How Should You Formulate Your PPC Strategy?

By Diane Anselmo | @diane_anselmo | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

We’ve all been there before. You’re on a call with a client talking about their account performance and they say, “Performance aside, what is the STRATEGY behind my account? I want to understand the strategy.” As many can agree, strategy is a word that gets tossed around a lot in the PPC world, especially in high-level meetings. However, many times I find that account managers tend to focus on what they do best – improving account metrics – without defining a solid strategy behind the account.


While this approach can work for awhile, having a defined strategy can help both the account manager and the client understand the direction the account is headed and the steps being taken to get there. The first step is to understand how to formulate a PPC strategy and then figuring out what steps need to be taken to arrive at that destination.


Goals Do Not Equal Strategy


It’s a common mistake. We sit down and start making a list of account strategy and we come up with something like this:


  • Increase CTR
  • Lower CPA
  • Expand account onto new platforms


While the above list contains great things to do in the account, it does not contain strategy. Rather, the above is a list of what would be better classified as goals, objectives, and tactics. Oftentimes, items like these are mistaken as strategy, when they are actually more of a list of account goals. To put it in everyday terms, although I might say that my strategy for fitting into my favorite dress is to lose ten pounds, the real strategy there would be to exercise and eat more fruits and vegetables. Make sense?


Image of chalkboard


So What Is Strategy, Anyway?


Now that we’ve talked about what strategy isn’t, let’s take a moment to better understand what strategy is and how to build a strategy that will serve as a solid foundation for achieving your account goals. Let’s start with the definition of strategy:


Image of strategy definition


Now, let’s take that definition and see how it fits into the world of PPC marketing. Let’s imagine that a client comes to us and says that they desperately need to increase their lead flow by 120% this year. As the account manager, you listen to their goals and your first instinct is to start employing tactics and PPC best practices to help drive lead volume up. However, this is the moment where we need to pause and start thinking about strategy. The goal is to raise lead volume, but is there a specific problem or issue that is causing lead volume to be down? How can we as account managers take a step back and look at this issue more strategically and come up with a solid plan to help the advertisers attain their goals?


Assess The Situation


As we’re developing PPC strategy, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we’ve taken the time to understand the advertiser’s situation completely. This is the time to ask questions and uncover what has worked in the past, as well as what didn’t work. It’s during this time that we might uncover something important that we may not have known before. So often, people don’t give this step the proper attention and, as a result, miss something big that could impact the success of the strategy. Once you know all the facts, you’ll be better able to devise a strategy that’s going to be impactful to the account.


Make A Plan


Now that you’ve got all the facts, it’s time to plan out your strategy. I like to put this in writing and use it as a springboard for conversation with others working directly on the account. As we talked about earlier, there is sometimes confusion between a strategy and a goal, so I usually make a strategy statement and then present a timeline of actions that I am going to take in order to successfully implement. Talking through this document should bring everyone to a deeper level of understanding and eliminate the “I don’t understand what you’re strategy is” comment that we sometimes hear from others.


Take Action


You’ve done your research, prepared your roadmap and spoken to others. Now it’s time to put your plan into action. Even though you’ve taken steps to ensure success, make sure that you continually monitor the progress of all your initiatives and keep open conversations going with all who are involved. When your initiatives are complete, take a step back and see if your strategy was able to help the advertiser reach its goals. Hopefully, it has. But if it hasn’t, it might be time to revise your strategy and try something new.


Final Thoughts


Though strategy is a word that is often misused and misunderstood, it is definitely an instrumental part of any PPC campaign. Before jumping into your account work, take the time to deeply assess the current situation and build a strategy that will out you on the path to achieving your goals and taking the account to the next level.