PPC Chat Streamcap – Managing Larger PPC Accounts

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) hosted an enjoyable PPCChat with the theme of “Managing Larger PPC Accounts.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: How do you define a “large” PPC account? (in this question I would also consider client interaction)

  • Large can be defined by two things, number of keywords/ad groups/ads or spend. large could also be defined by how large your agency/team is. -Justin Freid (@Justin_Freid)
  • So many ways to define: spend, # of keywords, complexity. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • In a few ways: 1) spend or 2) number of accounts/channels being managed. – John Lee (@John_A_Lee)
  • It has to be scope. I have seen large spend accounts that are built around a few keywords. 1,000’s of ad groups is large scale. – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
  • Spend and the number of different search engines or PPC opportunities you’re using. -Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield)
  • I usually define by complexity. I’ve had large budgets that were fairly straightforward. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
    • They all seem to be getting complex these days. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
      • So true. Gone are the days of “simple” PPC. – Robert Brady
  • Number of AdGroups is generally a good measure. – Martin Rottgerding (@bloomarty)
  • # of campaigns, ad groups, channels & Platforms. – James Svoboda
  • I tend to take spend out of the equation. Size of your account (# of ad groups, keywords, text ads, etc) defines the complexity. – Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
  • I think keywords/audience amounts would be a good metric – spend can be misleading if your avg. CPC is high. – Shawn Livengood (@slivengood)
  • Anything that takes up more than 20% of my time is a large account to me. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
  • Sounds like ‘large’ is a fairly subjective thing. – Dennis Petretti (@Denetti)
  • A “large” account might only have 20 ad groups, but the copy is constantly changing to accommodate promotions, deals, etc. – Matt Umbro
  • Can definitely appreciate the agency time share perspective, having a dedicated in-house to manage the agency also qualifies. – Chris Kostecki
  • I’d distinguish between a large AdWords account and a large project… – Martin Rottgerding

Q2: What is your most difficult task when managing larger accounts and how do you overcome this challenge?

  • Volume of keywords and ads can be troubling. Utilizing a solid PPC management tool can help. – Justin Freid
  • For large-volume of clicks accounts – search query mining for negatives. – Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
  • Client expectations is the biggest task. Some think they’ll get instantaneous feedback because they are spending more. Not so! – Harris Neifield
  • Most recently, my biggest challenge has been communication. Handling the client. Also making sure that I’m getting the data I need when I need it. Use automated reports from @acquisio to help out. – John Lee
  • Forecasting, overcome by: custom segments, flexible goals, and constant monitoring and adjusting. – Chris Kostecki
  • I’d say time, specifically being able to constantly review keyword/ad copy performance and optimize. – Matt Umbro
  • Shifting Impressions/Clicks to higher performing segmented ad groups. Time consuming and very analytical. – James Svoboda
  • So many factors to consider-analyzing data for a large acct is harder to find “what matters.” – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
  • Ad text management. Make ads (somewhat) formulaic and modular, and analyze results in aggregate. – Shawn Livengood
  • Prioritizing (since there is so much you *could* do). – Robert Brady
  • Where to spent time/focus b/c of the sheer size. Use tools to block & tackle & brain power to opt. pain points. – Crystal Anderson (@CrystalA)
  • Management-wise, getting the structure right is key. Logical and scalable structures can half the time it takes to maintain. – Jonathan Beeston (@searchbeest)
  • Keeping up with all of the new innovations and analyze their impact. – Mark Kennedy
  • Most difficult task when managing large accounts with volumes of kws ads etc is being able to monitor all consistently, especially when you have no tools to automate at all! managing millions of keywords becomes problematic. – Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
  • Breaking out keyword lists and adding more negatives. Search term query reports take up a lot of my time. – PPC Rob (@PPCRob)
  • IDK, i find excel can do most of the heavy lifting for monitoring, but planning and setting future expectations is a challenge. – Chris Kostecki
  • Coordinating a team working on one account, staying on top of details & the big picture at all times. Documentation and checklists are sometimes a pain, but essential. – Martin Rottgerding

Q3: What filters do you setup in larger accounts to quickly pinpoint areas in need of improvement?

