How do audit a company’s performance marketing campaigns
Paid media needs a lot more than just tweaks for optimal results. We cover what should be investigated during a performance marketing audit and how to act on your learnings.
Why audit your performance marketing in the first place?
Paid media is the activity that receives the biggest share of marketing budget—an average of 25%, according to Gartner. Minor optimisations to performance marketing campaigns, like a decrease in CPC or an increase in CVR, can lead to a significant positive impact in new user revenue.
That alone already makes it shortsighted to launch campaigns and do only tweaks for a long time (and what’s long will depend on your budget). But there’s further complexity: ad platforms and measurement are going to major changes due to competition and a privacy-first vision.
A performance marketing audit is a revenue-generating activity that goes beyond tweaks. It identifies the opportunities that have the biggest impact on your ROI and sets your campaigns for long-term success.
This isn’t my first article on paid media, and it won’t be the last:
What should you have in your hands at the end of your audit?
The audit is a comprehensive review of your paid media efforts, ensuring everything's in order and running smoothly. All the different assets from your performance campaigns (audiences, creatives, tracking, etc) should be assessed.
At the end, you will have identified optimisations, uncovered new opportunities (that can be validated with paid tests), and set a roadmap of changes based on their estimated ROI impact.
Marketing audits also bring an added benefit: creative juices. When marketers are involved in analysis, they connect certain dots for the first time and come up with brand new data-driven ideas.
When and how often should you audit your performance marketing?
When you spend on paid media, it’s worthwhile to perform audits with a certain cadence. In most cases, once a year is plenty, since you should also factor in the time to execute on the roadmap. However, there are signals that indicate that time is now:
1. Inability to measure (certain) strategies
If you’re executing activities you can’t directly attribute (brand awareness) or activities that are not 100% incremental (brand search) and have no way of measuring them, it’s time to take your foot off the pedal and assess.
2. Rising Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA)
A sudden or gradual increase in CPA can indicate underlying issues that need to be addressed. An audit can help identify the root causes and provide solutions to bring costs back in line.
3. Stagnant Growth Despite Adequate Budget
If you're investing in your campaigns but not seeing the expected growth being reflected overall in the business, it's a sign that something might be off. An audit could set you an incrementality testing cadence.
4. Increase in Budget or Marketing Targets
Significant changes in your budget or marketing targets should prompt a checkup. Some strategies have a limit on how far they can scale (paid search) so you need to be strategic about budget allocation.
5. Big Budget Changes Triggered by Business Events
If your company has closed a funding round and wants to double its acquisition, or if they want to expand to a new audience, launch a new product, etc— then it's time for an audit! These significant changes require a fresh look at everything that has been done.
6. Change in Personnel or New Leadership
A change in your marketing team, like hiring a new agency, or bringing in new leadership, often means a shift in strategy. An audit ensures that you set up campaigns in a way that reflects the new direction and with the best practices you’ve learned along the way.
7. Shift in Strategy or Regular Strategy Plan
A change in overall business strategy or the implementation of a regular strategy plan (such as a yearly strategy) is an opportune time to conduct an audit. It ensures that your marketing efforts are in sync with the broader business goals.
8. Addressing Continuous Measurement Errors:
If your tracking errors are kicking your campaigns back into learning periods or stopping you from reporting accurately, it’s worth reviewing your marketing analytics structure.
9. Identifying New Strategies When Underspending or Underpacing:
If you find your campaigns are underspending or not keeping up with the desired pace, it might be time to devise new strategies. An audit can help pinpoint areas of opportunity and guide the way forward.
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Under the Hood: What to Look at in Performance Marketing Audits
Let's take a look at the key areas to examine during a paid media audit:
1. Platforms and Budget
Identify Your Best-Performing Platforms: Analyse the platforms that are delivering the best results. Did you run tests? What were the outcomes? Assess strategies you have employed and how the budget might change going forward.
Budget Allocation: Where are you spending money, and how much are you allocating to each platform? Understand the role each platform plays in your budget. Evaluate your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) for different platforms and the strategies running (e.g., using YouTube for awareness and search for conversion).
Test Analysis: Review what you have tested already, such as specific platforms, audiences strategies or creatives. This analysis will guide your future roadmap and help in budget approval. This shouldn’t replace your testing roadmap.
2. Audiences and Targeting
Performance Analysis: Determine which audiences are performing best. Have you tested different Lookalike Audience sizes? How often are they refreshed? From what sources do they come from? Are you excluding users that have already converted or are unlikely to convert?
Strategic Insights: As you check what’s running, you may uncover areas for improvement. Analyse signals like CTR, CPC, and CAC to understand the strategy's suitability.
Audience Targeting: Ensure that you are using all kinds of audiences available, including lookalike audiences. Balance scale and efficiency and ensure proper targeting and exclusion practices.
