During my tenure as a PPC account manager I’ve found few things to be more anxiety provoking than the performance of a brand new account structure. Those first couple weeks of data are pivotal not only for account success, but for establishing client confidence moving forward.

Following the launch of a brand new account structure, I typically go through a series of emotions much akin to the five stages of grief. Regardless of the previous state of the account, these distinct emotional divisions seem to be part of a natural progression. The five stages of PPC account restructuring are as follows:

  1. Denial
  2. Identification of need
  3. Optimism and excitement
  4. Regret
  5. Acceptance

Identifying the existence of each of these stages throughout the PPC account structure process can be a truly valuable practice. Knowing the symptoms, root cause, and steps to address each stage can go a long way towards eliminating stress and maximizing results.

Stage 1: Denial

The first stage of an account restructure is the simple denial of an inevitable need. Sometimes there are ample clear indicators that a new course of action is required, but the status quo has performed adequately in the past. It’s 100% natural to resist significant change, particularly when your current structure feels sufficient.

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Ultimately, your state of denial could be well founded. Not every account that could benefit from a new structure should implement a new structure. Considerations such as lack of manpower, low expectation of a payoff, or current/upcoming fluctuations in seasonality are completely legitimate reasons to avoid such a project. However, if these do not apply, don’t avoid a new strategic path simply because “this is how it has always been done.”

Stage 2: Identification Of Need

Once you’ve powered through the denial stage, the next progression is an identification of need. A couple months back I wrote an article that reveals the red flags of ineffective account structure:

  • Inefficient budgeting and reporting
  • Low quality scores
  • Keyword contamination
  • Ad groups consuming disproportionate % of campaign budget

The first two of these red flags are relatively easy to navigate. An effective account structure will make budgeting and reporting a simple process. If you find either of these items to be a struggle, chances are your campaign segmentation could be updated to streamline this routine. As for poor quality scores, Google recently provided account managers with a long overdue capability to track historical shifts in relevance.

Keyword contamination and ad group budget consumption are items that will become apparent from routine optimizations such as search query analysis. Keyword contamination can be identified through a quick pivot of keyword or search terms connecting to a given ad group. Make sure to include geographical and device differences to reflect overlap properly. Alternatively, a specific ad group claiming a significant majority of campaign budget can indicate the need for more granular segmentation.

Cross pollination

Once a combination of these symptoms is identified, it’s easy to transition from identification to excitement.

Stage 3: Optimism And Excitement

The third stage of account restructuring is undoubtedly the most rewarding of all. Now that we’ve identified a benefit to creating a new backbone for our PPC account, the build process begins with ideas of grandeur and success. Despite attempting to stay grounded, the elusive 1-2 punch of both efficiency and volume becomes a very vivid dream.

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The optimism of this stage should not undermine the work that lies ahead. The proper account structure will need to address all of the issues you’ve experienced previously: geographic overlap, match type segmentation, budgeting complications, product organizations, etc. Building out such a comprehensive structure will take time, a process that is readily streamlined in bulk through campaign building in Excel.

Stage 4: Regret

Once the initial excitement of a new beginning wears off, it’s common to enter a short stage of regret. While best practices called for a more granular and cohesive account structure, the unknowns of the ramp-up timeline can quickly produce doubt. The important thing to remember when launching a new account structure is that performance will not improve overnight. It takes time for quality scores to normalize and for traffic to shift towards its new standard level.

Performance over time

One key step to take prior to implementing a new account structure is a quick keyword audit. Make sure that your newly organized structure still targets all of the top performing keywords and search queries of the past couple of months. Use a quick VLOOKUP to ensure all of these items are included in the new list. Additionally, considering flighting out the new structure in rounds. This will allow for a smaller scale test while also limiting major fluctuations to the account.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Despite all the stresses, doubts, and anxieties, eventually the “acceptance” stage of an account transition will be reached. At this point, traffic has reached full capacity and performance has begun to normalize. We can start to make full-scale changes from a bidding and budgeting perspective that take full advantage of the new structure. Even if performance hasn’t yet shown improvement compared to the previous setup, take note that your new account structure is designed to better incorporate frequent optimizations given its match type segmentation, keyword makeup, and account organization. Generally speaking, it’s just a matter of time before the data reflects the strategic improvements

Concluding Thoughts

From denial through acceptance, the five emotional stages experienced when restructuring a PPC account are an undeniable roller coaster. Ultimately the key to success in this scenario is preparation and patience. Preparation ensures complete coverage prior to implementation, minimizing any overlooked aspects of success from the previous structure. Once launched, patience becomes the virtue while traffic and actionable insights steadily accrue.

Cover photo courtesy of Bruce Aldridge