American Red Cross – the standard of emergency relief

It’s been a boring couple of days. I’ve been home sick with the flu since Monday, and I can’t remember being this bored in a really long time. While I’ve always been able to power through and get things done with colds and other illnesses, the flu is a total energy drainer and, therefore, I haven’t been doing anything.

Forty-eight hours and a few Tamiflu pills later, and I’m back in action. Given that I don’t directly manage an account at this time, the impact was minimal. I have a great crew of account managers, and the ship didn’t burn down while I was sleeping (and there was a lot of sleeping).  All that said, it got me thinking about the impact of illness on day-to-day SEM management. If your search manager goes down for a couple of days, what can you do?

If you only have a single resource in place, you’re likely crossing fingers and toes hoping that nothing goes wrong. I think it’s reasonable to assume nothing dramatic will happen in forty-eight hours, but SEM is volatile enough that it just might. The same can’t be said for a week-long stretch, let alone an absence running over a month. The reality is that things happen. People get sick, relatives pass, babies are born – people get called away for a myriad of reasons. Many of these things can be planned around, but the truly unexpected can’t.

So what’s the solution? It’s pretty simple, really – redundancy.

SEM redundancy

We do, too. (Credit: motifake.com)

Anytime you give someone sole responsibility over a critical function, you’re just asking for trouble. While this is an SEM blog, this rule can apply to anything. For the sake of this blog, here are a few tips to protect yourself in case someone becomes unavailable:

1)      Document your process – Whether it’s working off of a specific calendar of events or roadmaps or having specific instructions for doing a task, document it. While there’s no substitute for hands-on experience, having some step-by-step instructions is a decent substitute.

2)      Educate your marketing colleagues – If you’re operating as a lone wolf and nobody bothers you about your work (outside of critical metrics), you might think you’ve struck gold. While it might be nice to operate independently, you’re exposing yourself to risk. If you aren’t willing to work in the open, you aren’t opening yourself to new ideas, and your strategy is likely stale. By inviting colleagues to get a deeper understanding of your work, you’ll be creating redundancy and finding a great motivational tool to keep pushing yourself. Having an extra person in the company with basic AdWords certification is a good start.

3)      Create an emergency plan – While it’s not exactly a natural disaster, leaving your account unattended for too long can have huge consequences. Make sure people know how to log into the account, have some network contacts to lean on, know the basic account goals, etc.  Combined with some basic pre-existing process, this can keep an account afloat for weeks. If your back-up can’t even log into your account, how is anything going to get done?

Short of having multiple people working on an account, these fail-safes may be the only resources you have at your disposal in case of emergency. Making sure that other team members have some basic understanding of what you do and how it’s done could save you a lot of trouble down the road. Alternatively, you could follow the oldest process in the book: don’t get sick.

Sean Marshall, Director of Search Engine Marketing

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Sean Marshall
Sean Marshall is the CEO of Intended, an SEM agency founded in 2013 to provide industry-best service for SMB clients. Before Intended, Sean was the VP of Business Development of PPC Associates (now 3Q Digital). He is a huge Cal fan and has been known to win a buck or two playing online poker.