I have a love/hate relationship with process, but ultimately I recognize that sound process is the foundation of PPC success. Repeatable, tried-and-true methods that drive tangible results should feature prominently in the day-to-day activities of all search managers.
That said, don’t be a robot.
Organization is key in search. Calendars are a great way to stay organized and make sure you’re checking all the boxes. A tight schedule should have different tasks scheduled to cover every data segment of an account. Things should be spaced out according to the availability of data (e.g. bids every other day, geo analysis once a month) and calendars tailored to each business. But even armed with the best calendar, it’s easy to fall into the robot trap. So, a few things to keep in mind:
1) It can probably wait! I know we all want to look busy and impress our clients, but important work/analysis shouldn’t be delayed just because the schedule says a regular task has to come first. The reality is that, unless you see some glaring issue with account- or campaign-level metrics, you can probably delay whatever was scheduled for that day and focus on the random analysis you recommended to your client.
Some things just can’t fit in calendars while other one-offs can become part of your routine. Either way, if it feels important, it should be prioritized. There are few things done on a schedule that can and should have a massive impact on the account. A tightly run account shouldn’t be prone to big surprises once you get past the third or fourth run through a production calendar.
My favorite example is ad copy creation. You can try to schedule every facet of executing an ad test, but if your last test is statistically significant earlier than you thought, don’t sit on your hands waiting for what the calendar says. Come up with a new ad and see what happens when you test against a large portion of your account. Few things affect larger chunks of an account than ads and LPs.
2) Some things can and should be skipped entirely! This all ties back to availability of data. Look, unless you’ve just done a big KW launch, you can probably bump your negative KW reviews to every couple of weeks (especially if you just dug through every row of data and could only muster $9.65 in savings). Same goes for big analysis. If you’ve just finished a geo review and found that the data set for last 3 months isn’t half as large as it needs to be, perhaps doing another one 30 days later won’t change anything.
Obviously things are bit more nuanced than that and other variables need to be considered (e.g. what about 6 months of data instead of 3?). Either way, the point is that you should bring a critical eye to your day-to-day work. We operate by some simple rules at Intended, one of the biggest being: get value out of what you do. Don’t waste your time working on something driving little value just to check a box off.
3) Ad hoc can become process! I touched on this earlier, but ad hoc tasks and analysis can be turned into repeatable processes. Sticking only to the prescribed process is akin to wearing blinders. Sure, you can get by just looking straight ahead, but peripheral vision is what you need to get the most out of your account. Process shouldn’t feel like train tracks but more like a 5-lane super highway. The direction is decided for you, but there’s flexibility to maneuver. Again, if it drives value, see if it can be repeated!
4) Reactive isn’t always a bad thing! Process is meant to make search managers look and feel proactive. While they are still reacting to fresh data sets, proactively seeking information without prompting from some downward trend makes SEMs look good. Being reactive shouldn’t be a bad thing, though. While it can’t be your only mindset, embracing the reactive nature of search and making it part of the dialogue with your client can help forge a tighter partnership. It’s about having a better understanding of how this system works. Even someone with a perfectly prioritized to-do list has unfinished tasks! That’s just how the system works.
5) Even ad hoc has its own process! While the technicalities of each task might vary and not feel like a process, the mechanics of analysis are themselves process. Whether it’s how you group data, calculate statistical significance, or roll out changes, it’s all process. Even the philosophies behind the work are process. Always answering core questions like “What Have We Done?” “Why Does it Matter?” “What Comes Next?” is a process.
I imagine I’ve written about this in the past, but this topic is fresh in my mind. Since Intended got started last year, I’ve had the pleasure of training some great new SEM talent. It’s given me a chance to revisit the fundamentals of search to make sure we’re all headed down the right path. The battle between scheduled and ad hoc is a daily struggle, and I find all of this stuff bears repeating. Finding the balance between art & science is what sets great search marketers apart. Now go be great.