Luck doesn’t begin to describe my circumstances growing up. Great parents, financial stability, fell into the right crowds; basically, I always had people I could count on.

Later in life these circumstances have led me to naturally connect with people whom I trust. I always know that if I find myself in a tough spot someone will be there to help get me out of it. There is a lot of upside to this thinking, and one downside.

Since I always can count on someone, sometimes, without realizing it, I am looking for someone to bail me out. The biggest way this has shown up is times I need help on a PPC account. You know what I am talking about. When you’ve done all the things you think you can do, but you feel like performance could be better, or performance HAS to get better.

The problem is, PPC Help is hard to find and often times there’s not one easy answer for solving what ails you. You ask for help, read blogs, go to conferences, but everything seems to fall short of helping you solve the specific issue you are experiencing.

Not to overplay it, but it can be a pretty daunting, dark place to be in. Your job may be on the line, the client may be a flight risk, or your ego could be taking a hit. PPC people take this stuff seriously, so a seemingly unsolvable problem is a proverbial pebble in our shoe.

Overcoming this feeling is one of the biggest PPC challenges I’ve conquered, which is the topic of this week’s series. So what do you (or better put, I) do when PPC help never comes? Here’s a process for walking through an issue:

Scream, yell, walk around the building, call my wife, etc.

Figure out how you get through stress and frustration. Always putting a positive spin on things actually can make them worse. So owning up to the issue, admitting you might not be able to solve it, and going through your process for frustration can go a long way to getting your head in the right space to solve the issue.

My process is to allow myself to get upset for a few minutes. The exact time varies, but it’s usually based on some bookended time, like I have a meeting at 12 so I’ll allow myself to be angry until then.

Look at lots of charts and graphs

I start in AdWords or Bing. I just look at date ranges, metrics, etc. until I see some sort of pattern emerge. For example, does it become obvious that CPC starts going up at the same time impression go down? If so, are there certain campaigns where this trend is more drastic than others? If so, are their ad groups that are outliers, or specific characteristics about the keywords or display placements in this campaign that really underperform?

I then move to pivot tables. Trying to pinpoint trends over time with specific keywords or placements that used to do really well, maybe even looking at ad copy to see if certain tests led me down a bad path.

Whatever it is, at this step I am just trying to let the data speak to me to help pinpoint the area of focus.

Create hypothesis

Knowing the issue doesn’t solve the issue. What I do once I have a pulse on what is happening is create as many hypotheses to test as possible. These could be as simple as bidding up/down, removing negative keywords, or reverting to ad copy that used to work better than existing tests. And they can be as complex as restructuring a key campaign, asking non-relevant auction competitors to add negative keywords, and seeking out entirely new networks because those you are on are just too expensive.

Prioritize based on feasibility, impact and speed

Once you have a long list of hypothesis, you should prioritize them based on how long it will take you to learn if that solved your issue or not, how big of change you could expect from it, and if it is likely to work at all.

There’s not a lot of science to this thinking. Simply ask yourself, for example, would increasing bids get me the 100 more conversions I am looking for. Depending on your situation that may be ludicrous and it may be possible.

Figure out what you can work on this week, and start

Once this list is done it can be daunting. So it’s important to look at what you have time to get done this week and focus on that small subsection of the work, versus stare at the entire list. This is a principle of Scrum, and something that helps me when I get overwhelmed.