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What Makes an Expert – the Art and Science of PPC

  |  September 1, 2014   |  Comments

While the definition of a PPC expert may differ depending on who you ask, there are some basic characteristics that most everyone can agree upon.

What makes someone a PPC expert? It’s a question I’ve asked myself multiple times over the course of my career and each time my answer has been different. I suspect many people’s answers would change depending on where they are in their career. To someone just starting out, an expert might be classified as someone who knows all the ins and outs of the interfaces and targeting options. To someone who’s been around for a while, an expert might be someone who can educate others on how to effectively manage campaigns to your end goals.

In the last few days, I’ve tried to narrow down what I think a PPC expert is. What makes them unique? What criteria do they have to meet? Is it nuts and bolts knowledge? Is it the ability to focus on the abstract? I think it’s a bit of both. Here’s why I think someone must have a firm grip on both the art and science of PPC before being labeled an expert.

The Art

Most PPC pros will tell you that being effective takes a certain level of creativity. It’s not all about adjusting bids by $0.02 one day and $0.03 the next. (Actually, it’s rarely about that.) It’s about being able to see the forest for the trees, or the trees for the forest is that’s what the situation calls for, and determine a strategy to move forward.

Translating a Business’s Capabilities Into a Campaign Strategy

Each business is unique and has its own goals and capabilities to translate to PPC campaigns. For my money, a PPC expert is someone who can look at individual pieces of your business and put them in play in an account. Have a multi-step lead process? Let’s retarget people for each step of the way and create custom conversion actions for each. Sell to customers around the world but only have free shipping within the continental U.S.? Let’s segment campaigns for easy ad copy management based on geography.

Effectively Communicating With Clients (Non-PPC Pros)

Let’s face it, PPC is a jargon-filled industry. We’re constantly talking in three-letter increments and differentiating between words that are synonyms to most people. We can get confusing. An expert is someone who knows how to effectively communicate a PPC strategy to their clients in a way that relates to their business without being patronizing. This skill requires experience, a decent vocabulary, use of imagery, and patience.

Knowing When to Not Make Changes

Every account has natural fluctuations between good and bad performance. In many situations, changes are required to ride those successes or curb the failures, but not always. The challenge is both of these sayings are true: "averages lie" and "one day does not make a trend." An expert can balance between the two to know when they do and when they don’t have enough data to make a decision and change things up.

Delivering Comprehensive, Yet Clear Reporting

Similar to clear client communication, reporting is about taking a world full of numbers and telling a story with it. Experts know what’s important to their clients and how they digest information. Armed with this knowledge, experts can create reports that clearly outline the important areas of accounts performance without overloading clients with information. A perfect balance.

Knowing Where to Look for Answers

The PPC industry is ever changing, it’s impossible for a PPC pro to know everything. A true expert can tell when they don’t know something and knows where to look to find the answers they need.

The Science

While the artful aspects of PPC are certainly crucial, they alone won’t move the needle on your account’s performance. For that, you’ll have to turn to the nuts and bolts, cause and effect science of PPC.

Ability to Use the Interface Effectively

Kind of a no-brainer here. To be an expert, you have to be able to use the system. You can’t just be a strategic thinker. You’ve got to be able to get the information needed and make the changes yourself.

Understand How Changes Should Affect Your Account

When you raise a bid on a keyword, that doesn’t only effect its average position. It can (and probably will) raise the average cost per click (CPC), click-through rate (CTR), maybe cost per action (CPA), and might have a positive impact on your Quality Score. In my book, a PPC expert should know all the ramifications of their changes on an account from obvious to obscure. You might not actively think about them every time you raise a bid or add a new keyword, but being able to trace back to the root cause of a problem is something I consider a critical piece of expertise.

Testing Practices

What could be more scientific than testing? I mean, for the most part, what you’re doing when you A/B test is actually called the "Scientific Method." Determine what you want to improve, create and run a test to prove your new solution is better, analyze your data, then draw conclusions. Sound familiar? An expert can design, implement, and analyze tests effectively and accurately.

Digging in Data to Find Answers

When something’s up with an account, it’s critical you’re able to find the root cause and right the ship. Depending on performance, experts know what they’re looking for and where to look for answers. They understand what circumstances can cause performance fluctuations and where those can be found in the account. Without that ability, you’re left flying blind in an account to figure out why your conversion rates have dropped.

So what do you think? Do you consider these qualities necessary to being call a PPC expert? Are there elements you deem critical left off this list? As I said in the beginning, my answer to this question is continually evolving so share your input. I’d love to hear it!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Morehouse

Michelle is the director of accounts, training, and community at Clix Marketing with an affinity for search, display, retargeting, and social advertising campaigns. She's been managing PPC campaigns since 2010 and is known in the industry for her expertise in online lead generation. She's a regular contributor to the Clix Marketing Blog and is a thought leader on account management and analysis. You can follow her on Twitter @michellemsem.

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