The 4 Stages Of Learning PPC

By Amanda West-Bookwalter | @Amanda_WestBook | Senior Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing

After four years and three months of working at Hanapin Marketing, I’m taking the next step in my career. I thought, as my last blog post on PPC Hero as a Hanapin Marketing employee, it would be a great time to share some knowledge on the stages of learning PPC.


In The Very Beginning


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You’re just a little PPC baby, swatting at the shiny PPC bubbles.


For me, I was lucky enough to get hired by Hanapin Marketing and go through their intensive training. I think it was 12 weeks when I was hired in 2011. However, now there are lots of classes and course programs being offered by colleges and universities. So, either you’re teaching yourself or learning through a training program of some sort in the beginning. This is a time to ask a million questions, read a million blog articles, and really understand how things work.


Part of my training that was super helpful, which I’m not sure how it would work in a college or university setting, was that I was able to do projects for actual accounts. For example, I would do keyword research for a real account after learning how to do good keyword research. Then, the Account Manager would review and tell me why they would or wouldn’t actually use the keywords I suggested. This kind of hands-on learning was instrumental in my ability to learn PPC fully in just a few months. I highly recommend this kind of training over pure theoretical learning!


Once You’ve Got The Knowledge


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You’re feeling preeeetty smart.


After training, I was put on as support on a few accounts. I was able to do more projects while working with experienced Account Managers without having account strategy or client management on my plate just yet. This is a period to sharpen your PPC skills and get lots of practice conducting tasks such as bid changes, search query reports, geographic performance analysis, Display placement reports, etc.


These tasks are the foundation of PPC, really. You need to know all the different ways to pull and analyze PPC data and what to do with your findings in terms of implementing them into the account to improve performance. Any PPC manager worth their salt knows that no account is created equally, so getting to do tasks across multiple accounts and working with various Account Managers who all do things a bit differently lets you learn quickly and gain a depth of experience that could take much, much longer otherwise.


I Could Do Bid Changes In My Sleep


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Don’t get too full of yourself, newbie.


You’ll get to a point where you’ve done the basic tasks so often that you’ll feel you could do them in your sleep. This is the point when your mind starts wondering and wanting to think more about account strategy, and you’re ready to start talking to clients about account performance.


This is probably 5-6 months in for me, but it could take longer in a more traditional learning environment, I’m sure. But, you should focus on working on strategy ideas and learning how to work on client relationships at this point. That is, if client relationships are a thing for you! I’m sure lots of you are in-house or doing PPC for your own sites, and then even in the agency life some agencies separate client-facing people from the PPC nerds.


PPC Grown-Up


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Well, probably not a boss just yet!


Once you’ve gotten experience coming up with strategies and performance increasing initiatives for accounts, you’re a PPC grown-up, and it’s really time to focus on honing your advanced skills. This is easy to do in agency life since there’s likely at least one person more tenured and experienced than you. And, even if there isn’t, newbies can come in with fresh perspectives and ideas that help expand your own thinking. Collaboration is HUGE to continuing to grow your PPC skill set.


If you can’t get valuable PPC collaboration in at work, then you want to connect with the PPC community in another way. Digitally, of course, is pretty easy to do with resources like #PPCChat,, and blogs. There are PPC meet-up groups in every major metropolitan area, I’d bet. Check for such a thing on Meetup or LinkedIn. Otherwise, there are lots of conferences for this industry (of course, my favorite is HeroConf), but there are a lot out there! Network, exchange info, and build relationships by sharing your own learnings. People love to geek out together in this industry, and the more you share the more you’ll get in return!


In Conclusion


PPC has a lot of different paths depending on the setting you learn and work in, but I strongly believe agencies are the best place to learn and grow in terms of diverse experience and quick learning.


How about you? What has your path been, and how has it helped you learn and grow?