The Ultimate PPC Audit Checklist to Boost ROI

ppc audit checklist

So your PPC campaigns aren’t delivering the results you wanted? Fear not, a PPC audit might be just what you need to get campaigns performing again.

In this post we take a look at when and why a PPC audit should be done, and share our battle-proven 10-step PPC audit checklist to help you boost performance overnight with some quick wins.

What is a PPC audit?

A PPC audit is an evaluation of a pay-per-click advertising campaign that aims to identify areas where improvements can be made. For a Google Ads agency like Velocity, a PPC audit is an essential part of ensuring that their clients are getting the best results from their ad campaigns.

During a PPC audit, a Google Ads agency will review various aspects of your ad account, such as ad targeting, ad copy, bidding strategies, campaign segmentation and landing pages. The goal is to identify any issues that may be negatively impacting campaign performance and make recommendations for how to address them.

There are several benefits of conducting a PPC audit:

First and foremost, it can help improve the performance of your ad campaigns. By identifying areas that need improvement, the agency can make recommendations that can lead to lower CPCs, higher conversion rates, and ultimately, better ROI for the client.

Additionally, a PPC audit can help you to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in PPC advertising. This can be especially important given the pace of change in Google Ads (Performance Max, anyone?).

By regularly conducting PPC audits, you can ensure that your campaigns are in good health, and that you’re deploying the most effective PPC strategies.

Finally, for a PPC agency, audits can help build trust with their clients. By demonstrating a deep understanding of ad channel mechanics, and a commitment to continuously improving their clients’ campaigns, the agency can establish themselves as an essential partner in their clients’ success.

When and why should you run a PPC audit?

Conducting a PPC audit can help you identify issues in your campaign that may be hindering its effectiveness. You should consider conducting a PPC audit if you notice a decline in your campaign’s performance or if you’re not achieving your desired results.

An audit is also effective when a new advertiser or agency is taking over an ad account. By running through a checklist of best practices and benchmarks, they can usually find some low-hanging fruit for quick optimizations.

By conducting regular PPC audits, you can improve your campaign’s ROI and ensure that your advertising budget is used most effectively. 

Our 10-step PPC Audit Checklist

This is why you’re reading this blog, so we won’t waste any time with a preamble. This is the proven 10-step checklist that we use to optimize client ad accounts. Let’s jump in:

1. Targets

ppc audit checklist
Image via Google

Is the account meeting budget, and CPA targets consistently?

Overall account performance

Take a look at overall performance – are there campaigns that stand out as driving the most conversions, or are there underperformers that are wasting large portions of budget? This should give you a good idea as to the key performance drivers in the account, and high-level tweaks and budget reallocations that could improve performance.

From there, isolate performance issues

Pick the top performing and worst performing campaigns in the account and do an apples to apples comparison. How do key metrics like CTR, conversion rate and cost per conversion compare across the campaigns? Then dig deeper – check campaign settings, targetings and ad group structure to develop a hypothesis around why there’s a performance delta.

Sometimes it might just be because the campaigns are advertising different products or services, or different or geo-targets with different demand levels. Other times, these performance differences can be the starting point for uncovering the smoking gun for a fundamental performance issue.

Are you meeting budget and cost per conversion targets?

Then take a look at what your monthly budget and cost per conversion targets are. Examine how they are trending over time. A lookback period of 3-6 months will give you enough data to make some good decisions. Here’s some good questions to ask:

  • Are we spending all of our target budget each month? If not there may be a search volume or target CPA issue.
  • Are we meeting cost per conversion targets month-on-month, and week-on-week? If not – there’s either a lot of wasted spend in the account, or your targets are unrealistic (we’ll publish another blog post on setting realistic ad targets soon!)

Examine not only the monthly performance in isolation, but look at how things are trending – if you notice a sudden increase in cost per lead month on month, new advertisers may have entered the market, or changes made to the ad account may have negatively impacted performance.

2. Budget

Is the account spending budget effectively?

Shared budgets

We highly recommend avoiding shared budgets across campaigns in Google Ads. They tend to overspend, are very inconsistent, and can over-allocate to certain campaigns in the account while neglecting others, regardless of performance.

Budget balance and allocation

A juicy monthly budget is worth nothing if it’s not allocated appropriately. Are certain campaigns budget limited but crushing it with a low cost per conversion? While others have high impression share and % allocation of total budget but poor results?

If so, STOP. Pull up a spreadsheet and do some calculations – model your overall budget, and run some projection models where you calculate the incremental conversions you could gain by moving budget into more efficient campaigns, then do it.

3. Attribution & Conversion

Image via Google

Is the account setup to accurately track and attribute conversions?

Conversion tracking

This is fundamental stuff. Make sure you’re linking and importing conversions from GA4. Depending on your tech stack and tracking containers, you should also probably be using have the universal Google Ads tag installed on your website, to build remarketing audiences. And an event-specific conversion tag should be firing for key events. Auto-tagging should be enabled too.

There are many ways to setup the above, so we’re not going to be overly prescriptive in telling you how to do it. During an audit we’ll look to make sure that conversion tracking is setup correctly by reviewing Google Ads conversion events, remarketing audiences,  GA4 settings and Google Tag Manager. 

Google Tag Manager offers a nifty debugging tool to check whether containers and tags are setup correctly – it’s your friend and you should be using it.

Conversion goals

Do the conversion goals in place map to key business events?

If you’re a B2B services firm, key conversion goals could include phone calls to your business, contact form submissions and content downloads. However, you shouldn’t stop there – many popular CRMs (Hubspot, Salesforce etc.) can be connected to Google Ads to push real sales data into the ad account – so you can optimize for qualified leads and closed/won deals vs. raw leads.

For eCommerce advertisers, things are a little simpler. You should be tracking at minimum 2 key conversion goals: ‘add to cart’ events and purchases completed. Depending on where your ads are sending traffic, goals can also be configured for certain product page views also. Be sure to connect your sales data to Google Ads. For example – send Shopify sales data back into Google Ads, this allows you to calculate a more accurate ROAS (return on ad spend) and optimize ads to what’s driving the most sales revenue.

The above examples are BOFU (bottom of funnel) conversion goals, but you should also consider tracking micro-conversions. For example – downloading a piece of content, viewing an on-page video, signing up to a newsletter, or even scrolling a certain percentage down a landing page.

While these micro-conversions shouldn’t be used as primary optimization goals for your campaigns, they can help you to optimize campaigns faster, and can be used as intent signals to understand what keywords and ad copy is driving higher-quality traffic.

4. Structure & Settings

Is the account structured for success?

Search campaigns are segmented

Check that campaigns are split appropriately. What does this mean exactly? There’s a few different ways you can segment campaigns, here are some popular options:

  • Segment by geography (E.g. US – Sports Shoes, UK – Sports Shoes, Germany – Sports Shoes)
  • Segment by product or service category (E.g. US – Sports Shoes,  US – Hiking Shoes, US – Dress Shoes)
  • Segment by bid strategy
  • Segment by keyword match type
  • Segment by customer type or industry (E.g. If you’re an accountant for professional services providers, you might split campaigns into those for Accountants, Doctors, Lawyers etc.)

There’s a ton of different ways to structure and segment your campaigns. You might choose to run a regional-focused campaign with different product categories as ad groups, or you might split campaigns out on a state-by-state level.

‘Perfect’ campaign segmentation is a myth, it depends on your total budget, advertising goals, industry and account maturity. So we don’t look for a dogmatic way of structuring your account, what we do look for is sensible campaign splits – are campaigns split in ways that are logical, or is there a mix of different targeting, themes and products/services jumbled under one campaign.

One simple example of this is are campaigns split into brand and non-brand themes? If not, they should be, and this is something that our audit will surface.


