For many online marketers, pay-per-click search is the largest single line in their web marketing budget. Just as you should visit your dentist twice a year for a checkup, you should also conduct a routine search marketing audit every six months or so. Regular checkups ensure your PPC campaigns stay healthy, whether managed by an agency or in-house.
A comprehensive PPC audit has four components: an order data audit, a cost data audit, a bid audit, and a marketing performance audit. The data audits make sure you're working with accurate numbers. The bid audit is a spot-check of your bidding robot or people. The marketing performance audit ensures your campaigns make sense overall. These aren't as much work as they sound -- with the data in hand, all four components combined might take an afternoon or so. And the payoff can be considerable.
Today, we'll cover the first of these four: the PPC order audit.
Here's how to do it. Pick a recent calendar month. From your search agency or in-house team, get the total sales attributed to PPC search over that month. Also get a detailed list of every order attributed to PPC search over that month, with order time and date stamp, order total, the search ad which drove the order, and the click time and date stamp. Make sure reported total sales match the sum of the order totals.
Next, from your order management system, obtain a detailed list of every order taken through your website over the month. For each order, pull order time and date, order total, and the marketing channel credited with the sale (unknown, search, affiliate, email, etc.) Compare the two order detail lists in Excel, matching orders by date, time, and amount. You should be able to find every search-attributed order within the full list of web orders--and those orders should be credited to paid search.
If you find orders on the PPC list which are assigned to a non-PPC marketing channel on the all-web list, that's a red flag. This is "double counting," where one order gets attributed to multiple programs. Dig into these cases, and see why the different systems disagree on what drove the order. Causes can range from the innocent (different tracking cookies, different order allocation windows, errors in tracking or allocation software) to the nefarious (malware, unethical agency tactics).
Checking that PPC sales tie out across different tracking systems sounds rudimentary, and in truth, it is. Nonetheless, this exercise is often highly instructive, as there are so many places that tracking or allocation can go awry.
Next in this series: the ppc cost audit.
All posts in the PPC Audit series: