April 24, 2023
Case Study

Marketing Audits: Case studies about advertising, content, and SEO audits


It’s the hap-happiest time of the year…for CPAs. That’s right, last week was the tax deadline here in the US. When we all hope we don’t win a reverse lottery of sorts – an IRS audit.

But while the word audit may have negative connotations for you, it’s actually a pretty good idea…when it comes to your marketing at least. We could all use a comprehensive review of our marketing strategy and performance.

So to give you ideas for turning the auditor’s eye on your brand, read on for examples from a pet portrait artist, instant messaging app, and an accounting business.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Marketing Audits: Case studies about advertising, content, and SEO audits

This article was distributed in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

If you’d like to give your marketing funnel strategy a good audit, join us on Wednesdays for ChatGPT, CRO and AI: 40 Days to build a MECLABS SuperFunnel.

And read this article for ideas of other audits you can conduct for your brand:

  • Advertising audit – A pet portrait artist reduced PPC ad spend from 50% to 20% of revenue using better targeting and negative keywords.
  • Content audit – An instant messaging app conducted a content audit to optimize its content marketing strategy, discovered an opportunity to merge two articles to increase traffic and improve keyword rankings.
  • SEO audit – And what would an article about audits be without discussing accounting? But don’t worry, we won’t bore you with talk about EBIDTA and amortization. Instead, we look at an SEO audit for an accounting business.

Quick Case Study #1: CPC advertising audit pays off for pet portrait artist, lowering advertising costs by 70%

“When I got started in my pet portrait business, I didn't have any organic reach and had to rely heavily on PPC advertising through Google and other platforms,” said Zann Hemphill, Pet Portrait Artist, Paws By Zann Pet Portraits. Now, in year five, she spends less than 20% of her revenue on advertising and gets good results. Here is how she did it.

BEFORE – Get traffic at all costs (50% of revenue on advertising)

Hemphill was getting traffic and sales, but it was expensive. She spent 50% of her revenue on advertising in the first year. “My strategy was to get traffic at all costs, and I implemented all the automated suggestions from my Google Ads account, and my account manager,” Hemphill said.

She went for broad match keywords that would expand her audience and her reach. So as a pet portrait artist, that meant including keywords that covered why and when people might buy her art, like for gifts and anniversaries, or memorials.

In addition to bidding on ‘pet portraits’ and the like, she bid on keywords like ‘pet gifts,’ ‘pet memorials,’ and ‘pet Christmas.’ And it worked…sort of. She was getting that traffic, but she could hardly afford to keep spending half her revenue on advertising. Something needed to change.

At this point, she still included newsletter signups and other intermediate conversions in her conversion metrics. She also didn’t have very many negative keywords in her campaigns. But soon she realized that the people interested in her content and the people driving her bottom line didn't always overlap. “Despite constant urgings from Google to ‘expand my audience,’ it didn't make sense for me to keep buying traffic that wasn't converting,” Hemphill said.

AFTER – Keyword research to find the right motivations

To tighten up her campaigns, she got choosy about what metrics to pay attention to and which traffic to buy. She decided to only pay attention to conversions when someone bought from her, which weeded out a lot of junk, but didn't leave her with very much data to work with.

So, to learn more about her customers, she looked in the search terms area of Google Ads to find out what kind of search terms people were using to pull up her ads. “Google Ads allows you to look at the search terms people are using to find your site separately from your keywords,” Hemphill said.

This was really enlightening. Since she creates handmade oil paintings, she didn't have the word ‘photography’ in any of her keyword lists, but because she bought the keyword ‘pet portrait,’ people who were searching for pet portrait photographers were finding her stuff. And clicking it, which cost her money. And leaving.

She learned that the word ‘dog art’ was often searched for with ‘dog art download,’ ‘free dog art’ and ‘dog art screensaver’ – none of which were helpful. She also learned that she had been paying for traffic from people who wanted to learn, not buy. She found search terms like ‘how to draw pet portraits’ and ‘pet portrait art tutorial’ from her audit.

This was a lot of traffic she didn't want to pay for, so she started adding negative keywords. She added negative keywords for ‘photographer,’ ‘free,’ ‘download,’ ‘how to paint,’ ‘learn to paint,’ and lots of others that were attracting the wrong people.

After all these weeding out tactics, she decided she needed a better understanding of how people describe what they're looking for so she could attract more of the right traffic. For her, ‘pet portraits’ was an obvious choice, because that's what she does. But people often ask search engines questions, like ‘where can I find an artist to paint my pet,’ or ‘how much do custom pet portraits cost?’

Using bits of these questions as keywords, like 'custom pet portraits cost,’ has been successful. Through keyword research, she also learned that when people searched for pet portraits, if they didn't like the results, they would add qualifying words after. So, she would see weird phrases like ‘pet portraits paintings’ all the time. More often, in fact, than ‘pet portrait paintings.’ These unusual keywords were cheaper, too, so they helped bring her overall cost per click (CPC) down.

She started under-bidding on a lot of keywords, too. She found this stretched her budget further. Eventually, she was able to get her CPC firmly under $1.

One last thing she tried was a change to the ads themselves. Because she only pays when someone clicks her ad, not when they see it, she can further weed out the wrong type of traffic by being up-front about anything that might stop people from buying, like sticker shock. Even if she lands someone who wants to buy a pet portrait, there are plenty of people out there looking for pet portraits in the $10-$40 range, not the $600-$4,000 range she sells in.

So why not put that in her ads? She tried out an ad campaign that said ‘starting at $600’ right in the copy. As you can guess, it didn't get as many clicks. But the clicks it does get, those are very likely to buy from her. She is still trying this one out and gathering data is slow, but she has high hopes.

Creative Sample #1: Ad showing prices of animal portraits

Creative Sample #1: Ad showing prices of animal portraits

RESULTS – 20% of revenue spent on PPC advertising instead of 50%

After adding a lot of negative keywords to her campaigns and starting to use her customers’ own language to find better keywords, she finally had a good ROI on her PPC campaigns. She went from averaging $1,000 in sales per $500 spent on ads, to averaging approximately $2,000 on a $350 ad spend.

Her PPC click rate is still quite high, 5.56% to 16.67% (“I'm just super tightly targeted in a niche market,” she said) but what's really changed is her on-page conversion rate. It's gone from less than 0.5% to almost 3%, which has lowered her cost for getting a sale – and not because she made substantial changes to her website (that came later) but because she is finally buying the right traffic.

Her CPC has come down from $3 to under $1 and she spends less than 20% of her revenue on PPC advertising instead of 50%. She is happy with these returns.

“Don't just blindly follow ‘best practices’ when setting up a PPC campaign, get in your customers' heads! Look at what they're searching for in the search terms, not just your keywords, and make sure you actually want to be paying for those queries. If you don't, add negative keywords or remove keywords entirely. Don't be afraid to lose traffic and get specific. Instead of thinking ‘more’ when it comes to PPC, think ‘more efficient,’” Hemphill advises.

Quick Case Study #2: Instant messaging app conducts content audit, increases traffic for key article from 7,730 to 11,471

Brosix is a secure instant messaging app for business. The team conducted a content audit to optimize its content marketing strategy. This involved conducting keyword research, analyzing user behavior and feedback, and tracking metrics such as page views, bounce rates, and time on page to identify areas of improvement.

“We mostly used Ahrefs and Google Search Console to carry out our keyword research. Also, we used Google Analytics and Hotjar to track user behavior on the website and collect feedback through questionnaires and user testing in order to assess user behavior and feedback,” said Stefan Chekanov, Co-founder and CEO, Brosix.

BEFORE – Two articles cannibalizing keywords

The company had two articles that were targeting their best keywords – ‘best instant messaging tools’ and ‘what is instant messaging.’

After the content audit they found a problem – these two articles were cannibalizing keywords which were negatively impacting Brosix ranking in the SERPs. Because they had too many identical or similar keywords spread throughout the content of the articles, they ended up with two articles competing for which content would rank higher in the SERPs.

AFTER – Merging articles to avoid cannibalization

After they reviewed the SERP and articles that outranked them, they decided to merge the articles. It was a hard decision because there was a genuine risk that it could negatively impact their ranking.

“In order to make sure that the combined information met the needs of the target audience, our team did market research to identify their interests and pain areas. In order to comprehend the characteristics and habits of our readership, we also used Google Analytics,” Chekanov said.

The team had to align the tone and style of the two articles, making sure the merged material flows easily, and avoiding content duplication. “Our team used Grammarly to verify tone and style coherence and undertook numerous rounds of editing and rewriting to get over these obstacles,” Chekanov said.

The combined article ended up being more comprehensive and informative, providing a better user experience for readers who are searching for information on instant messaging and instant messaging tools. By having one high-quality article that targets their best keywords, the team was able to concentrate their efforts on promoting and optimizing a single article, rather than trying to maintain two separate articles. This saved time and resources, while still achieving the desired SEO results.

RESULTS – More traffic and referring domains

Merging the articles increased organic traffic – from an average of 7,730 per day to 11,471. It also increased referring domains from 115 to 158.

The change improved keyword rankings as well. “All of them went from the second page to the first page of Google!” Chekanov said.

Through this process, the team learned the importance of regularly auditing and optimizing their content to ensure that it is meeting the needs of their target audience and aligning with their SEO goals.  “A tip for businesses facing keyword cannibalization issues – I would recommend is using tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Google Search Console to track keyword rankings and optimize content for SEO,” Chekanov said.

Quick Case Study #3: Audit identifies SEO opportunities for accounting business, grows from single- to multi-page website and gets 166% more clicks from SERP

Halo Tax + Accounting is a small accounting firm in Sydney, Australia.

BEFORE: Struggling with local SEO and limited online presence 

"We were struggling to reach our local client base in Sydney's Eastern suburbs due to our limited online presence. Our single-page website and unoptimized Google Business Profile made it challenging for us to increase our visibility and attract new business through our online presence,” said Greg Bartels, Director, Halo Tax + Accounting.

Bartels wanted a local SEO search campaign targeting 29 suburbs between October 2021 and May 2022, with a goal to rank for the ’tax accountant in xxx’ keyword in those areas, and hired UR Digital.

The team began by auditing the existing website and Google Search Console and Analytics to understand their starting point and identify areas for improvement.

The audit identified specific areas for improvement:

  • Poor website structure: The website had a single-page structure, which made it difficult for search engines to crawl and index the website's content. The company only had a homepage, but was doing personal tax, company tax, SMSF, Corporate Secretarial, BAS Returns, and many other services. These services individually are super competitive with some of the larger companies targeting the same set of keywords like H&R Block, ITP, etc. 
  • Limited online presence: Halo Tax + Accounting had an unoptimized Google Business Profile, which limited its online visibility
  • Ineffective link profile: The website lacked high-quality backlinks.
  • Lack of keyword optimization: The website lacked targeted keywords that could improve its search engine ranking For example, there was no meta description. And the homepage title was just 'Halo Tax + Accounting'

The website had some technical challenges as well. "Images were uncompressed and were contributing to Pagespeed which is a ranking factor by Google since 2010," said Pulkit Agrawal, Founder and Managing Director, UR Digital.

Creative Sample #2: Accounting company homepage before

Creative Sample #2: Accounting company homepage before

AFTER: Standard Operating Procedures to optimize for search engines

UR Digital collaborated with Halo's web developers to streamline the implementation of SEO improvements. For example, while images were uncompressed before, the team wanted all images to be WebP Images with optimized filenames. So they provided a set of SOPs for the developers to execute the plan. The SOPs showed Halo’s web developers how to transform the single-page website into a multi-page site targeting relevant keywords.

SOP stands for ‘Standard Operating Procedure.’ It refers to a set of step-by-step instructions or guidelines that are followed to complete a specific task or process in a consistent and efficient manner. These SOPs included detailed instructions on how to add new pages to the website, optimize on-page elements such as headings, meta tags, and images, and incorporate relevant keywords throughout the site. For example, SOPs covered topics like:

  • Implement responsive design sitewide to ensure that the website is accessible and easy to navigate on any device.
  • Use logo, breadcrumb & organization-rich schema markup in the header to provide relevant information to search engines.
  • Minimize the use of plugins as much as possible to reduce the risk of security vulnerabilities and improve website speed.
  • Use the 'no follow' attribute for all external links except booking links to prevent search engines from following those links and potentially hurting the website's ranking.
  • Minify all code, including CSS and JS, to reduce the size of files and improve website speed.
  • Use only one H1 tag per page and nested headings across the web pages to ensure consistency and structure.
  • Use WebP format for all images with descriptive filenames and include width and height attributes to improve website speed and accessibility.
  • Use images that are appropriately sized to avoid resizing in the browser, and include a descriptive alt tag for all images except decorative images.
  • Use uniform full linking across the site with the full canonical URL in the head section to prevent duplicate content and improve website structure.
  • Stick to the site structure for page/site organisation as defined by the website's design to ensure consistency and ease of navigation.
  • Enable the sitemap on Yoast for better crawling and indexing by search engines.
  • Optimize page speed by lazy loading all images, displaying system fonts while web fonts are loading, including only the CSS and JS needed for each page, delivering critical CSS/JS inline, deferring the rest needed to render the page, and enabling HTTP/2.
  • Avoid layout shifts to prevent any sudden movement of elements on the page that may disrupt the user experience.
  • Use DNS pre-connect to required origins and lazy load any videos hosted or linked on the website.

To help optimize the firm's Google business profile, the team created a system in which the owner can reply to all the customer reviews.

The team also updated information on the website to include targeted keywords. For example, the homepage title was updated to 'Tax Accountant Sydney || Halo Tax + Accounting.'

And a meta description was added – 'Halo Tax + Accounting is your local accountant practice servicing Eastern Suburbs of Sydney including Vaucluse, Rose Bay, Darling Point, Double Bay, Point Piper, Woollahra, Paddington, Edgecliff, Woolloomooloo, Watsons Bay, Potts Point, Rushcutters Bay, Elizabeth Bay, Bellevue Hill, Waverley, and Bondi Junction.'

Creative Sample #3: New accounting company homepage

Creative Sample #3: New accounting company homepage

RESULTS – 1,100 local business searches

"Through targeted improvements, we were able to achieve first-page rankings on Google for all key relevant search terms,” Bartels said.

The team achieved the following results:

  • 76.5% of the traffic in the last quarter came from discovery searches. 
  • 1,100 local business searches in August. 
  • A significant increase in inbound inquiries from January 2022, with most new clients citing Google as the source. 
  • Over 5,000 Google Maps listing appearances and 400 actions were taken via their Google listing in the last three months, such as phone calls, website visits, or requests for directions to their office.
  • Expansion of Halo from a sole trader to a team of four. 

In addition, comparing the period of June 2021 to August 2021 to the same period in 2022, Halo experienced a 929% increase in total impressions and a 166% increase in total clicks from the SERP.

Related resources

A framework to assess an existing or new value proposition

The MECLABS Competitive Analysis Template

Value Sequencing: A step-by-step examination of a landing page that generated 638% more conversions

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions