Think Big, But Cautiously When Transitioning PPC Accounts

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During my career, I’ve been involved in many PPC sales. Whether conducting an audit, answering questions, or helping with projections, I have assisted in nearly every step of the process. For me, the sales portion is the easy part.

What I’ve constantly tried to improve over the years is my ability to better transition accounts.

When I talk about the transition, I’m referencing what happens in the immediate aftermath of a new account manager taking over an existing account. Generally, the account is underperforming and needs work, or else the client wouldn’t be looking to make a change. Account managers (rightfully) have big ideas, but they all can’t be implemented at once. Performance may not be great, but transitions need to be done carefully so revenue and leads don’t fall flat.

Below, I explain the steps I take after taking over an account. Many of these are well-known techniques for existing accounts. However, the process of implementation is different when taking over a new account.

Set Appropriate Expectations

It’s natural for both the client and PPC account manager to get excited when taking over a new account. The problem is that very rarely will results improve overnight. Fellow PPC professional, Bryant Garvin, recently gave a great analogy in regards to account transitions.

Image of Bryant Garvin tweet

Screenshot taken 12/7/2014 of www.twitter.com

Just like remodels, building and adjusting campaigns takes time. In some areas, account managers must rip down everything to the studs and begin building again. In other areas, it’s not necessary or may even be even detrimental to start over.

I prefer to set the expectation that the first month of management will involve many moving parts and performance will remain stagnant. Having made this statement, I also acknowledge that by the end of the first month, the client should understand and be comfortable with the direction of the account. After I set these expectations, I begin to get rid of what isn’t working the account.

Cut The Fat

I have never taken over an account where there wasn’t at least one keyword, ad group, or campaign wasting budget without showing good returns. To find these inefficiencies, I’ll go campaign by campaign and run filters identifying poor performers. For example, I might run a keyword filter that looks at keywords having at least 50 clicks and zero conversions over the last 90 days.

Image of AdWords filter

Screenshot taken 12/7/2014 of adwords.google.com

The filter thresholds will vary based upon account goals, but the point is that you can quickly find areas that aren’t working.

When running these filters, also keep in mind your search funnels. A keyword may show 50 clicks without any conversions, but it could be helping to assist in the overall conversion process. Here are the various search funnels you can view.

Image of Search Funnels option

Screenshot taken 12/7/2014 of adwords.google.com

In addition, the overall Search Funnels report is available in the “Conversion” section of the “Tools” tab.

When cutting the fat, it’s important to understand that some existing campaigns, ad groups, and/or keywords will remain running during the transition. As mentioned above, we cannot afford to have revenue and leads fall flat. In fact, some of these campaigns may continue running in a modified format after the transition process. For example, if Campaign A is performing well, we may look to further segment ad groups and make optimizations within the existing campaign rather than create a new one.

Create Negative Keyword Lists

When reviewing search query reports, you will inevitably find negative keywords that can be implemented. Aside from adding negatives to existing campaigns, you’ll want to create new lists that can be applied to future campaigns. For example, if I’m selling high-end furniture and see non-converting queries containing terms such as “cheap,” “bargain,” and “discount,” I’ll want to make sure these terms are proactively implemented in new campaigns.

Within the Shared Library in both Google and Bing, I can add negative keyword lists.

Image of negative keyword list

Screenshot taken 12/7/2014 of adwords.google.com

Thus, all campaigns moving forward will be assigned this list. We can also add to existing campaigns that will continue running during the account transition process.

Test New Ad Copy In Existing Campaigns

After identifying campaigns and ad groups that will remain running during the transition, determine where new ad copy will help. Many times I find only one ad is running in an ad group. It may be performing well, but it isn’t running against another ad, thus we don’t know how good performance could be. Within these ad groups I’ll ensure that at least two ads are running.

You might also find that campaign settings are such that ads aren’t rotating evenly. In new campaigns, I set my ads to rotate indefinitely, but existing ones may be set to optimize for clicks or conversions. Or, they are set to rotate evenly for at least 90 days and then be optimized. If ads aren’t set to rotate indefinitely or evenly, be careful if you change this setting. Again, this is if the existing ads are showing good performance – we don’t want to hinder the results.

It might be beneficial to change the settings in campaigns showing fewer conversions or ads that aren’t targeting the client’s core keywords.

Fix The Minor Issues

There are many areas that won’t significantly impact performance by themselves, but when combined will hinder growth. Some of these areas include:

  • Ad Extensions – At the very least, sitelinks and callout extensions should be enabled in every campaign
  • Bid Modifiers – If mobile cost per conversion is too high, set a negative modifier. Or, if a specific time of day converts well, set a positive modifier.
  • Ad Delivery Method – If budget isn’t an issue, I suggest setting ad delivery to accelerated. This way you ensure your ads show for every search instead of Google discretion of evenly over time.

Make sure the lesser-discussed features are properly setup in order to ensure the strong account foundation.

Build New Campaigns

Once you have reviewed the existing structure and made the necessary updates, it’s time to build. Based upon account goals and client feedback, start building where you expect to see the greatest impact. For example, in e-commerce campaigns I make sure Shopping and Remarketing campaigns are built correctly. I’ll then focus on category and/or product text ad campaigns that are of high value to the client or have historically seen good returns.

Conclusion

There is no exact science to account transitions. Your ultimate goal is to create a strong foundation for growth over time. My process has helped me over the years and hopefully it gives you a structure for better account transitions.

Do you have have other tips for account transitions? Please share them in the comments below!

Featured Image: Screenshot taken December 2013

Matt Umbro

Matt Umbro

Senior Account Manager, Community at Hanapin Marketing
Matt is a Senior Account Manager in charge of Community at Hanapin Marketing. He specializes in eCommerce PPC and client relations, while also overseeing content production for PPC Hero.He is also the founder of PPCChat, a weekly Twitter chat where industry specialists discuss, analyze and debate various PPC topics using the hashtag #PPCChat.
Matt Umbro
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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    It’s always worthwhile to test new ad copy, even when the current ads are performing well. It provides more options and you may find one that works even better.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Matt Umbro

      Hi Nick,

      Thanks for reading and for your comment. I agree that testing at least 2 ads in every ad group, even if 1 has historically performed better alone, is worth testing.

  • Farschid

    Thanks for the great article!
    One thing I always do as well is going through the top 50 traffic search queries and look which landingpage is set up for them and if there might be a better one. Furthermore, I take a quick look at the geographical performance of the top 3 campaigns and exclude bad performing destinations for the first few weeks.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Matt Umbro

      Hi Farschid,

      Thank you for reading and for your insight. These are also good tactics to take in order to button up ineffective spend and continue to grow.