Creating Team Wins in PPC: Tools and Tips to Work More Transparently

team wins ppc tools tips work transparently

To all PPC heroes, rock stars, and ninjas: like the wolf in nature, a lone wolf cannot see as much. And wolves hunt in packs, don’t they?

Sure, in agency work, a “single lead point of contact” is an important convention. Without a firm, experienced, and comprehensively trained account lead, no account can contend with tough competition. With one main point of contact, you also get consistent, unambiguous communications with the client or management.

If you’re great at PPC, you have every reason to be brimming with confidence. The only reason you score a few points below 100% on some certification exams is because you’re thinking that none of the multiple-choice questions are the “real answer.” You love to learn new things and to fill in gaps in your knowledge. You love to bring neglected components of an account up to par, to squeeze out every drop of performance.

Ninjas, assemble

On very small accounts, layers and even extensive reporting won’t be practical from a time standpoint. In the minor leagues, it’s “ninja: you’re it.”

That begins to change as budgets grow.

As in most important missions in the history of human civilization: it takes a village. Teams often work on accounts, and there is invariably some kind of division of labor that incorporates (if it’s a client-agency relationship) marketing managers, IT support, and even other third-party vendors.

Complete transparency into everything a specialist does is, frankly, unrealistic. But we must make the assumption of a high level of transparency so that:

  • Team members don’t step all over one another’s work
  • Reasons for structures and techniques are available (less second-guessing / rebuilding)
  • Product knowledge and customer intent patterns are shared
  • Clients have a reasonable view into where everything is in the account, so they can use a generalist’s judgment about overall effectiveness
  • Clients aren’t being deliberately fooled by arcane or obscure methodologies and hidden settings

(Soapbox break: Google should now pay attention to some of these principles. In the design of features in the new Google Ads experience, there are more hidden pitfalls than ever. We’ve always believed that you have to comb through settings so you know and understand what you’re automatically opted into. It’s just that now, that list is as long as your arm. Amateurs don’t have a fighting chance.)

How to win as a wolfpack

If you know digital advertising, you know how many moving parts lurk under the hood. It’s all too easy for opacity to take over.

Here are some ways to keep the job site clear of underbrush; no need for two years of management training or a subscription to the Harvard Business Review (you’re welcome):

1. Use labels.

You knew I’d probably go there first, right? In Google Ads, labels can be applied to campaigns, adgroups, keywords, and ad creative versions. So it’s not just about using them, but about all the creative ways they can be used.

  • To document inventory/stock issues
  • To explain that a keyword was disciplined for being an underperformer or budget hog (ideally in a systematic sweep)
  • To annotate bulk additions of ads driven by principles
  • To denote ownership of a campaign by additional team members, and to reduce the need to dig into change history to see who’s who and what’s what
  • To better handle seasonality
  • To demarcate higher or lower margin items
  • To warn of a weak landing page
  • Much more. You’re only limited by your imagination.
2. Name campaigns and ad groups so that any reasonable person can follow them.

Don’t overcomplicate campaign structures and don’t use proprietary nomenclatures unless they are simple and everyone is on board. (Also: use short names. With so many columns to view nowadays, crowding is no good. You’re not always working on a big screen.)

3. Keep audience definitions and names tidy and straightforward.

Don’t build a library of excessive numbers of audiences for dozens of different purposes. (Unless, of course, you’re willing to delete ‘em later.)

  4. Use remarketing judiciously.

Don’t abuse audiences or otherwise smuggle an excessive amount of remarketing across different parts of an account or different channels. I call this “credit sniping.” Tweaking things to tilt more attribution from one channel to another should not be a reason for account work, and it’s rarely done with candor.

5. Figure out the happy medium in reporting and meeting frequency.

Without regular client guidance, mistakes and misunderstandings are more common.

6. Educate, without it degenerating into a giant brain dump.

Over the years, for example, I’ve noticed a tendency for generalists to focus mainly on one or two elements of a process that might have 30, 40, or 50 meaningful moving parts. If someone is focused on “keywords alone” but forgets that keywords represent a family of underlying queries—and that, moreover, there is almost always overlap and cannibalization across accounts in terms of which queries get served against which parts of accounts—it’s possible to miss the complexity of users’ expressions of intent, and how accounts are built to correctly capture it in the most accurate and efficient way possible.

It’s helpful in this context to remind the boss/client several times of key underlying principles and your approach to them—the power of the WYSIATI (“what you see is all there is”) when looking at results in an interface (or for that matter, a legal contract, an MRI, etc.) can bias or baffle non-specialists.

7. Engage in long-term planning exercises, within reason.

Insist that all major seasonal patterns and promotion details are widely shared across client and agency teams.

8. For remote teams, relish your F2F time.

This includes both screen-gathering “work” and broader seminar and learning opportunities. Further, offsite conversation and team-building events, or just sharing a cab, always lead to productive discoveries.

9. Share your knowledge, theories, and case studies with the marketing community.

In turn, learn from that community. (In other words, do what I’m doing now.) Whether it’s writing a book and articles, speaking at events, or attending events purely to learn and network, for my money at least someone in a specialist organization should be networked and involved in teaching and learning. Siloed “experts” can be very good. But that might still conceal blind spots. Confidence leads to overconfidence unless a community of true experts is always pushing you.

10. Stick to the facts.

Don’t engage in irresponsible, magical speculation about Quality Score (or any other feature or data point available in digital advertising platforms). Documentation is extensive; Google reps can often help to clarify further. Sure, we all love to think we can come up with a magic means of reverse-engineering big G’s algorithms. But hey, PPC’er, do you really want to come across like that SEO guru from 2003 who still wears the same tinfoil hat (and suit, and slacks, but with Converse sneakers, to “stay grounded”)? Attack these issues cleverly (or even quixotically, in private), but on the foundation of as many verifiable facts as possible; don’t lay it on too thick or try to build your own cult around “your say-so.” I’m gonna call you out if you do.

11. Use widely-known, affordable analysis and automation tools wherever appropriate.

I’m talking about software like Google Analytics and Optmyzr. Dealing in widely-shared vocabularies and standards with shared data builds trust; this is the antithesis of bamboozling management with your ability to steer expensive, black-box toolsets.

There! I got through the whole piece without referencing Slack, Google Hangouts, Basecamp, Trello, or Asana. In other words, this post barely scratched the surface of how organizations work, but I hope it helped convey a sense that self-silo’ing is so “studying solo for your midterm exams when you’re surrounded by lesser beings,” which, for me, seemed like common sense at the time, too.

Happy hunting this holiday season, and may you collaborate brilliantly in 2019!