As a Paid Search Director for an agency with a relatively young PPC Service, I was tasked with auditing all of our accounts. Each account was to receive an audit once per month on top of regular optimizations the specialist was doing and we had about 20 accounts at the time.

Imagine how my eyes may have glazed over after looking at the 14th account audit in the 3rd month of the quarter. It would have been the 3rd time I looked at that same account in 3 months and none of the accounts were spending more than $7.5k/mo.

Given the budgets, none of the accounts really needed to be audited more than once a year, or maybe 2-4 times a year at the most, but this was my first leadership role in an agency and I was determined to do as I was asked.

I knew I would start with good intentions, but end up just going through the motions and checking boxes (a common problem with agency employees) as I had just checked the same thing the previous month and most accounts had only seen about $1500 of data in that time.

So I figured out a way to audit every account every month without having to check the same exact things every single month.

Here’s what I did:

How To Perform Regular Ad Account Audits: A Better Way

Step 1: List every account and its budget.

The amount of money a Google Ads account spends determines how much data is collected. An account spending $10k/mo is going to have a lot more data than one spending $1k/mo. The bigger the spend the faster the data collection and the faster you can make decisions about how to optimize performance based on that data.

I divided the accounts into separate tiers based on ad spend. The dividing lines are a bit arbitrary so you can kind of use your gut to decide where the tiers need to be cut off, but I had accounts spending less than $1k/mo in one tier, $1k-$3k in another, $3k-$5k in another, and $5k+ in the last.

So the tiers were basically “least data” to “most data” by budget range.

Step 2: Redefine “account audit”

Doing a deep dive into the same things every month in an account that is only spending $1000 in that time is silly. It’s still kind of silly at $5k/mo. 

There are A LOT of things to look at in a Google Ads account, even if you’re only running a single search campaign with a few ad groups. When you branch out into non-search (all of our accounts did), your options expand even further.

The typical approach to an account audit is to run through a checklist of every possible thing you could look into and find areas in which you could improve performance through removing bad elements or adding new ones.

If you have to audit the same small accounts every month you may find a lot of value month one, but month two will find virtually nothing unless you missed something in the first audit and month three will be a waste of time unless something broke.

The best way to get more out of your audits is to have more than one audit.

In accounts spending $3,000 per month or less, there are a lot of things you only need to check once or twice per year. The smaller the account, the smaller your audits can be.

The larger the account, the more you’ll need to check with each audit.

Segment the things you would check into themed groups and determine the size of each group based on the spend of the account tier for which you’re designing it.

Let’s look at several themed audit ideas and some examples of what would be in each one.

Step 3: Choose audit themes

The different audits you perform depend on the budget and complexity of the account. The more campaigns, campaign types, ad groups, ads, keywords, etc you have, the more types of audit you can have before you’re checking the same things over and over. 

Not everything you can check is helpful, obviously. Here are some of the audit themes I’ve found helpful:

  • Comprehensive Account Audit
  • Basics Audit
  • Ad Copy Audit
  • Conversion Tracking Audit
  • Landing Page Audit
  • Ad Placement Audit (Non-Search)
  • Automated Rules & Scripts Audit
  • Negatives & Exclusions Audit
  • Strategy Audit
  • Opportunities Audit
  • 80/20 Audit

Let’s take a look at what is included in each of these and why/when they’re helpful.

Comprehensive Account Audit

This is the whole shebang. When you first take over an account or when you first start auditing accounts, this is your go-to.

It’s the typical account that looks for every problem, every opportunity, all of it. It’s a great starting point, but not something you want to repeat every month. 

In most cases, you’ll want to perform this type of audit once a year or even once every few years if you’re doing several other types of audit.

Basics Audit

This is exactly what it sounds like. Probably an annual audit, you’ll want to make sure you’re tracking conversions and no tags are broken. Make sure your landing pages are active. Make sure you’ve got keywords and ads in each ad group. Make sure location targeting is set to “Presence In” and that Search Partners is off. Make sure you have ad assets (extensions) and that they’re at the appropriate levels.

Whatever is essential for Google Ads to work in any capacity, check it. Whatever settings you require on every account, check it. That’s it. You’re just making sure the basics were observed during setup and nothing was missed.

