Google Ads Audit: Where have all the conversions gone?

Welcome to another Google Ads live audit recap, this time for a local events business!

My client, however, is the new agency, and I was brought in to do my usual audit, but also review the paused campaigns in the account to see what's been tested, learned, etc. over the 1-year lifetime of this Google Ads account.

Yes, one year. It looks like the previous agency only worked with this business for a year, and now my client has been brought in to takeover. Given that context, I'm going to try to figure out what might have happened, and how my client can avoid a similar fate.

Let's dive in!

Data Foundation: Conversions, Audiences, Attribution

While there is active conversion tracking in the account, for both local and on-site actions, there have only been 31 conversions in the last 30 days. Spread across 5 different campaigns, each with minimal budgets. Not off to a strong start.

Audience Manager looks... so sad! Barely anything has been set up, just some basic website remarketing. However, because website traffic is so low, none of the lists are large enough to serve. Is this a new business, or just a new account? Not sure.

Attribution is mostly Last click, and now that we can use DDA (Data Driven Attribution) even at low volume, that's what I'm going to recommend. If you're not as much of a machine learning lover as a I am, that's fine - Linear or Time Decay are both solid choices to ensure that early funnel actions get some credit for driving conversions.

Coming back to conversions, when I add the "All Conversions" column and view a segment by Conversion action, I can see that there have actually been hundreds of valuable actions, just not a lot of the very specific action the campaigns have been set up to optimize for.

I don't usually look at the All Conversions column, so here's the clue that led me there:

Hmm. Has the focus been narrow because the client insisted? Because of the agency? Neither, and it was an accident? Either way, I'm flagging this as the #1 thing to fix as an outcome of the audit: review conversion tracking setup and designate different conversion actions at the campaign or account level.

Bids & Budgets

You may have noticed that I organize my audits the same way that the Recommendations tab is organized. (Or maybe you didn't. That's cool, too.) My brain works this way because that is also how the various internal tools at Google are organized.

Some campaigns are are Manual CPC, which I am definitely not a fan of. Even more confusingly, the few Broad match keywords in the account are also in a Manual campaign. The ones that are using Smart Bidding are on Maximize Conversions, the only option given low conversion volumes.

Every campaign has a budget between $10-20/day, which is really too low to drive meaningful traffic/results. Yes, this is a super local business, but the account feels like it's caught in a chicken/egg of not driving conversions, so not increasing spend, so not driving conversions.

It will be a shame if it turns out this last agency got fired simply for setting up conversion tracking incorrectly, therefore thinking that none of their campaigns were working. Then again... that actually would be a very good reason to fire an agency.

Creative

I'm pleasantly surprised to see Responsive Search Ads and Responsive Display Ads in use across all active ad groups. Ad Strength is Average/Good and can be improved by including more keywords in the headlines and descriptions.

Before you come for me and say, "But Ad Strength isn't an auction input..." yes - I know! But the things that give you good Ad Strength are the things that will likely drive higher click-through rate and relevance. Including keywords in your ads is something you can and should do.

I like to see at least 4 extensions in use, and we have 3 here - and not the common ones! I'm recommending adding Sitelinks, Callouts and Snippets to the account, with an optional Promotion extensions since I can see the client has run some promotions in the past.

Deep dive on Display

This account has 1 active Display campaign that's called "Remarketing" but is not actually "doing" remarketing. I see this so often, and the opt-in by default Optimized Targeting is to blame.

This inspired my new quick & dirty Display optimization checklist:

Targeting

Last but not least - targeting! To whom are we actually showing our ads? I ended up completing the audit a few days later at a non-Twitter friendly time, which is why I didn't tweet the rest.

A few quick wins: none of the Search campaigns had audiences on Observation, which doesn't actually impact performance but is a good way to collect more data.

There was 1 negative keyword in the entire account, suggesting that perhaps the agency forgot about negative keyword optimization. If I see no negative keywords in the account, I assume that the person running it doesn't know about negatives, and therefore I have to educate them. But the fact that the previous agency did add 1, but then just... left it at that... puzzling, indeed.

Which leads us to general keyword optimization. There are 80 or so active keywords in the account, mostly in Phrase match, and they seem relevant. However, many of the keywords evoke "upper funnel" intent, and the client/agency does not have landing pages to match that intent. This is a big area of opportunity I'm flagging for my client, the new agency: ensure landing page creation is in scope, or else these campaigns will not be successful.

Lastly, Quality Score. More than half of the keywords have a QS of 5 or less, and many are in the 1-3 range. The most common culprit is... all three components of QS, but Landing page experience is (not surprisingly) the worst of the worst.

Conclusion: what happened here?

While this scorecard ended up with a lot of red on it, this account wasn't in terrible shape. I could see by looking at both paused and active campaigns that over the last year, a variety of formats and targeting have been tested. However, each looked to be tested for only a month or two, and on a small budget, therefore none of the tests were "successful."

From my vantage point, I don't know if this is because the agency over promised what they'd be able to deliver, or if this is because the client had unrealistic expectations about what it takes to get started in paid ads.

Or both.

But either way, along with delivering this completed audit to my client, I've flagged some "watch outs" and some recommended client expectation setting they should start working on today.

Did you like this recap of my Google Ads Account Audit? Be sure to follow me on Twitter @jyllsaskingales to catch a future #GoogleAdsAudit!

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