Google Ads is a customer-generating machine, when done right. But there are a ton of settings that will hamper your account performance. This is a simple step of the audit where we look for the following:

  • If search partners is enabled – does it’s performance justify it? Usually it doesn’t
  • Turn off display network expansion for search campaigns – target with dedicated display campaigns instead
  • Automatic ad creations is turned off
  • Ad schedule is appropriate (e.g. if it’s a B2B company – Mon-Fri office hours are usually the most important)
  • Geographic targeting is correct – we’re going after the right regions, and location option is set to: “Presence: People in or regularly in your targeted locations”

5. Bidding

Image via Google

Are we entering the auction efficiently?

Smart bidding targets

If using Target ROAS or Target CPA bidding, are your targets reasonable? We recommend starting out by setting your initial target at or just under your current CPA or ROAS average, then adjust by small (10-20%) increments every ~2 weeks or so. This is conversion volume dependent – more conversions makes for a shorter learning period.

Another consideration for smart bidding on eCommerce campaigns – does the target ROAS make sense for all the products in the campaign? Think about average order value, and even individual product margins. If these metrics vary significantly, consider splitting campaigns up to allow the algorithm to bid more efficiently.

For brand campaigns, target impression share bidding is the way to go. This allows you to make sure that you’re getting the most top of page impressions for your budget, which is the key goal of most brand campaigns.

Manual bidding considerations

It’s 2023, you really shouldn’t be using manual bidding. And if you are – you should start making a plan to migrate to a smart, conversion or revenue-optimized bid strategy. As a rule of thumb, we recommend 15-20 conversions per month before making the change.

If you aren’t getting that volume, you can try a quick-fix we love – optimize campaigns to a higher-funnel conversion event that generates more hits, before switching to automated bidding, then once you have a decent amount of conversions for that secondary action, switch the campaign goal to a bottom-funnel key conversion event.

6. Ad extensions

Are we maximising real estate on the SERPs?

There’s no rocket science here – more of a checklist approach. Do you have 4-6 of the following active in your account/campaigns, and if not get them implemented, here are some of the most important ad extensions to check:

  • Sitelinks – make sure they are contextually relevant to the campaign product/service, and that the copy and imagery supports your ad messaging.
  • Callout extensions – these are basically free real estate, and offer more opportunities to pack in additional CTAs, compelling value props and features. Just make sure they aren’t cannibalizing the same messaging in your ad copy
  • Location extension are gold-dust for businesses that serve a local catchement area, such as a brick and mortar business or retailer. Remember – you’ll need a Google Business Profile, so if you don’t have one already, get it setup pronto. Ignore these if you’re a software/online business etc.
  • Structured snippets – these are great for advertisers that offer certain popular brands (e.g. a hardware store that sells Mikita, Dewalt and Bosch drills), types of products (E.g. a clothing store that doe Menswear, Suits and Baby clothes). You get the gist. You can find Google’s full list of headers available on this page, find one that’s a fit for your business and add some text.

7. Ad groups

How are keyword themes grouped within campaigns?

There’s a simple rule of thumb to figuring out if your ad groups are themed appropriately. Ask yourself – does the ad copy make sense for every keyword in the ad group? If not – split the ad group. Other best practices we like to follow are below:

  • High spend/conversion volume keywords are in tight ad groups (max 3-5 keywords)
  • Check that no ad groups contain a large number of keywords (try to keep below 20 keywords per adgroup)
  • If you have a high performing ad group, tailor it’s ad extensions for better performance

8. Keywords

How are keywords performing, and are keyword features being used correctly?

Keyword match types

Match types in Google Ads allow for advertisers to control what searches their keywords appear for. With exact match offering the highest control, phrase a little less, and broad the least control.

That being said, with advancements in Google’s algorithm, broad match keywords aren’t the firehose of wasted spend they once were. When paired with a smart bidding strategy – these are generally outperforming phrase and exact match keywords, when advertising at scale.

When auditing a Google Ads account, we recommend running a report that compares keyword match type performance – create a simple report in the report editor, and select Cost, CTR, Conv. rate and Cost/Conv. as metrics. Then evaluate – are you seeing that a certain match type is netting a lower cost per conversion? Or is there a match type that is accounting for a lot of spend with no conversions at all?

