The PPC Hero blog series team decided to focus this month on automation in paid search. The rest of the week, our PPC rock stars are going to discuss true automated tools or features to make your jobs easier, but I decided to take a more abstract approach to automation and focus on how you can automate yourself to work more efficiently. For your Monday reading pleasure, I bring you the top 3 ways I automate without buying new software or opting in to actual automated features.

  • To-do list like you’ve never to-do listed before. Most grammatically correct sentence on the planet? Definitely not. Accurate? You’d better believe it. When I first started managing paid search accounts, I had one to-do list for the day and that worked wonderfully. However, as I took on more accounts and other internal projects, I quickly realized my post-it method was running out of steam and I needed a more long-range strategy for keeping track of all my tasks. Reason being, not every single thing needs to be done this minute, today, or even this week. That doesn’t make those tasks less important; it just means they can wait. In the world of PPC management, that line is necessary or else we’d all go crazy. So how did I change my strategy? Multiple lists.

For instance, I have a list for today, this week, this month and one final one for general things I want to remind myself to think about, but maybe don’t have a direct task to accomplish yet. This allows me to do two things: First, I can pull tasks for today off my weekly/monthly lists and second, I can put things on my weekly/monthly lists that come up today but don’t require my attention this instant.

This keeps my list for today from getting too full, which in turn tends to result in the list not getting done and me feeling like I didn’t accomplish my goals, no matter how much I did check off the list. This strategy also ensures that I don’t forget anything that pops up within a given day.

To make your brain a little more confused, each of the previously mentioned lists have a few columns: one for account management stuff, another for sales tasks and the last for general inside projects I’m assigned to that fall in to neither category. Organizing the lists in this way helps me make sure I’m not forgetting to put on any of the hats I wear at our office.

  • Excel spreadsheets and it’s formulas=your BFF. I know all PPC managers use Excel, so that’s not a secret. However, the secret comes in finding new ways to use that program to your timesaving advantage. A few sub points as examples? Why not!
    1. Internal/client reporting: At Hanapin, we have clients that require weekly reports and our own internal tracking reports that must be updated and/or sent to the appropriate parties. While the data being pulled and the frequency required are nothing too terrible, setting these up in Excel with formulas cuts back on the time required by a large degree. For instance, a particular in-house report we use requires spend and lead numbers for the last 7 days and month to date, but entering 4 figures pops out three times as many numbers we can analyze; projections for the remainder of the month, CPL’s, etc.
    2. Populating keyword lists:Keyword research is never easy, and it can be even more time consuming if you’re working with a client with a large product or services list. We’ve had great success with using the CONCATENATE function in Excel for certain clients to cut down on this task tremendously. You simply load one column of your sheet with the base keywords you need to use and another with some qualifiers. Here’s a very basic example:
      Concatenating keyword lists in Excel
      By typing in each qualifier once, auto-filling them down the column, copying/pasting the base keyword list and applying the following formula: =CONCATENATE(A2, ” “, B2), you can drag the formula down column C and pull together a list of keywords in a fraction of the time.
    3. Writing ad copy within character limits:This is another template kind of idea with a character count formula to follow each line of ad text to be written, to make sure you’re maintaining the guidelines set forth by the search engines. That could look something like this:

      Character counts for ad copy in Excel
      By applying a filter to the top line, I can filter each length column and ensure that none of my individual ad copy elements are exceeding the character limits. Then, where there are issues, I can quickly focus my attention there to make the necessary adjustments.
  • Make your email calendar work for you, not the other way around. This is actually a trick I use to automate the first step in self-automation. I have all deadlines, recurring tasks or meetings, and/or random to-do’s set up in my email calendar to remind me when they’re due. So at the beginning of each month, week and day, I check out my email calendar and make sure each thing that is set to alert me is funneled on to a to-do list. It’s a bit of a double check, but how can you go wrong with an extra reminder?

The secondary benefit here is that if you DO forget to pull something from the calendar and put it on your to-do list, the pop-up reminder will put it back on your radar for completion. I live by my to-do lists and I can’t count the number of times I still get ‘surprised’ by something I had flagged on my email calendar alerts, but forgot to put on my to-do list.

So how do you self-automate your PPC work, either for a client or an in-house account? Tell us all about it in the comments section below and as always, thanks for reading! Make sure you check back the rest of this week for more information on automation in PPC!