Ad Copy Audit

This is to check accuracy, relevance, and presentation. Check it based on your testing frequency, but quarterly or bi-annually works for most accounts. It’s best performed in a spreadsheet, at least in part. Download all active ads and pull it up in Google Sheets. Select the entire sheet and perform a spell check. Head back to Google Ads (or ads editor) to fix any spelling issues.

Check which combinations are served the most and make sure they make sense, pinning any headlines that would improve relevance or performance (I used to be against pinning, but it’s worth it if you have a cruddy ad combo). If you have headlines or descriptions that were not serving much, consider removing them and testing new assets or seeing if you get better results with fewer assets (helpful for smaller budgets).

Lastly, look at any ads that have a CTR lower than your target CTR (I usually like to aim at 7-15% or higher for lead gen) and either pin some headlines, remove some headlines and/or descriptions, or test some new ad copy (You may also need to add more negatives or consider a more narrow match type on your keywords).

Conversion Tracking Audit

Deeper than what’s checked in the Basics Audit, you’ll want to dig into the tag setup and triggers (setting up GTM is a borderline “must”). This one is worth doing 1-4x per year, depending on spend and company complexity. Check the site for conversion actions you may have missed. Make sure their primary conversion action is easily accessed (I’ve seen many sites saying they wanted calls, but only had the number on the contact page, rather than in the header).

Make sure your Primary conversion actions are actually something that would indicate intent to do business with your client. Anything painting the wrong picture of your client’s ideal customer (e.g. Google-hosted “Get Directions” action for a roofing company with a service area and no public office) should be removed. 

If you have the appropriate data from your lead gen clients, make sure all conversion actions have a value set, based on the average deal value, close rate, and profit margin so you can report on estimated profit. For ecomm clients, make sure purchase value is being tracked and try to get average profit margin so you can monitor the profit on ad spend (POAS), which gives you a better idea of true performance.

Landing Page Audit

This one is also good for 1-4x annually depending on company complexity and spend, as well as site depth. Check that all final urls are the correct ones for each ad, that all of them are working (no 404s), and that each one is the best page for that ad.

Bonus points for looking at page speed, mobile friendliness, and relevance (keywords on the page, H1 speaks to the problem the traffic has, appropriate CTAs are on the page, etc.

For ecomm, make sure you’re not sending people to a huge sales page for a $49 product. Product detail pages are best for 90% of products and customers hate scrolling through huge pages for something they can buy on a whim because it’s only $49. 

Ad Placement Audit

This one only applies if you use a lot of non-search Campaign types like Display. Depending on spend (in a lot of cases, spend should be low on these campaign types), you can check this anywhere between 1-12x per year or more. If you’re spending a lot, it will be part of your normal optimizations, so you can ignore this one.

Check the “Where ads showed” section of your non-search campaign’s content report and look at placements. Make sure to create placement exclusion lists for ease of operations, but get rid of mobile app categories, manga and fanfiction sites, game sites, obvious spam and clicker sites, and anything else that doesn’t look like something your client’s target audience would visit (though you may be surprised…). 

Then, set the date range to “All Time” and filter by your KPIs. If you’ve spent your target Cost Per Lead or Cost Per Sale on a placement, but not converted, exclude it. 

Automated Rules & Scripts Audit

Depending on how many scripts you use, you may want to perform this audit quarterly or not at all. Look into your active scripts and make sure each one has the appropriate email address (for those sending reports), that all are running without errors, and that the proper frequency is set. Make sure there are no scheduled rules that you don’t want, and that any you do want are scheduled. 

This can also be a good opportunity to look for new scripts or think about automated rules you could create to help you work more efficiently. If you find yourself doing the same repetitive work often or, God forbid, staying up until midnight to pause campaigns manually, do yourself a favor and automate it.

Negatives & Exclusions Audit

This one is probably an annual audit and it can be a beast in bigger accounts. Check all of your negative keyword lists (you do have lists, right?) and make sure they’re applied to the right campaigns. Be sure to check the Account-level negative keywords so you know whether you’re blocking traffic you actually want to show for. Make sure your client’s branded keywords are added as negatives to the non-brand campaigns and that you have a negatives list for competitor names (which often don’t convert or don’t close if they do convert).

If you really want to dig deep into the lists, make sure each list only contains negative keywords that you should not show for and that each one is the smallest irrelevant n-gram (e.g. Limo rental company showing for “party bus rental” would add “party” as a phrase or broad match negative so nothing with the word “party” ever shows again) so your lists stay clean and your work stays minimal.