  • First filter is Clicks >100 and Conversion = 0. Helps pick out bad KWs. – Melissa Mackey++++
  • Camp & AG Naming conventions are key, then looking at data rates instead of volume help pinpoint. – Chris Kostecki
  • We are very goal/KPI focused, so after filtering for zero conv kws, then sort by CPA and work from there. – John Lee
  • Bid management rules can be a big help in checking for high CPA’s which need to be addressed asap. – Harris Neifield
  • Always QS & CTR. Watching high-ROI terms is critical but those “small” kw can suck up a lot of budget if you let them. – Theresa Zook
  • Costly non converting keywords >75 no conversions. – Robert Reay (@robreay)
  • Setting a filter for keywords above target CPA (if there is one). – Matt Umbro
  • Top vs. Other is great to analyze campaigns, then ad groups to identify issues. – James Svoboda
    • Do you feel you really understand what the new bottom (other) should look like yet? – Theresa Zook
      • No. I give it less weight. I place more weight/trust in Top metrics for Google Search and less on Other & Partners. – James Svoboda
      • When taking out search partner stats “Top” CTR is even higher. – Matt Umbro
        • I don’t believe Google would have chosen “bottom” serving if there was no $$ for them. Must be some kind of performance there. – Theresa Zook.
          • I agree, and that is why I gauge Top vs Top and use it as my constant for KWs, Ads & so on. – James Svoboda
          • It’s at this point I bring up my conspiracy theory that its in anticipation of getting rid of SERP pagination. – Chris Kostecki
            • I love to dwell on Top–makes me look good–but “other” just as important to Google. Must watch perf there as well. – Theresa Zook
  • I have filters for Mobile & Display campaigns which is always handy. – James Hume (@zerospin)
  • Costly non converting keywords >75 0 conversions is a good start. – PPC Rob
  • Two things – keeping up with promo copy & keeping whole account in my head (hard when working with others) – Richard Fergie
  • CPA alerts, spend thresholds w/no conversions alerts, avg position alerts. – Crystal Anderson
  • It is more problematic at some big companies because of data being in different places so I have to manage in different systems. – Bryant Garvin
  • Also QS<5, to find KWs that need help. – Melissa Mackey
  • Agreed – making different filters by device and network is always a good idea. – Harris Neifield
  • I also use cost as the threshold vs. clicks. – Crystal Anderson
  • In Analytics I tend to trend conversion/revenue data to look for sharp drops or changes then dig into engines from there. – Bryant Garvin
  • At the very least, almost all AdWord charts are spend vs conversions to see how the targets are pacing. – Chris Kostecki
  • Also look for winning terms to increase bids on with filters, low CPA but position worse than 3 as an example. – Bonnie Schwartz (@bonnieschwartz)
  • Going back to the last question these filters can come in handy, but sometimes we don’t have time for. – Matt Umbro
    • True but it takes less time to use filters than to check it all manually. – Harris Neifield
    • I setup #presaved filters in adwords a little time preparing saves a lot of trouble down the road. – Bryant Garvin
  • In Engines I tend to filter by high cost low CTR/QS initially as problem children and kickem to the curb. – Bryant Garvin
  • Create a filter to exclude brand based keywords. Gives a better picture of overall account health. – Dennis Petretti
  • I like to filter in Excel: using sumif & vlookups can get a better perspective (as well as tie in Bing data). – Chris Kostecki
  • Filters are also great for reporting if adgroups/campaigns are named hierarchically. – Martin Rottgerding
  • CTR < 1.0%, conv. rate < 1.0%, $ per click or conversion more than X. All at kw, ad and ad group lvl. – Bart Schuijt (@BartSchuijt)

Q4: Aside from #adwords Editor & @adCenter Desktop, what tools/programs do you use to help manage/automate tasks in larger accounts?

