Just imagine if your boss told you that you had the opportunity for an all-expense paid trip to Austin, Texas to attend Hero Conf. All you had to do was pick a single client and have the best month-over-month percentage growth in five different key metrics: average cost-per-click, total clicks, click-through-rate, cost-per-lead, and conversion rate.

Which client would you use? How many hours would you spend grinding away on that account? What tactics would you use to get your client account where you think it needs to be to win? How big of a percentage growth is big enough?

These are the questions my co-workers and I faced when the gauntlet was thrown for the ultimate PPC nerd-tastic trip to Hero Conf 2014. We answered them with countless extra hours, carefully developed strategies, and double-digit percentage growth for each of our chosen clients.  But to win, I provided at least a 26% change across four of the key metrics and a 5x return on ad spend without an increase in my monthly budget. That was a 500% growth within two months for my client before I even attended Hero Conf!

Hero Conf Comp MOM

My Strategy

The first question was by far the hardest one for me to answer: which client account did I think had the most potential for huge month-over-month growth? My options were slim. I could go for an existing client or I could use the new, startup ecommerce client we had just officially signed that Monday. Problem with the new client was I had less than 48 hours to build their entire account with little knowledge of their industry, an extremely low monthly budget, and a small profit margin. I figured the new client would provide high risk, high reward so I accepted the challenge.

After completing my initial, crash course research of the industry and competitor research, I found my strategy to be clear. The key competitor who had thousands of impressions a month with low competition on their brand terms weren’t running search network ads, only display. Since my clients were capable of making engaging display banners for their target market themselves, I decided we would target our key competitor’s brand terms in  search then keep our brand top of mind with remarketing. I also wanted to focus on improving landing pages and user experience on the website. The second part to my strategy was that during month two I would launch a Product Listing Ads campaign; having seen and heard of amazing results in the PLAs I thought it was a sure win.

Month one went well with no hiccups outside of the initial rush to get the campaigns launched by February 1st. My initial strategy of bringing in competitors’ traffic resulted in 3 direct conversions in my competitor campaign and aided in 6 conversions for remarketing. Throughout the month I also worked closely with the client to update their landing pages and shopping cart. I knew that it didn’t matter how much traffic I sent to their website if their check-out process wasn’t smooth and user-friendly. As a result of my efforts, we saw a 3x return on ad spend, a 6.38% conversion rate, and a $10.36 average cost-per-lead.

Feb Analytics Transactions

Month two started off rocky to say the least. After some discussion, they decided to move forward with our PPC services for March but were not willing to increase the $1,000 budget which was giving us only a 58% impression share in a very select geographic location. They also did not want to follow Google’s required PLA guidelines of listing their physical address or phone number on the website which would prevent me from running Product Listing Ads.

To solve this challenge I used my limited SEO skills and buried a new page with their contact emails dominant and the address and phone number placed below the fold. I then buried the page with limited access through only a few select, not so clear, links on their help page. By sending the new contact page with the address and phone number directly to Google support we were able to pass inspection without any further issues. My PLAs were up and running so I thought it was game over. After a week when I saw very limited clicks and zero sales from PLAs I was blown away. A third-party vendor had also started running PLAs for their products but was offering them at a lower price, so my PLAs didn’t stand a chance. After a tightly monitored and controlled two weeks I cut my losses, accepted that I was wrong about PLAs in this case and shut them down.

In the end, my initial strategy to focus on remarketing and aid in site changes was my golden ticket to success. After phase two of my strategy didn’t pan out—a hard lesson to learn—I refocused that attention on improving my remarketing list and going back to the basics of A/B testing ad copy and landing pages for higher conversions. Sometimes all you need is do is take small risks, be able to admit when they aren’t working, and take it back to the basics which many of us, myself included, sometimes let fall by the wayside.

Conversion vs Avg CPL

My Hero Conf Experience

Hero Conf to me was one of those moments in my life where I knew I made the right career decision. I cannot stress enough how refreshing it was to be surrounded by other professionals who were friendly, approachable, and open to sharing tactics with one another. I couldn’t wait to get back to the office to geek out on all of the new Excel formula sheets I learned about to help me make more informed decisions about account changes. Having Search Partners partially demystified for better management and learning how to make the display network “bring sexy back” provided me with new strategies to test on client accounts. Don’t even get me started on the mind blowing PPC bombs Bing was dropping.

In the end, the extra hours and frustrating challenges I faced while competing in our office competition were well worth it. To be honest, while the conference was nothing short of amazing, the best part about all of this was seeing what my co-workers and I were truly capable of. I look forward to battling for my ticket next year to Portland, Oregon for Hero Conf 2015!