The High CPL Audit Checklist: What Are You Missing?

The bulk of my accounts over the years have been lead generation, so optimizing accounts to reduce CPL is a task I’m well acquainted with. There are so many parts to a PPC account that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start, and sometimes even more difficult to make sure you’ve reviewed every element you can for optimizations. So, I thought it’d be helpful to compile my audit checklist so that you (and I!) can have it all in one place.

Where to Begin

If you’ve seen a sudden spike in CPL I’d recommend you first check for broken URLs. Additionally, if you’ve recently set up a landing page test I’d recommend you check those results. After that, you’ll want to identify which campaigns are above goal CPL by simply sorting them by CPL on the Campaigns tab. If none of your campaigns are overall above CPL goal then you can drill down to the Ad Group level. Once you identify the problem campaigns or ad groups you can work through the following checklist.

√ Channel Performance: If you have a campaign in both Google and Bing, for example, and one channel is much more efficient then consider reallocating budget to the better performing channel if it is losing out on impression share due to budget. I also like to review the better performing channel’s campaign for top-performing keywords/ad groups/geos and ensure these are present in the less efficient channel’s campaign.

 √ Network Performance: If your campaigns are opted into Search and Search Partners make sure Search Partner performance isn’t dragging down the campaign; just segment by Network (with search partners) and review performance from the Campaigns tab. If the campaign is losing Impression Share due to budget on Google Search and Search Partner CPL is significantly higher, you’ll especially want to considering removing Search Partners and allowing that budget to be allocated to Google Search. It’s a similar story for a ‘Search Network with Display Select’ campaign; however, if the Display network is performing significantly better or worse then I’d recommend pulling Display out into its own campaign so that you can control how much budget is allocated there.

 √ Device Performance: Is Mobile CPL below goal and in a low average position? Add a positive mobile bid modifier to help those ads get more mobile exposure. On the flip side, if Mobile CPL is above goal then add a negative modifier to help reduce Mobile spend. (And, in the hopefully near future, you can also include Desktop and Tablets in this analysis. Yay!)

√ Top vs. other performance: This is an especially important element to review with the rollout of the removal of sidebar ads. If performance is substantially better in one section or another then consider adjusting bids accordingly.

 √ Day Parting: Are there high CPL hours that you should add negative modifiers to? Are there low CPL, low average position hours that you should add positive modifiers to? I usually start by reviewing performance by ‘Hour and day of the week,’ on the Ad schedule tab, to get the most granular view first. If nothing stands out there, then I’ll jump to the Dimensions tab and review performance by Hour of day. If still nothing stands out then I’ll review performance by Day of the week.

 √ Geographic Performance: See if there are certain geographic areas that are simply too inefficient and add negative bid modifiers, or if there are low CPL, low average position locations then considering adding positive bid modifiers. My general rule of thumb is to start optimizations granularly and then work outward, so in reviewing Geo I normally start with zip codes and if nothing stands out, then I move to city, then Metro and Region if needed.

√ Keyword Performance: There are a few different routes you can take in optimizing high CPL keywords:

  • Reduce the bid: if the CPL isn’t too far above goal and the keyword is in a high average position then this is a good route to go.
  • Pause the keyword: if CPL is significantly above goal and has been for a good amount of time then this may be a good route to go.
  • Review search terms for the keyword: if CPL isn’t too far above goal or has just recently spiked then I’d recommend reviewing the search terms for that specific keyword and adding negatives as needed.
  • Test other match types: if other match types aren’t present I’d recommend testing those before calling it quits on the term altogether.

√ SQR Review: Haven’t reviewed a search terms report in awhile? Adding negatives is an easy way to help filter out irrelevant traffic and reduce CPL.

√ Landing Page Performance: As I previously mentioned – do you have a landing page test running that needs some review? Or maybe the page you’re using has sustained a high bounce rate and it’s time to look for another option. Whatever the situation may be, don’t neglect the landing page.


Display Network specific opts:

√ Placements: If you’re running a Display campaign be sure to audit placements regularly and make exclusions as needed.

√ Demographics: Review demographic performance if enough data is available – there may be a gender, age bracket, or even parental status that is not performing well and needs to have a bid reduced or be excluded altogether.

√ Image vs. Text Ads: I recommend testing both Image and Text ads to see which provide the most efficient performance. Additionally, Display Network campaigns are high volume so you should conduct ad reviews regularly.

Is there something I missed? Where else do you look in an account (or outside of it) for causes to high CPAs? Add it in the comments section below!