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How to Audit Google AdWords PPC Campaigns Using Segmentation

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This is part one of a four part series on performing effective PPC audits.

Auditing Pay-per-Click (PPC) campaigns is a simple and measurable way of gaining new clients. It can help demonstrate a high level of expertise to  prospects who may be on the fence about giving you their business, while also providing valuable insights into their current efforts.

So why aren’t you doing it?

When you’re ready to give it a shot, offer complimentary PPC audits to clients who are looking to increase their revenue from Paid Search - segmenting campaign traffic in AdWords is a great place to begin.

Getting Started

Let’s look at data from an audit I performed for a client who runs a successful wholesale ecommerce website (All figures provided are an average of entire campaign performance across a six month period).

AdWords offers a plethora of ways to segment traffic. When performing an audit the most important segments are:

  • Top vs. Side (Where ad is displayed on search results page)
  • Device  (PC, Mobile, Tablet)
  • Network (Either Google’s search or display network)

Google Adwords

Follow these steps when auditing a campaign using AdWords segmentation.

Top vs. Side

Segmenting 'Top versus Side' will tell you how a campaign is performing when ad impressions are delivered to different locations (the top or side) on a search engine results page (SERP). Typically, campaigns perform best when the majority of ad impressions are triggered on the top of a SERP.

How this is useful:

The potential client was managing their pay-per click in house. While they were already profitable, there were many areas that could be improved. The biggest selling point in my audit revolved around the important data gleaned when examining Top vs. Side segmentation of their traffic.  Here is what I found:

  • 82% of their sales came when their ads placed on top.
  • 77% of their ad impressions came when their ads were on the side.

The fact that 82% of their sales came from just 23% of their impressions offered us ample ammunition to get their business. While there was a multitude of other issues with the campaign, our main selling point was that they were missing out on as much as three times as many sales per month.

Adwords Campaigns

The remedy:

Once we took over their campaign, we looked at the estimated top page bids (provided by AdWords) to ensure the majority of their keywords placed on the top of SERP's.

Device

Segmenting campaign performance by device is an effective way of maximizing a client’s budget. AdWords default campaign setting targets all devices (PC, mobile and tablet). While this is a great way of reaching a broad audience, it’s also a great way of wasting a client’s money.

How this is useful:

Many websites with an elaborate conversion process aren’t suited for tablets and mobile devices where providing information and filling out forms can be cumbersome. The result is generally money being wasted on devices where users simply have a tough time converting.  Additionally, bid amounts vary from device to device due to differences in search volume and competition. As a result, AdWords clients end up spending money on impressions that negatively affect their bottom line and worst of all, their quality score.

  • When analyzing six months of data during the audit I noticed that there were just 11 conversions (4.8%) that came from either mobile devices or tablets.
  • That 4.8% accounted for 17% of the client’s AdWords spend during that time period.
  • As a result they were spending more than three times as much for conversions on devices that weren't conducive to sales.
  • That is 17% of a budget that should be spent on more effective clicks.

Adwords stats

The remedy:

There are two ways of fixing this situation.

  • The first is to create duplicate campaigns that are targeted specifically by device.This can help preserve budget and may improve quality score based on ctr’s for various devices.
  • The second is to only target devices that are effective for a given client, for this client running ads solely on a PC was the best way of going forward.

Network

Google AdWords allows for two main network targeting options, search and display. When performing an audit, the first thing to look for is what networks are being targeted.  If a campaign is targeting both search and display, it’s a massive red flag. It means you’re dealing with a potential client whose AdWords account is being horribly mismanaged. There is a myriad of reasons to separate campaigns by network, but that’s a topic for another day.

Segmenting networks will relay how a campaign is performing on Google search, Google’s search partner sites and Google’s display network.

How this is useful:

Segmenting campaign data based on network will break down how a given campaign is performing on a given network. The aforementioned client was just running campaigns on Google search and Google search partner sites.  The data showed the following:

  • 79% of conversions came from Google search.
  • 84% of their budget was spent on this 79%.
  • 21% of conversions came from Google’s search partner.
  • 16% of budget was spent on this 21%.

This data reflects the fact that the client was more profitable on Google’s search partner sites but the majority of sales volume came from Google search.

Adwords network

The remedy:

  • There was no remedy needed, had the data reflected money being wasted on Google’s search partners sites, I would have turned off network targeting for search partners and solely targeted Google search.

*Note that running a campaign solely on Google’s search partners is not a current option on the AdWords platform.

14 Tips to Successful Paid Search Advertising Whitepaper

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Comments on this post

  1. Nice article. I personally think – it is better to target each of you campaigns to a different section in the first place – so that each natural campaign is split to: search, content, mobile, tablet etc.
    Landing pages should also differ according to the device of course.

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