Paid Search Critical Thinking

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

Q1: How do you balance what you know is best in an account with what the client wants? In other words: How do you ensure you are doing the right work for the client and not just busy work that won’t move the needle?

  • Speak with data. If your recommendation is performing better than what they want, let the data speak for itself. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • If I can’t explain it well enough to the client then I think I don’t know best. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
  • I’ve had luck framing tests to let data demonstrate why it isn’t a good idea. Testing also validates if YOU are right or not (I’ve been wrong before. Not afraid to admit it) – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
    • Ditto – in fact, I believe clients appreciate your work more if you can admit you aren’t always right. – Matt Umbro
  • It’s a matter of taking the time to educate (presuming you are right, of course). – Josh Devlin (@JayPeeDevlin)
  • It’s a fine line of doing both. Use data to educate on why we make recommendations and the potential impact. – Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
  • Clients can be obsessed with vain things like ad copy. Let them have those wins and make real changes in the background. – Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
  • That’s rather a communication issue. The client’s boss, so we have to convince them. – Martin Roettgerding (@bloomarty)
  • Setting goals is important, and that way, what is best is also what the client wants. – Sam Gordon (@SearchableLLC)
  • Share your opinion based upon your experience and always be willing to test what a client wants – within reason. – Matt Umbro
  • We approach accounts as mixture of our PPC expertise + client’s specific biz expertise together get best results. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • Lots of communication. – Kyle Crocker (@kacrocker)
  • Not always possible, but I’ve found that visually showing the client what I want to do speaks more than just telling them. – Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
    • Agreed. I’ve been on the client side. Show that it’s best, I won’t just take your word for it. – Aviva Downing (@AvivCuriously)
  • Explain (relentlessly) what you know. If they refuse, make sure it is in writing, but go down fighting. God data helps. – Jeff Loquist (@jmloquist)
  • Piloting ideas can also be a great tool, especially when what you want to do is major departure from status quo. – Julie Bacchini
  • The client knows what best for the business. It’s up to you to use PPC as a tool to achieve it. – Kevin Klein (@kkwrites)
  • Set expectations! “We can devote $X to test this, & we’ll likely see more volume but higher CPAs… are you okay with that?” – Amy Hebdon (@amyppc)
  • Chat lots. Understanding client aims and matching to measurement and strategies from the outset is crucial. – Graeme Benge (@graemebenge)
  • Ideally you optimise towards both sets of priorities while trying to ensure you don’t massively overservice them. – Colleen McCaskell (@ppccolleen)
  • One would hope it wouldn’t be that huge a mis-match, and if there is, to help them understand what’s in their best interest. – James Hebdon (@jphebdon)
  • I also feel like your openness and overall relationship with the client positions you to have this conversation. – Josh Devlin
  • Use data to support your recommendations. – Geena Nazareth (@GeenaNazareth)
  • Communication isn’t just me convincing them, it is better understanding their business and goals. – Kyle Crocker
  • There is always going to be “busy work”, so it’s a matter of prioritizing what’s important based on impact. – Christi Olson
  • Also digging into the WHY of something a client is pushing for – the details can be very illuminating. – Julie Bacchini
  • I always like educating them on how my ideas match their goals so it seems we are going with their idea, but a better version. – Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
  • Always willing to test what the client thinks is best. If it doesn’t work, the data will eventually convince them. – Jose Ferreira (@josergferreira)
  • Speak the client’s language. Be able to interpret the data you are showing to them and tell the story behind the numbers. – Emma Franks (@akaEmmaLouise)
  • All about communication. My job is educate & partner with the client on what is best + what they want so that it merges as one. – Maddie Cary (@MaddieMarketer)

Q2: What is your thought process when determining work prioritization? Why?

  • What’s going to give the biggest bang for the buck? – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
  • I always follow the rule of working first on what’s going to make the biggest impact then moving down the line. – Matt Umbro
  • Ask yourself, “What is going to make the biggest impact?” Your answer will define priority. – Erika Schmidt
  • Three things to consider:
    1. Time it takes to implement
    2. Time it takes to maintain
    3. Expected uplift. – Richard Fergie
  • Impact analysis. That which offers the biggest potential impact gets priority. – Jeff Loquist
  • The example I always give is for ecomm accounts. Focus on Shopping and Remarketing first, then text ad campaigns. – Matt Umbro
  • I like to hit the low hanging fruit first. I set schedules for looking over ad tests, targeting, and keyword bids. – Sam Gordon
  • Always trying to keep in mind what the client will notice. Doing work that moves the KPIs they care about (and watch/feel). – Kyle Crocker
  • More client input here. They may want to grow a certain area of their business over low hanging fruit that you notice. – Joe Martinez
  • Start with what is going to make the biggest impact. – Orlando Valencia (@ValenciaSEM)
  • What are the most important factors in the account, what will cause the biggest movement. Greatest potential, etc. – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
  • Prioritize by what my experience tells me will have the biggest impact. – Jose Ferreira
  • Thought process on prioritization: “work in quadrant 2.” Reality: “put out fires.” – Amy Hebdon
  • I’m a list maker. The 1’s get done first. Fan of Trello to keep it organized. – Paul Wicker (@Wickerpedia)
  • Take the “Little work, big impact” wins first. Campaign settings, segments, and other 1 click wins are best b4 the heavy lifting. – Mark Irvine
  • Mixture of the core, high-priority, top-converting campaigns AND the campaigns that I’m due to touch base with and optimise. – Colleen McCaskell
  • Over Simplifying three things: 
    1) Expected impact to bottom line KPIs
    2) What’s important to client
    3) Testing/New Features. – Christi Olson
  • A prioritization matrix can be useful here if you get bogged down or have trouble working it out. – Josh Devlin
  • So it isn’t just about the size of the uplift, but also how quickly it can be done and how complicated it makes things. – Richard Fergie
    • True. I also think through how often they might request similar “onetime” changes/updates. – Christi Olson
      • Once you get into the detail though I mainly rely on experience to estimate these things. Wish there was a better/more rigorous way. – Richard Fergie
  • Combo of fixing any issues and addressing client’s priorities. – Julie Bacchini
  • Also, it’s up to you to know how to prioritize and push back on the client if you don’t feel the priorities are in order. – Matt Umbro
    • True. Explain WHY we pushback. It goes back to data and being able to show impact for changes/updates. – Christi Olson
    • Also to make sure you’re not assuming things you should not. – Julie Bacchini
  • I’ll reiterate – always be asking “why?” as you talk about things the client wants to see happen. Understanding dynamics is key. – Julie Bacchini
  • Client KPIs. Then whatever the biggest problems are from there. – Melissa Mackey
  • I prioritize based on biggest impact to client or account = what would be bad if not done today >done tomorrow > done EOW > etc. Also crucial for me to prioritize by impact to my team members. If I don’t get done, whose success am I roadblocking? – Maddie Cary

Q3: Beyond the tactical side, how does your experience help in a day-to-day manner?

