How to be a good PPC account manager


Phil Black


When it comes to PPC management, I like to describe my abilities as “rather jolly good”. I’ve been given the opportunity to work on a huge variety of accounts over the last few years, which has allowed me to focus in on what really makes a difference to a clients results.

Another stroke of good fortune has meant I work for one of the very best search marketing agencies in the UK. A thrusting and dynamic sales team facilitate regular peeks at accounts being run by a group of people I simply refer to as “The Others” (loosely translated as human beings not working for Search Laboratory). What I’ve seen over the years has occasionally tickled me, often frustrated me, and – on very rare occasions – moved me to tears.

Here are some top tips that I think help make a good PPC account manager…


This is fundamental. You have to imagine the accounts you’re running are linked to your own happiness and well-being. The reason you should think this is because its true – the client pays you to make them as much money as possible. So the harder you work, the more money they will make, and the richer you will become (both financially and spiritually). Many people think you have to be super clever to do PPC. This is not true – you just need a calculator and a strong work ethic…

PPC account managers

Do a thorough setup

For me, account structure is the most important thing to get right. If you structure your account logically and efficiently from day one, you will have a much better chance of making it perform well. Often the client will expect great results in the first month, and to give yourself the best chance you need to nail the setup. If you put something together in a rush, test it for a month, and then re-adjust it based on the initial stats, you’re missing the point.

Granularity is the only way to go. Organize your keywords into highly relevant groups so that you can look at an ad group name and know exactly what traffic is coming through it. This makes optimization and reporting far quicker and easier. The time and effort you put in at the start will be rewarded later. Bid reviews will be much more straightforward, results will be better and you’ll keep the client for longer, forming a mutually beneficial relationship.

“If in doubt, split it out.” – Phillip G Black

Collaborate on ad copy

Writing appealing ad messages can be difficult. Often you’ll end up with quite generic messages that contain the right keywords, but have a turgid call to action. I’ve reached the stage of my career where I can only look at the words “Buy Now!” for a few seconds before my insides start to twitch and I have to run to the nearest water closet. This is a dreary message.

I’ve found that the best ad optimization comes from discussions with the client about their products, and what selling points they feel are most important. Review meetings are made more fun by trialing a clients messages and comparing them to the old ads. Note – try and avoid smirking if your ads do better than theirs.

“The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” – Rudyard Kipling

Be confident

PPC accounts

We’re not talking about the kind of confidence needed to address the United Nations, or lure a pair of LA Lakers cheerleaders into a hot tub. We’re talking about optimization confidence. A common problem amongst PPCers is a debilitating affliction known as Bidfright. They want to change a bid or set of bids, but they’re not sure its going to have the right effect.

Will it get worse? Will the cost per conversion jump up too high? Will sales drop? What if the client thinks I don’t know what I’m doing? These are all thoughts that can race through your head and bring you to your knees.

Step back from the ledge, my friends. Don’t second guess yourself – just make the change and see what happens. Testing something and failing is better than not trying in the first place. If it works you’ll have boosted your confidence in your bidding ability. If it doesn’t work, you analyse the data and see why. Then you try something else.

“You can sign a player based on his ability, but then he’s got to be successful to be confident. And once he becomes confident, that’s when you’ve got something.” – Tim McCarver


Show them the trees, but focus on the wood

PPC reportingFinding the right balance of client communication is important. Reporting should always have a clear point – an objective or goal that you want to attain based on the data you’ve analyzed. Always consider the long term view – step back and look at a longer range of data, and don’t get sucked into knee jerk reactions if a few days are poor.

Consider if a weekly report is really the best use of management time – ideally you should be spending the majority of your time on optimization tasks. Always set a goal to achieve from meetings too, and make sure you come back with a good list of actions. Then put a plan in place to implement those actions in the order of importance. If there are any quick wins to be had, do them straight after the meeting.

“Goals provide the energy source that powers our lives. One of the best ways we can get the most from the energy we have is to focus it. That is what goals can do for us; concentrate our energy.” – Denis Waitley

Auditing an account run by “the others”

The first thing I do when looking at someone else’s account is to pull off a keyword report for the last 3-6 months, and sort it by conversions descending. Take a look at the top 20 keywords (if there are 20 with a good number of conversions). What do the cost-per-conversion figures look like? Do they vary wildly? A well optimized account should not have a big variance in CPC figures between ad groups (assuming those groups are all advertising the same product or service).

It’s very common to see situations where people are bidding more for poor converting keywords than they are for good converting keywords. Often you’ll also see that the bid prices are all the same, with no scientific application anywhere in sight. If the account is an ecommerce site with products delivering very different ROI figures, then it can be trickier to analyse without further insight from the customer. They may be willing to accept higher cost-per-sale figures for certain products based on profit margin. If you need that insight, ask for it.

Generally speaking, you should be able to tell within a couple of minutes if an account is being run by someone who understands PPC properly.

“Quality, means doing it right when no one is looking.” – Henry Ford

Taking over an existing account

For me, this is the most enjoyable part of the job. I love getting my hands on an existing account and seeing how much I can improve it. One key element to get right is how to implement your changes. Optimizing an account created by somebody else should be approached like great brain surgery.

PPC campaigns

You don’t just pick up some tools from Homebase and hack away until it works a bit better. You should approach the account like a surgeon would approach a nice, juicy brain. Carefully trim away all the garbage and enhance the parts that work. If anything is missing, add it in.

A lobotomy should be out of the question – don’t just turn off the old campaigns and start from scratch. Use the keywords that have good quality scores and expand around them, whilst adding in brand new groups with a highly granular structure. Keyword clean it and block poor traffic, and pause the keywords that don’t deliver anything. Be wary of slow bleeders – keywords that don’t spend much in the short term and therefore attract little attention, but over the course of a year spend quite a bit without really contributing anything.

“By golly, Jim, I’m beginning to think I can cure a rainy day.” – Dr. Leonard McCoy

What would Beethoven do?

The promised land for a PPC account manager is to get to a state where they can just play. One day you will reach a stage where you can look at an account and know exactly what you need to do to improve it. Your fingers will dance over the keyboard and you’ll get that delicious glowing feeling inside, knowing that each stroke of your hand is improving the clients bottom line.

You will experience a moment of sudden and striking realization that you know the path ahead (there is an easier way of saying this but it uses an “E” word that I’m banned from saying – like the residents of Hogwarts can’t say Voldemort).

“Beethoven – he looked at a piano and it just made sense to him, he could just play.” – Will Hunting.

Do you really understand the science of PPC?

Despite what may be suggested above, PPC management isn’t brain surgery. It can be just as rewarding though. If you consider yourself to be a strong PPC account manager, take a moment to think about your strengths. Look at your accounts and ask yourself – ‘Is that really as good a job as I can do?’ If you can look directly into a mirror and say that without breaking eye contact, then I’d like to shake your hand.

Managing a large number of accounts needn’t be tough – you just need to make the right changes, and put your foot down when it comes to decision making. Your accounts should be like a well groomed collection of prize-winning show cats, always looking their best and with an impeccable litter tray. Plan their grooming and nutrition carefully, and implement with steadfastness. If you’re rushing around with a comb and vacuum when a client comes knocking to inspect their particular feline, you’re doing it wrong.

So if you’ve got an account with an ad group structure that makes you blush when you look at it, or you’ve got an experiment or new feature you want to try that’s been put off for a while, get on and do it.

Optimization is the key to success.