4 PPC Mistakes that Kill Your Career

By Jeff Allen | @JeffAllenUT | President at Hanapin Marketing

You can’t fear mistakes when you manage a PPC account. They are bound to happen. But there are some mistakes where how you approach accounts can cost you a promotion, a raise, or even your job. Here are 4 mistakes that you must avoid if you make your living managing a PPC account.

1. Looking at Your Accounts in 2D

3D isn’t just for James Cameron movies. When you manage your keywords only by CPC, CTR, QS, Average Position, and CPL you are looking at a two 2 dimensional version of your account. Managing this way can seriously hurt your career and endanger your accounts.

Below is an example to help illustrate my point. Most people manage their accounts by cost and CPL. The first shot shows a report for a hypothetical account that shows CPL over a three-month period.


CPL Improvement Over 3 Months


The first month is used as a baseline, and you can see that by December, CPL has seen a 19% increase over October. That’s bad, and you’d be tempted to take some drastic action to get back to the $52 CPL you had in October.

Now let’s say after seeing this you give your client a call to ask about lead quality. A simple request for closing lead data gives you the information you need to see if the leads, at a higher CPL, are as good, better, or worse than previous leads. Here’s what you see:


CPA Improvment Over 3 Months


You can see that while leads are $10 more, sales are $15 less than they were in October. Most clients would be thrilled to be getting more clients (57 in Dec. over 48 in Oct), and would renegotiate your CPL goals if need be.

By looking at what happens to leads after you send them to your clients, you create a more 3 dimensional view of your account. This creates the opportunity to make better decisions and create more value for your clients.

2. Only Building Commoditized Skills

I can teach someone to do bid changes in an hour. A SQR might take a full day to show someone how to interpret it, pull out meaningful keyword additions, and negatives.

Creative ideas that lead to making the needle move are rare: ads that increase CTR by 100% or more happen, but not by accident. Analyzing thousands of lines of data in Google Analytics to determine 50 keywords that never directly convert assist 25% of all your conversions and then know how to act on that information is talent.

These are the skills businesses pay for. It’s assumed you know (or will quickly learn) how to do the basic PPC tasks. What businesses are looking for are people who take that to a new level. I can buy software that handles my bids, budgets, and keywords for me. I haven’t found any software that can look at an account and recommend a complete restructure that includes geo-specific targeting, Search, Display, and Mobile specific campaigns with ad copy that speaks to where users of each vertical are in the sales funnel.

3. Making Others Feel Dumb

The PPC industry is rife with jargon, and while this makes it faster and easier to communicate with others in the field, it makes people who don’t understand them feel like outsiders. But being like most people, they probably don’t tell you they don’t understand. Even if they do ask you to explain, they might still not fully understand., but instead of feeling dumb, they let you move on.

There is a simple way to make sure you don’t assume anything and possibly alienate the person on the other side of the table from you: when you communicate with anyone, focus on protecting his/her self-esteem.

Instead of saying,

“Your impression share on remarketing is 40%, and that 60% IS lost is budget related, so I am going to reallocate spend.”


“I know you understand impression share, and how it works. But do you mind letting me explain how I use the term, and what I think we should do based on where ours currently is?”

Then give a brief explanation along with your recommendations.

Doing this takes the pressure off your client/boss to know what you are talking about and opens the door for real communication. You’ve made it about you explaining it and not about them now knowing what it is.  Chances are a lot of people will argue that they want to sound smart, that they have to prove value and show they know what they are talking about. Look, most people want to sound/be smart, but think about the smartest people you know. Do you think they are smart because they talk over your head? Or do you think they are smart because they can take complex topics and turn them into something you can understand? I know for me, it’s the latter. In fact, if someone talks over my head I typically assume they don’t know enough about what they are talking about to explain it to me.

4. Thinking that Hitting Goals is Enough

Ideally, businesses set their goals based on their business objectives. At the most basic level your CPL goal, for example, is typically born out of what percent of revenue a business can afford to pay in marketing costs. If a sale generates $1,000,  they want to keep their marketing costs at 10%, and it takes 10 leads to create a sale, then your CPL goal is $10. ($1000 / 10% allocated to marketing costs = $100 divide that by the 10 leads it takes to get a sale = $10 CPL)

Because this is how goals are set, it’s easy to think that if you hit those goals the client is happy. Unfortunately, it’s typically not that straight forward. The way I look at goals is that they tell me what the worst acceptable level of performance is. This means that if I am hitting a $10 CPL every month, but nothing else positive is happening, I am performing at the worst acceptable level possible

A common phrase to hear is, “The goal was $10, and I was at $9.75, why were they unhappy?” They weren’t happy because first, you were just barely hitting the goal. Also, you didn’t return their emails quickly, you didn’t seem to care about what happened to the leads after the received them, the leads closed at a lower rate than other leads, and on and on.

So if you are hitting your goals, how do you know if your client/boss is unhappy? Here’s a question I have asked a client that I felt might be holding something back from me:

“Whenever a client moves from one agency to another they always say that the first agency was great. The people were smart, they worked hard, and they got results. But… blank. That blank might be that they didn’t communicate enough, or they couldn’t implement changes quickly. Whatever it is, it’s usually something that the agency wasn’t aware of. My job is to prevent that from happening to Hanapin Marketing. So let me ask you, I know you’re happy, after all we are hitting all our goals, but if you had to pick something you were dissatisfied with, that “but… blank” statement, what would it be?”


Those are four mistakes I see happen regularly that keep people from advancing their careers in PPC.  What mistakes do you see PPC managers make that go beyond simple errors and tragically hurt their careers?