Next, dig through your campaigns and ad groups. I really hope you haven’t been leaving Google’s defaults in place and adding exact match negatives to the ad group level (100x the work, at least). Make sure each campaign and ad group has negatives with the right match types that are only irrelevant to that campaign or ad group. Search terms that are completely irrelevant to the business can be added to the account-wide negatives (up to 1,000 negatives) or negatives lists that are added to every campaign.

You should also check your placement exclusion lists and apply them to all relevant campaigns.

Quick note on negative match types: If a negative keyword is [exact match], it will only negate searches for exactly what is between those brackets, just how targeted exact match keywords used to work. These are best used for searches that are close to what you want to show for, but wrong, or for searches that triggered an ad in one ad group, but should have triggered a different one. In the latter case, they should be added at the ad group level.

If it’s “phrase match”, no search that includes the words between those quotation marks will trigger an ad (just like how targeted phrase match keywords used to work). These can be used for single words (e.g. “plumbing supplies” for a plumbing company would only need “supplies” added as a phrase match) or for phrases (e.g. Grant’s Windows Company is showing for “free grants for window replacement”, so you add the phrase match negative “free grants” to avoid those searches, but to still allow “free estimates” and branded searches with “grants” to trigger ads).

If it’s broad match, it prevents any search containing any of the words in any order. This is best if you’re blocking a single word or a phrase that is irrelevant and often searched in several different variations. (e.g. adding how should as a broad match negative would block “how much should I charge for my services”, “how should I start a business”, and “how many time should I follow up”) Single word negatives tend to negate enough on their own, but there are use cases for each of these, such as those given in the examples.

Strategy Audit

This audit is a good one to perform at the end of a year in preparation for the next year, or quarterly for larger accounts to make sure you’re on target for goals. You’re not looking at performance here, so much as gaps in overall strategy.

An example would be an account for which I performed a strategy audit after the agency mentioned a lower lead flow than they wanted. I noticed that they had plenty of search campaigns with broad keyword coverage for relevant bottom of funnel searches, but no other campaign types or research-intent keyword coverage. 

The strategy they had was to get as many leads as possible from those ready to buy, but the gaps in strategy were around educating the market about the problem they solved and the solutions, particularly their solutions. They had their hands under the funnel to catch leads, but they weren’t putting enough into the top of the funnel for anything to come out.

Marketing is about building relationships and while you have to start with the low-hanging fruit (i.e. friends, friends of friends, and those easy to meet in your social circles), scaling requires you to start “meeting new people” and helping them before they’re ready to buy so you can establish yourself as a familiar and trusted credible expert in solving the problems you solve.

In the case mentioned above, the strategy needed to expand to building relationships, rather than just generating leads by capturing existing demand.

Sometimes Strategy Audits highlight that certain products or services are not being utilized properly (or at all), sometimes you’ll recommend other marketing channels such as OTT or email marketing, and other times you’ll need to recommend targeting a different market segment. It’s much more high-level than your typical Google Ads talk.

To avoid another huge topic, I’ll direct you to issue 19 for more on scaling stagnant ad accounts.

In essence, Strategy Audits are best performed on those accounts that are in a good position to grow, those that are changing their products or services, or those unsure of how to grow.

Opportunities Audit

This is very similar to the Strategy Audit, but on a different scope. Strategy determines the desired outcome, the direction the account is going to move toward the outcome, and the steps required to get there.

Opportunities Audits should be designed to help you find more or better ways of taking said steps on the way toward the desired outcome. 

In the example given above, had the strategy been correct for their goals, the opportunities would have been things like “add a demand gen campaign targeting X audience with X message to generate interest in X problem’s solution and send them to X page for X result”.

Opportunities are more tactical and specific than strategies. If a client isn’t happy with results or wants to grow, you can look for opportunities first. If you can’t find opportunities or none of your suggested opportunities work, you can try a Strategy Audit to determine whether they’re even focusing on the right outcomes and have the right path mapped out.

Sometimes you’ll have to recommend things outside of Google Ads, such as a new website for better load speeds, a new landing page, or the creation of assets that don’t exist, such as video.

80/20 Audit

My favorite audit. I perform this one whenever I overhaul an account for an agency, when I take over a new account, and when I have trouble getting the performance I want from an existing account of mine. When I scheduled it for others, I would schedule it twice a year.

