Improving Pay-Per-Click Processes

This week Luke Alley (@LukeAlley) hosted for Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with another great question set titled “Improving PPC Processes.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What areas of pay per click management do you feel can have a process to help streamline the work?

  • Nailing the client onboarding process is key. If you get everything out on day 1, it prevents awkward conversations later on. – Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
    • Agree. Getting off to a good start sets the tone for the relationship. – Luke Alley
  • Bid adjustments (not all). Budget monitoring. Top moving entities (spec in the form of getting automated reports). – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
  • Ad Creation & Analysis. KW Research & Analysis. Reporting. Audits. LP Creation & Analysis. Once those were solid then it was easier to take the loose framework for those and apply to other areas. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
    • Analysis has been a harder one for me to systematize. What have you done there? – Luke Alley
      • I started with building an analysis process for Text Ads & Search Queries. Have evolved and refined over years. – James Svoboda
  • Any sort of scripts or alerts for bid monitoring are an enormous help! – Andrew McCarthy (@AmccartPPC)
  • There should be regular processes (scheduling?) for SQPRs, ad testing, ad extension reviews…to ensure you don’t forget them! – Colleen McCaskell (@ppccolleen)
  • Monthly, weekly, and daily reporting. Having a system in place saves a lot of time. – Garrett McGregor (@mcgregor212)
  • I now wonder if I understand what you mean by “process”. I’m using the word literally, not to mean “automation”. – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
  • A strong process around keyword research can help a growing team a lot. Just don’t be too strict or you’ll limit creativity. – Bryce Liggins (@BryceLiggins)
  • Budget monitoring is #1 on my list. – Glenn Schmelzle (@heyglenns)
  • If you don’t have a process for everything, you don’t know what you’re doing. – Tyson Drake (@tysondrake)
  • What to do with converting search terms or potential negative KWs from SQRs. Even if a script does most of the work. – Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
  • Tie-in between internal post-conversion “events” & engine-side impr/click/cost data. NIGHTMARE to setup + expensive as hell. – Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
  • So many areas: Campaign Structure, Keyword Research, Bidding. – Maria Corcoran (@mariacorcoran)
  • We focus on reporting (providing value, not just data) and onboarding (setting expectations and building trust). – Andrew Miller (@AndrewCMiller)
  • Any testing, whether it’s ads or landing pages, should have a good process down. – Joe Martinez
  • I should also mention anything for dynamic ad customization, definitely suggest taking the time to learn these tools. – Andrew McCarthy
  • On the PPC side, we are big fans of tracking daily progress towards goals set w/ clients. Detecting anomalies and trends is key. – Andrew Miller
  • Change/update ad copy at regular intervals / to meet trends. – Rohan Ayyar (@searchrook)

Q2: What processes have you put into place to streamline specific tasks?

  • For example, with onboarding clients we have a “PPC Management Brief” with much of the info we’ll need for setup/ongoing opt. – Luke Alley
  • Automated Rules. Scripts. Specific tools. – Kirk Williams
  • An automated /daily budget pacing doc for all accounts to show at a glance what spend changes are needed. Makes it so easy! – Amy Hebdon (@amyppc)
  • I begin with how-to process documents for guides and templates for reporting. – Bryce Liggins
  • Simple, but useful: setting the Reminders app to ping me regularly to check in on acccounts. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • Training new employees on our “way of doing things” from day 1! the earlier you can ingrain these processes, the better! – Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
  • I first sort what needs to be done on a monthly/daily/misc basis. Then come up with an implementation plan for each client. – Joe Martinez
  • If you nail reporting, a lot of other details (budget, communications, ect) fall into place. – Mark Irvine
    • Interesting you say that. Recently I’ve been using ongoing reporting (to myself) far more than I used to for opt sugg. – Kirk Williams
      • I fought it for so long, but it does help particularly as you have more to focus on. – Mark Irvine
    • A great point. But you have to get away from ‘fast food’ reporting vs genuine insights that drive strategy & growth. – Andrew McGarry (@beyondcontent)
      • Quality over quantity 100%. – Mark Irvine
      • Agree proper reporting is crucial, but can also spend so much time on reports that management lags. – Timothy Jensen
  • For monthly in depth reports we follow an outline with: Summary/Analysis, Work Completed, Game Plan for Coming Month. – Luke Alley
  • Pick up a phone instead of email chain hell. And no, we don’t need a 2 hour meeting. For anything. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Lots of AdWords scripts to handle mundane tasks (SQR, QS reviews, bid updates) and working on a better budgeting process. – Andrew Miller
  • For some clients, we pull spend data into Google Sheets for fast budget insights. – Colleen McCaskell
  • Always put 2 ppl on campaigns & pair uses flowchart showing major tasks & who does what to complete them. – Glenn Schmelzle
  • Reporting is a major one for me. Everyone always gets this wrong, or looks at the wrong KPI’s. – Tyson Drake
  • I find that “fires” often get in the way of my PPC processes. Still need to be flexible. – Kirk Williams
    • Flexibility is key, but I find having a “rough” process can guide you through the flames. – Bryce Liggins
    • Multitasking big time here, but part of your process has to have built in time for unexpected things. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • Biggest ones would be a kickoff questionnaire for clients, Asana task templates for builds & a task library. I <3 efficiency! – Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
  • More on the pla feed side, but we work with developers to have the feed exported in a way that is more compatible with mrch cntr. – Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
  • Too much process can stifle creativity or ability to customize a solution. I like automating the mundane to free up brain cells. – Andrew Miller
  • Caps on remarketing impressions, seasonal bids & day parting. – Rohan Ayyar
  • Templates & forethought for structure. Clearly defined primary & secondary success metrics along w conv window – for KW sculpting. Have it written down & be ruthless. – Maria Corcoran
  • Big question – to start – identify solutions, encode and standardize them, adopt them and then implement automation. – James Hebdon (@jphebdon)

