PPC Streamcap – Inheriting & Improving PPC Accounts

This week, we had guest host Luke Alley (@LukeAlley) with a good set of questions on this week’s pay-per-click topic “Inheriting & Improving PPC Accounts”. The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: When inheriting an account, do you prefer to create an account from scratch or reorganize an existing account? Or part of both?

  • Scratch! That way, there are no excuses. Use old acct for inspiration, but the new one is mine mine mine. – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
  • Like to reorganize, but most often am building a better and more solid from scratch. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Start from scratch but modeled off an existing account. Too easy to forget to update or change something if copied. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy) +
  • Depends on the account. If it’s set up logically and running well, just keep building. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Prefer mostly from scratch to giver personal touch but if it’s humming along why change? – Andy Groller (@AndyGroller)
  • Mostly from scratch while incorporating what has worked into the account. – Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
    • Bad if its a comp. area – click costs can be back up for a while. Gg have told us no point, they remember URL history. – Rachel Cassidy (@RachelCassidy85)
  • If it’s a complete mess, it’s always best starting from scratch, you could be leaving issues behind otherwise. – Andrew Baker (@SEOEdinburgh)
  • Like Michelle said, if it has organization I like would build off that. Usually find I’m creating more adgroups, etc. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
  • Scratch. Everyone puts their own stamp on account. – Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield) +
  • Scratch separates your performance from the last specialist (or non-specialist) so important in showing performance changes. – Andy Groller
    • Easier to justify to clients. – James Svoboda
  • Always good to have data and history to analyze moving forward. – James Svoboda
  • I try not to scrap work that has been done for me before I get there. (Kws, ad copy, bidding, etc.). – Michelle Morgan
  • Start frm scratch – since existing accounts have that historical data, I don’t mind reorganizing & building off what they have. Cassandra McClure (@imcassy)
  • Depends on the QS of the existing account. If it’s good, I reorganize; if it’s bad, start from scratch. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
    • QS is a big factor I think. We’ll hit on that soon. – Luke Alley
  • I prefer to start from scratch. Usually the old stuff is a mess anyway. – John Lavin (@johnnyjetfan)
  • We have our personal way of working with ppc accounts. I always move the structure, keywords to do our work more confortable. – Rafa Jimenez (@Rafa_Jimenez)
  • I aggree with Michelle, Depends on the account. If it’s set up logically and running well, just keep building. – Claire Remmetter (@cremmetter)
  • Start from scratch but massage top-performing ads, keywords, etc from old campaigns into new one. Also need buy-in from client. – Aaron Putnam (@aaronputnam)
  • Q1.1: How do you make sure you don’t leave anything relevant out from previous setup? Especially keywords… – Luke Alley
    • Good detailed analysis, that’s what we do. – Andrew Baker
    • Run an all time search query report. If it it converted (at a good CPA), it’s eligible for my new account. – Aaron Levy ++
    • Excel! – James Svoboda +
    • Analyze until you can’t analyze no more! – Andy Groller
    • F/U – Documented successful processes and keyword lists (including negatives). – Nicole Mintiens
    • SQ reports, placement reports, network analysis – get into the details. – Harris Neifield

Q2: How do you handle an inherited account with very low Quality Scores from poor management?

