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At Let’s Do Digital this year, myself and Adido paid search maestro Suzana Bulearca, presented our theories on the three life stages of a PPC account for paid search success.
Having extensively researched and implemented many PPC management techniques over the years we felt that these three life stages: new, growing and mature, provided a great concept from which to focus attention, effort and reward for anyone managing a PPC account.
Our talk set the scene by taking everyone back to 2000 when the Google search results offered up very little in terms of ad competition (this was the launch of Google paid ads) and visually it was quite a simple, but untidy landscape.
Moving on to 2005 and 2010, the search results became more varied, the beginnings of “best practice” were evident; and new Google ad features like PLAs, Google checkout buttons and site links appeared.
Now, in 2015, our search result pages display a different view each time, especially across industries. You’ll find Google compare features, Google shopping ads, enhanced site links, callout extensions, 3rd party reviews etc… the landscape is cluttered and awash with variety. As a PPC manager it’s quite a daunting, but also a distracting landscape.
The metrics and features that are prevalent in this sector were illustrated using this diagram. These are some of the elements which are in our control.
Whilst from day one all of these elements can be considered there are just too many to effectively optimise. No-one is blessed with the luxury of time in this industry, and tackling all of these would require a lot of it! So, enter the three stages of a PPC account…
These accounts are ones which are either brand new, have had up to 6 months’ worth of activity in a relatively restricted budget/keyword scope environment or are old accounts which have not received the right attention, time or budget needed to grow.
If you think about PPC like building a house, then, this is the foundation stage.
Key questions to ask at this stage are:
The three elements to concentrate your efforts on are:
An account, depending on industry, performance, or business investment in the channel could reach this stage after one month of activity or after years of being stuck in the new account phase. These accounts can take advantage of the 101 opportunities to grow where the achievement potential is steep, but unless you’ve got a solid foundation already, you could run the risk of wasting time and money if you venture into this stage too early. You will care more about volume rather than return on investment at this stage, and as long as you can see a positive business impact somewhere the world is your oyster.
This is the core building stage of your “house.”
Key questions to consider at this stage are:
The techniques for growth are:
These accounts are ones which have been active in the PPC landscape for ages and have seemingly reached a plateau whereby they’ve exhausted the “big wins”. These accounts have experienced the expansions and the hype, but now their industry and/or their account is so mature and well established that there aren’t many ground breaking things to be done. You know (very well) who your search competitors are, what they’re doing, what works best for your account and how your customers search. At this stage your focus should be on outsmarting your competition, squeezing every little efficiency from your keywords and achieving marginal gains.
This is the stage which can be very frustrating as you’ll be spending a lot of time analysing and making decisions which deliver very little extra growth or return, yet each mini cost saving or additional click improves your ROI. If you were to neglect your account at this stage you could very quickly find yourself at the bottom of the results with an expensive recovery on your hands.
Welcome to the “renovation stage,” characterised by these questions:
The activities to focus on at this stage are:
Finally, regardless of what stage your account is at, it’s important to make sure your eye is always on the PPC ball.
If your eye is off the ball for even a short while, you might find your competitors hit you in the face when you’re least expecting it. Many people think they’ve reached a good and comfortable stage, so they become complacent and maybe even stop investing time in optimisation and just let it run. Then they start panicking when suddenly the volume drops, the profit drops and the brand plunges into collective forgetfulness. WHY? Because all this time, the world is changing, Google is changing, competitors don’t stand still, technology evolves, people change. Losing sight of your account could put your account into a more uncomfortable position quicker than you thought, and then guess what – it takes a lot of effort, time and money to recover, more than it would have taken to just maintain and evolve.
As you’ll hopefully have concluded, there is plenty to be getting on with here, it’s not an exhaustive list by no means, but with so many opportunities, it can often be hard to know which ones to concentrate on, when and why. So hopefully these three stages have given you some context and focus.
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