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Minor League PPC Management

Published: June 5, 2012

Author: Todd Mintz

“Forget Goals.  Value the Process”…Jim Bouton

I feel proud about many things that I’ve done in search marketing.  An example of this would include spending a few hours helping Matt McGee’s wife Cari with her AdWords account (chronicled here).  I have a wonderful sense of accomplishment when I use my professional skills to help really good people like the McGees achieve their professional goals.
There are also situations that fill me with embarrassment…which brings me to the tale I’m about to spin for you today…
I do periodically check up on accounts and clients with whom I’ve previously worked to see how their accounts have changed since I quit managing them and how the client businesses have been doing. I was very surprised to see a piece of media that talked about a company whose PPC account I managed 2-3 years ago. Even more surprising, the piece of media talked directly about their paid search efforts. I was really intrigued and curious to see how their account had evolved since I’d managed it. The company had greatly improved their website, and I was curious to see what they might have done with their paid search campaign during the interim.
After doing a bunch of test searches combined with checking my old PPC spreadsheets from that engagement, I concluded that the core of my original campaign setup remained mostly untouched since I quit working on the account over two years ago, with only minor textual changes that I could discern.
I felt pretty sick about this, both for myself and the client. Now, they might have actually achieved decent PPC ROI in the last couple of years, which would be mostly due to their much-improved website.  However, it seemed to me that the “stale leftovers” of my work product which represented my best (but experience-limited) efforts from an awful long time ago was being given public praise (without my name being included, fortunately) – when in actuality, viewed from the prism of my current learning and knowledge, everything about how I created and managed the account sucked so hard as to put the client at a huge competitive disadvantage in their marketplace.

Let me illustrate:

No, Target wasn’t the client in question…however, whoever is currently managing their PPC account doesn’t seem to have advanced their skills beyond where I was three years ago.
The above ad showed up when I did a search for “lawn gnome for sale.” Let me list a couple of problems with the relevancy of such an ad:
1)       Overuse of Dynamic Keyword Insertion.  DKI should never be used in professionally managed accounts with trackable visitor outcomes. Now, in the case of Cari McGee’s paid search account that had no conversion metrics, DKI might make sense just for the headline (and the whole headline, not just part of it) when DKI is combined with our SKAG Methodology. However, using DKI in the middle of a line with descriptive text around it asks for trouble as you can see above.
2)      We don’t know if “lawn gnome for sale” or even “lawn gnome” is in their PPC Campaign. Probably not…but we’ll never know for sure because the term “Gnome Garden Lawn” set up on broad match is what Google is matching to “Lawn Gnome For Sale.” This is terrible account structuring. At least if they weren’t using DKI for ad text, their ads would look “normal” some of the time. However, when you combine DKI with a nonsense phrase that looks like it was the product of an Excel experiment gone awry, you get an ad that’s very embarrassing to a company that deserves better (and FYI, I love Target as a store).

When I set up the client account three years ago, I freely mixed Exact, Phrase, and Broad Match Types and liberally used DKI without being cognizant of the level of control an account manager can wield using proper paid search management technique. I wasn’t skilled enough to discern how such poor-quality ads would appear to visitors and drive down CTR; I was blinded by the backend account metrics, which were positive, and not thinking about how much better things could be. I was heavily influenced by this ShoeMoney article, which drove how I managed paid search accounts at that time, and while I think Jeremy’s post is still brilliant and relevant in the affiliate space, I would never use these techniques in any corporate setting. I also tended to create large ad groups full of every possible permutation of relevant keywords, which I know now isn’t the best way to structure campaigns. Furthermore, modified broad match didn’t exist when I worked this account, and any account manager not using modified broad as part of their strategy isn’t working in their client’s best interest.

It’s my hope that my old client will figure out they need professional PPC management to achieve greater PPC ROI than they’re getting currently. From my perspective, their PPC account is playing in the low Minor Leagues with the Majors totally foreclosed to them without some serious work and effort.  The company might believe that things are going great for paid search, but they are totally oblivious as to the beat-down they’re receiving at the hands of their competitors.
 –Todd Mintz, Senior SEM Manager

25 E Washington Street
Suite 420

Chicago, IL 60602

(650) 539-4124

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