Manual bidding and triple-counting conversions: Google Ads Account Audit - Twitter Recap

As a Google Ads consultant, I’m often asked to do Google Ads account audits.  The objective of the audit isn’t to “win business,” though, but rather to educate business owners or marketing teams on how to manage their Google Ads more effectively.

Here is a recap of a recent Google Ads audit I did (and live tweeted) for an ecommerce business. For ease of readability, I’ve written out my observations in chronological order, and embedded tweets from those who responded. You can click into those responses to see my answers and ensuing dialogue.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @jyllsaskingales to catch a future #GoogleAdsAudit! And if you'd like me to audit your account next, you can learn more on my website.

Join me for another Google Ads Audit today! I'll be sharing my observations & advice in real time, and I welcome your input & suggestions. Feel free to disagree with me, but remember, there's no need to be disagreeable. 

Client: retail business, omnichannel. 

Found me on TikTok.

Since a lot of folks who follow me are newer to the industry, what is a Google Ads Audit? Everyone does it differently! Mine is a scorecard + 3-5 pages of analysis & recommendations. I do not offer campaign management, so my audit is an unbiased, standalone service.

I charge based on # of campaigns. Audits take me 45-90 min of work. For today's Google Ads Audit, I charged US$800. My clients are usually biz owners or agencies. They often buy a few hours of coaching with me post-audit, and this biz owner has already stated he plans to do so.

I started my business nearly a year ago after leaving my job at Google. I worked in the Google Ads sales org for 6 years. I charged just US$150 for my first Google Ads Audit in May 2021 so I've come a long way! I built my own process, so I can be both efficient & comprehensive.

First stop: Check Conversion settings.

I see 3 different "Purchase" conversions included in account-level goals: Google Analytics, Shopify Google channel, and a custom one. Doesn't mean they're all being used at the campaign level, but... it might.

Attribution next: everything is on Last click. DDA is not available in this account, so I will recommend Linear or Time decay, and use this opportunity to educate the client on the business benefit to choosing a different attribution model.

Now, onto Audience Manager. I'm looking for Website, YouTube & Customer lists, and Similar audiences - whether they exist, and whether they're in use. And also seeing if they have defined custom segments. This account has 'em all! 

All in all, this account has an "average" data foundation. Conversion tracking is implemented, may be overcounting. Audiences are created, not being leveraged to the fullest. Someone here definitely "gets it," not much work needed to take it to the next level.

On the All Campaign view, segment by Conversion action. Yup, conversions are being double counted. At least they aren't being triple counted? And conversion volume is LOW, even with the double counting. Something strange going on here... To put that in perspective, this biz owner thinks he has a 7.1 ROAS, but he actually has a 2.5 or 4.8 ROAS, depending if you go by Google Ads conversion tracking tag or Google Analytics Transactions. (GA reports much higher revenue)

Bid strategy: oh my, this is a MANUAL account! 10/14 campaigns on Manual CPC/CPV, though at least eCPC is turned on. Account is losing 87% IS due to rank. But conversion data is messed up from double counting. What to recommend...

I haven't finished evaluating Bids & Budgets, but I'm skipping ahead in the Google Ads Audit to where I export & analyze a keyword report. It's clear that whoever manages this account has chosen a deliberate manual strategy, so I want to try to understand it before making recos.

First Pivot table of the day! Many more to come before this Google Ads Audit is over.

You can see that more keywords are limited by bid than are actually serving. This is 1 data point to support what I'm ultimately going to recommend: leveraging Smart Bidding.

This match type analysis throws a wrench in my theory of the account, bc usually manual bidding means I'm going to find lots of Exact match. But we have tons of full-on Broad in here, some legacy BMM. I still don't understand the strategy here.

One of my fave parts of a Google Ads Audit is diving into Quality Score. Always room to improve! In this account, the biggest challenge is actually landing page experience. Beyond the scope of my audit, but I will take a quick peak at the site to see if I can quickly spot why. I'm also going to take a closer look at ad relevance when I look at the ads. Exp CTR is good enough, so I won't focus there.

Now I'm starting to think that the person running this account understands theory more than practice. A Search campaign that I believe is supposed to be RLSA (only serving to a specific audience) has that audience on Observation mode, not Targeting.

I've seen enough now between the bidding, match types, a few other things that I'm going to stop trying to empathize/understand, and start asserting more of my own opinions into the audit. Politely! But firmly.

Budgets: Campaigns are US-wide, with lots of tiny budgets. While only 1 is "limited by budget," I think the others would be if they weren't so limited by manual bids. Going to recommend consolidation and - given strong performance - increasing budgets!

My rule of thumb is $20/day bare minimum for a local niche business. I'd consider this a national niche business, and "finger in the air" estimate is we need at least $50/day per campaign or it’s not worth it, for this biz.

How I check Audiences in a Google Ads Audit: I choose "Audiences" from the left-hand nav, then I look at all Search campaigns, then all Video, etc. Gives a good overview, and shows me where to dive in. Here, just 1 audience on Observation mode in Search, so that's an opportunity.

Video campaign: interesting, 2 remarketing lists have been added to targeting, 0 impressions. All impressions have been served based on placements. I'm recommending testing audience-based YT strategies, like custom & in-market. I prefer audience vs context targeting. So this YouTube campaign has a GIANT budget compared to everything else in the account, CPV bidding, and the YouTube remarketing list isn't being leveraged! Would be a great foothold into Discovery, or a separate YouTube campaign.

Oh jeez. I just found custom UTM parameters on a Search campaign that are categorizing this as a YouTube campaign. Copy/paste gone wrong?

This is what happens when you set super low manual bids and have Search partners on. ~8% of spend essentially wasted, and it's making the campaigns look like they're performing way worse than they actually are. Search CTR is really ~9%, great! But it looks like 3%

I think 3500 negative keywords is too many for an account with 600 active keywords. Is this an unpopular opinion, or would #PPCChat agree with me? (A lively conversation ensued from this one, check it out and let me know what you think)

Here's a quick "tick the box" win. The shopping feed has not been added to the YouTube campaign. Such an easy opportunity to start showing shoppable products alongside your YouTube Ads.

I found myself getting too deep down a keyword analysis rabbit hole, so I backed out. I've already surfaced half a dozen golden nuggets of opportunity as far as keywords are concerned. Time to move onto the next section: ads!

I always get scared when I see [Auto-applied ad suggestion] under an ad. But they're all ETAs. Is Google Ads still auto-applying ETAs into accounts, or are these just old?

Here's how I check for Responsive Ads adoption in a Google Ads Audit
Export ad report. Pivot table.
Rows: Campaign, Ad group
Columns: Ad type
Values: Headline 1 (basically a COUNTA)
End up with something like this, easy to spot the gaps.
(first 2 columns hidden for client privacy)

And once we already have a pivot table going, I change the column from "Ad type" to "Ad strength" to see how we're doing. (Since ETAs don't have Ad Strength, I don't bother filtering those out). Nothing Excellent, mostly Good, a few Average and Poor. Now I know where to dive in.

I JUST GASPED OUT LOUD!! Someone created RSAs by treating it like an ETA. 3 headlines? Whatever. BUT THEY HAVE SENTENCES CONTINUING ACROSS MULTIPLE DESCRIPTION SLOTS. They definitely don't know how RSAs work. Shows me the kind of education I'll need to do next.

A pleasant surprise: sitelinks, callouts, snippets, call, image and location extensions have all been implemented. Love when people take the time to create great extensions. That's a green on my scorecard.

Before I recommend Discovery, I always look at the Device segment to see how their existing campaigns perform on mobile vs desktop.Discovery inventory is mostly mobile, so I want to be sure that their ads (and website) are capable of converting mobile traffic.

Still typing up my analysis and recommendations, but the first page scorecard is complete! Here's the summary of this Google Ads Audit (and perhaps the only part the CEO will actually look at)

If this business owner only does one thing as a result of this Google Ads Audit, it should be fixing their conversion settings so that they are no longer double-counting Purchases. I write that under the scorecard, but before going into what's looking like 5-6 pages of recommendations.

THERE GOES MY SECOND GASP! 2 out of 3 Standard Shopping campaigns have zero negatives. And the search terms report shows so much irrelevant traffic. Manual CPC bidding, so no help from Google here. 6000 search negatives but no shopping negatives? Yikes!

Well this is lovely - I just sent today's Google Ads Audit off to my client, then got a notification that someone just purchased another. Conversion source? Twitter!

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

Would you like me to audit your Google Ads account? Learn more and buy now!

1 comment

  • Super helpful, thank you!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published