  • Again, experience helps you determine how to prioritize and when to push back. – Matt Umbro
  • Confidence. – Kyle Crocker
  • Experience allows you to not overreact to things & stay focused on what needs to be done to achieve desired results. – Julie Bacchini
  • Experience and expertise guides strategy. We learn across many accounts and can share the wisdom/knowledge, and test with you. – Christi Olson
  • Learning how much to share & when. What is the appropriate level of information by audience. – Maria Corcoran
  • You also have to believe in your own gravitas if you want anyone else to. – Julie Bacchini
  • Identifying the source of the problem gets faster with experience. You know exactly where to look. – Shashikant Kore (@kshashi)
  • Beyond slightly better prioritisation and communication, I’m not sure. – Richard Fergie
  • Very True. They are the expert in their business. They know insights & trends that they might not be verbalizing. – Christi Olson
  • As experience grows in other industries you know what works but still understand every client is unique. No cookie cutters here. – Joe Martinez
  • Not being afraid to ask for help/advice earlier on in a project that is not an area of expertise – learning from peers. – Maria Corcoran (@mariacorcoran)
  • Across the board benefits. Communication, confidence, user behavior within a niche. – Jeff Loquist
  • Knowing when to back off and when to push back. – Melissa Mackey
    • It is OK TO SAY NO, sometimes. – Maria Corcoran
  • Knowing your personal and team’s limitations. You can’t do everything at once, and sometimes you have to punt. – Jesse Semchuck
  • I’d say:
    – Ability to anticipate when things might blow up in your face, problems, delays
    – Communication
    – Priorities. – Erick Schmidt
  • With more experience, it’s easier to set realistic expectations and push back with evidence/authority when needed. – Jean Joe (@jean_joe_)
  • Towards clients, experience can help knowing when to push back & how much (Not recommended but we can test vs. Over my dead body). – Martin Roettgerding
  • Being able to answer client questions confidently and communicate effectively. – Geena Nazareth
  • There is a lot of subtlety to this biz. Some lessons you just have to walk through – some you have to walk through on fire. – James Hebdon
  • Like most things, experience sets you up to better answer questions/deal with account issues. – Matt Umbro
  • Being able to sniff out a loser landing page and realize what low hanging changes can be made to help it convert. – Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
  • I think your team capabilities can outweigh tactical. I see stronger results created in collaboration, not just my solo input. – Maddie Cary
  • Easier to set expectations (and do so more confidently) when you can more or less “predict” the results you can obtain. – Jose Ferreira
  • Another great example I give of experience helping out is in relation to supplement accounts. – Matt Umbro
  • Also knowing how to let something happen that you know is not a good idea. Sometimes that is what has to be done to move forward. – Julie Bacchini
  • I’ve spent so much time troubleshooting and trying to get feeds approved that I stay away from them as much as I can. Something that experience has taught me that someone fresh might not know! – Matt Umbro
  • Basically knowing all the things that need to be done before you launch a campaign to limit wasted spend. – Jesse Semchuck
  • Experience can get in the way, though. There’s a type of client for agencies who don’t know or won’t tell when it’s a lost cause. – Martin Roettgerding

Q4: What are subtle indicators that a client is unhappy? Why?

  • They randomly ask you to add a new gmail address to their account. – Gyi Tsakalakis (@gyitsakalakis)
    • Or you see that a new address has been added to the account without you knowing. – Matt Umbro
    • You see 4 new agency MCC accounts approved as if… as if a new quote war is taking place. – Kirk Williams
  • They start questioning everything. – Davis Baker (@davisbaker)
  • They distrust you. I.e., your optimizations, strategies, & suggestions (tho some 2nd guessing is natural). – Kirk Williams
  • Communication starts to decline OR they say yes to everything but never implement or follow up on anything. – Maria Corcoran
  • Increased phone calls is one. Most clients pick up the phone when not happy to check in as opposed to email. – Jeff Loquist
  • When you see 4 new agencies added as admins to their paid search accounts. – James Hebdon
  • When emails & phone calls go unanswered, and when meetings don’t get accepted. – Melissa Mackey
  • More questioning of why you are doing things from clients who don’t normally ask a ton of questions. – Matt Umbro
  • Training once taught me that opposite of LOVE isn’t HATE, it’s APATHY. If client is disengaged, they may be ready to part ways. – Maddie Cary
    • Agree, disengaged clients can be a bad sign, esp if they had been proactive before. – Christi Olson 
  • Client stops responding to emails or phone calls. Keeps canceling or delaying meetings. – Joe Martinez
  • Communication. Over communication or communication falling off all together. Lack of Trust – asking to justify everything. – Christi Olson
  • Subtle clues are longer lags in communication, rescheduling & scrutinizing invoices. Slow payments can be a sign too. – Julie Bacchini
  • Either they communicate too much and are anxious or not enough because they’re disengaged. Lack of comprehension re reports. – Jesse Semchuck
  • When they are probing too much, it’s a sign that they are unhappy (or just very nervous). – Barry Abraham (@brickwaybarry)
  • Or communication increases, they want more calls with you to review account optimizations. – Orlando Valencia
  • Decline in communication and lag in response time for steps client needs to take to accomplish task. – Jacob Ehrnstein (@Jacobehrn)
  • Also, when you see a superior CC’d on communication to you. – Matt Umbro
  • Experience leads to a pretty good spidey sense about when the wheels are about to come off too. – Julie Bacchini
  • Ad hoc requests for extra reports, unusual meetings, additional scrutiny of some sort. – Colleen McCaskell
  • They start reading the reports. – Barry Abraham

