pug in raincoatToday brings the second post in our April Showers Bring May PPC Flowers series. In today’s post, I’ll be diving into setting account goals to help your account mitigate torrential downpours.

PPC account goal setting can be quite the conundrum for new, or newly acquired, accounts. If you’re starting a new account, you don’t have any historical data to work with, and if you’ve taken over an existing account, historical data may or may not be the best indicator of how the account’s daily performance will be affected by your optimizations. You might implement what you have tried, tested and proven to be best practices in other accounts only to see your new account’s performance not follow your expected trajectory upwards.

So, how do you set goals for yourself at the beginning of PPC account management? What data can you rely on? Where should you start? Don’t ponder this last question too long, you should start with this post!

To figure out where to start digging into your new account, start by looking at your account’s history for the past year (if you’re working on an existing account). If you don’t have a full year’s worth of data, simply go back as far as you can. Ask yourself the following questions:

1) What trends can I immediately identify? Look for monthly dips in performance that might indicate seasonality issues. If your data seems to suggest this, go back and view your account’s entire history to confirm. Don’t just look at conversions and/or clicks. How have your click-through and conversion rates fared over the past year? What about your average position? Quality score? Look for areas of your account that have been decreasing in performance. These will be your first areas of focus, and you can use these to project out reasonable goals.

2) What have my average metrics been? Knowing where your account has been performing will help you make initial changes/optimizations that won’t create drastic swings. Take a quick snapshot of your monthly averages and document your monthly average traffic (clicks, impressions), CPC, CTR, conversions, conversion rate, position, quality score (yes, this is a little laborious but worth the effort). This will help create a benchmark for initial bid changes, etc.

3) What do my ads look like? Take some time to review all ads that have run over the course of the past year to understand the account’s major themes regarding general messaging, promotions and call-to-actions. Which ads have been the most successful? Does there appear to be any type of clearly defined ad testing implemented? If you notice that your ads don’t contain strong call-to-actions, for example, you can start testing new ad text with more explicitly stated direction. How many ads are running in each ad group? Perhaps you need to narrow down the number of ads running, or maybe there aren’t enough running to understand what type of ad best serves your account.

Even if you have a pre-existing goal to start with from yourself, your team or your client, I still recommend diagnosing your account in this way to understand what areas of your account to focus on first to start moving performance toward these external goals.

Once you’ve identified your account’s weak spots, you can begin to formulate viable first goals for yourself. If you’re working on a brand new account, take your goal setting slowly on a week-by-week basis. Obviously you’ll be aiming to gain conversions or clicks, but your weekly performance will help you identify your strong and weak spots.

Before you go gangbusters and decide to increase your conversions by 200% in your first month, heed this advice: start slowly. At the risk of relying on an old cliché, keep these guys in mind:

tortoise and hare

This advice is two-fold: set small, realistic goals initially, AND focus on one or two areas of change. Don’t restructure your account and drastically alter your keyword bids. And if account restructuring is in the works at all, only restructure small areas of your account at a time. (Felicia will talk about this in much more depth tomorrow!) More simply put, pick ONE account metric to improve and choose ONE way to try to do it. If this one thing works and your account performance is stable, move on to something else. As you gain working knowledge of your account you can be less granular, but working in your account this way to start will allow you to really understand your account.

The other benefit of taking account change one step at a time is that you’ll be able to bookend your changes. Translation: you’ll be able to predict with some validity the effect of this one change on your account. In case you missed Amanda’s post on bookending, please take the time to read and implement in your workflow.

Bookending is will help you assign a numerical value to your goals (GASP!). Understanding how your changes are mostly likely to affect your account will give you a specific number to try to hit. If your bookended stats show significant improvement, set a first monthly percentage for improvement that’s a little aggressive (or vice versa, scale back if you don’t anticipate huge changes initially), knowing that you’ll be able to implement additional changes in a step-like fashion. This can also help you create an initial timeline for your changes. Knowing how your numbers will likely be effected in the first month will help you create reasonable expectations for hitting more firm goals.

Check back tomorrow for Felicia’s post on structuring new and existing accounts!