Plenty of digital agencies out there offer free audits for PPC (Adwords), SEO, social media and other areas in digital marketing.
Add to the mix other options such as a number of free audit tools online and questions begin to arise -
Here we explore both approaches (paid vs free), provide a few tips on what to look out for and how to get the most value from your PPC strategy.
Free Vs Paid Audits: Understanding the Difference
What do you get for a paid audit?
Engaging with an Adwords certified professional or digital marketing agency for an audit should give you thorough results and recommendations or an action plan to improve your Adwords campaigns.
The agency or individual should spend reasonable time to really understand your business, your budget and your conversion goals. These steps are particularly important - subtle differences in the way keywords are targeted can be the difference between an effective campaign and burning a lot of money on poor quality visits to your site which may never convert into actual leads.
A manual audit will usually require you to grant at least 'view' access to your Adwords account. More detailed audits can typically include keyword / display research and competitor research.
What do you get for a free audit?
You Get What You Pay For
We're big proponents of this as a blanket rule when it comes to digital marketing - ultimately you get what you pay for - Adwords/PPC audits are no exception. Arm yourself with these words of caution along with an 'if it's too good to be true it probably is' mentality and trust your gut in these cases.
If still in doubt, you could consider a third party agency audit.
The Agency Side
Data is great (and readily available), but how your agency interprets the data is the real test.
Insight is what holds the real value and this is still a key component that can easily separate a seasoned PPC professional from many great online tools.
There are a number of these tools, some which agencies will use to provide a 'free audit' as mentioned above.
Be mindful that most tools will allow you to run your own test for free* and produce the exact same data.
*some have free trials or quota caps on the free version
Some of the more popular tools available:
Tip: Any of these tools online will show up some errors in a report - no website or campaign is 100% perfect.
What to Look Out For
With all of this in mind, here are a few things that we still come across quite often and consider as possible red flags - be warned.
Doing it Yourself
Adwords is a challenging beast when you first start out.
There are guides online which can point you in the right direction to give the PPC audit or management of your campaigns a red-hot go yourself, but be warned - mistakes can be costly.
DIY Vs Working with a Certified Professional
Often, Adwords professionals will have worked on hundreds or even thousands of PPC accounts. You don't get that sort of experience by reading a couple of guides online and hoping for the best.
The type of insight that a good certified Adwords Professional can gain in a couple of hours of an audit could be more than someone less skilled might do in several weeks (or months).
More recently, there is Google's 'Adwords Express' option. This is AI-based and essentially like setting the campaigns to autopilot. AI then attempts to do most of the hard work for you. Even with that, there is always a risk of wasting budget (which Google doesn't seem to usually mind so much :)
Here's more info on how it works: https://www.google.com.au/adwords/express/how-it-works/
Be mindful of the available options and what's involved.
Adwords is a great tool, but simple mistakes can add up. If not done correctly, Adwords can also be a great way to lose a lot of money.