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SEM account audits: A can’t-miss checklist

Joseph Kerschbaum
Joseph Kerschbaum
SVP, Search & Growth Labs
5 min read
24 May 2016

When taking on a preexisting account, you will first want to conduct an account audit. It is also helpful to have someone unfamiliar with an account conduct occasional audits of accounts since a fresh set of eyes can often uncover opportunities that team members steeped in the day-to-day of account management may not easily recognize.

Before starting your audit, it is extremely helpful to understand the account KPIs, any potential issues recognized by the current team, and the recent optimization strategies implemented. I will often pull a change history report when getting started on an audit to help uncover when major changes were made.

We have a pretty extensive list of areas to dive into when conducting an account audit. Following are some areas to review.

Account organization:

-Make sure your brand and non-brand campaigns are separate.

-Is your naming convention clear? This is important for easy filtering and reporting.

-If using an Alpha/Beta structure, check that your match types are consistent and that you have updated alpha neg lists in place (or alpha negs in your Beta campaigns).

-If you have multiple keywords per ad group, are they closely aligned? If not, keywords should be separated into different ad groups so that ad copy can incorporate keyword/keyword theme.


-Are your pixels correctly set up to track conversions?

-If you are pulling in conversions from Analytics, are these set up correctly? Look in Tools>Conversions to view the conversion actions within an account. Click on Webpages to see where your conversions are firing. To separate out different conversions in reporting, create a custom column from the Campaign or Ad group tabs, or segment by conversion name.

-If using a 3 rd -party bidding platform, is tracking properly implemented?

Campaign settings:

Review campaign type (we recommend separating out Search vs. Display), location, language, bid strategy, budget caps, delivery method, ad rotation settings, ad scheduling, and device.


-Are the audiences in place the ones you want to target? Are there any additional opportunities?

-Retargeting and RLSA campaign audiences: are these set to target and bid?

-If you want to block existing users from seeing your ads, do you have negative audiences in place?


-Are there high-spend keywords that are not converting or high-converting keywords in lower positions that could be bid up?

-Are there duplicate keywords that should be deduped?

-Are there low quality score keywords that should be optimized or removed?

-Pull a search query report to see if there are opportunities to build out more focused keywords or if there are poorly performing queries that should be negged out.

-What is the Lin-Rodnitzky Ratio of the account? The Lin-Rodnitzky ratio (hyperlink to whitepaper page) is your overall non-brand CPA divided by the CPA of queries with 1+ conversions. L/R ratios lower than 2 are considered healthy.

*Note that if you are tracking conversions at different points in the funnel, you may want to segment your search queries by conversion name to do this analysis.

Negative keywords:

-Are there ad group-level or campaign-level negatives that should be removed or added to a shared list?

-Review your shared neg lists. Are there terms blocking wanted queries? Are appropriate campaigns attached?


-Are any ads disapproved?

-Run a spellcheck on your ads.

-Do ads have proper punctuation?

-Are ads customized per ad group?

-Do active ad groups with active keywords have ads in place?

-Check the number of ads per ad group. Does each ad group have at least 2 ads in place? If not, consider launching a new set of ads to test out.

-If targeting mobile, do ad groups have preferred mobile ads with landing pages optimized for mobile?

-Are ads going to appropriate landing pages?

-Are any landing pages driving to error, 404, or “out of stock” pages?

Ad extensions:

-Are any of your ad extensions disapproved? (Note that your review extension will likely lose approved status if the review is over a year old.)

-Do you have all relevant ad extensions?

-As with ads, check your spelling and landing pages.

-If you have call extensions, check that your phone numbers are accurate and that you have appropriate scheduling.

Display network:

-Is there a shared negative placements list attached to relevant campaigns?

-Are there placements/keywords that are spending but not converting? (If not already in place, an easy win to block your ads from appearing in mobile apps is

-Are retargeting campaigns set to target & bid?

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SVP, Search & Growth Labs

Joseph Kerschbaum