Dear PPC client,
We PPC professionals can sometimes forget the challenges of stepping into the world of Google Ads, and engaging with us GAds-heads.
It’s likely that you’re not intimately familiar with the pros and cons of different account structures and optimisation methods; which of the interface metrics really matter, or the less obvious signs of good vs poor account performance.
All of which means you’re talking a leap of faith and – until the whole business is clearly profitable (which may take a while…) – paying handsomely for the ride.
Google Ads doesn’t always work out… but as long as all parties involved act with
- Good sense
- Good faith
(both of which dictate having the skills required to take the project on in the first place)
…then it works out more often than not – sometimes game-changingly well – and when it doesn’t work out it’s usually a marginal call rather than a total flop.
And to give it the best chance of working well, there are a few things that we – PPC managers – need to ask you to sign off on…
A few not-necessarily-intuitive truths about what works and what doesn’t work at both the account level and (I’ll say it so your AM doesn’t have to…) for the relationship with your account manager.
1. You don’t need to cover all relevant ground… and shouldn’t try
It’s often assumed that if a keyword is clearly relevant, it should therefore be active in a campaign.
But it’s an important mistake.
Generally, you have a certain amount of budget to spend. If you try to use it to reach everyone searching anything that might be relevant to your product… it won’t go very far in any particular direction, and it won’t do much work in any particular area of the search territory you’re covering.
Instead, you want to use that budget for your keywords to occupy the very best ground – where they’re going to do the most profitable work for you.
When you add new keywords without increasing budget, you are dividing rather than multiplying.
Dividing it between more keywords is only helpful when the new keywords bring clicks that beat your current traffic on the cost:value ratio.
Don’t add them, or keep them (or ask for them) just because they’re relevant.
2. You won’t always see your ad… and shouldn’t try
The most important thing to note with this, is that when you fail to see your ad after searching on a term that you expect to bring it up… it is not (even close to) a reliable sign that your ads aren’t running as they should.
There are some common reasons why you might not see the ad that you’re expecting to see, when you check with a live search.
I won’t run through them all (I list them in this video) but the most fundamental is that it is very unusual for an ad to appear 100% of those times when it technically could…
If it did, there would be no limit to how many clicks you could get – and so – how much cost you could accrue…
But you have put that limit in place, in the form of your campaign’s (average daily) budget. To respect that budget, Google Ads rations out impressions so that your ads only show for some – not all – eligible impressions.
Running searches to look for your own ads is not just an unreliable indicator… it is also slightly detrimental.
If you search for your ad and click on it, you’ll be paying Google for that click. If you search for your ad and don’t click on it, you’re decreasing your CTR.
(You might also be interested to know that ‘why can’t I see my ad?’ is the #1 cause of eye-rolling among PPC professionals. Not your fault if you don’t know the answer… but now you know!)
3. You can’t forecast
Yes, there are tools to indicate search volumes, competition levels and an expected range of CPCs.
And they’re helpful…
But they can’t be used to encompass a whole account, let alone the messy and dynamic reality of that (continually changing) account’s interactions with the (continually changing) landscape of auctions in the wild.
You really have to run Google Ads activity to see how things will go in practice.
You won’t be able to cure your uncertainty before going live… but that uncertainty will reduce quite quickly once the data starts coming in.
Estimating results in advance is not (always) a completely pointless exercise, but it has to be wrapped in so many caveats that it can’t be called forecasting in any meaningful sense.
4. Your results
may will vary…
Taking an early reading too seriously is a common mistake in PPC analysis.
I have had clients (and I’m sure I’m not alone…) whose campaigns typically generated, say, 3-4 leads per day, and would stress out if they hadn’t yet seen any come through by noon on any given day.
Trend lines in a complex system like PPC contain plenty of natural variation within them… and the cause and effect of account changes can be quite slow – especially with Smart Bidding.
Zoom out to an appropriate level before making any judgements.
The ‘appropriate level’ depends on volume… but it’s usually closer to weeks than hours.
You can usually assume that your account manager will be quick to see patterns for themselves, and to judge when those patterns call for action. It is the essence of the job.
5. Try not to get too involved in the campaign specifics
Almost all PPC managers – if being honest – will admit to making changes that they know to be neutral at best for the accounts in question, because they don’t want to create unnecessary friction with a client who’s requesting those changes.
This happens a lot with clients who ask for campaign changes frequently, in which case we just have to pick our battles and keep our powder dry for when we need to push back on a really counterproductive request.
Your PPC manager should be seeking your input and expertise on certain things – particularly in the early stages (e.g. which products or services are your most popular/highest-margin… what geographic or demographic patterns do you see in your client base… what has the recent quality of leads been like… what terms do your clients use when referring to this or that…)
But when it comes to translating all of that into keyword selection, bid management and budget allocation… it’s really better to leave it to them.
6. Smart bidding does not mean that your AM won’t have a lot to do
Smart Bidding does not take the job off your account manager’s hands.
They have plenty to keep them occupied, with keyword selection; mining search terms and adding negatives; evaluating and improving ad text and extensions; assessing and changing CPA or ROAS targets; internal budget allocation; audiences, devices and all the other variables of traffic…
Not having a human do these things is bad news for an account.
In Google’s recent Search Summit, Nicolas Darveau-Garneau described Google’s advertising system as moving towards being like a self-driving car.
Maybe one day, but right now Smart Bidding is more like an automatic-transmission. The car still needs driving.
7. Google Ads success is not all about Google Ads
Of course, it is our job as PPC managers to improve the quality of traffic from your campaigns… not just quantity.
But the quality – and the value – of that traffic, depends greatly on what happens to it post-click.
Your PPC success is multiplied (or divided) by what happens on the site and beyond… UX & CRO, offer, margin, customer nurturing etc.
PPC managers vary widely in how much we take the post-click journey to be part of our remit… And it is worth establishing where a PPC professional sits on that scale before you engage them.
If your account manager has a narrow focus, then you will have to be the one to judge whether, when and how your landing pages and site need to be improved.
Still consult with your PPC manager on this… and seek help from elsewhere if necessary. It’s a vital area, too often overlooked.
8. It may take a while
The typical suggested trial duration is three months – and there’s a good reason for this.
It can often take that long to gather enough data, and to make and assess enough course corrections in response to those data, to be able to judge an account’s potential properly.
If an account is not performing well, you’ll be concerned about conflicts of interest… and yes, if you think Google Ads is proving to be unprofitable for you, you may need to make this judgement call without much help from your account manager.
(You know you’ve got an AM with integrity when they tell you your account is not going to turn around… Shame to find that out way).
So as a rule of thumb to help guide that judgement call…
If after three months at recommended budget levels, your activity is neither close to a sustainable performance level, nor rapidly improving, then it’s reasonable to call time.
There may still be good reasons to continue… but in general, you’re not jumping the gun if you take continued poor performance as a stop sign at that point.
If you can keep these PPC principles in mind, and give your account manager the time and space they need to tussle, negotiate and cooperate with the complex system that is Google Ads…
You’ll usually be rewarded.