Q3: What tasks have you not been able to put into a process? What tasks do you feel *SHOULD NOT* be put into a process?

  • I think the original structure needs to be custom as it varies by client, KPIs, strategy, etc. – Mark Kennedy
  • Brainstorming, researching new campaign strategies, audiences, or creative. It has to be organized, but not process-driven. – Andrew Miller
  • How to effectively manage red tape. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Any optimization that requires non-trackable-contextual data. I.e., knowing conversion data is skewed by cart issues in Oct 2014. – Kirk Williams
  • Last necessary process – Ad copy testing. – Maria Corcoran
  • As great as ad customizes are, it’s easy to fall into the trap of allowing ads to become overly processed. – Andrew McCarthy
  • Some structuring e.g. Ad Group creation, media ads, testing. – Rohan Ayyar
  • Looking at competitor tools can be overwhelming for new clients. Figure out what you need 2 do but what others are trying to do. – Mark Irvine
  • Building the account. Every client is different. Accounts need to be customized based on client goals. – Erika Schmidt
  • Client interactions–while you can certainly be consistent with meetings, etc.–conversation style should change per client. – Erin Sagin
    • Nailed it. Rely too much on processes and you risk losing the human touch. Don’t sound like a robot! – Luke Alley
    • 100% true. Too many ppl try to force 1 approach on all clients. It might scale but it doesn’t inspire trust. – Andrew Miller
  • I would argue there is process for all aspects of SEM. You can customize w/in a process by client – but basics don’t change. – Maria Corcoran
  • Responding to my manager’s emails. I tried to set up a bot to auto-respond, but the technology just isn’t there yet. – James Hebdon

Q4: Do your systems/processes ever limit creativity? How do you counter?

  • Yes it can. Getting anothers perspective can really help. – James Svoboda
  • IMO. A process is like a house frame. Every home needs a basic structure, and then creativity can build on it from there. I.e., client communication has some levels of “process” to it, but the actual implementation will differ dramatically. – Kirk Williams
  • It could on the ad creative side, so you have to be careful how much automation is used for ads. Need a balance there. – Mark Kennedy
  • No the process is like a skeleton. You can always customize by product/client, but w/out the right base it will never move. – Maria Corcoran
  • Processes are always reviewed, improved and optimized. You should have a process for optimizing your processes. – Tyson Drake
  • Ad text can be robotic–likely bc we create it in mass quantity. u have 2 pick &choose when to expedite & when to get creative! – Erin Sagin
  • Just don’t write processes that limit creativity. – Steve Gibson
  • The bigger the company the more approvals you need sometimes. That can be a huge pain with some ad creative or LPO changes. – Joe Martinez
  • Creating the right environment trumps process for creativity. Better to encourage trial & error within a system than fight it. – Andrew Miller
  • I purposefully try to be vague at certain points of the processes I make to encourage new solutions. – Bryce Liggins
  • Probably the “more creative” the task at hand is, the less detailed/specific the process should be. – Kirk Williams
  • A good process really will just save you more time to BE creative, it streamlines the mundane tasks. – Maria Corcoran
  • It’s key to avoid the thought process, “We do it that way because that’s how we have always done it.” – Bryce Liggins
  • Processes aren’t straightjackets or a ceiling. They’re a floor under your performance. You’re never worse than your process. – Steve Gibson
  • Improving processes always needs a more-than-average dose of creativity. – Rohan Ayyar
  • If systems/processes limit creativity, or limit anything at all, we adjust them appropriately. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • The word “creativity” keeps coming up. I have one objective and that’s to squeeze out as many conversions as possible. – Tyson Drake

Q5: What process do you have in place for budgeting?

