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Paid search is nuanced. In optimizing accounts, there are a seemingly infinite number of variables to consider. This makes the job of an SEM challenging and time-consuming. In tackling account issues, analyzing data, and executing various tasks, search marketers must be efficient – there just isn’t enough time to get to everything. This time crunch has created a need for repeatable process. Problem is, SEM can’t be managed by one-size-fits-all solutions.

Process and SOPs should serve as a starting point – basic guidelines to inform the person executing the task what they might encounter. They should, however, enable the task-doer to maintain a critical eye and think things through. Too much rigidity can be a bad thing; managing an AdWords account isn’t like building a car in a factory. Even the most basic (but vital) of tasks – like a negative search report – can’t be fully automated. Things like spend and click thresholds are a good way to build a list of potential negatives, but there’s no substitute for reviewing the list and assessing a query’s value beyond what the numbers show you.

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To be clear, I believe in the power of process – especially on the SEM agency side. Creating repeatable steps is essential to scaling an operation where people are executing the same task across multiple accounts. That said, there has to be more than just process to run an account to its fullest potential. Process and technology help create efficiency, but it’s the brain behind the machine that owns it in the end. Push forward with your efficiency plans, but be mindful of the pitfalls of following every process too closely. Build in review protocols and allow the process to evolve with every special case you encounter. In short – use your brain!

Sean Marshall, Director of Search Engine Marketing