As you may imagine, you’re looking for the 20% of the account that is producing 80% of the results. The numbers don’t always work out to be 80/20. Sometimes it’s 95/5, other times it’s 67/33. The point is, it’s easy to get sentimental about accounts we’ve built. If not sentimental, complacent. 

Things that have performed in the past may perform again, right? 

If your conversion tracking is working properly (essential if you want this audit to help you), you’ve been adding negative keywords regularly, and you’re not in the stage where you’re trying to build relationships and scale (i.e. you’re capturing demand from buying-intent searches), this audit is one you can implement right now and see results fast.

Start by looking at the keywords for all active campaigns. Set the date range to All Time and add a couple of filters. The first one should filter out any keywords with cost of X or lower, where X is your target cost per lead or cost per sale (if you don’t know, just put $100 or something close). Now that you’re only looking at keywords that have spent X or more, filter out those that have not converted a single time.

Select all keywords and pause.

Next, pick a cost per lead or ROAS threshold. Example ROAS threshold can be “1.0 or more below your target ROAS” and example CPL threshold can be “2x your CPL target or more”. Remove the cost and conversions filters and add a filter for “Cost / Conv > [Threshold]” or “Conv. Value/Cost < [Threshold]”.

Now select all keywords and pause those gold diggers.

Then navigate to the ad group level and make sure to include the column “Number of eligible keywords”. Add the filter “Attributes > Ad Group Type > Standard” and look for ad groups with a 0 in the “Number of eligible keywords” column. Pause those to clean up your campaigns.

If you’re running ecomm, you can pause any product groups or products that have not converted or that are converting at a cost or ROAS outside of your threshold. 

That’s the first step. You can dig through everything else and heavily simplify. The goal here is to get rid of everything wasting money so that your budget only goes toward searches that convert profitably and this can be a huge win. 

Step 4: Schedule Audits

Last step (other than to perform them, of course)! To schedule the audits, I mixed things up a bit. I didn’t want to get bored of mechanically running the same audit 30+ times every month, even if it was smaller than a comprehensive audit, so I made a spreadsheet with a row listing all my active clients and separated them into different tabs by their ad spend tier (keeping a master list tab to have them all in one place as well).

I then added each month of the year to the first column (I later added a column in front to count the audits that month) so I had “Clients” in row 1 and months in column A. With the frequency of each audit determined by ad spend tier, each tier would have X number of audits in the year, with one per client per month. (E.g.For clients in the “$2.5k-$5k” tier I needed to perform the “Ad Copy” audit 4 times a year for them. I’d schedule them every 4 months, making sure I wasn’t performing the same type of audit for another tier in that same month. If I scheduled Jan, Apr, July, Oct for this tier, I’d make sure to schedule Feb, May, Sept, Nov for another. If I had more than 3 tiers, I’d double up on smaller tiers so if I have to audit big accounts, I don’t also have to audit other accounts).

Do that for all of your chosen audits at each ad spend tier and try to avoid scheduling more than one audit for the same client in a single month unless you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. You’ll want to leave time for regular optimizations and for the algorithm to adjust to any changes.

If it helps, I reached out to the agency I did this for and they still had my first draft of the schedule! The audits are under different names and the client names have been removed, but I’ll link it here in case you find it helpful to start with this instead of a blank spreadsheet.

Google Ads Account Audit Schedule Template

After scheduling each month’s audits, you can go one step further and space your audits out by week and day within each month to avoid procrastination or burnout. If you have 60 clients and each one needs to get an audit every month, you’re going to be auditing 2 accounts per day and that’s a bit heavy, depending on how thorough of an audit you’re doing that day. 

If you get to that point, you should consider either hiring someone exclusively for auditing accounts or simplify the number of different audits you’re performing.


That’s it! Now you just need to perform your audits on the scheduled days and watch your ad management skyrocket to the next level and beyond. 

Auditing accounts can be tedious and boring if you do it a lot. This method, while a lot of work up front, can be a huge help after the initial setup is complete. 

I should point out that AI is generally a waste of time in this process. It can probably tell you what to check in each audit, but it fails to schedule in the way I described. You’ll spend longer trying to figure out the right prompt than if you had just done the work yourself.

So get in, get your hands dirty, and thank yourself later for the hard work up front.