No two AdWords accounts are exactly alike, but all go through several distinct phases. Each phase requires different tools, skills and level of effort. Like most professionals, I have developed a repeatable process that works for me. Other agencies that offer PPC campaign development and on-going management may have a different process. There is no one single way to achieve success.
When you retain my services, I like to think of it as a journey we go on together. The journey will take us through different phases. The amount of time we spend in each phase will be unique to each client.
Let’s first look at it by asking some pretty simple questions:
- Where have you been? – There is no better information on which to base your AdWords account design, than the data that already exists in your AdWords and Analytics accounts. It’s simply a matter of devoting the time required to mine it, organize it and analyze it, before we begin making adjustments to existing campaigns or designing new ones.
- Where are you now? – The history in some accounts can go back over many years. While it is usually relevant data and can be a source of valuable information, it may not represent how well your account is performing at the point you engage my services. I usually focus on data for the last 30-90 days to get an accurate assessment of the account’s current performance.
- Where do you want to go? – I often bring to light a considerable difference between how the client’s AdWords account is performing, verses how they think it’s performing or want it to perform. Here is just one example. Most novice AdWords advertisers don’t have a good grasp of keyword matching options. When this happens, it usually means they are spending a considerable amount of their budget on poor quality visitors (clicks) and sending prospects to inappropriate landing pages. When this is brought to light, the client usually has a much better idea of what they want or don’t want.
- How do we get there? – Critiquing an existing AdWords account is relatively easy. Building new campaigns and modifying the client’s website so everything works together and reaches its full potential is the difficult part. I’ll get into more specifics further on in this post.
- How do we make it better? – If you are not thinking about how you can do better, you are probably falling behind. Google is always changing their algorithms and policies, your business changes and competitors come and go. Nothing stands still.
Here is how I describe each phase of the process.
The Start-up phase is devoted to building a solid foundation for the process that will be used to develop and manage your account. It involves my gaining a certain amount of knowledge about your company, your markets, your products and/or services, as well as your objectives. Think of me as the newest member of your sales and marketing team. You will be making an investment in how well I am able to serve your organization and its goals.
The length of time spent in the Start-up phase is largely dependent on the size of your existing account, your objectives for expansion and the level of your involvement.
If you have an existing AdWords account with one or more campaigns, I will review the account to determine whether we continue running the existing campaign and rebuild it over time or create a new campaign from scratch. In most cases, I build new campaigns and simply pause ad groups in the existing campaigns as new ones are built.
Tasks during the start-up phase include, but are not limited to:
- Performing administrative tasks that are required to take you on as a new client
- If necessary, helping you set up a new account with Google AdWords or Bing ads
- Gaining access and linking your AdWords account to My Client Center
- Gaining access to your Google Analytics account
- Linking your AdWords account to your Analytics account
- Processing of any information that you provide
- Assessment of your existing AdWords account (settings, campaigns, ad groups, keywords, matching options, search terms, bidding options, ad positioning & ad copy)
- Assessment of you Google Analytics account if you have one or helping you set one up if you don’t.
- Assessment of your web site from the standpoint of search marketing
- Assessment of your competitive landscape from a PPC perspective
- If appropriate, overseeing the installation of the Google conversion tracking code by your web developer
If you have an existing AdWords account, it will take a minimum of two hours and possibly much more for me to assess your account and create the initial work plan. At this point, we will discuss the list of priorities and how much of the work you would like to do yourself. If you choose to do some of the work and have me coach you, please understand this will slow the process, but in the end, it also makes you more self-reliant.
Whether we decide to remodel your existing campaign(s) or create new ones, I’ll need to have the widest possible view of your existing account and your immediate plans for expansion. Having the optimal account architecture reduces the chance of overlap, inefficiency and redundancy.
Tasks during the development phase include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Creating the overall account architecture; campaigns & ad groups
- Keyword research, using a variety of sources and tools
- Getting the appropriate level of keyword feedback from the client based on their desired level of involvement
- Building campaigns, ad groups, ad copy. Choosing the appropriate matching options, bid prices, daily budgets, location targeting, network selection, position preference and ad rotation
- Loading the new campaigns into the client’s account and immediately pausing it, pending review and consultation with the client
Because my business model has no binding contract, the onus is on me continually deliver value. This is why I have a collaborative approach. My approach is to focus on delivering as much value as I can in the shortest amount of time. Therefore, I will usually choose one campaign and one or two ad groups to deploy so that you get a sense of the process and see the results as soon as possible.
During the early stages of the engagement, the results usually come in the form of reduced expenses because of the reduction in poor quality visitors, higher click-through-rates (CTR), increased quality scores and lower cost-per-click (CPC). Once I have a better understanding of your industry, your markets, your products and services, I can usually identify additional niche markets you previously hadn’t encountered.
Most AdWords advertisers are acutely aware of how the Google AdWords policies have evolved over the past few years. The changes have been frequent and significant. Some are so much so that it has rendered entire businesses “out of business” literally overnight. I mention this only to exemplify the importance of keeping up with these changes and being proactive whenever possible.
Perhaps the best example of AdWords policy changes can be seen in your keyword and landing page quality scores. I could go on at length about quality scores and how to optimize them, but the focus here is on what you can do to improve your chances of getting higher quality scores and lower CPCs.
Once I have had a chance to review your account, create the architecture and built the first few ad groups, I will be in a position to make recommendations on what website modifications you can make to improve your quality score ratings and optimize for conversions. This usually involves developing new custom landing pages.
Most advertisers can’t appreciate the importance of or the amount of time required to fine-tune a campaign once it’s been launched. No one ever get’s everything right when a new campaign or ad group is first launched.
When the initial campaign is launched, default bid prices are used, which amount to little more than a guess as to what the bid price should be in order to receive the desired ad ranking for each keyword. It’s simply not practical to research bid prices for what could be hundreds of keywords prior to launch. In the beginning it will be necessary for me to monitor and make adjustments several times a day and then it tails off over time. The amount of time this requires depends on the number of keywords, ad groups and campaigns in your account.
Each keyword is unique and is actually a “market” unto itself. Therefore, until the keyword is actually searched on and your ads receive “clicks”, you can’t be sure where your ad will appear in the ranking or how much you need to bid to obtain the rank that is appropriate. Some keywords are simply much more valuable to you than others. It is an iterative process and the two most important factors are 1) how much traffic your campaign receives and 2) how much time I have to work on it.
There are many factors that determine how long it takes before all the important keywords in a campaign settle into their desired ad rank. Besides adjusting keyword bid amounts, a competent campaign manager continues to research new keywords, identify new competitors and tests new ad copy. The fine-tuning phase can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the amount of traffic and market dynamics.
PPC advertising is an extremely dynamic environment and it can take several weeks to get to the point where it is performing to its full potential, and that assumes that the client has not introduced any new factors such as a new product, service or geographic market.
When a campaign manager builds the initial campaign, it is only the beginning of a process that is never-ending. Never-ending in the sense that the campaign will never be perfect and there are factors that are changing all the time.
However, when the campaign does reach a stage where it is felt all the appropriate keywords have been included, the ad text has been optimized through split-testing and there are no new business initiatives, the campaign can be considered “Mature”. This requires considerably less effort and this is reflected in the on-going effort to manage the account. Some client’s chose to end our formal relationship at this point. Others manage the account themselves and keep me on retainer in the event they require assistance and others have me take full responsibility for managing the account going forward. There are as many options as you can think of. That’s one of the benefits of my business model.