The difference between good PPC management and bad PPC management

Essentially good PPC management and bad PPC management comes down to four things; intelligence, experience, ethics and hard work. In this blog post I’m going to give some examples of good and bad PPC management that I’ve come across.

The “I panic and make stupid changes” account manager

I white label my services for one of the biggest digital marketing agencies in Australia. They employ about 30 or 40 staff, of which 7 are PPC based. Despite having a big team the agency outsources management of their biggest account to me. I’ve had the account for about two years and in general every month has seen an increase in leads on the previous month and a reduced CPA. This month I noticed quite early on that impressions had dropped massively and we were struggling to spend our daily budget. This was obviously spotted by other companies too and day by day the CPC in the market began to rise and our average positions began to drop. Everyone was becoming more competitive to make up for the reduction in search volumes. I alerted the agency I work for and asked if they would be happy for me to go for an increased CPA so we can keep up with the change in the market. I chased this for several days until I woke up to an email where shit had hit the fan. The end client had noticed a decline in lead volumes and wanted something done about it immediately.

Because the client was angry and it was night time in the UK, the whole PPC team at the agency had a meeting and included their Google rep on a conference call to find a way on how to increase lead volumes quickly.

Between them they had decided to turn on enhanced CPC, they turned on Search Partners, increased bids massively to try to get the top spot position on all keywords and added in lots of ‘high volume, low relevancy’ keywords.

I have to say I was shocked when I woke up. I disagreed with everything they had explained to me in the email that they had done. When I looked at the account my doubts were confirmed. Our average CPA was around $22 – due to the changes the agency made, the CPA rose to $360!

Search Partners typically brings in poor quality traffic. Enhanced CPC works on data from the past 30 days so it wouldn’t be able to make informed decisions on the new bids that were in the account. More importantly I had previously turned enhanced CPC off because it was actually lowering our average positions. The agency believed it would increase bids by 30% to get a conversion but didn’t realise it also reduces bids by 30% if data shows you will convert better in a lower average position. This is why I had turned it off previously. It was lowering our bids and as such lead volumes and spend were being affected. My previous insights had found that we convert best in average position 2.9 but they pushed up bids to average position 1 and you should never have irrelevant keywords in an account.

I reversed all of their changes. Instead I worked on reducing the bids down to around average position 2.9 again. We had previously paused the Competitors campaign as we were spending budget easily in previous months and the Competitors campaign was bringing in a slightly higher CPA. I turned this on for increased volume. We had also concentrated the targeting of the account to just the major cities in Australia as we found the CPA to be lower there rather than Australia wide. I made targeting Australia wide again to increase search volumes and I also turned on a Gmail campaign that I had previously paused. The next day the CPA fell to around $40 and by the second day I had got it down to around $26. This is a slight increase on what I’ve achieved in previous months but is a great result in challenging market conditions and is massively better than the $360 the agency generated with the changes they made.

The agency were aware of all of the changes I had made previously and a good PPC person / team would have implemented the changes that I did.

The “I want to please the client” account manager

Another one of my agencies has a hairdressing client. When building the account I was told to target five main keywords around Hairdressing and target the whole of a big city. I will always do what a client wants but I’ll always advise against something if I don’t believe it’s being done right. From the outset I said that although the client wants to target those keywords they are too generic which will affect click through rate, Quality Score and conversion rate. In every single report I outlined that we need to change the way the account was set up. A few weeks ago the agency said that the hairdressing client was unhappy because they didn’t feel like they were getting a return on investment. I explained that I had said this since day dot and was given permission to change the account to how I wanted it.

I kept the generic keywords but made them a 2 mile radius around the hairdressers. I then did a national campaigns using location based terms.

Upon making those changes, in two days we had generated more online bookings than we had for the entire previous month. The hairdresser was delighted and we kept the account. Whilst you should always try to keep the client happy by doing what they want , you are being paid to advise them on what is right and what’s wrong. A good account manager will explain why what they would like to do is wrong and will suggest an alternative strategy. A bad account manager will just do whatever a client tells them.

The “I just look at Adwords” account manager

This example is from when I first started in PPC but it’s such a good example I still like to tell about it now. The agency that I used to work for before I went freelance had a client who wanted to generate Taxi insurance leads. The client was just about finished with PPC because they had given their account to all of the biggest agencies in the country and none of them could make it work. (I know the two agencies before me were Latitude and then All Response Media but they had been to about 10 agencies in total).

I looked at their account and from a set up perspective there was several things that could be improved but nothing stood out as majorly wrong. I then looked at the clients website and put through a test quote. One of the questions on their form was “How many seats does your taxi have?” and the options started from 6 upwards. Obviously most vehicles will have 4 or 5 seats. I alerted the client to this and overnight the conversion rate doubled, leads doubled, the cost per conversion halved and the campaign became a success.

A good PPC manager will look at the whole client journey and not just the PPC side of things.

The “lying” PPC account manager

A few years back now I had a client approach me on the website Elance (now called Upwork). They sold musical instruments. I looked at their website and immediately could tell it would never convert. It was laid out wrong, no confidence factors in place, there was a poor check out process and the design was awful. I explained to the guy that at the moment he will be wasting money if he does Adwords. I told him that I could create him the best Adwords campaigns in the world but if they land on a page like his they won’t convert. He explained to me that I was the only person who had said about this and because the 20 or 30 other people he was speaking to said the website would convert he ignored my advice. Six months down the line I received a message from the guy saying that he had tried 3 different freelancers that had promised him the world and couldn’t make the campaigns work. He begged me to work on his account but again I told him to improve his site. He ignored my advice for a second time. At the end of the year he messaged me to say that he had gone through 6 freelancers in total and had wasted over $80,000 on Adwords with very few sales. He was quite upset and said he was now willing to improve his website if I would take on the work. I politely declined but the moral of the story is to be careful who you trust.

The cheating PPC account manager

One of my clients sells a brand of kitchens called Hacker and were previously employing a PPC agency to manage their account. Because this guy doesn’t sell online, he tries to bring footfall to his shop. When he approached me he said he hadn’t seen any increase in visitors to his shop since he had started his PPC campaign the previous year. Upon reviewing the account I could see that the previous company were spending most of his budget on the brand phrase “Hacker” and had no negative keywords in the account. Because of this 99% of his traffic was related to Facebook Hacker, Gmail Hacker and so on. The client was saying they were bringing lots of traffic to his site but none of it was relevant.

I rebuilt his campaigns properly and added in a lot of negative keywords from his previous data. His cost per click shot up and his number of clicks went down massively but he was now getting relevant traffic to his site and as such he see’s good numbers of customers coming to his store after going to his site via Adwords.

Because the client wasn’t tracking conversions his previous PPC agency thought they could cheat him by saying they were sending lots of traffic to his site and cheaply. A good account manager knows 1 relevant visitor is worth 1,000 irrelevant visitors.

The lazy PPC account manager

I spend a lot of time on my builds. I do keyword research, negative keyword research, I read the clients website to come up with enticing ad text and I build out ad groups in a granular fashion. I regularly see accounts where an agency or PPC freelancer has built accounts with no negative keywords. From the outset the client wastes tons of budget due to this that a good PPC account manager wouldn’t let happen.

Accounts where I see minimal keyword research done annoys me because there may be great opportunities for the client to get extra leads or a lower CPA just by putting in a bit of effort.

The most annoying accounts I see though is where a campaign will only have one ad group with hundreds of keywords in it, or an account where there may be say 5 ad groups each with a huge keyword list in. A lot of the success of an Adwords account is down to the build. If the build is slap dash this will affect click through rate, Quality Score and conversion rates.

I’d say about 50% of accounts I see are ‘lazy’ builds.

It’s not just in the build stage. You need to look out for lazy PPC account managers full stop. I work on all of my accounts atleast once per week. I’ve seen accounts that haven’t been touched by their account managers in years and have seen others that are seeing some management but only the odd change every few months or weeks.

The stupid PPC account manager

A stupid PPC account manager can cost you tons of money. Recently I saw an account that is a completely online business but yet the keywords and ad groups the PPC account manager had built with revolved around “Near Me” and location based terms. The business is online. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that people looking for local keywords want to find someone local that they can buy a product. When I rebuilt the campaign to focus on online keywords and made location terms as negative keywords we saw a huge reduction in the cost per conversion.

I’ve also had an eCommerce client that sells handbags. The keywords his previous agency were bidding on were related to several brands the client has never sold. As you can imagine, this brought a ton of irrelevant traffic to the site. When I built targeting only keywords of brands he does sell, the account was transformed from an unsuccessful account to a successful one.

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