The Who, When, and Why of PPC Account Audits
Auditing your PPC accounts on a regular basis is something every company should be doing. Performing an audit lets you step outside of your normal day-to-day activities within an account to reevaluate the big picture and see where large opportunities may lie.
Normally, when you hear about a company doing a PPC audit, it’s a consultant or an agency auditing an advertiser or occasionally a consultant auditing an agency. However, even if you are in-house managing your account in-house, an audit can give you insight that’s easy to miss because one of the points of an audit is to step away from the small nuances of an account to see larger trends and feature usage.
In today’s column, I’ll tell you why you should regularly perform an audit. In the next column, I’ll give tips for performing an audit.
How Often Should You Perform an Audit?
If you are in-house running accounts in-house, then doing both a quarterly and year-end analysis is a good idea. The quarterly analysis can help you plan out your activities for the next quarter so you are no just maintaining your account, but growing it as well.
If you are an agency, it can be useful to always perform an audit when you are first taking on a client as it can help set your engagement strategy and understand how the account functions. Some agencies require an account go through an audit before they will ever give pricing information to the client so that everyone understands the scope of work.
Once an agency has a client, doing a quarterly analysis might seem like overkill as your job is to stay on top of everything within the account. However, doing quarterly audits followed by deep planning sessions with the client can help strengthen the account and client relationship. Some of the most common complaints advertisers have about their agency are:
- Too slow
- Not enough results
- Poor communication
A quarterly audit can help with points 2 & 3.
Even if you decide not to perform a quarterly audit, you should do an audit before a peak season (Christmas, holidays, summer vacations, etc.) for the account and on an annual basis; which is often when the contract is up for renewal.
An audit should quickly spot areas where your budgets are not in alignment with your overall goals – this is especially useful when heading into peak seasons where you need to ensure your budgets are not constraining your sales.
Who Should Perform the Audit?
Anyone with a high degree of competency within the company can perform an audit. However, the person who does the day-to-day management should not do the audit.
In the world of development, you should never let your developers QA their own code or work. A designer should not be in its own user testing group. The person who does the day-to-day management should not do their own audit.
The reason is perspective.
A day-to-day PPC manager knows how the account is supposed to function and why decisions were made.
An audit should look at the big picture and trends. An audit should examine both data and best practices. An audit should challenge why decisions were made.
Should You Hire a Consultant?
You don’t need to hire a consultant to do an audit. If you are an agency, then your PPC managers can audit each other’s account. If you are in-house with a large team, often you will have different people managing different accounts. In that case, just switch accounts and have each other audit each others account.
As with all decisions, there are pros and cons of using your own team. The pros are:
- No additional costs
- Data doesn’t leave the company
- No lost time in training a 3rd party about your company or business model
The cons are:
- Easy to push off the due date because of other priorities
- Don’t have an outsider’s perspective
- Might not make suggestions because the auditor may feel the work won’t be done
- Personal connections between employees can make it so the audit isn’t as honest as it should be
Of course, there are also pros and cons of using a 3rd party to audit your account. The pros are:
- Is not clouded by personal connections, internal politics, or other internal issues
- Has an outside perspective. Looks at what can be done not what the company could actually do
- This is a very common reason to hire a consultant if you are trying to win an argument with your superiors. You will use the consultant’s data/findings to make an argument to your boss about budgets for mobile sites, display campaigns, etc.
- Can bring in more expertise than many companies have in-house
- Doesn’t take your employees away from their regular job duties
The cons are:
- Consultants cost money beyond your normal payroll
- You must train them in your company’s business model, account, etc.
- Hiring competent consults is hard. You must do some due diligence, so it takes you more work than handing off the audit internally
- A good consultant will often give you more work that you want – you must be prepared to execute
An audit should spot ad copy trends across the entire account to help give ad copy testing a direction across the account. By being further away from the data; a 3rd party audit should give you an analytical view of the data that is free from preconceived notions of the industry or company.
What Should You Receive from the Audit?
First and foremost you want recommendations from the audit.
The audit will generally be many pages of analysis and best practices. However, all the pretty charts and graphs spread throughout the audit are really only supporting evidence for what you really want: wins (also known as recommendations).
The audit should not just give you a chart of how you are doing. It should contain information and direction for how to make the account better.
If you can’t take the information and do something with it – then it was not a good audit. So, before sending a current staff member or hiring a consultant to do an audit for you – make sure that they will not just analyze the account – but that you will have a to-do list of items once the audit has been completed.
If you run your own account; then you are too close to the data and corporate politics to see the big picture.
Your job is the day-to-day management of the account. You make sure the account maintains it current profits and hopefully has a nice and steady growth. You aren’t looking to take big risks, or often suggest big risks to upper management – that’s not your job. Your job is to maintain and grow at an acceptable pace.
Having someone else, a colleague, analyst, or consultant do an audit is necessary. They can suggest the big items, take the big risks, and most importantly – view the account free from preconceived notions of how it should be, and they can focus on what it could be.
Regardless if you are in-house, an agency, or just someone who got stuck managing the account – you can benefit from having your account audited on a regular basis. Just make sure you receive actionable data so that once the audit is complete, you have a path to making the account even more profitable.
If you are looking to have your own account audited; you can also check out our AdWords Audit Packages
Nice write-up Brad. We find audits quite tricky to market and price, most competitors offer them from free which as we all know invariably represents ‘true value’.
Just to pick up on one of your points “You must train them in your company’s business model, account, etc.” – this is where asking the right questions is critical and in missing them so will you miss opportunities.
I would say an audit when taking on an active account isn’t good practise, it’s imperative!