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


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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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