How to Inherit and Quickly Boost a PPC Account

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If you manage pay-per-click campaigns, at some point you will inherit an account that you did not build.

You may inherit an account from a colleague if you work in-house, or you may work for an agency and acquire client accounts on a regular basis. In this article, we’ll lay out a plan to successfully inherit a PPC account and take it to the next level of optimized performance.

Gather Mission Critical Information

Before you make any adjustments to a new campaign, you first need to understand the previous performance in context. Run historical reports and discuss what you find with the previous account manager or the client. You need to understand how the account has been trending.

However, the most important aspect of this conversation needs to focus on which direction the account needs to go. The most important question to answer during this conversation is, What does success look like for this campaign?

Define Goals, Budgets, and Other Critical Metrics

Once you’ve defined what success looks like for this campaign, next you need to get into concrete details. You need to work with your supervisor or client to determine the monthly advertising budget as well as realistic goals for the campaign. Keep in mind, however, that budgets and goals should adjust according to seasonal and cyclical patterns of your business.

Confirm All Conversion Tracking

Do yourself a favor and confirm all tracking associated with the campaigns. Upon inheriting accounts, I often find that the PPC tracking has not been established properly. Make sure to review Google AdWords, Microsoft adCenter and Google Analytics tracking as well as any third-party or internal tracking sources.

Testing all of the tracking gives you a chance to analyze the actions that are being monitored, and you should determine if these are the right conversions to drive your optimization efforts. For example, we inherited an account that was triggering conversions for product searches, time on site and other user interactions; but the most important action we needed to monitor and optimize for was actual purchases.

Unearth the Buried Quick Wins

Once you’ve determined in which direction the account needs to go, there will be tactics you can implement that will boost performance quickly. We call these tactics, “Foundation Strengthening Tactics” because you aren’t aggressively re-organizing or expanding the account. Rather, you are shoring up the load-bearing pillars of the pre-existing campaigns.

Here is a short list of quick wins that we find frequently within accounts. If you inherit a PPC campaign, this is a great place to start in order to improve performance quickly:

• Campaign settings: These can be silent killers. Within AdWords and adCenter, you should review the settings for every active campaign. Make sure that ad rotation (rotate evenly) and ad delivery (accelerated) are set properly. Also, review all geographic and day-parting settings. If you find a campaign has aggressive day-parting (increasing/decreasing bids or turning ads off completely), make sure to ask why this was implemented. Adjusting campaign settings is an easy fix that can improve performance with a few quick clicks.

• Network distribution: Make sure Search and Display network distribution are separated into different campaigns. Also, within adCenter (and forthcoming in AdWords), you can segregate the Search Partner network as well.

• Keyword match types: A common source of mistakes within campaigns is incorrect match-type implementation. Often broad match is over-utilized, and exact match is under-utilized. Upon inheriting an account you should review all of the broad-match keywords to see where spend is being wasted. You can rein in this spending by adding new exact- and phrase-match keywords, lowering bids, and even pausing broad-match terms that are generating clicks but no conversions. For broad-match terms with high volume but low conversion rates, you may also consider building out your negative keyword list or switching the offending terms to modified broad match. This can help qualify your traffic.

• Device targeting: If you don’t have specific plans for mobile devices, and if you don’t have a mobile-optimized website, then your campaigns may be wasting clicks. Run a segmentation report within AdWords and adCenter to see if mobile devices need to be removed from your distribution.

• Ad split tests: Split testing is one of the most effective ways to optimize your campaign. Testing ads can help improve your click-through rate and conversion rate, enhance your Quality Score, and lower your CPC and CPA. However, split tests can be easily neglected and often forgotten. When you inherit an account, make sure to review all of the current split tests. Pause any underperforming ads and this can give the account a quick boost.

Normally, supervisors and clients want to see an immediate lift in performance when a new manager steps in, even if it’s only a small bump. However, long-term plans for continued optimization can take weeks to plan and implement (good plans do). This plan can help you get acclimated to the account and improve ROI quickly — and then you can get to the business of sustained growth.

About the Author: Joseph Kerschbaum is vice president for search and social advertising agency Clix Marketing and a regular speaker at search and advertising conferences such as SES and SMX. His writing on the SEM industry appears regularly in numerous publications, and he coauthored the book, Pay-Per-Click SEM: One Hour a Day.

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