Quite frequently over the last few months, I’ve had conversations with either prospective clients or account managers from other agencies who have expressed the same concern/issue – “I’m worried the account has gone stagnant.”

ppc autopilot

My first response is always to refrain from assuming the worst, as it’s actually a little difficult (in my very humble opinion) these days to set it and forget it when it comes to PPC campaigns. Either a new competitor comes in to the space and makes you review your strategy, or the PPC engine itself makes a change to features or capabilities provided that cause the same effect. However, about half the time as the conversation continues…I realize the concern is pretty well rooted in evidence to this autopilot mentality.

Not good!

Why do you want to avoid autopilot/set it and forget it PPC management?

Even if you’re hitting your pre-set goals for your campaigns, it’s never a good idea to let the account simply continue to chug along on that track. First and foremost, it is AWESOME that the account is hitting goals, but then why haven’t new goals been set? I can also say from experience that attempting to attack new competitors in the market place from a stagnant management strategy is going to be a much harder row to hoe. Actually, attempting to change your strategy in regards to any area of your campaigns will be difficult if you’ve been gliding along at the same place for a while.

Our team has taken over accounts that have been managed in-house and we’ve immediately come up with a list of restructure ideas to make sure ad copy is more relevant and so on. Guess what happened when we tried to do too much of that restructure at once? YUP! Account took a turn for the worse and actually started performing more poorly than it was previously. This was a tough lesson to learn, because everything being implemented was well within the realm of tried and true best practices; but it happened.

They may not have explicitly shared the information with advertisers, but I’m of the opinion that AdWords specifically will eventually get used to your account structure or setup, even if it’s not necessarily the best, and then when you try to right the ship – they get back in the picture and start judging. This typically results in some Quality Score dings, performance slips, etc. So let’s avoid that becoming an issue, shall we? Here’s how!

How can you avoid autopilot or set it and forget it PPC management?

Hopefully you have a weekly general maintenance schedule to check in on things like bids, ad tests, etc. If you don’t – you should, so make one. Nonetheless, seldom should you go in to even a routine set of tasks and not find something that can be improved upon. This is a perfect place to start to find areas where you can adjust and keep your account from running without guidance.

One of my favorite things to do is find blog resources (ahem – PPC Hero, duh) and read posts from other account managers about things they’ve tried out in their accounts. Try to bookmark or add two to three strategies, tactics, or ideas to your own account plan. No one person can be expected to know everything, so if you’ve gone stagnant from feeling as if you’ve run out of things to try – look somewhere new!

Finally, my biggest pet peeve when I hear that activity has slowed down in an account is when it’s justified by the account hitting goals. Again, that is fantastic news – but then why haven’t new ones been set? I certainly don’t encourage a change in goals too hastily, make sure the results you’re getting are sustainable, but then figure out where you can move the goal post next and lay out a plan to get there. Instant autopilot killer!

What if you’re not the one managing the account? How can you assist in steering clear of an autopilot management style?

Should you be using an agency or outsourced vendor of some sort for your PPC management, your tactics for determining autopilot status and eradicating it may be a little different. A quick way to make sure your account manager is actively optimizing your campaigns is to look at change history, however that can’t always be a fool proof system. If the agency or manager is using bid management software not all changes may sync back to the change history with 100% accuracy, for example. Rather than use this check-in system, I propose a more specific reporting format.

Hopefully you have weekly, bi-weekly or monthly status calls pre-scheduled with your account manager or team for the specific purpose of reviewing performance. This is just like that weekly maintenance schedule thing I mentioned before, if you’re reading that and realizing you DON’T have a regular call scheduled – request one.

Now take a look at those meetings – do you receive regular reports to match the calls? Do those reports show performance, in addition to summarizing what was done in the week/two weeks/month previous?  Do those reports also outline proposed plans or strategies to be implemented in the coming week/two weeks/month? They should! Managing PPC for clients isn’t all about the data and stats; agencies have to have a strong level of communication back and forth to be long term successful. If you as the client don’t feel as if that communication is as thorough as it could/should be, I strongly encourage you to have that conversation with your account manager or team.

They know that in order to keep you happy, they will have to adjust periodically to continue driving value. It’s a goal of our account teams at Hanapin/PPC Hero to provide enough reporting for our clients that they can apply it to a new layer of analysis for their brand’s profitability that in turn helps us tailor strategy and reporting metrics moving forward. Setting up this kind of “what we did/how it came out/what we’re doing next” format to your reporting (both calls and on paper) will help ensure your account never gets stuck in a set it and forget it slump.

What are your favorite ways to steer clear of autopilot PPC management? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments section below – and thank you for reading!