Handling Clients & Their PPC Performance Perceptions

By , Senior Digital Advisor at Hanapin Marketing


Managing and setting client expectations is not necessarily a simple task in paid search. The reason isn’t because the client wants to make our lives difficult, despite it feeling that way. Their reason for being difficult is because it’s their business you’re marketing, as well as (in most cases) their money you’re spending to do so. It is difficult to believe, but our clients do not sit at home and try to come up with ways to beat us down. At least I think. Pretty sure. Moving on…

No matter the reason, we still have to do our very best to handle these expectations and deliver as best we can.

Even when that client is completely focused on the wrong metric (GASP!).

You might think this is something that occurs just at the beginning of a new client relationship, as true and accurate goals get flushed out and determined. However this is troublesome with clients we’ve had with us since less than a year in to Hanapin’s existence. I present to you not one, but TWO case studies on how to handle ill-focused clients.


“Why do I keep getting these spammy lead form submissions? Can’t you make that stop?”

Now imagine this inquiry comes from your client with a screenshot every time, of an admittedly obvious spam bot form, but it shows up once a quarter. While this isn’t necessarily a focus on the wrong metric, there isn’t a focus on the right metrics at all in this situation. So this is a client that has been with us for a very long time, which is probably why they seldom respond to monthly reports…they know we’ve got it all under control! This is exactly what I want in most situations, but it still feels good to know the progress in performance is being understood, right? So the last time this email came, it was right on the tail end of a month where we corrected course on some lead volume/CPA issues that had been plaguing us for a few months consistently. Again, no response to the monthly report (totally fine!), but this little email reminder came in a few days later.

 Now the truth of it is, this is something we could fix. All we have to do is ramp up the security allowances on the form, and an even smaller percentage of spam forms would come in. That said, this client relies heavily on international leads, and the next level of security would also likely miscount those forms as spam.

So how can you handle this or a similar issue, where it may come up frequently, there isn’t much you can do, but there are things you CAN do that need focus. First, still address the problem! The client needs to know that even if they’ve forgotten about asking this question in the past, you are no less urgent to get back to them with a response to quell their fears. Explain why the problem is happening, revisit the possible solutions, ask if they would like a change to be made, reiterate you are happy to do whatever they would prefer. Give your professional opinion on what is best, that’s what you’re paid for, after all…then let them decide. I also always make sure to follow up my last message or call to handle these questions with something great that is happening in the account, again so they are left with a feeling that even with this small snafu, all is good with the world. Generally speaking, unless something else is just going incredibly, I always make this final follow up related to the ultimate KPI/goal metrics for the account. Refocus…for good reason!


“I realize revenue is up from last year, but CPA is up. Let’s talk about that.”

Well this is a difficult one. Clearly, revenue from PPC sales is the target metric for this account. In most situations, even if that did mean a slight increase in CPA, as long as the increase there wasn’t larger than the increase in revenue, this should be a short discussion (not ignorable, mind you). More specifically, revenue was up year over year by about 14% and CPA was only up 3% at the time of this particular discussion. Again, no one was ignoring the CPA creep, but heading in to a hot season for this brand, we didn’t want to pull back too hard and eliminate all the revenue progress we had made.

This client also wasn’t completely glossing over the revenue increase, but way more time was spent on the CPA part than the revenue bump, for sure. One more time, I have to emphasize that we’re compensated for our expertise and all-encompassing PPC account management…and this includes the ancillary metrics that aren’t necessarily top of mind. So if your client perceives that you’re only managing to the one metric, they will call you out on it. You may not be actually only managing to one metric, but their perception is all that matters.

All right, so what about this one? How do you politely and professionally accept and manage through the issue without harming the overall client relationship? Even further, how do you do that while still making sure the wins you have achieved don’t get lost? The first step is always to acknowledge the pain point. Let your client know you not only hear them, but you understand where their concern is coming from. The next step is to explain why you may not be making this concern the top priority on your task list (so is the potential dip back down in revenue work the CPA being “in goal?”). Then, you need to explain where this concern does fall on the priority list and what you’ll be doing to tackle it when you get there. Offer up additional reporting that shows the extra revenue coming from higher positions in the ad space, which almost always means somewhat higher CPAs for a short time. Keep them on board with maintaining these positions for revenue’s sake, but also let them know that you can work on Quality Scores for those terms/ad groups that are seeing a CPA increase to attempt to bring that metric down over time. Also encourage them to look at the data more granularly with you – is the CPA increase based on rolled up numbers for all of their PPC accounts? If so, you want to make sure this issue is looked at in a more segmented fashion to keep from over correcting the wrong way.


Tell us about some of the client situations you’ve found yourself in, where it seems like the client may be focusing on a less-than-important metric in the face of performance progress. We want to hear your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below, as well as any questions for how you may be able to handle trouble like this in the future. Thanks for reading!

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6 thoughts on “Handling Clients & Their PPC Performance Perceptions

  1. Michael

    Nice article. I have a client that i’m doing a PPC campaign. I have setup a very local targeted campaign. I have reduced his impressions from about 10,000 down to about 3,000 p/m and improved his CTR to 5% compared with 0.03% with an average cost of $1.18 compared with his $1.50. Also worth noting he used to have an average rank of 3.8 and we’re now at 1.2.

    However, finding the client is still fixated on the small things. He found a keyword that we rank 3.2 on average. He thought he would increase the bid to get more click throughs… finding it hard to explain why he isn’t ranking #1 for this term.

    Also, I find that he is doing Google searches to see where he is ranking. I’m assuming that because he isn’t clicking on his ads… that when he searches he comes up down the “right hand side”.

    Above all, and this is the most frustrating… he hasn’t setup the conversion tracking. However, he manages to tell me through his complaining of not ranking #1 for this particular keyword.

    PS. Note that you has a whopping 35 new clients in 3 months of running this campaign! But, that seems to be minuscule in the scheme of not ranking #1 for a particular keyword!


      1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

        Not that hard?! Oh, Sean…

        Not only is ranking #1 not necessarily an easy thing to accomplish once, it’s certainly not simple whatsoever to maintain.

        And I won’t get started on how that top spot can lose it’s value from a revenue/return standpoint almost literally overnight sometimes.

        I understand what you’re saying, as it does sound like putting the client in the story above in that top spot would keep him happy, but the “not that hard” part…I’m afraid we may have to agree to disagree 🙂

        1. Sean

          So raising his bids to put him in top position because that’s what the client wants is hard? This isn’t about the value, it’s about what the client wants.

          1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

            I absolutely see where you’re coming from, Sean; however, my strategy for client services has always been to remember that we’re hired for our PPC expertise for a reason – the truth is sometimes we have data or experience that tells us that top spot may not have the highest conversion rates or return on ad spend.

            So while I completely understand what you mean by bidding up = top spots = client happy, but will the client really be happy if you bid them up to that spot and don’t get a matching increase in conversions? Even if you “warned” them, it’ll be your issue to correct if it turns out badly.

    1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

      Oh man…#frustratingclients sounds about right, Michael! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you that with continued work with that client (and more positive performance)…he’ll get on your side. Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you found a place to vent 🙂 Keep me posted on how it goes moving forward!


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