Once you have this data you can investigate deeper at the campaign and ad group level to see where your ineffeciences are. By doing this exercise, you can also generate test ideas – for example if broad match is outperforming, it may warrant a test where you replace all keywords with broad match variants and let smart bidding route queries as it sees fit.

Negative keywords

Are you using negative keywords? If not, this is a major red flag indicating a neglected account. Review search term reports regularly to find irrelevant search queries that are costing you clicks and precious budgets.

Negative keyword lists should also be in use – generally we recommend a ‘Master negative’ list that you apply to all campaigns. This should weed out informational terms, so your ads only reach people who are in-market and ready to buy.

Check that brand negative keywords are in place also – you should make sure that brand terms aren’t triggering for non-brand campaigns, and vice versa. This will help to better isolate performance.

Quality score

Low keyword quality scores can cost you, big. Google uses quality score along with your keyword bid to determine how much you pay for ad click. So it’s important (but tricky) to make sure you optimize it.

To do this, first identify low quality scores (less than 5/10 is usually a good starting place), then look at the component parts that are contributing to the low score (Google has data columns to diagnose these).

To improve poor landing page experience, take a look at your pages and make sure that they match tightly with your keywords and ad copy. Next up is Clickthrough rates – if these are low, you need to get some more compelling ad copy in place. There’s tons of guides out there on how to write good ad copy, so get cracking.

Additional keyword opportunities

The last item to consider for keywords is whether you’re missing anything. Take a look at what competitors are searching, review search terms reports to find hidden gems, and do some searches around ancillary terms for your product or service offering. Often you’ll find there’s untapped themes to test.

9. Ads

How are keywords performing, and are keyword features being used correctly?

For some reason, advertisers often get caught up in tweaking keywords, settings and other elements in a PPC campaign, but fail to work on it’s most important lever – the ad copy that people actually see.

As a rule of thumb, all search campaigns should have at least two active responsive search ads, with a notable difference between the two to allow for testing. This could be different value props, messaging angles or calls to action. Creating additional ad copy is a priority if only one ad is running.

Make sure that your ads are labelled appropriately, that could be as simple as ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ for different variants, or correspond to specific dates, messaging angles and campaigns. What’s important isn’t how you label your ads, but making sure that they’re consistently labelled according to a standardized naming convention.

Check that there’s no spelling and grammar issues. You’d be amazed what can slip through the cracks when advertising at scale. Also – double check that all landing page URLs have an SSL cert.

10. Audiences

Image via Google

Are audience features and settings used appropriately?

Remarketing campaigns

For most businesses, remarketing campaigns are a no-brainer. They’re a way to get cheaper clicks AND reach a warmed-up, higher-intent audience. This generally results in lower CPAs, and is low-hanging fruit to quickly improve an account’s efficiency.

Audience setup and demographics

First of all, make sure that you’re sending GA4 data into Google Ads – this will allow you to build audiences to retarget website visitors and people who visit certain pages of your site, or complete certain actions.

Next up – take a look at the audience targeting for search campaigns. Make sure that the demographics, including age range, gender and income make sense for the product/service you’re marketing. For example – a B2B advertiser will likely find that the age range of 18-24 is less qualified, as junior employees are rarely decision makers.

There’s no one-size fits all approach for setting up audiences, just use your buyer personas to gauge whether the targeting you have makes sense, or whether certain demographics or audience should be excluded.

Our PPC audit template

Interested in a template to get started? Get in touch for a spreadsheet version of the exact PPC audit checklist we use to find optimization opportunities and drive results for clients.


When used effectively, a PPC audit checklist can quickly and effectively reduce your CPA (cost per acquisition). By identifying low-hanging fruit you can usually improve results overnight by implementing the findings of the audit process we outlined above.

However, a PPC audit is just the start – and isn’t a silver bullet. You’ll still need a coherent overall PPC strategy to succeed. Interested in speaking to the Google Ads experts? Get in touch for a free consultation call today, we’d love to chat.