Keyword Targeting: Are you targeting brand, competitor, intent-based keywords? How are keywords grouped? Also assess if the copy and landing pages are aligned with the keywords. Consider broad and exact match, phrase match, and other targeting strategies.
Efficiency Analysis: Ensure that you are excluding non-converting keywords or keywords with high CAC. Test different types of keywords and max out spend on the ones with the most efficient CAC.
Impression Share: Analyse if you have 100% impression share (or top of page) on your most valuable search terms or brand terms. Consider different bidding strategies to achieve your goal.
4. Creatives / Copy
Creative Review: Assess the types of creatives used and the copy's effectiveness. When were the creatives last refreshed? Do they match the audience or keywords being targeted? Are you using a variety of creative types (videos, static)? Is the CTA clear?
Impact Analysis: Refer to studies to understand the creatives' impact on performance. Evaluate if your creative connects both the audience and the landing page.
Best Practices: Search for variety, a cohesive story, and adhere to best practices. Consider adding ratings or pricing to enhance CTR.
5. Landing Pages
Alignment with Creatives: Ensure that landing pages match creatives and ad copy. Assess if there are specific pages for different funnel stages, personas, or use cases.
Programmatic Landing Pages: Consider building programmatic landing pages, especially if you have a lot of keywords. Examples from companies like Airbnb and TripAdvisor can guide you.
Ad Platform Pixels: Ensure that ad pixels are being used correctly, whether firing from the server side or the front end. Consider server-side API tracking for privacy concerns or improved attribution. If the majority of your challenges revolve around these tracking aspects, it might be worth considering a marketing analytics audit.
Indirect conversions: Are you able to measure the impact that your awareness initiatives have new user revenue? It could be worth investigating MMM studies, MMM tools, incremental tests or a brand tracker.
UTM Usage: Assess how UTMs are being used and where there's automatic tagging turned on. Ensure proper naming conventions are being used to enable granularity.
Data Connection: With different sources of data, ensure that you can connect the dots. Are you able to join your first party data (Segment, Snowplow, etc) with your ad server and your ad platform?
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Crafting the Roadmap: From Audit to Action
The insights from a Performance Marketing audit are not just for reflection but for action. Here's how you can translate those insights into a robust action plan:
1. Best Practice Optimisations
These are the activities that can be implemented quickly and have (near) zero risk of decreasing the performance of the campaigns. Here's how to approach them:
Immediate Implementation: Identify changes that align with best practices and can be implemented without testing. These might include minor adjustments to ad copy, targeting refinements, or landing page tweaks.
Framing as Tests: If you're considering changing something that's already working, frame it as a test. This way, you can measure the impact without risking existing success.
Monitoring Impact: Keep a close eye on these changes to ensure they are enhancing performance as expected.
2. Campaign Restructuring
This is a more complex and strategic part of the action plan that might involve:
Taxonomy Review: Assess if the current structure of your campaigns allows for the reporting and control you need. If not, restructuring may be necessary.
Spend Control: Implement mechanisms to control how much you spend on certain keywords or audiences. This ensures that your budget aligns with your strategic goals.
Timing Considerations: Remember, restructuring is a significant undertaking that can temporarily harm campaign results as it will kick campaign back into learning periods. It should be done infrequently and paired with major changes or after a thorough audit.
Collaboration with Stakeholders: Engage with various teams within your organisation to ensure that restructuring aligns with overall business goals and that everyone is on board with the changes.
3. Test Ideas or Hypotheses to Validate
This part of the plan involves exploring new ideas for audiences, platforms, creatives, or landing pages:
Controlled Testing: Approach new ideas with controlled testing to see how they work before rolling them out to your campaigns.
Documentation: Keep detailed records of what you're testing, why, and the results. This will help in future decision-making and ensure that learnings are captured.
Iterative Learning: Use the results of these tests to continually refine and expand your strategies, embracing a culture of continuous improvement.
The Unseen Catalyst of Your Marketing Success
Think of a Performance Marketing audit as the master key to your marketing treasure chest. It's not just a routine check or a mundane task; it's a strategic endeavour that uncovers the goldmine within your campaigns. From platforms to creatives, from keywords to tracking, it's a comprehensive exploration that reveals where you're winning and where you could win even more.
But the magic doesn't stop at discovery. The real enchantment lies in turning those insights into a robust action plan. It's about crafting a roadmap that's tailored to your unique landscape, one that turns challenges into opportunities, and potentials into profits.
Whether you're navigating the turbulent waters of rising costs or steering through the exciting winds of change in leadership or budget, an audit is your compass. It's a dynamic tool that evolves with your business, ensuring that your marketing sails are always set in the direction of success.
Interested in getting started on your own performance marketing audit? Then book a consultation call: