Paid Search “Best Practices”

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “Paid Search Quote Best Practices Endquote.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: When you hear the term “best practices” what are your thoughts and why?

  • The strategies/principles that stay consistently the same regardless of the client/site/industry. – Michael Fleming (@SEMFlem)
  • Properly understanding how to properly structure an account, approach managing bids, etc. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • Don’t know when I first heard it. But the term itself is bullshit but I guess “Best Practices” are a place to start. – Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
  • Best practices apply when there’s no context and you have no idea what you’re doing. – Martin Roettgerding (@bloomarty)
  • Negative connotation, in that it usually is followed by either bad advice or overly rigid rules that do not always apply. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • I prefer the term “Common Practices” more since they are utilized by most, but not necessarily the best. – Matt Umbro
  • “Best Practices” are strategies and tactics that a “majority” of other people in the field have found to be successful. – Olin Downs (@olinjdowns)
  • “Best practices” are a great way to find out what’s working for other people. trial and error will tell if it works for you. – Sydney Robbins (@robbinssydney)
  • I’m immediately skeptical. How applicable are these so called “best practices”? – Margot da Cunha (@ChappyMargot)
  • 1st I like to know whose best practice we are talking about when someone says it. What the engines say or what. – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
    • Doesn’t matter – IMO it’s not a term that anyone should use. – Matt Umbro
  • I feel that “best practices” implies this is how you do it…can be dangerous for newbs. – Matt Umbro
  • “Best practices” have always been well intended approaches to simplify often complex problems. Results may vary. – Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
  • Automatically think of the “standard” way to set up/grow an account based on a generalisation. – Lawrence Jones (@HomeOfJones)
  • Best Practices are a good starting off point before you get to know how the account actually performs. – Gil Hong (@Gil__Hong)
  • My first thought is of the toxic, one-sided “guides” put out by Google to encourage inexperienced advertisers to spend more. – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
  • What Google defines as things they think should happen in their accounts. Not Necessarily the best practices for all clients. – John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
  • “Best practices” = the place to start, but almost never finish. – Michael Fleming
  • Best Practices = The paramaters I hold true for building & optimizing a PPC campaign initially. From then on, the’re optional. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • “Best practices” is nothing more than a phrase to to quell client concerns when necessary. – Bryce Liggins (@BryceLiggins)
  • The basics. The foundation. PPC 101. But even that can vary for accounts based on goals. – Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
  • When I hear “best practices,” I have to look really closes at who says it. – David Prochaska (@DavidProHQ)
  • Best Practices are things like BMM > Broad. Exact > Phrase. Use Ad Extensions. Shopping Camps. > Text Ads for Ecommerce. – James Svoboda
  • I think SOP (standard operating procedure) is better term, as it is more accurate to describe “the basics” that should apply. – Julie Bacchini
  • Best practices” can mean anything – from common practices to common mistakes to “don’t ask, just do it this way”. – Martin Roettgerding
  • Best practices are often good places to start, absent other data. Later, best practice takes the back seat to “best performance”. – Mark Irvine
  • Using “Best Practices” will give you insight into what your ACTUAL “Best Practices” really are. – Olin Downs
  • The “positive” version of best practices is “initial setup – based on experience – before testing”. Have to start somewhere. – Steve Gibson
  • I don’t think “Best Practices” has to have such neg connotation. They are guides that some find successful but not firm must-do’s. Your experience shows when you know when to apply them and when not to. – Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
  • “Best practices” = average performance. – Peter Thistle (@PeterThistle)
  • “Best practices” often represents a simplification of complex ideas/systems, which is where the problems *can* start. – Julie Bacchini
  • Best Practices are more absolutes (like if you don’t do it, its not going to work) vs Common practices being account specific. – Michael Knight (@MichaelAKnight)
  • Best practices = Basic practices that everyone should know or at least understand. – Adam Garnsey (@garnsee)
  • 1st thoughts best practices are consistent and safe. We use them at first & then deviate if needed. – Erin Remsen (@Rinzies)

Q2: What do you believe is the most harmful “best practice” to account performance talked about in the PPC world? Why?

  • If you increase your bids you’ll get X more clicks. – James Svoboda
  • Avoid broad match like the plague…it’s not always harmful! – Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
  • I’ve seen good results combining Search and Display even though it’s best practice to separate them. – David Prochaska
  • To scale, simply increase your bids. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
  • My first thought is keyword match type usage. At least it’s what is usually immediately glaring when looking at an account. – Michael Fleming
  • Almost all of Google’s own recommended best practices! Particularly increase bids for more clicks. – Adam Garnsey
  • Double the budget means double results! – Lawrence Jones
  • Any “best practice” tip that makes clicks an end-all goal. – Timothy Jensen
  • “The Display Network will give you great brand awareness/exposure” Yes, the GDN can help you, but need to understand in context with attribution and overall account goals. – Matt Umbro
  • For the non-professional? Accepting “default” campaign settings b/c you assume they must be “best.” – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
  • 1) Over-architecting a small account. Good luck optimizing. 2) New accts – going too wide/broad. – Lisa Sanner
  • Maybe not talked about openly, but every account gets talked to with “Opportunities” right in their account. – Gil Hong
  • Use all the features! Or don’t use an ad schedule which “limits your exposure”, etc. – Julie Bacchini
  • Automatic bidding to save time (and lose all your control/money). – Margot da Cunha
  • This is going to be unpopular, but over structuring/segmentation. If you cant put in the time to manage, you have to let go some. – Mark Irvine
  • Anything Google recommends. – Steve Gibson
  • Are we talking about make AdWord more money best practices or actual PPC best practices? Increase your bids & Budget. – James Kravic (@JKravic)
  • Kind of Best Practice: That everyone in the industry knows better than you (the person with the account/data/client knowledge.) – Andrew Bethel
  • More volume/impressions is always better! – Julie Bacchini
  • Make sure you are using mobile ads (yet, your client has a site not optimized for mobile). – Olin Downs
  • Assuming that your website is perfect or “pretty” and built to convert the traffic you bring in. – Joe Martinez
  • Focusing on CTR for any reason. Often hurts CVR. – Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
  • Breaking out adgroups by match type. Yes, it works. But 70% of accounts i see are doing it wrong. +Time consuming. – Joseph Drury (@drurytheelder)
    • Disagree with this one. Think this is key to most good accounts and its not particularly time consuming. – Adam Garnsey
  • Anything that favors network profitability over client performance. – Jonathan Ng (@ThankYouJon)
  • Anything that starts “You always need to do X”. Best Practices are situational. You still need to think how they affect you. – James Svoboda

Q3: Do you test “best practices” even if you don’t believe they are worthwhile? Why or why not?

  • I’ll test anything as long as it could potentially help my account…and if it fails at least I know. – Matt Umbro
  • Yes. It’s not about my “belief,” it’s about what the data tells me re: what works/doesn’t. – Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
    • And how do you decide what data to look at? – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
      • Depends on what it is I’m testing. Not really sure I get the question, but test it if it’s something that seems it could apply to an acct’s situation. – Susan Wenograd
  • I’m pretty stuck in my ways these days but always happy to test if account is struggling. – Adam Garnsey
  • Test it and if it performs well then life is good. – Lawrence Jones
  • When all else fails, I’ll test a “best practice” for something. – Theresa Zook
  • If the results aren’t there yet and it could potentially fit with strategy/goals, then sometimes it’s worth a shot. – Ryan Moothart (@ryanmoothart)
  • I always test best practices as they become “the best,” but I compare against the account’s historical benchmarks. – Bryce Liggins
  • If I really don’t think they are worthwhile or detrimental, no. There’s other things to test. If I’m not sure, hella Yes. – Lisa Sanner
  • Always good to test everything. Best practices for some might not be best practices for others. – David Prochaska
  • Yes, and also if we do believe they’re worthwhile! If you’re not testing/benchmarking bp’s with data, than what’s the point? – Gil Hong
  • Part of our job is to figure out what is appropriate for EACH client & be open to new things. – Julie Bacchini
  • Test everything, whether it’s a “BP” or not. I discover my own BP’s. – Max Fink (@maxfink_SEM)
  • Yes, all the time. I’m not correct 100% of the time. But data does not lie. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Measure everything. Best practices are a starting point. Optimize and Test from there on. Every time. – James Svoboda
  • I test best practices to find BETTER practices. – Kelly Sullivan (@kellylsullivan)
  • I don’t often try them anew if they failed, but I like to understand them in case I take on an account using already them. – Mark Irvine
  • I am willing to test ROAS based bidding.. occasionally. Everything is on a short leash. – James Kravic
  • “Best practices” were deemed a “best practice” for a reason at one point, so why not just test? That’s what testing is for. – Kimberly Wingo (@wimmiekingo)
  • “Best practices” are good to test early. If they don’t work, you should probably reevaluate your assumptions about the account. – Mike Gardo (@MikeGardo)
  • If I know they’re useless then no, but I’m also a huge proponent of testing so I guess it depends. – Margo da Cunha
  • I used to in my younger days. I know what works at this point. But I will try anything if an account is really struggling. – Joseph Drury
  • ABT = Always Be Testing. But if you don’t feel it’s worth testing, prioritize strategy based on what you think will have impact. – Kim Thomas (@PPCKim)
  • Usually, but not always. Ex: I don’t use the display network with our clients except for remarketing or special circumstances. – John Budzynski
  • “Best practices” are not infallible. Haven’t we all inherited accts w/ none in place, that still are somehow performing well? – Julie Bacchini
  • Testing is crucial. How else will we ever know or grow if we don’t try it? Every industry, area & account size is different. – Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)

Q4: If we can agree that we’re not proponents of “best practices” what are your thoughts on how to train new paid search pros? Why? In other words, what thoughts/theories do you try to teach?

  • PPC training is all about experience. Working on multiple accounts with different strats to understand how each differs.And the common themes this accounts share are the ‘best’/’common’ practices- Adam Garnsey
  • I am a fan of best practices as a concept, my sources are just not AdWords or Google! Develop them from sources you trust. – Julie Bacchini
  • Go off of what you know and what you’ve seen work, no use in teach other peoples learning’s. – Lawrence Jones
  • I always encourage new PPC pros to challenge me – listen to what I have to say, but challenge me if you can defend your opinion. I can’t stand those who argue just to argue – if you have a legitimate opinion share it. – Matt Umbro
  • Teach them the fundamentals, guide them in your practices and explain why you think like you do. Let them disagree. – Mark Irvine
  • Have them shadow a few accounts over different verticals/spend/channels. That and following. – Gil Hong
  • Focus on your client’s goals before you make any decisions. How do you think (Optimization A) will improve results? – Joe Martinez
  • Train based on YOUR best practices. Update and revise often. Train to always be looking for new best practices. – James Svoboda
  • Understand the BUSINESS goals before building an SEM initiative. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Give them the tools they need to be successful and let them learn from experience. – Kelly Sullivan
  • First principles I would teach is relevancy and control. Most choices with settings, structure, bidding, etc. hang on those. – Michael Fleming
  • I actually make our new hires cross train w different reps so they learn different approaches to clients’ problems. – Mark Irvine
  • 1st, pick someone who can think critically and has common sense. If you pick the wrong recruit, you’re doomed. Must like Excel. – Max Fink
  • Give basic knowledge & see how they interpret the info/go about strategy. No one thinks the same & learning from mistakes is key. – Kimberly Wingo
  • After basics, I teach to go down the funnel in optimizing: Increase Impressions > CTR > Bounce Rate > Conversions > CPA. – Bryce Liggins
  • Are you saying guides by PPC Hero, Wordstream, RKG, etc aren’t best practices? I disagree. They are great resources for training. – Lisa Sanner
  • Adwords is just a delivery mechanism for direct marketing, so trainees should already know the DM fundamentals. – Steve Gibson
  • Common practices for foundation, but build them up with a ABT mentality and to always question everything. – Erika Schmidt
  • Its best to teach new PPCers to treat clients as if it was your business. The goal always to generate a positive ROAS. – James Kravic

Q5: How do you know that your favorite PPC pros aren’t spewing BS – ie: are writing from experience and not just for exposure?

  • This is Marketing. Everyone is spewing for exposure. – James Svoboda
    • Fair point – I guess I’m trying to determine how we know if the content/advice is sage vs. just an idea. – Matt Umbro
  • I’m sure half of them are. Doesn’t change anything for me though. If a pro says something sucks, could rock for me anyway. – Luke Alley
  • I cross-reference things I might not be sure about with other resources. Multiple witnesses makes you more confident. – Michael Fleming
  • You don’t really but I always trust articles with screenshots a bit more. Authors past articles as well. – Adam Garnsey
  • Just because written by expert does not excuse us/reader from exercising critical thinking skills. – Julie Bacchini
  • Are they marketing themselves or information sharing is my rule. How hard are they working to promote their content? – Bryce Liggins
  • Check their sources. Its really easy to tell when they’re spewing theories, a case study, or something more legit. – Mark Irvine
  • (1) they address common objections well (2) aren’t just stating known facts (3) can discuss PPC deeply with other pros. (4) and testing demonstrates a level of truth to their claims (though testing can be tough with different clients/industries). – Kirk Williams
  • Look at what else they’ve done/written and organizations their involved with. Can they be vetted? – Kelly Sullivan
  • Content w/ data, screenshots, case studies, etc. instead of just saying “trust me” are typically a good way to weed out the BS. – Margot da Cunha
  • Discuss new “ideas” with a circle of trusted sources and work to punch holes. – Bryce Liggins
  • A new idea is always an opportunity to test – if you think it might work, it actually might. So test it. – Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
  • Aside from the content, I trust articles that are well written and formatted to keep me reading. Also, if an article has good data to back it up I’ll trust the content more. – Matt Umbro
  • Usually content about new features are safe… Outside of that, does their data and insight make sense? – Gil Hong
  • Depends if they’re calling themselves gurus, mavens, rockstars, etc. I guess, huh? – Kimberly Wingo
  • BS TEST: Whether they talk about their own experiences and run original tests vs. rewording an article we’ve read a 100 times. – Erika Schmidt
  • And check their title. Avoid advice from the Maven Guru Ninjas! – Bryce Liggins
  • I think if they can demonstrate they’ve thought it through, it’s probably legit. Case studies are even better. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • Not always sure. But….we’re all here for exposure one SOME level, aren’t we? – Matt Vaillancourt
  • The secret is that we’re all full of BS. But lovable. So it balances out. – Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
  • For what it’s worth, I look at who’s stuff gets shared by people I respect as well. – Julie Bacchini
  • Blind faith in the safety of the hororable PPCChat but seriously, read comments for rebuttals, do own tests, check other sources. – John Budzynski
  • I love this question. Are they sharing actionable insights and things you can do, or do you have to buy a service. – Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
  • I also find that just talking to folks at conferences tells you a lot in terms of BS levels. – Elizabeth Marsten
  • Be skeptical. Everyone has an agenda, including yourself. No one became successful saying “everything is fine. No worries, guys” – Mark Irvine
  • I don’t know. People who say stuff I have realised get credit on other claims. – Richard Fergie
  • On this point I honestly think over half of the PPC articles I read these days are just rehashed thoughtless exposure articles. – Adam Garnsey
    • I can say personally that knowing I have to answer to my claims on PPCChat makes me work much harder on my articles! – Kirk Williams
  • I take what I read and see which parts I can apply to my accounts. Maybe not the exact tactics but the thought processes. – Joe Martinez
  • A bigger factor is people who say stuff that isn’t technically correct get negative credit. I also have to believe that the data you’ve included is a true reflection of what happened. – Richard Fergie
    • Yes – Data is in the eye of the beholder. It may not mean what they claim it means. – Steve Cameron
    • I agree. Sometimes I see data in a post from a “thought leader” and think “that’s krapp”. Data can lie. – James Svoboda
  • I think some of us who have been in this industry are a bit jaded. For those new/learning, some of this BS is new, fresh. – Lisa Sanner
  • I think there is value in rehashing content if u have a different view/take & data to back up what ur discussing-recommending. – Christi Olson

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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.


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

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Adam Garnsey (@garnsee)
• Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
• Bryce Liggins (@BryceLiggins)
• David Prochaska (@DavidProHQ)
• Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
• Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
• Erin Remsen (@Rinzies)
• Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
• Gil Hong (@Gil__Hong)
• James Kravic (@JKravic)
• Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
• John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
• Jonathan Ng (@ThankYouJon)
• Joseph Drury (@drurytheelder)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Kelly Sullivan (@kellylsullivan)
• Kim Thomas (@PPCKim)
• Kimberly Wingo (@wimmiekingo)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Lawrence Jones (@HomeOfJones)
• Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
• Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
• Margot da Cunha (@ChappyMargot)
• Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
• Martin Roettgerding (@bloomarty)
• Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
• Max Fink (@maxfink_SEM)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michael Fleming (@SEMFlem)
• Michael Knight (@MichaelAKnight)
• Mike Gardo (@MikeGardo)
• Olin Downs (@olinjdowns)
• Peter Thistle (@PeterThistle)
• Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
• Ryan Moothart (@ryanmoothart)
• Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
• Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
• Sydney Robbins (@robbinssydney)
• Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
• Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)

Quote Streamcaps Endquote

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; works at WebRanking in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Connect with Paul @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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