  • Scrap it and start over! – Melissa Mackey ++++
    • Takes less time to just start over then to look over it all over. – John Lavin
    • I’m on board w/ starting fresh. – Cassie Allinger (@_CassieLee_)
  • Structure is usually the problem so very, very small ad groups & very keyword heavy ads help immediately. – Andy Groller
  • Analyze keywords, search queries, ads, bids and dimensions and then analyze them again after revision. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Take the good from the account (KWs & ads that are working), glean neg KWs, and start over. – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
  • Boost that click-through rate (i.e. restructure, more granular ads, SQ’s). Double check the landing pages too. – Aaron Levy +
  • Build new campaigns from scratch. – James Svoboda
  • Make substantial changes and upload as new campaigns. Won’t get rid of account QS but should help. – Harris Neifield
  • I would also recommend new landing pages for a poor QS account. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • If QS is really bad, use new landing pages and start with just branded terms to build a good QS. – Melissa Mackey ++
  • If the QS is poor, the account is based on flawed foundations – get rid of it but use it as a guide of how not to do it. – Andrew Baker
  • Keep in mind your also fighting the overall keyword performance across all advertisers in QS so may need to work that much harder. – Andy Groller
    • A good reason to start off with some core KWs to get a good starting QS. – Andrew Baker
  • I think it’s safe to say that inheriting a bad account is a huge amount of work. – Michelle Morgan +
  • One of my best ever accts started as an inherited acct w/ horrid past performance, CTRs, convs, QS’s. Everything. There is hope. – Cassie Allinger
  • Regardless of my QS, if my ROI is strong, i sleep well! – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos) +
  • Q2.1: What is considered "really bad QS" meriting new landing pages, etc? – Luke Alley
    • Anything less than 3 is "really bad". – Andy Groller
      • True, but anything =<5 has room to grow. – Aaron Levy
    • QS<4. – Robert Brady
    • "Really bad QS" depends on the potential of the kw. If it sucks, 4. If it’s a good kw but poorly managed. I’ll optimize anything. – Michelle Morgan
    • Depends on competition for each KW. 1 & 2 Word Keywords a 4-6 QS might be average, and 1-3 QS poor. – James Svoboda
    • Anything below a 3 is really bad but anything below a 5 needs some work. – PurePPCCom (@pureppccom) ++
    • QS is relative because you can usually do better. It’s really bad when it’s taking you off the first page. – Harris Neifield
    • Raise the bar peeps. anything below a 7 needs work in my book. true story. – James Zolman (@jameszol) ++
      • Prioritization needed though. – Andy Groller ++

Q3: What is the most common mistake you see made in PPC accounts?

  • No Negatives! – Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
  • Waaaay too many broad match keywords. – Michelle Morgan +
  • No negative keywords!! – PurePPCCom +++
  • 2 words: broad match. – Neil Sorenson
  • TERRIBLE structure and no keywords. – John Lavin +
  • Lumping all networks in 1 campaign, 1 huge ad group, no negatives, all broad match… shall I continue? – Andy Groller +
  • Used to be opting into content, now I see device targeting a ton. – Aaron Levy
  • Not doing research, just choosing what they think will work. – Claire Remmetter
  • Sending all traffic to the home page. – Melissa Mackey +
  • Lack of negatives & too much reliance on broad match (not modified). – Andrew Baker
  • Over-reliance on broad match. – Josh Summerhays (@JoshSummerhays) +
  • 1 campaign, with ad groups that dont follow themes, have too many broad match and 1 ad/group. – Chris Kostecki
  • No conversion tracking. – Melissa Mackey +
  • Too many Broad match, no negatives, adtexts without call to action, single keywords, – Rafa Jiminez
  • Broad match w/o negatives. – Robert Brady +
    • Fatal Combo! – James Svoboda
  • Continually spending money on KWs that don’t convert, once you know it sucks, get rid of it! – Eric Farmer (@click_eric)
  • Not using ad extensions. They’re free to use people! – Andy Groller
  • I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of common mistakes! – Claire Remmetter ++
  • Funny a lot of ppl saying no negatives. isnt that 101? – John Lavin
  • Broad matched KWs "similar" themed KWs… i.e. sells hot dogs and advertises on hamburgers b/c they are similar. – Luke Alley
  • Conversion tracking in general and specifically on adcenter – improper management of search partners. – Harris Neifield
  • Tons of effort, organization, optimization … And no goals. – Cassie Allinger
  • How about we just say it: Google Builds. – Chris Kostecki +++++
  • Google pushes AdWords as super easy for anyone. And it once was. Now…not so much. – Robert Brady ++
  • I had a client that sold home playground equipment and was bidding on the term "walmart." nuff said. – Neil Sorenson
  • One that always gets my goat – not linking AdWords cost source to Analytics. – Andrew Baker +
  • Also, display and search in the same ad group. Probs because Google *warns* you that your ads won’t show on display network. – Michelle Morgan
  • Common mistake: Google Assistant helped me to create the account. – Rafa Jiminez
  • The answers to Q3 go to show how complicated Adwords can be. Sooo many "basics" to setting up PPC accounts. – Luke Alley +

While there are very many “basics” to setting up a PPC Account, the most common mistakes, overwhelmingly, are: not using negative keywords, and using UNmodified broad match keywords. – Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)

Q4: What do you use for organizing keywords and adgroups? i.e. Excel, Adwords Editor, sticky notes?

  • Excel is still my favorite. Each tab is an adgroup. – Mark Kennedy
  • Multiple Excel pages. – John Lavin
  • Excel, excel, excel! – Matt Umbro
  • Both editor and excel. Can anyone do PPC without either?? – PurePPCCom
  • Excel = a ppc manager’s best friend. – Michelle Morgan +
  • Combo of Excel & Editor, but usually excel to start. – Andy Groller
  • AdWords Editor and Excel are my 2 most used PC Tools. – James Svoboda
  • Excel Excel Excel. – Nicole Mintiens
  • AW Editor. Like the flexibility to drag and drop stuff until I’m happy with it. – Josh Summerhays
  • Excel, and then Editor for setup. – Melissa Mackey
  • Excel; I want volume estimates in front of me so I get big keywords isolated. Find-Replace, then change the fill color. My favorite sorting technique. – Aaron Levy
  • Excel all day long! I’ve created some pretty powerful campaign builders within excel. – Chris Kostecki
  • AdWords editor & Excel & lots of coffee. – Andrew Baker
  • I use filters in Excel all the time for ad group organization. – Melissa Mackey
  • Adwords Editor all the way! Along with an Excel master spreadsheet. – Eric Farmer
  • Excel for analyzing them & creating reports, Editor for organizing. – Claire Remmetter
  • Excel + AdWords Editor = Win. – Robert Brady
  • What? No one mentioning adCenter Desktop? – Andy Groller
  • Mostly always Excel, & sometimes the use of VB/Macros depending on the size of the account. – Peter Gould (@PeterGould83)
  • Whoever developed the vlookup function should be knighted. – Andrew Baker +
  • Adwords Editor for quick stuff, Excel with "contains" filters for the big overhauls. – Rick Galan (@RickGalan) +
  • Q4.1: Hearing lots of Excel and some AE. What’s your favorite Excel "trick" for organizing your accounts? – Luke Alley
    • Color coding text & cell background and conditional formatting FTW! – James Svoboda
    • Best Excel use, building up lists of terms then permutating kw lists (concatenate), using specifc seed columns as ad groups. – Chris Kostecki
  • Q4.2: What’s your best tip for organizing KWs, adgroups, etc? – Luke Alley
    • I try to do it by theme by user intent. Figure out what the user would be looking for by KW & theme & group together. – Neil Sorenson +
    • Picking a main column to distinguish the ad groupings. – Chris Kostecki
    • Think about keyword spend and volume when organizing campaigns. you don’t want one word dominating the campaign budget. – Harris Neifield +
    • Start with Analyze your Campaign & Ad Group Names. Helps with structure and makes management quicker. – James Svoboda ++
      • I agree – the naming convention you use will make your life great or miserable.. start there, build structure. – Rick Galan +
    • In a very basic form: by Search Intent -> Then Slice by kw volume -> after some time by ROI #ppcchat But it’s always in motion. – Sergey Smirnov (@Smirnovi4)
    • Pick campaigns first, then organize ad groups by volume/logic. 1k monthly searches = own ad group. – Aaron Levy

Clearly a PPC Manager can not do without Excel OR AdWords Editor. If you don’t have both, you may as well change your career field! – Paul Kragthorpe

Q5: How much time do you take to reorganize or create a new PPC account?

  • As much time as it takes. Always different. – Mark Kennedy
  • Totally depends on the client & scope of campaign. Some take an hour, some take 8 hours. – Melissa Mackey
  • As an In-house PPC depends on the volume of the campaign – but normally several weeks of deep research and work. – Sergey Smirnov
  • As much as is needed to do a good job. – Harris Neifield
  • It’s worth it to take the time to set it up right, even if it takes longer than budgeted / billed. – Melissa Mackey ++
  • As much time as needed. Successful/fast start shows you know what you’re doing. – Andy Groller
  • Depends on how much the client is paying me. – Eric Farmer +
  • Too much depends on the industry, the account size, and competitors for me to generalize. – John Lavin
  • Kind of impossible to answer.. depends on the size/complexity of the client. As long as it takes. – Rick Galan
  • More work now = less work down the line. I’d rather build a house on a solid foundation than prop it up later. – Aaron Levy +++++
  • Depends on client’s monthly hourly allotment (budget). Always put more into restructure/rebuild. – James Svoboda
  • With the in-house campaigns I just inherited, at least a few weeks. Gotta do it right. – Josh Summerhays
  • That really depends on the size of the account or market place, but it can take a few hours or a few days. – Andrew Baker
  • Q5.1: How much time do you devote to research? – Luke Alley
    • Research is backbone of success so again, as long as needed. – Andy Groller
    • Mos def – detailed careful analysis & research will provide solid foundations for the account – essential. – Andrew Baker
    • I build campaigns for Discovery as well as Conversions. – James Svoboda
    • Research is ongoing, but critical to a successful campaign start. – Melissa Mackey
    • I tend to stop at the point when I understand the product and can guess what new vs experienced user would search for. – Sergey Smirnov

Q6: Do you discuss changes you want to make with the client(or management) before you make the changes?

  • What kind of changes are we talking? – Cassie Allinger
    • Anything really. Perhaps in the context of inheriting an account. – Luke Alley
  • I’d rather ask for forgiveness than ask permission. – Neil Sorenson +
  • Yes, a discovery meeting is crucial. Learn the goals and discuss the new or improved strategies. – Mark Kennedy
  • Depends on level of change. If it’s keyword bid or ad adjustments, then no. Don’t bog them down with minute details. – Andy Groller
  • I do not, unless it involves big spend changes. – Sergey Smirnov
  • Always. Want the client to know how we think/work + build a relationship/trust. Plus, we don’t know everything! – Aaron Levy +
  • Not really. I think most expect bigtime changes. – John Lavin
  • Ad copy has to run through legal sometimes…and trademark bidding. – James Zolman
  • Not usually, unless way outside of the strategic plan or needing onsite/LP assistance. – James Svoboda +
  • At a high level, yes, so all are on the same page wrt goals & expectations. Details like match types & specific ad groups, no. – Melissa Mackey
  • Assuming the client gives full access, I look at the KW’s with the highest CPC first. – Michael McEuen (@lonohead)
  • Only if it’s a business decision such as promotions or Landing Page changes. – Andrew Baker
  • Not always, the client expects us to be the expert. Asking their opinion can negate that. Show them results. – Nicole Mintiens +
  • I never discuss the changes. Too many people with ppc knowledge thinking at the same time. Landing pages of course yes. – Rafa Jiminez
  • Yes, give an overview of proposed changes, show the benefits, explain why, then make them happen. – Michelle Morgan
  • Goes back to past discussions about we were hired to be the experts so unless its complete 180 it’s our call for most part. – Andy Groller
  • For anything substantial yes. The client needs to understand what you’re doing for them. If I’m changing a bid by 2 cents, no. – Harris Neifield
  • Most clients don’t know jack about PPC, they don’t even need to know details just that it’s making them money. – Eric Farmer
  • Maybe the reason they left the old agency was lack of communication, so better to let them tell me if they don’t need to know. – Mark Kennedy
  • Clients may not know (or care) about ppc, but they do know their business better than we do. – Aaron Levy ++
  • Small stuff? No In terms of goals, targeting, strategy, I always talk to clients. A little hand holding goes a long way. – Cassie Allinger
  • Sometimes (certain clients) need to be informed of everything and quite often offer unsuggestions. – James Svoboda
  • Prep the client for adjustments upfront, make them as needed. Changes to me are bigger shifts & need approval/ buy-in. – Aaron Weiche (@AaronWeiche)
  • I try to avoid getting into too much detail. Keep it high level. – Robert Brady
  • I think we all agree: large stuff=Yes. Small stuff = Typically No. – Andy Groller ++
  • I often consider it my job to protect clients from themselves. – James Svoboda +++++
  • I recommend reorg/new PPC acct over phases- i create a "campaign wireframe" for client & typically start w/TM. – Emily Las (@emlas)
  • I always ask what kind of reporting/communication clients prefer to receive. Find out expectations first thing. – Luke Alley

Q7: How do you report changes you have made to the client?

  • Within reports unless it warrants an immediate email or call due to its significance. – Andy Groller
  • I show them results (in reports). And not all changes need to be reported; some are too small to be worth mentioning. – Melissa Mackey +
  • Full report for what is relevant, but some like calls and basecamp as well. – Mark Kennedy
  • Simple, high-level changes and production notes in monthly reports that we can discuss in detail if necessary. – James Svoboda
  • Send weekly reports – put the changes in the message and the stats in the report. schedule calls to discuss big changes. – Harris Neifield
  • Not all changes are worth mentioning to clients. We discuss big ones usually over the phone. – PurePPCCom
  • Monthly formal reporting unless immediate response is required, then email / Basecamp. – Andrew Baker
  • Monthly and/or quarterly (depending on client size) campaign reports and phone calls along with budget reviews/recommendations. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Place Annotations within their GA profile to explain shifts in data for Strategy Review meetings. – Cassandra McClure +
    • I wish Annotations were in AdWords for clients to see. – James Svoboda ++
      • That is a great call– annotations would be an amazing addition to adwords. – Emily Las
  • I often pull an account summary from Editor, but always pair it with an overview to explain the back story. – Michael McEuen
  • Reporting changes in PPC acct to clients is key. always keep paper trail! Optimization log in excel works well. – Emily Las +
  • A bigger PPC budget prob requires at least weekly reporting, with smaller budgets, monthly is fine. – Eric Farmer
  • Q7.1: What does everyone use for reporting? 3rd party, Excel, Word?
    – Luke Alley

    • Usually Excel. – PurePPCCom
    • Excel, PPT, proprietary system. – Melissa Mackey
    • Excel with email explanation. – Mark Kennedy
    • We have a proprietary system at my company, so between that and excel. – Claire Remmetter
    • I really like Acquisio’s custom reports & excel inserts with explanations & insights. – Michael McEuen
    • Excel … or in the past a proprietary system. – Cassie Allinger
    • Word, Excel, Screenshots, a compilation of them, etc – which ever tells the story & is most transparent for the client. – Cassandra McClure
    • Excel, Email, Some Automates Analtyics reports, Word/PDF sometimes, Big sticky notes. – James Svoboda

Resources

Google AdWords Editor (version as of today’s PPCChat 9.5.1)

More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.

Also, check out the next #PPCSpeak on Tuesday Nights at 9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific.

Participants

Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

About the Author

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe, Search Manager at WebRanking in Eden Prairie, MN, #PPCChat Streamcap putterer togetherer, rarely an seo blogger, SEO Padawan, Tweeterer @PaulKragthorpe, and Google+’er PaulKragthorpe.

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