Your Google Ads / Microsoft Ads campaigns are running; you are quite satisfied – but want to know whether you are losing potential? You can find out in this blog post whether a SEA audit is exactly right for you.
What is a SEA audit?
SEA Audit is not a protected term – and there are various synonyms such as Google Ads Audit, Google Ads Check, or AdWords Audit. The form and scope are not static either but vary depending on the initial situation, objectives, and implementing agency or person.
The audit tends to sound bigger, more comprehensive – the TÜV test of your “SEA car.” The Google Ads campaign check is smaller, not quite as comprehensive – a relatively short check that checks the basics and is accordingly less time-consuming. But it is also a matter of personal taste to speak of an audit or check.
ACCORDING TO BEST PRACTICE ASPECTS, a SEA audit is a thorough review of your SEA campaigns (Google Ads / Microsoft Ads). For this purpose, the status is recorded on various important levels, a target is defined, and optimization levers are given a prioritization and evaluation, and possibly also with an effort estimate.
What is a good SEA audit?
It is important that your objective for the website is taken into account (regardless of whether it is geared towards B2C, B2B, eCommerce, or lead generation).
You could ask the following questions to the agency/freelancer who is to implement your SEA audit:
- How automated is the SEA audit, how much individual analysis and consulting is covered?
- What shape is it, and what will the result be? What is the approximate size of it?
- Are tools used for the audit?
- Who is doing it?
- Can individual questions be given priority?
- Which levels are considered in the SEA audit?
- After completion, is there an opportunity to ask questions? will the result be presented live, or will a workshop be offered – or would that be an additional consulting service?
- Are individual recommendations made in the SEA audit? Or is only ‘actual’ compared with ‘should’ without specifying specific to-dos?
- For which size of SEA accounts does the agency/freelancer have experience? For very small, medium, or large Google Ads / Microsoft Ads accounts?
- Are levers also operationally implemented with the SEA audit?
When should you do a SEA audit?
To get back to the “SEA Auto”: Unfortunately, there is no warning in the Google Ads account in the direction of “SEA audit due”. In general, a SEA audit can be useful if you want to know where you are with your SEA campaigns – in the sense of a water level indicator.
Are you already very well positioned, and there are only small starting points? Or is your Google Ads / Microsoft Ads account set up very carelessly, and you have the feeling that you are throwing your budget into the Google window with a large amount of money, without being rewarded with corresponding performance added value?
If you have the impression that “there is more” (be it more traffic, better keywords, cheaper conversions, cheaper CPCs, more leads, or something else), the Google Ads Audit can also be useful.
A SEA audit is especially worthwhile if you – or the person who set up the campaigns – had little SEA experience.
You can also use the SEA Audit to get to know an agency/a freelancer and their way of working better – before you decide on long-term cooperation.
A SEA audit is also helpful if you oversee your campaigns operationally but want input for optimization in the sense of sparring.
When should you not do a SEA audit?
There are two situations in which I would not necessarily recommend a SEA audit.
- If you are sure that your SEA campaigns are already set up very well, then a SEA audit is not necessarily worthwhile. I would rather recommend you commission an agency/freelancer directly with the sparring and identify optimization approaches (without the audit) directly in the account, without making the target / actual comparison.
- At Digitalgarg, we also get inquiries about SEA audits repeatedly when companies are dissatisfied with their current agency and would like a second opinion – or would like to discuss to-dos at eye level with their agency.
The background to this is understandable – but here, I recommend taking other steps first. In general, there is no such thing as 100% “right” or “wrong” when setting up SEA campaigns. There are also different strategies of different agencies – each of which can be suitable.
If you have any doubts about the quality of implementation power of your SEA agency / your freelancer, I recommend:
- Formulate your expectations of the agency.
- Address your dissatisfaction directly.
- To question yourself: Have you discussed your goals and expectations for KPI developments with your agency? Have you defined these goals realistically and specifically and regularly monitored them together?
- What could be the reason for your dissatisfaction? Does your agency just have too little time budget so that it can only implement monitoring?
- As a first step, ask your current agency whether they could do a SEA audit themselves – and make it clear that you would like to give them another chance, but further cooperation depends on the quality of the audit.
