as well as geotargeting and also how the budget will be spent across different campaigns.

  5. Keywords, keywords, keywords
  6. It seems like an awful lot of preparation for a seemingly simple audit. However, we strongly believe that preparation is key and once the groundwork is complete you can be on your merry auditing way.


    Your focus must be on ads, landing pages, quality score metrics, and ultimately the potential for performance for getting users to convert.

    Search Engine Journal


    Thinking too much about keywords could lead to your campaign’s potential downfall.

    Instead, think about the user intent – in customer facing roles the customer is king – and this is the mindset you should be in. Don’t think about what your business needs, but rather what pains your customers have.

    While it may be obvious that keywords are, well, key it is important to remember that they need to be relevant and not just stuck into a campaign for good measure. Research will be your bff and will enable you to drill down to the specific services/products you offer. It will also help you – if you are running a large campaign – find patterns or anomalies that inform user search intent.

    A keyword audit includes (but is not limited to)

    • Negative keyword research
    • Low quality scores
    • Are there terms that have zero conversions yet have high impressions, clicks, and/or spend?
  7. Testing, 1, 2, 3
  8. An Ad campaign(s) can often be left running with no supervision – we understand that intentions can be pure but sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in a day to focus on an audit. On the flipside, you may be an audit machine and over test your campaign.

    Balance between these extremes is what will work, this is where A|B testing comes into play. By ensuring each ad group has at least 2 ad versions (ad a & ad b) that are on a rotational basis is one way to keep on top of testing success.

    What’s important to note is that Ad formats are going to change within the next year where the testing between copy will be more down to Google. We will keep an eye on the coming changes when more information is released.

  9. Be crystal clear
  10. What is an ad without a CTA? Unsuccessful.

    That’s the very real truth of the matter. Thinking about how to engage users and encourage them to convert is integral to an ads increased success. The ad will lead to some sort of landing page, which should have a clear headline and CTA – perhaps you want a user to subscribe to updates via a newsletter so making sure the forms work on the landing page is incredibly important.

    The Ad has the goal to get the right person to click. Which means that although CTAs are important, qualifying ad copy is equally so as it ensures that you’re getting the correct user through.

    As you work through the audit, taking notes is vital to reporting on your findings. Screenshots are a useful tool to visualise the comparisons of what was estimated and what the actual results were, and having a template report ready will make life a lot easier when it comes to metaphorically putting a pen to paper.

You could download our resource Marketing Metrics Checklist for an extensive view at a checklist for audit, or download the PDF below to keep for those auditing days.


Checklist Image


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