Succeeding At In-House PPC

In my pay per click career, I’ve worked both in an agency environment and as an in-house specialist. Personally, I prefer working in-house much better. You get amounts of time and resources to improve your account that you’re just not going to get when you’re jumping from client to client in an agency. But, there are certain tricks that you need to learn in order to be successful at in-house PPC management. Here are a few tips from my experience:

1. Get organized – This is equally important for agency workers, but in-house folks need to make sure they don’t get complacent just because they’re the only one working on an account. It’s crucial to track changes, take copious notes, and plan for future checkups and changes in the near future. For changes, I keep track of what I’ve done in BaseCamp, but any project management or journal software should do. Heck, you can even keep a change log in an Excel spreadsheet if it comes to that. But, being able to look back at specific accounts or change types is critical. Make sure you have an adequate categorization and search system in whatever tracking program you use. You can also view changes in your AdWords change history report, but this only gives you what changed, not why it changed. Make sure you’re recording why exactly you did what you did so that you can remind yourself later.

For future plans, I use an Outlook task list. This works for me because that’s my calendar program as well. You could probably use any calendar program (like iCal or Google Calendars) equally well. Using this, I can plan a checkup on a change I made two weeks or 30 days in the future. Or, I can plan tasks that I only need to complete once or twice a year, like a negative keyword evaluation, or looking at long-term CPAs on keywords. PPC is kind of like chess – you always need to have your next move in mind.

2. Learn to talk to SEM novices – Since you’re not working in an agency, it’s likely that you’ll be working directly with people who have no SEM experience, but will be stakeholders in the process. Learn to explain why you need to spend what you spend to the accounting department. Talk to your web developers about what makes a good landing page. And most importantly, learn how to talk to your boss about the importance of PPC marketing, and why you need to test out different strategies in order to see success.

It helps to learn how to explain complicated PPC and SEM concepts in layman’s terms. Don’t use too many acronyms, and explain the whole process of PPC (search to ad to landing page to website) instead of focusing on just the PPC parts. Show where your job fits into the big picture (and what you’re doing to help the company succeed) and you’ll get to keep it.

3. Learn from your mistakes – If you do PPC long enough, you’re going to make some mistakes. Accept it. Whenever this happens, you can either beat yourself up about it for screwing up, or think about what you did and what you can do to prevent your mistake the next time around. I didn’t learn to be good at PPC by reading a lot of blogs and never screwing up. I’ve taken a lot of wrong turns in PPC management, but I only make the same mistake once.

4. Don’t get complacent – When you work at an agency, there’s always a new client and new challenge around the corner. In-house, you’re working on the same account day in and day out. This can get a little boring for some, but you need to learn how to deal with it. If you get complacent, you’ll get to a point where your account is “good enough” and you won’t seek to actively improve it. PPC is a constantly changing thing, so there’s always something you can do to the account to improve it. Think about all the aspects of your advertising (keywords, ads, landing pages, etc.) and try to work on something you haven’t done in a while. Plus, Google and Microsoft are always coming up with new features to try out – don’t be afraid to experiment!

Good luck out there in the trenches!

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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