Clear communication at eye level with your current agency is important here. Because: The prerequisite for the SEA Audit is access to your Google Ads / Microsoft Ads account. As soon as you set up this account access, your current agency will notice it anyway. A “secret” audit is not recommended and technically not even possible.
Who should do the SEA audit? Can you do it yourself?
There are various checklists and tools that you can use to do your SEA audit yourself. However, it depends on your SEA experience. If you have managed very few Google Ads accounts operationally, you will find it difficult to even record the current status and then be able to evaluate it. In that case, I would not advise you to carry out the SEA audit yourself.
Many agencies offer the SEA audit as a one-off service or as a starting point for ongoing collaboration. If someone from outside should do your SEA audit, then these criteria could help you:
- The agency/freelancer should specialize in SEA or have a team of SEA experts. Marketing all-rounders (who cover all channels) cannot be experts in all channels – it is actually enough of a challenge to be “only” an SEO or SEA specialist and to keep up with Google changes and innovations.
- Purely tool-based, highly automated SEA audits can provide good starting points. However, they can neither rate your goals nor your individual questions well. The effectiveness of an automated audit depends on the individual interpretation.
- Google itself tries to offer a kind of self-service SEA audit directly in the Google Ads account with the recommendations for the optimization factor. In no case do not accept these suggestions unchecked – high budget expenditures and sometimes less useful keyword bookings can result. However, it is worth checking the recommendations from time to time, sometimes implementing them – and sometimes rejecting them.
Do you enjoy having a direct Google Ads account manager? The account managers also often do a kind of Google audit – which, however, seem more Google Sales-driven and do not necessarily lead to a sales drive for your website at the same time.
What belongs in a SEA audit?
The analysis levels in the SEA audit are not rocket science – for example, if you compare the performance pages of different SEA agencies to the SEA audit, there is largely agreement.
From rough to fine, it is worth checking these levels during the SEA audit – and adding additional levels depending on the objective.
- Account settings
- Which accounts are linked?
- Google Analytics
- Google Merchant Center
- YouTube Channel
- Google Search Console
- Conversion tracking
- How are conversions tracked? (for example, via Google Analytics Import)
- Which conversions are created?
- Which micro-conversions are created?
- Which attribution model is set? With which is the cookie tracking period?
- Campaign structure
- How are the campaigns structured?
- Which types of campaigns are in use ( e.g., Google Smart Shopping or RLSA )
- Are the campaigns set up in the classic way – or are they heavily geared towards Google’s automation strategy?
- Are you using manual bids or bid strategies?
- Are the keywords booked in such a way that ad texts can easily pick up the user? (With 30 keywords in an ad group, the ad text can barely pick up on all of the keywords.)
- What is the quality score of the keywords used?
- Which keyword options are used?
- Do the keywords have the right search intent?
- Are negative keywords posted? Are negative keywords maintained regularly?
- Ad text analysis
- How many – and how good – ad texts per ad group are booked?
- Google’s recommendation has long been to post two expanded text ads and one responsive text ad (RSA). Google’s tendency is now strongly in the direction of RSA ad texts. Nevertheless, we still recommend booking the normal text ads. (For many of our customers, the performance of the RSA is not necessarily better, on the contrary)
- Are the ad texts structured as differently as possible?
- Do the ad texts match the keyword? How is the evaluation of the advertising relevance (a sub-factor of the quality factor)?
- Ad extensions: which are active, which should be expanded?
- Campaign performance (depending on the objective)
- How is the budget allocated to the campaign types and campaigns compared to conversions and, if applicable, sales? Are there any cost-guzzling campaigns?
- Are campaigns budget limited?
- How is the conversion performance? Is the CPO / CPL appropriate? Where is there air for optimization?
- How are average CPCs, are they related to performance?
- Landing pages
- Which urls are used? Do these meet the customer expectation that was awakened by keyword and ad copy?
- How is the “user experience with the landing page” (sub-factor of the quality factor)?
- Mobile/desktop traffic analysis: The percentage of customers who visit your website from smartphones and tablets is still increasing every year. You should know what percentage it really is – and continue to conclude it for website design.
- By the way: With this free little test, you can easily check the mobile-friendliness of your website: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly.