PPC Checklist (For Moderate AdWords Management)

I was recently providing training to a client so that they could manage their own Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising program.   In order to give them something to use as a reference, I created a “PPC Checklist” for them.

The primary factors in determining what I recommended to them were:

  1. They are currently only using Google AdWords.
  2. They are not using any automatic bid management software
  3. The person responsible for managing the PPC program has limited time to dedicate to daily management
  4. The level of advertising spend is relatively low (in the single-digit $$thousands)
  5. The program is targeted at B2B lead generation, requiring an extra level of ROI analysis

Here is what I provided:

PPC Management Checklist

Task Frequency Notes
Check Spend Daily Things to look for – 1) Did the previous day run into any budget limits on a Campaign level? 2) Is monthly spend on track?
Adjust Bids


  • Cost Per Conversion
  • Conversion Rate
  • Average Position
  • Bounce Rate
Daily, Or 2-3 times/week Ideally you would check on the “top” keywords daily to ensure that bid levels are set appropriately. The top keywords are those that generate roughly 50% of your spend (this may vary, but you are looking to actively manage the keywords that eat up the most budget).

2 to 3 times per week you would dig deeper into keywords that are not on your daily watch list. The key factor is whether or not individual keywords are producing the desired ROI. This would be measured by Cost Per Conversion (or by Closed Sales).

When conversion data is not enough, look at the Avg. Position for keywords and attempt to bid at levels that generate average positions between 3 and 6.

In addition, look at Web analytics and find keywords that have an unusually high Bounce Rate – either pause these keywords or lower bids if you feel that there is still opportunity for these keywords.

Review & Pause Ads 2-3 times/week Make sure to have at least 2 ad copy version running in each Ad Group at all times. Look at Ad Versions to determine which ads are generating:

1) The best Conversion Rates and Cost Per Conversion.

2) The highest Click Through Rate (CTR). Make decisions about which ads to pause based first on conversion performance, and then on CTR. Pause under-performing ads frequently, but not too soon. Give an ad a chance to pick up a good sample size of Impressions.

The ideal sample size of Impressions will vary on the search volume for the Ad Group as a whole (e.g. in some cases a good sample size will be 2,000 to 3,000 impressions, and in others it will be 300 to 400 – or less).

Create New Ads Weekly Make sure to have at least 2 ad copy version running in each Ad Group at all times. Test out new ad concepts to see if you can improve conversion performance and CTR.

Try different headlines, body text, word order, punctuation, etc. Use this opportunity to test offers as well. Sometimes small changes can have a surprising impact. Make sure to include some mention of your primary keywords for that Ad Group in the Ad Copy – this affects Ad Quality Scores.

Look For Negative Keywords Weekly You can look for negative keyword opportunities either on the Campaign or Ad Group level. There are a few techniques to consider.

1) The best place to start is by using the “See search terms” button in the new AdWords interface. You can either select the Keywords tab on the Campaign or Ad Group level and then click on “See search terms”. Choose “All”, and then look at which actual search phrases are generating traffic to your site. I recommend writing down the basic words (usually 1 word) in a Notepad or Word document file and then copying and pasting the words at the Campaign level.

2) Use Google’s Keyword Tool in the Tools section of AdWords. Research words/phrases that you are targeting in PPC, and look at Google’s suggestions – you are sure to find words that are not a match for your business. Paste words into the Negative Keyword section of the appropriate Campaign in AdWords.

3) Conduct searches on Google.com for your keywords. By looking through the results you may find search results that give you ideas for Negative Keywords.

Pause Under-Performing Keywords Weekly See the “Adjust Bids” task in this document and follow the same logic to make decisions about which words to pause.

In addition to the criteria listed in “Adjust Bids”, look for keywords that have a high number of impressions but a low number of clicks (low relative to other keywords you are bidding on).

The idea is to pause keywords that are not generating any results for you, but are negatively impacting Google’s assessment of the quality of your account because people are not clicking on your ads.

Run Reports
Impression Share Weekly In the Reports section of Google AdWords, run a “Campaign Performance” report for the prior week (or for the desired time period).

In Section 3 of the report, click on Add or Remove Columns. Check the boxes for Impression Share (IS), Lost IS (Rank), and Lost IS (Budget). When the report is ready, look to see if you are losing impressions due to Budget.

Looking at lost impression share for Rank may not be useful if you are deliberately keeping bids low to lower your position on a page (due to ROI performance). So, by looking at lost impression share due to Budget, you can see if you are running out of money too quickly to be visible for a sustained period.

Keywords Monthly Running a monthly report for Keyword/Placement Performance will allow you to generate data that you can put into an Excel spreadsheet and sort through. This is a nice way to see if you have missed anything during your normal management activities.
Ads Monthly The same logic holds here as in running the Keyword/Placement report – catch anything you missed.
Update Excel Report Monthly Keep track of overall Account and Campaign performance on a monthly basis so that you can generate graphs and look at performance trends.
Monitor Conversion Rates Daily While you will be looking at individual Keywords and Ads for conversion performance during the other activities listed in this document, make sure to keep a high-level view of conversion performance as often as you can. In this way you will be able to see if there is an overall conversion issue with your program, and it will be likely that you will be forced to look at Landing Pages to identify opportunities for improvement.
Drill Down to Quality of Leads Monthly Use any data you have in your CRM system to match up which keywords are generating the best quality leads, and leading to sales. You will begin to see which keywords you can bid more for based on real business results. You may find that you can afford a higher Cost Per Conversion for some words than for others.
Test Landing Pages Weekly, or Bi-Weekly Landing Pages are often the most important factor in improving conversion performance. Think of this as the one area where you have the most leverage to improve overall performance. Test offers, copy, headlines, graphics, layout, position/location of contact forms, length of contact forms, and navigation. (read more about testing landing pages)

Google also provides a “Getting started with AdWords workbook” that you might want to check out.

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