23-Point Google Ads CPA Optimization Checklist (Bookmark This!)

This handy 23-point checklist, informed by years of experience and hours of 1-on-1 calls with Google Ads Support, will help you reign in your ad spend and improve the efficiency of any account you’re managing!
(Skip the line, take me straight to the checklist!)
Wow, what a year it’s been for Google Ads. The rollout of a brand-new Ads experience, a handful of awesome new ad types and features, and the evolution of Google Optimize making PPC landing pages more and more effective, all carefully crafted to make our jobs as marketers easy and headache-free…. Right?

…Guys?

In truth, many of these new product enhancements do indeed allow us to manage Ads accounts way more effectively, but the perfect tool is close to useless without a knack for strategy and a keen analytical eye.

The Problem with Set It and Forget It

Our PPC team works tirelessly to increase the efficiency of our clients’ paid search campaigns—what we call “CPA Optimization.” Quite often we inherit accounts that have either been entirely mismanaged or not tended to as carefully as perhaps we would prefer.

And in all fairness, ad campaign performance can be easy to overlook.

As PPC Specialists, quite often we’re provided budgets from clients who are all too comfortable spending that money without much real confidence in what exactly that spend is doing for them. Hey, it’s the cost of doing business, right?

We send them branded reports, sometimes automatically each month, and we hop on the phone every once in a while to check in and make sure the client isn’t unhappy or rethinking their budget.

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No, as marketing professionals we have an obligation to be active stewards of account performance, reviewing and regularly evaluating a channel as dynamic (and costly) as paid search in an effort to drive down and stabilize the amount of money we’re spending for every lead.

Optimizing CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) in Google Ads doesn’t have to be a guessing game.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with some of the more common account optimization tactics—reviewing Search Terms reports and adding/excluding keywords, reviewing our CPC bids and ad schedules—but sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start, or know exactly how much we can do to truly impact our clients’ accounts and reduce CPA. The following checklist is process we use when attempting to trim down or optimize Google Ads accounts in an effort to ensure campaigns are humming along at maximum efficiency before further evaluating or making larger strategic adjustments.

 

The Google Ads CPA Optimization Checklist

1. Review Conversion Settings

You’d be surprised at just how many holes can be poked here. Be sure conversions are configured correctly, and ensure “soft,” behavioral-based conversions (visits to a page, how much time they’re spending on site) aren’t tracking against your CPA. That’s not to say don’t include “micro-conversions,” do so, absolutely—they can help Google’s AI optimize ad placement and bidding amounts.

  • Eliminate outdated Conversion clutter
  • Test key Conversion actions to be sure they are tracking properly
  • Do not count behavioral micro-activities toward Conversions
  • Do include (but don’t count) behavioral “micro-conversions” to train Google’s AI

Bonus: Google Tag Manager as a Marketing Tool

2. Evaluate Your Ads

It seems like every few months Google unveils a new ad type, in (beta) or otherwise. Recently, Google began recommend the addition of Responsive Search Ads to your paid marketing mix. This, with some other important tips, will ensure you’re not losing any budget to inefficiencies or shortcomings with your ads.

  • Create 3 Expanded Search Ads and at least 1 Responsive Ad per Ad Group
  • Remove any and all Disapproved ads, it’s not enough to simply pause them
  • Include at least 4 extension options for ads
  • Experiment with shorter copy in lieu of completely filling out expanded text ads
  • Use Title Case for headlines and descriptions as they generally perform better
  • Ensure your target keywords appear in your ads (I know, basic, right?)

3. Tend to Your Keywords

This is where the magic happens—these little guys are the things either costing you money or driving account performance. But where to start? Well, here are a few things you can do right out of the gate:

  • Pause keywords with a Quality Score < 3 and 0 Conversions
  • Pause keywords with only 1 click or fewer over the last 90 days
  • Sort Keywords by Cost/Conv. and consider pausing or editing most expensive
  • Pause keywords with no Quality Score rating that have been active for 30+ days

Bonus: Tips for Creating a Winning Keyword Strategy

4. Optimize Bid Adjustments

Google Ads makes it really easy to optimize your account based on a variety of criteria, including geolocation, day & time, device, and more. This is achieved with dynamic Bid Adjustments. Unfortunately, these don’t always play nice together—in fact, they stack. Are you paying too much?

  • Revert all bid adjustments to 0% to establish a fresh baseline
  • Review historical performance and change bid adjustments in 5% increments
  • Take advantage of all available time segments (time of day, week, etc.)
  • Remember that bid adjustments stack, so be careful they aren’t multiplying

5. Improve Those Landing Pages!

This is where many of us get into trouble. The landing page experience is arguably the most impactful way to improve account performance across the board.

Why? Well, Quality Score is one of the metrics that can directly influence how much you’re paying, how ads are displayed, and how visible your ads are against top competitors. And what has a significant impact on Quality Score? You guessed it, the landing page experience.

  • Install Google Optimize right away to unlock A/B testing capabilities
  • Install & Configure Autoptimize plugin to improve page speed on WordPress
  • Make Sure your landing page features the same language and keywords as ads
  • Review your mobile landing page experience on an actual mobile device
  • Make it crystal clear for users exactly what it is you want them to do

Bonus: Consider using a landing page builder to make your life easier.

And Whoomp! (There it is)

Following these handy, straight-forward guidelines will all but ensure you’re on the right path toward optimizing your clients’ ad spend and CPA.

Mastering Google Ads isn’t a perfect science, and with data flying at you from all sides driven by shifting consumer behaviors, it requires you to be on your toes at all times. But with the right foundation in place, you’ll be in a much better position to make important strategic decisions (and avoid excess expenditures).

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