Becoming a PPC Search Superhero

OK, so the secret is out: you all want to become PPC (define) search superheroes, get raises, promotions, and praise. At SES San Francisco this week, I was teaching (presenting and facilitating) the PPC Lab Primer session, which is essentially a foundation to the PPC lab sessions where advertisers get hands-on help from their peers and the industry “experts.” My mission, after presenting the foundation of best practices, was to determine the agenda for the lab sessions, so we went through all the obvious strategic and tactical areas of best practices. The range of interest of the audience for a deeper dive into the typical areas of best practices was diverse, but nothing stood out as a subject that the majority of attendees wanted to cover.

Just when I was about to give up hope that there’d be a killer agenda item that everyone could get on board with, I thought to ask some PPC superhero questions to determine if attendees (who were quite diverse from an industry, seniority, and company-size perspective) wanted to be heroes within their organizations. Turns out a lot of them do. In hindsight, it’s a no-brainer.

The questions I asked (during the session and to some folks afterwards) that got a positive response were:

  1. Do you want to know how best to present campaign results to upper management?
  2. Do you want to understand how to get additional budget allocated to your campaigns?
  3. Do you want to get a raise and get promoted by being seen as indispensible and highly valuable to your organization?

These are essentially superhero aspirations. Everyone wants to be the hero, so here’s my take on how best to accomplish the personal career objectives above.

1. Presenting campaigns to senior management: Find out what senior management uses as their KPIs (key performance indicators) and dig deeper than the CPO, CPA, ROAS, and ROI metrics that tend to float around marketing departments. Find out what else senior management wants to know or uses to make strategic decisions about the direction of the business. Are there hot buttons like market share, share of wallet, brand awareness, revenue growth, return on capital, etc.? You may have access to similar data specific to search campaigns and may be able to include this data in your reports to management.

Consider using competitive data to normalize your results. For example, if your campaign growth (at the same metrics) was flat recently and competitive campaigns were down, you will look a lot better than if those results were presented in a vacuum. Remember that in a soft economic environment “flat is the new up.”

2. Getting additional budget: Management generally rewards results, and will allocate budgets when the investment of those incremental dollars will result not only in a positive return, but also a positive return higher than the alternative investments. That may require you to know not only how well you did at delivering against your metrics or KPIs, but what other departments or marketing vehicles deliver. Auction-based media (be it search or auction-based exchange display media) gets more expensive as you increase budgets. This is a concept called elasticity. A question you need to know the answer to is how much the campaign’s overall and marginal ROI will change as you increase your spending levels. You should be testing campaign elasticity at the keyword level from time to time anyway, but things get challenging when you start to increase budgets overall by more than 20 percent in a short period of time. Remember: some of your best keywords will likely be in top positions already and these are likely to be the least elastic (most inelastic). Therefore, you may need to understand the opportunity in keywords you currently have paused due to prior poor results as well as media opportunities that go beyond the PPC SERP, such as contextual and behavioral (search retargeting) options.

3. Get a raise/promoted and become indispensible: At some point, all of us were search tacticians, then we became search strategists, and perhaps on top of that we got managerial responsibilities. A common mistake among search tacticians looking to make themselves indispensible is to position themselves as a “guru” or “voodoo master” with some arcane knowledge of how to use a particular technology or analytics platform. Sometimes that technology is Google AdWords or Google Analytics. This short-sighted view often results in a desire to do too many things oneself and become a control freak. PPC search to-do lists are too long to cling to as a sole keeper of the arcane knowledge of search best practices. If you need help, hire it internally. In many cases, you’ll be best off by biting the bullet and hiring an agency (or ask for senior management to consider an agency). Hired an agency? Guess what – you’re an instant manager. Plus, it’s the agency’s job to make you a hero by delivering performance that can be communicated by you to superiors. At least that’s the way I tell my teams to run their accounts, because that’s how we keep accounts for many years. With a good agency you’ll have the advantage of learning from them the best practices derived from dozens of campaigns under management at the agency. Plus, they should be proactive in making recommendations that help you shake loose more budgets.

The right agency will help you make that transition from a PPC search tactician (buried in the day-to-day fire-fighting of a campaign) into a strategic thinker who can help decide which internal resources to deploy in order to move the needle in a meaningful way. After all, it’s results and the ability to demonstrate and communicate those results which get you promoted. By moving away from the drudgery of campaign management and moving into campaign strategy, you’ll be more likely to deliver a positive impact on results, and the daily tasks you use to replace search production will actually be more mentally stimulating and more fun.

Superheroes often work in teams, and as a paid search superhero, you need to adopt a philosophy of knowledge sharing and communication internally and externally with partners. You’ll find it empowering.

Related reading

Screenshot shows a Google search for outdoor grills, the shopping ads shows images with “in store” showing the product is available nearby.