Whether you’ve launched a new marketing program or have inherited a legacy account passed down from marketer to marketer, an audit can be invaluable to ensure you are maximizing both your team’s budget and time. 

While a paid media audit is not a substitute for a marketing strategy, it will inform your strategic roadmap by identifying parts of your program that need attention and areas for opportunity. A good paid media audit will answer five big questions affecting your business.

1. “Am I Speaking to The Right Audience?” 

First and foremost, every advertiser should ask, “Who is my message getting in front of?” If no one sees your ad, or worse, the wrong people see your ad, you will be wasting dollars, time, and your team’s bandwidth. That’s why a good paid media audit analyzes your audiences and keyword coverage. 

Across search and social platforms, B2B marketing teams need that perfect blend of reach and relevancy as they create audiences for their media campaigns. All modern platforms need minimum audience sizes to scale and serve efficiently, but with B2B’s subjective goals (aka quality leads) and long close cycles, bidding algorithms can struggle. Identifying untapped audience segments, or flagging keywords that may be overly broad can help shift ads in front of the right people during the right phase of their purchase path.

2. “Are My Ads Serving Correctly?” 

Has this ever happened to you? The creative team has put together a stunning rich ad unit, the web team has made a bespoke landing page, and leadership has allocated additional budget to support the ad campaign …and somehow, 25% of your clicks are coming from some country 4,000 miles out of market. Or 15% of impressions are being served on a parked page. Or all your leads are coming from .edu emails. It’s frustrating, but not uncommon, so a good paid media audit takes a deep dive into your account and campaign settings.

From placements, to geos, to demographics, there are settings upon settings nested so deep they’d make a Matryoshka Doll’s head spin. Too often, default settings for major advertising platforms are set to prioritize spending your budget as quickly as possible, not as efficiently as possible. And while there may not be a one-size-fits-all setup for every campaign, ensuring make-or-break campaign preferences are correct can help save dollars and avoid embarrassing campaign recap reports.

3. “What Do My Results Really Look Like?” 

What could be an audit unto itself is an attribution check that ensures your tracking is working and, more importantly, accurate. This information is critical to the success of your campaigns and decisions about campaign optimizations. 

While an attribution audit can require a team of specialists for each platform involved in the marketing stack, looking at the fundamentals is a key part of any holistic paid media audit. Way too often, we see campaigns with trackable conversions not being recorded, or even worse tracking that overcounts conversions. With automated bidding as the standard across virtually all ad platforms, overcounting leads means bidding systems will quickly exhaust budgets on falsely performing keywords or ads, diverting budget from lower volume targets.   

4. “Am I Spending Money the Right Way?”

Too often, we see accounts that are a collection of individual campaigns rather than a coherent and unified strategy. Other times, we see strategies that don’t align with the overall business goals. For example, the business is at a stage that must prioritize lead generation at all costs, but the ad campaigns are focused on higher-funnel brand awareness. Or, leadership needs to close as many deals by the end of the quarter as possible, but the marketing team is running ads to cold audiences instead of retargeting audiences that have already shown interest in the brand. 

While the marketing team manages paid media, these efforts affect the entire company and they can’t be siloed. Spending money on ads that don’t match what the business is trying to achieve is never a good use of money — regardless of whether you’re the biggest enterprise or the smallest startup. For startups, though, this misstep is particularly damaging because there’s no leeway to get it wrong.

Understanding the big picture of campaign audiences and outcomes is the most critical component of generating a positive ROI and delivering results that actually move the business forward.   

5. “How Do My Ads Look?”  

Ad creative gets the most surface-level attention, yet many teams give it the least critical focus. Ensuring great creative is obviously paramount for any campaign launch, which is why a good paid media audit will assess it. 

Ad unit reviews need to look at both how the ads will look in front of the final viewer as well as how the ad will look in front of the bidding algorithms that will determine whether or not to serve the ad in the first place. A good paid media audit will determine how relevant the ads are to your audience, whether the ads need to be adjusted to improve Quality Score, and if versioning can be run to generate learnings. Ensuring that the last step of an ad’s lifecycle is considered will make sure that it is built for success from the first step.    

6. “Does My Program Generate Insights?”

Far too often, campaigns are launched in a silo, with little attention paid to how they fit into the greater marketing program as a whole. While an individual campaign may be a smashing success, the ability to quickly and objectively pull insights at an account level becomes more difficult as the program grows, making it harder to evaluate individual campaign success. That’s why the best paid media audits analyze your account structure. 

Understanding how your campaigns ladder up into a holistic advertising program and structuring accordingly can provide insights that might alert you to competitor activity, new consumer trends, and of course, where you can save budget. But without a defined campaign taxonomy, concrete insights become wishy-washy conjecture, quick reporting pulls become days-long slogs, and worst of all some learnings may not even be possible. Locking down a robust and holistic campaign structure is critical for every advertising program to scale.

Want to see how your digital marketing efforts measure up? Need a helping hand to guide you forward? Check out the Paid Media Audits done by our experts. 

About the Author

Patrick Brady is the Director of Paid Media at Firebrand. With over 15 years of experience he helps lead digital clients through the ever changing world of online advertising. Prior to Firebrand, he led PPC efforts for multiple Fortune 500 companies across the B2B and B2C space.