  • Labels and rules work well for the SMB accounts, and some scripts as well. Changing budgets for seasonality, trends, using labels to keep others aware, rules to pause at certain levels, etc. – Mark Kennedy
  • I use SteadyBudget. Worth every penny. (not getting paid for endorsement, tho they sent me a water bottle one time). – Kirk Williams
  • Automated daily alerts for pacing, spend anomalies, CPC increases/decreases. Set dates in the month/qtr for transfers. – Maria Corcoran
  • A big win is an automatic rule that runs everyday but ONLY makes changes when you’ve hit your budget. Prevents overspending. – Mark Irvine
  • If you mean campaign budgets, we look @ size of available market (impressions, CPC, IS) & work backwards. – Andrew Miller
  • Account budgets. Spend is a result of avg cpc x clicks. As long as im hitting the CPA everything is good. – Tyson Drake
  • We use a mix of NinjaCatPPC’s budget tracker and our own spreadsheets. Get’s complicated when budgets are segmented by campaigns. – Luke Alley
  • Alerts for billing updates and scripts to pause campaigns when they hit their allocated budget. – Erika Schmidt
  • We built our own dashboard, complete w/ budget tracker, for Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn. – Andrew Miller
  • Also Kenshoo has a budget pacing tool that uses historical Avg Position and IS lost due to budget to shift monthly budgets. – Paul Wicker (@Wickerpedia)
  • Automated pacing reports with anomaly identification, customized per client depending on seasonal dynamics, efficiency, etc. – James Hebdon

Q6: What’s your best tip for streamlining a PPC process?

  • Put a process in place based on your needs/time, but be ready to let evolve and quickly adapt. Don’t rely 100%, though. Check it. – Mark Kennedy
  • Spend time actually identifying and breaking down human solutions into steps. Encode them. It’s the first rule of automation. – James Hebdon
  • Ask: “how is this process (and each aspect of it) moving our goal(s) forward for this specific account?” – Kirk Williams
  • Look at things you do everyday & see how you can “systematize” it. Possible for nearly all tasks & will save time in the future. – Luke Alley
  • Place process specificity on an inverse scale with creativity. – Bryce Liggins
  • Oh and whiteboards. Love whiteboards for mapping it out. – Mark Kennedy
  • For the love of gawd, take the time to DOCUMENT THE PROCESS. If you don’t you’ll wish you had. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Focus on what you’ll use the info for, then efficiency starts to manifest itself. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • Identify areas where you spend majority of your time – start there, how can you create efficiency? Document it – do it. – Maria Corcoran
  • Define the outcomes, look at multiple ways of doing things, be willing to adjust, repeat if necessary. – Andrew Miller

Q7: How do you improve your processes and look for ways to do it better?

  • Have others on the team review & edit. Review quarterly, maybe a new tool was released that can help. Be open to edits. – Maria Corcoran
  • We look at factors like time and quality – is it still taking too long. Or is there a decrease in results due to a process. – Mark Kennedy
  • Being cognizant of trying to improve processes is a start. I don’t think about the them as much as I should. – Luke Alley
  • Look for the most error-prone or time-sucking things you or your team does. Start there. We publish our internal processes in G Drive docs so the team can review and suggest edits when needed. – Andrew Miller
  • On an operations team.. my life is process docs half the time. Always thinking how can I make someone’s life easier. Also don’t horde knowledge – if you know something SHARE IT Document it Help others. Your performance will not suffer from this. – Maria Corcoran

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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)
• Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Amy Hebdon (@amyppc)
• Andrew McCarthy (@AmccartPPC)
• Andrew McGarry (@beyondcontent)
• Andrew Miller (@AndrewCMiller)
• Bryce Liggins (@BryceLiggins)
• Colleen McCaskell (@ppccolleen)
• Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
• Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
• Garrett McGregor (@mcgregor212)
• Glenn Schmelzle (@heyglenns)
• James Hebdon (@jphebdon)
• Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Maria Corcoran (@mariacorcoran)
• Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
• Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
• Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
• Paul Wicker (@Wickerpedia)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Rohan Ayyar (@searchrook)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
• Tyson Drake (@tysondrake)

Improving PPCChat with Streamcaps

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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