  • Excel and Access are my 2 biggies. – Melissa Mackey
  • Excel = Must have. – Cassie Allinger (@_CassieLee_)
  • Acquisio, ClickEquations, AdWords conversion optimizer, enhanced CPC bidding. – Harris Neifield
  • Excel. Wish I knew Access. (Prefer to draw my own conclusions rather than used a packaged program.) – Theresa Zook
  • We use ClickEquations which is a pretty solid tool. I’ve also use Kenshoo and Marin. Excel is always a must as well. – Justin Freid
  • Stickey Notes are good for helping with management, but not so good for automation. – James Svoboda
  • @Acquisio, excel, tagcrowd, stat checkers & some internal tools. – Crystal Anderson
  • Excel (and Outlook to reach out to my agency – very effective). – Chris Kostecki
  • Excel is key. Vlookups, pivots, sumifs – all must knows for ppc. – Harris Neifield
    • And Concatenate. – Melissa Mackey
      • Ah yes. Trim too – gets rid of the spaces in front of the + sign for MBM keywords. Can’t sort alphabetically with that space. – Harris Neifield
  • Excel and filters for analysis, Excel and Editor for making changes, Bid Management Tools for, well, bid management. – Martin Rottgerding
  • In trial run for Marin currently. Just getting started. Should be big help hopefully considering really only me managing all PPC. – Bryant Garvin
  • Excel + CSV import/export FTW. – Shawn Livengood
  • These days I live in Powerpoint… but if you’re not using bid & campaign mgmt, you’re really missing out. – Jonathan Beeston
    • Learning that powerpoint is key for internal reporting/story telling. – Chris Kostecki
  • OpenOffice.org Calc (open source excel) for keywords, ads etc. notepad for neg keywords, inhouse java app for KW analysis. – James Hume
  • Just out of curiosity, is everyone still upset that the reporting tab was taken away in AdWords. – Matt Umbro
    • Yes – Most PPCChatters
    • I kinda missed it at first, but love it now and having Dimensions! – Crystal Anderson ++++
    • Reports tab was better for reporting. Current setup better for ad-hoc analysis (which is what I spend more time on). – Richard Fergie
  • I use Word when I want to present large ad group/keyword lists to clients in more readable format. – Robert Brady
  • I still use Report Center thru MCC for some reports. RT Matt_Umbro …. reporting tab was taken away in AdWords. – Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
  • Automated rules are also helpful if you have to make something happen in the future (like change ads on sunday morning). – Martin Rottgerding
  • Marin (for dimensions – great for cross-account reporting & bid management) & pivot tables in excel. – Blair Kerrison (@blairkerrison)

Q5: Which task(s) tends to get the most overlooked in larger accounts? Why?

  • Long-term trending. Get too bogged down in daily management to step back and think long-term sometimes. – Theresa Zook
  • I’d say search query reports tend to get overlooked at times. – Matt Umbro
  • Too often I overlook about the basics. Get caught up in all the cool stuff you can do with a big account. – Richard Fergie
  • Search funnels get overlooked for bigger accounts. It’s so granular it becomes very time consuming for large accounts. – Harris Neifield
    • Search funnels are often very important as you can show clients branded conversions resulted from other searches. – Matt Umbro
      • Agreed search funnels are critical. They’re also hard to automate so people sometime skip it – but they shouldn’t! – Harris Neifield
  • Anything related to AdCenter. Because doing anything in there takes 4x as long as Google and it generates 1/4th the revenue. – Shawn Livengood
  • Ad positioning optimization, tailored ad copy, match type testing. – Chris Kostecki
  • Testing new keyword segments. Some times you just run out of time managing what you’ve already built. – James Svoboda
  • Ad copy optimization for lower volume campaigns within a large account. – Bonnie Schwartz
  • Probably consistent optimizations of low volume terms/ad groups..since they aren’t the bread/butter easy to focus elsewhere. – Crystal Anderson
  • Adding more granular ad groups. Resistance due to further complicating already complex things. – Dennis Petretti
  • Optimizing a large account can lead to strong performance, so that new efforts are avoided since performance doesn’t stand up. – Chris Kostecki
  • Restructuring horrific legacy campaign and adgroup structures because you have so much riding on just keeping things running. – Bryant Garvin
  • Large accounts tend to spiral out of control structure-wise and make testing impossible. – Jonathan Beeston
  • Micro management can be a pitfall – focus on clients’ targets. – Bart Schuijt

Q6: When clients request new campaign builds (in existing accounts) what timeframe do you give them & what is your rationale?

  • Clients don’t usually request this, we usually tell them it’s needed. Real Answer: Depends on load balance and size of campaign. – James Svoboda
  • I am the client (and no agency) so… – Bryant Garvin
  • Depends on how clear their goals are. – Theresa Zook
  • Depends on the complexity of the new effort. I give them an honest estimate and then do it. – Mark Kennedy
  • Wait, agency’s give time frames?! I’ll be giving out the time frames around here! – Chris Kostecki
  • To clarify, I’m speaking more to when clients add new categories to their sites or add a bunch of new products. – Matt Umbro
  • 4 to 6 weeks. To build it right you need client feedback, realistically it’ll take a few weeks to get it right. – Harris Neifield
  • Usually a week seems fair on both sides, better to get more lead time, and sometimes have to push out quicker (at least head kws). – Chris Kostecki
  • Agree with Harris Neifield, if it’s a whole new campaign it can take a month or more to finish. – Melissa Mackey
  • Typical answer: Depends on size of build, where if falls in terms of opp. to drive convs. compared to other scheduled tactics, etc. – Crystal Anderson
  • Can depend on timeliness of campaign, e.g. “we have a new product launch tomorrow, can you make campaign please”. – James Hume
  • Usually 14 Days – Andrew Baker (@SEOEdinburgh)
  • We’ve been playing around with offering campaign tuneups with a turnaround of 5 business days but I felt a bit rushed doing it. Those consist of either fixing a totally broken campaign or just creating a new one instead (which is usually easier) – WordWatch (@WordWatchPPC)
  • PPC is immediate & ongoing, 6 weeks to launch a category is too long (maybe an entire account build). Better to launch & tune. – Chris Kostecki
  • Being responsive & nimble, giving realistic time estimates can cement a partnership & be your differentiator….Retention. – Lisa Sanner
  • What about smaller updates (ie new text ads for specific campaign)? With smaller updates do you set limits on requests? Should you?
    • If it’s a smaller campaign or a copy of an existing, I tell them 5 business days (or less if it’s a simple find/replace) – Melissa Mackey
    • Then it depends on workload from other clients. Takes 2-3 days to research & build a new effort but can’t drop all else. – Theresa Zook
    • I usually let the client know that a bunch of small requests take away from overall optimization time. – Melissa Mackey
    • Also depends on timing. Monthly reporting starts on 1st and last week of month can be consumed by remaining client deliverable. – James Svoboda
    • Yes. Limits are important–if only to train clients that “immediate results” are not realistic. – Theresa Zook
    • Smaller updates if workload allows I usually turn around in 5-7 days. If urgent 24-48 hours. – Andrew Baker
    • Its hard to limit the client requests, just have to make sure compensation is in your favor, If you aren’t listening to the client, they may be looking for someone who is. – Chris Kostecki
    • Small updates are usually same or next day. – James Svoboda

Q7: What tactics do you use to avoid the overwhelming feeling of managing larger PPC accounts?

  • Team work. – James Hume
  • Project Management. – Andrew Baker
  • Assuming the account isn’t on red alert, take it one task at a time. i.e. writing new ads, adding neg KWs, bid optimization, etc. – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
  • Power naps. – Robert Brady
  • 1. Bourbon 2. Daily Show 3. Rolled up reporting…in that order. – Chris Kostecki
  • Basecamphq.com – James Svoboda
  • Experience. After managing a bigger account with the budget responsibilities and unique challenges it doesn’t faze me. – Harris Neifield
  • If possible (and applicable) will have others help out building the campaign and/or reporting and then review. – Matt Umbro
  • A prioritized “to-do” list. – Mark Kennedy
  • Realize there is only so much I can do. Do my best and forget the rest! – Bryant Garvin
  • If you implement and manage to a plan anything is possible. – Andrew Baker
  • Also putting that to-do list onto my calendar, literally blocking out time for each task, helps to get things done. – Melissa Mackey
  • Humor, experience, not sweating the small stuff, automated rolled up reporting/dashboards, working w/team that you can trust. – Lisa Sanner
  • Remove dollar signs from my stats to help myself forget that I’m dealing with real money. – Shawn Livengood
  • Optimization plans!!! Keeps you sane! – Crystal Anderson
  • Having a plan helps you stay on track. Reinventing the wheel everytime you take on a new project is problematic. – Martin Rottgerding
  • I’m also a HUGE fan of Franklin Covey method – every task gets prioritized, every day. – Crystal Anderson
  • Tracking your time spent on tasks also helps. Prove to yourself that you’ve done a lot of work. – Martin Rottgerding


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About the Streamcapper

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe, Search Manager at WebRanking in Minneapolis, MN, #PPCChat Streamcap hunter & gatherer, rare SEO Blogger, Tweet maker @PaulKragthorpe, and Google+’er PaulKragthorpe.

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