Setting Clear PPC Expectations From The Beginning

By Sarah Stemen | @runnerkik | Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing

Over the past five years the PPC industry has evolved and changed. As more pay-per-click agencies target small business we are increasingly seeing cost per clicks (CPCs) increase. This is simply because there are more companies in the marketplace bidding for positions on the results pages. Increasingly it is rare that a company does not spend money in PPC.


As agencies we need to be deliberate when discussing PPC services to future clients. If the client comes out of the kick off process with unrealistic expectations the agency will lose them soon enough.


My post today will cover a method for setting expectations early. This process can help set a foundation for the client and agency relationship. It will also avoid disappointment when expectations are set and not met.


The Problem


When we dive into an account for the first time we immediately see all the changes that would make the account picture perfect. We roll this information up to the client and propose what our agency can do to grow the account and take it to the next level. The client is impressed and believes if we jump in immediately and make the proposed changes, sales or leads will increase no matter what happens.


The client is sold on the sales strategy and due to what we have outlined they come out of the first few meetings believing that sales or leads will quickly meet and exceed goals. Unfortunately this process takes time.


As account managers, we are working to get the tasks done so we can increase bids and have solid positions on keywords that are performing in the account. Once we are not wasting money and the account is aligned is when we start to see success. While sometimes we can make changes that impact the account quickly, we are moving to have optimal, long term success.


How PPC Has Changed


As I see it, PPC changes take time and results are not always immediate. This has changed over the past several years across all of digital marketing. When there were fewer ad buyers and there was less competition results were faster. Even here on the PPC Hero blog and while posting daily we do not see traffic gains as quickly as we once did. This timeframe must be communicated to the client.


As an account manager, when we are handed a new client, it is easy to want to jump in and make changes. We can quickly update bid modifiers, change the match type on keywords, and reduce the size of ad groups. We are essentially applying best practices to the account. After this work is finished we can and should expect gains such as increased sales and efficiency. However in some accounts changes are harder to come by quickly.




Step 1: Understand the client’s business


Once the contract is signed, we need to fully engage in a kick-off call and have conversations with the client to gain a full understanding of the business and competitive landscape. We need to take the time to audit the account and understand what has and has not worked in the past.


PPC Audit Example
Example of Audit


Step 2: Understand the flow of the site and the competitive landscape


We also need too look at the landing pages and flow of the pay-per-click process. We can get significant traffic to the website but if the user experience is poor we are still accountable for the performance. We need to do some basic competitive analysis as well. Sometimes if competitors have a poor experience it is better to bid lower on keywords and wait for the clicks to come versus bidding higher spots and paying for traffic that will either not convert or convert after multiple clicks and visits to the competitors sites.


Step 3: Determine optimal spend across the whole account


After we have started to understand the clients’ business as well as performed competitive analysis, we need to determine the optimal spend. Most of the time the client has a range and has come to us with a certain agreement in place, however the spend still needs some tweaking. We need to make sure we are allocating appropriate percentages of spend to the campaigns with the highest ROAS. Sometimes this means moving budget from Display into Search or into Shopping campaigns. Properly aligning budgets with performance is a crucial part of the process. Moving budget around within client accounts is often times overlooked but very important to the client’s overall success.


Step 4: Measure results


After we have applied the best practices and spent time appropriately allocating budget, if we have pulled the correct levers we should start seeing solid results. Improved results can take a month or two. Sometimes it is challenging to identify one specific change that resulted in the account improvement. However, by taking notes and documenting the changes and expected results on status calls we should be ready to tell the full story to the client.


Step 5: Create a timeline


Now that we have applied best practices, made changes to the account, and become more nimble with the account budgets, we need to keep showing our clients the performance that can be obtained by continuing to invest in their PPC campaigns.


You can do this with a re-kick off call or a quarterly touch-base meeting. This is where you come back to your client with a solid plan of when to expect results in the account. This shows the client that you are adding value and moving along with a plan. Often times clients can see quick results but have a harder time seeing long term where the account is headed. So when their boss comes and asks about how the PPC program is doing they can say it is going well but cannot make the case internally for how it will continue to stay afloat.


When speaking with the client you should have a prioritized plan with contingencies. The client understands that if the feed has been updated the Shopping campaign will be launched and then further optimized. The client can see that it isn’t just a matter for turning the campaign on, but a matter of making sure all the pieces pull together.


Once you are one year into this type of relationship, the client can easily look back on the timeline and see not only what work was completed but how the work impacted performance in the account. They can look forward and backward to tell the story. The client expectation will not be a one sided view on performance but the client will have direction and insight into the account as a whole. So what you end up doing is creating a circle where you work toward a task, measure, and continue to refine along the way.


Final Thoughts


This approach also shifts the process slightly for the entire team. While performance is obviously one of the largest parts of an accounts overall success, knowing where the finish line is helps you get there as a team. All to often when I have lost clients it is not because of performance alone, but because of misalignment. Clients do understand that numbers will not always be trending up, but if the account has a clear direction and documentation there is value in continuing the relationship.