Q5: How do you handle clients who like to communicate too much?

  • I try to set weekly or biweekly calls to discuss issues/questions. That usually does the trick. – Melissa Mackey
  • Theoretically, ditch them for better clients that fit my working pattern better.
    In practice, stress about it. – Richard Fergie
  • Usually not issue of communication amount, as much as, communication effectiveness. – Gyi Tsakalakis
  • It’s best to set expectations at the start, and have an admin person to handle random calls. – Jeff Loquist
  • For one thing, I always stipulate in a proposal that email be the primary form of communication. – Barry Abraham
  • Set expectations now, not later. Create clear communication structure that still makes client feel you are being proactive. – Maddie Cary
  • Weekly meetings – make them save their questions for one “office hours” answer them all at once – time effective for all. – Maria Corcoran
  • I will ask that they bundle up their questions/inquiries or wait until the weekly/bi weekly calls. – Matt Umbro
  • Start charging them for every email (kind of kidding). – Davis Baker
  • Set regular “office hours” for them and train them in what to expect from you re: responsiveness. Almost always workable. – Julie Bacchini
  • Work with the AMs to better manage expectations. Try and let 1 business day elapse before tackling their email etc. – Colleen McCaskell
  • If they are still communicating too much, be honest and say that the excessive communication is taking you away from management. – Matt Umbro
    • Right. Sometimes you have to tell them you aren’t scoped for that many hours of calls. – Melissa Mackey 
  • Theoretically, set expectations but know that there are times when over communication will happen. Be prepared. – Christi Olson
  • Sometimes over communication is a result of clients getting pressure from their bosses – be empathetic to that as well. – Matt Umbro
  • Broken record here – dig to find out why they are doing it too. Disorganized? Insecure? Micromanager? – Julie Bacchini
    • Great points – for some it’s just their tendency and you can’t take it personally. – Matt Umbro
  • What sorts of questions are they asking? Again, is this just a case of taking on the wrong clients? – Steve Gibson
  • In times like that I’m glad we have AEs who usually nip that stuff in the bud. – Melissa Mackey
  • Usually our Account Managers handle that, but when they are contributing it can be helpful to set a recurring meeting. – Kyle Crocker
  • If it’s impacting work have a conversation/set ground rules. Explain the impact and let them choose between work or answering Questions. – Christi Olson
    • Valid point, as strange as it sounds, some relationships aren’t as results based as they are communication. – Matt Umbro
  • I like to ask – am I providing you with what YOU need to answer questions you’re asked? Usually leads to good convo. – Julie Bacchini
  • I will say – if clients are calling me 3 – 4 times a week, I nip that in the butt right away. – Matt Umbro
  • Understand where the comm really coming from. Client? Boss? Boss’ boss? Shape your comm to that, make your POC look good! – Maddie Cary
  • When it’s email communication, not a problem. I use Dragon N.S. to speak my words, and feel ready to quickly dispense answers. – Barry Abraham
  • Important to be there when they need it. Always anticipate possible follow-up questions and be thorough in your answers. – Jose Ferreira

Q6: When there is a problem, what are your immediate action items for finding the solution? Why?

