What an SEM Audit Can Reveal

August 12, 2021 // Search Engine Marketing

Whether you’re running Google Ads or Microsoft Advertising, the guidelines are constantly changing and extremely nuanced. Just like a finicky houseplant, your paid search campaigns require a lot of attention and need to be well cared for in order to thrive.

A campaign that is left to fend for itself for days, months or (gasp!) years will never flourish. In many cases, it will leak thousands of dollars due to poor targeting, overly broad keywords, and sneaky, neglected settings. A Search Engine Marketing (SEM) audit, also called a Google Ads or Microsoft Advertising audit, is an in-depth analysis of your company’s paid search advertising platforms that helps ensure you’re getting the most out of your advertising budget.

The ins & outs

Whether you work with a marketing agency, SEM agency, or freelancer to perform the Google Ads and/or Microsoft Advertising audit, the process is the same: An analyst carefully combs through your campaigns and reports back with recommended optimizations.

Making these updates can significantly improve the health and efficiency of your campaigns, which helps reserve marketing dollars for quality prospective customers — not those who won’t convert.

Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising guidelines continuously evolve, so it’s smart to review your campaigns regularly. If it’s been a while since your last audit, you might consider running another. If you don’t have time to run the audit yourself, it’s an easy item to outsource. Even if you know the platform well enough to implement the updates, you may need help deciding which updates to make. The audit does the heavy lifting to determine exactly what needs to be done.

SEM audit findings

An SEM audit can reveal a number of issues, but some of the most common findings include:

  • Inefficient campaign structure
  • Overly broad keywords
  • Targeting mistakes
  • Misunderstood settings
  • Lack of conversion tracking

Let’s get deeper into each one.

Inefficient campaign structure

Inefficiencies mean you’re wasting money — and that’s the last thing you want. A well-structured campaign helps the right ads show up for the right keywords, which in turn produces better quality scores (more on that below). Structure is where you have to start in order to see success.

Overly broad keywords

Keywords that are too broad bring in visitors who are not searching for your product. Let’s pretend you’re selling cake pans, but simply bidding on the word “pan.” Your ad may show up for searches like “frying pan,” “pan the movie,” “pan greek god,” and more. Those searches are irrelevant to the “cake pan” search you want to show up for.

If your ad shows up, it might get clicked on. Once users land on the site, they’ll realize it’s not what they’re looking for and go back to the search results page. When they bounce back to the search results page so quickly, your quality score goes down because Google doesn’t view your site as a good fit for that search — which, in this case, it isn’t.

Targeting mistakes

With so many keyword options and settings — keyword targeting, location targeting, device targeting, demographic targeting, audience targeting, and time-of-day targeting just to name a few — it’s easy to miss something. An SEM audit double-checks the state of these settings to ensure they’re working for you instead of against you.

Misunderstood settings

Many settings can be toggled on and off within a campaign — and these settings can greatly affect performance. When an expert runs an audit, they ensure nothing has been overlooked.

Lack of conversion tracking

Conversion tracking lets you know if your campaign is successful or not. You can review the basic data like clicks, impressions and click-through rate, but those numbers don’t tell the whole story. What are you getting out of them? It’s much more meaningful to say “last month, 200 visitors who came to our website through Google Ads submitted a contact form and 80 visitors downloaded our whitepaper.” Other trackable conversions include e-commerce sales, newsletter sign-ups and phone calls.

Taking the time to do an SEM audit is crucial to your Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising success. An audit reveals the precise way people are searching for your products or services — and how they interact with your website once they find it. This knowledge is useful for SEM purposes and for SEO (search engine optimization). Use it to refine existing ad copy, identify new content opportunities, and tweak SEO page titles on your website.

If you simply don’t have room in your schedule, or don’t have the expertise to confidently perform an SEM audit, Anthologic is here for you. We have a team of experts ready to take on your project and put in the work to make it successful. Let’s chat!