Restructuring PPC Accounts The Methodical Way

Yesterday, John wrote about massive account disruptions when major changes and restructures are made.  This is especially poignant when you bring on new accounts. You’re not only trying to fix standard account problems you see, but you’re doing it while still trying to establish trust with a new client. It can be shaky ground to say, “Trust me, this will work.” You can’t keep what’s there – it’s obviously not working, and that’s why they came to you. But you can’t hit the big red button and implode everything at once, because your performance might get even worse initially, testing that fledgling relationship.

So what’s a PPC Manager to do? What are some ways to roll out restructures and considerably large account changes while keeping everyone from getting too scared?

Identify What’s Not Working

This part might be obvious, but the solution may not be crystal clear. There may be several options for how to tackle the poor performance you’re trying to fix, and no clear “right answer.” This is where establishing that initial trust is really important. Gaining agreement between agency and client about what’s broken, and what the ultimate goal is with your restructure is crucial. It ensures you’re both looking at the same big picture, and agreeing that you have to get to the same place on the map.

How you get there is also part of this discussion. Do you need to restructure because of matching problems? Grouping of ROAS items together to maximize an e-comm budget? Major differences in geographical needs that mean Campaigns set up by states or metros? The strategies can go on and on, but gaining agreement and understanding between which way will meet the client’s account goals is essential.

Identify What the Goal Is

I’m constantly surprised by how rare this discussion can be. A lot of times, the goal will come out of the discussion on what’s not working. If you have gotten this account because they’re barely breaking even on ROAS, then focusing on CPA or conversion rate doesn’t make much sense. You know the goal metric, so pick a benchmark that your restructure will aim to address. You can change it as you go and gain more ground, but start somewhere so everyone is looking in the same direction.

Create a 90 Day Plan

When the rubber meets the road for implementation of whatever direction you’ve all chosen, it can get shaky. The temptation can be to just build, launch, and rip off the band-aid, but as discussed in that previous blog post, the path is fraught with peril. Some clients have the stomach for it, but most don’t because so much of their revenue stream is tied to their PPC efforts.

I’m a big fan of listing out every piece of the restructure first, independent of what might need to be kept on with their current setup. Just list the new stuff, and be specific. It helps break a large project down into digestible pieces, which will make it easier to break into a plan.

Next, figure out if there’s: 1. Anything from the current setup that you’re keeping and/or 2. Anything that will need to run concurrently with some new stuff for awhile as you wait for the new stuff to ramp up. Some things can simply be turned off, but for larger-volume pieces that exist and generate return for the client, you want as seamless a transition as possible. Leaving parts of the previous set up on while new pieces get ramped up in the algorithms can help mitigate that damage.

Now that you have a “what is being kept” list and a “what is being launched” list, you can start to plan reasonable dates around these things.

The thing that’s important about this type of planning it’s not solely based around what you can get done in what amount of time. You have to account for some padding to let the metrics be bumpy and play out. We already know what will happen if you change it all at once, so build in “settle down” time to make sure the changes take before implementing another round.

This Plan is another tool that is instrumental in good client-agency communication. The client can understand the big picture, and even have a sense of when bumps might occur so they’re ready for them. The less surprises, the better.

Launch and Monitor

The Plan will only get you so far if you don’t remember it’s a living document. If you follow the first two weeks and a problem crops up, you have to be ready to adjust the remainder of the plan for roll-out. Continuing to make large scale changes while issues are piling up is a recipe for disaster, because eventually it can be hard to understand what change is driving the results you’re getting so you don’t know what part to fix. Plan, launch, monitor, and for goodness sake don’t touch the next thing until you feel OK with what you currently have going.

This also goes for any old structure you keep running. Make sure the newly launched parts are performing within the realm of what you expect them to. Yes, it’s annoying to run broken old stuff for awhile, but it’s a good way to cover your bases and keep the traffic stream consistent until it’s time to pull the plug and rely on your shiny new account structure.

Post-mortem Comparison

Once your restructure is finally complete (whew!) and you’ve had time to optimize, take the time to do a before/after wrap up for your client. It will not only show the value of all that time and energy, but it can make a great case study for you on your next restructuring attempt. You can see what worked, what didn’t, and what did/didn’t go according to plan in order to work things a little differently next time.