  • Depends on problem. But first, communicate that there is a problem. 
  • First make sure you understand the problem thoroughly. Then work withthe client to develop a plan to remedy.- Melissa Mackey
  • First is to fully diagnose the problem, don’t try to solve something you don’t fully know. – Matt Umbro
  • Retrace your steps. Follow the basics and make sure the input was correct. – Brianna Anderson (@brie_e_anderson)
  • Start w tracking/user error/change history/email/note history. Find the source, fix it, own up to it/call it out immediately. Transparency = trust imho. everyone makes mistakes, don’t hide them, fix them. – Maria Corcoran
  • Always starts with communication. What? Why? How? Without this, everything is in vain. – Jeff Loquist
  • Clearly communicate what is happening, what steps are being taken now and ETA for resolution or plan for resolution. – Julie Bacchini
  • If major inform the client first to show you’re proactive & maybe get more info. Check analytics/change history to find cause. – Joe Martinez
  • After that check the analytics and see what exactly IS the problem. – Brianna Anderson
  • 1. Figure out how big a problem.
    2. Maybe do damage limitation.
    3. Is there a “fix” or is it structural?
    4. Fix or do some patching. 5. Check if fix has worked. 
    6. Look at how to stop this ever happening again.
    Maybe some client comms in there too. – Richard Fergie
  • Also, if you think you’ve found the answer, double check and confirm what you are thinking is indeed the answer. Especially in paid search, there are always many factors that could be contributing to something. – Matt Umbro
  • First and Foremost, Ask Questions to get to the root of the issue. Put emotions aside and be open and empatheic. – Christi Olson
  • 1) Find problem (AH!)
    2) Investigate + plan how to prevent in future
    3) Review strategy as team & then tell client proactively. – Maddie Cary
  • Identify the issue, check in early & often w/client & team – work as a partner (not as a vendor) w/ client to resolve. – Kim Thomas (@PPCkimpossible)
  • Identify. Data. Analyze. Report. Implement. – Orlando Valencia
  • Find the source of the problem, fix it, explain how/why it happened, learn from it. – Jose Ferreira
  • Communication is key. Depending on what the issue is, it might be a business problem, and not just a PPC problem. – Jean Joe
  • Once problem is fully resolved, do a post-mortem to learn all you can from this situation to avoid in future or apply lessons. – Julie Bacchini
  • Usually a two-pronged approach requiring thorough client comms and a deep dive into the data. Both necessary for a solution. – Colleen McCaskell
  • Also (for agency teams) if team member was one who made mistake, NEVER throw individual under the bus.”We” made a mistake. – Maddie Cary
  • Determine the full scope/extent of the problem, also inform stakeholders that a problem exists & we’re looking into it. – Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)

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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)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Amy Hebdon (@amyppc)
• Aviva Downing (@AvivCuriously)
• Barry Abraham (@brickwaybarry)
• Brianna Anderson (@brie_e_anderson)
• Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
• Colleen McCaskell (@ppccolleen)
• Davis Baker (@davisbaker)
• Emma Franks (@akaEmmaLouise)
• Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
• Geena Nazareth (@GeenaNazareth)
• Graeme Benge (@graemebenge)
• Gyi Tsakalakis (@gyitsakalakis)
• Jacob Ehrnstein (@Jacobehrn)
• James Hebdon (@jphebdon)
• Jean Joe (@jean_joe_)
• Jeff Loquist (@jmloquist)
• Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
• Jose Ferreira (@josergferreira)
• Josh Devlin (@JayPeeDevlin)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Kevin Klein (@kkwrites)
• Kim Thomas (@PPCkimpossible)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Kyle Crocker (@kacrocker)
• Maddie Cary (@MaddieMarketer)
• Maria Corcoran (@mariacorcoran)
• Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
• Martin Roettgerding (@bloomarty)
• Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Orlando Valencia (@ValenciaSEM)
• Paul Wicker (@Wickerpedia)
• Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Sam Gordon (@SearchableLLC)
• Shashikant Kore (@kshashi)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)

Streamcaps – Require Minimal Critical Thinking

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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