Shared Knowledge: My 4 Step PPC Training Approach

Orange Book Stack

Read all these books. The End.

Just kidding, that’s not helpful at all. Let’s try that again…

I’ve been in the PPC industry for 6 years now. Over that time, the industry has changed so much and in so many great ways. That was the topic of the #PPCChat discussion earlier this week. But despite the larger trends we discussed in that chat, it was a smaller side conversation with Brooke Townsend that got me thinking about the topic of training more specifically.

Twitter Training Discussion

I started in PPC right out of college. I applied for (and landed) a job that was simply described as Online Marketing Assistant. I had absolutely no idea what that meant. Only that it used my major (Marketing) and that it would have something to do with computers. Fast forward a year and I was the solo person in charge of my companies multiple PPC accounts. I say this not to toot my own horn, but to call out what I think was a fairly common upbringing in the PPC world. We had to effectively teach ourselves, whether it was a change in our existing jobs or something new altogether.

Melissa Mackey has written about it before. Being tasked to figure out what AdWords was and how it could be used back in the early days. Clix’s own John Lee did extensive research before being interviewed for a job at Hanapin just to learn what this industry was all about. And there are many, many more stories just like that.

For us self taught folks, there was a “choose your own adventure” feel. If we wanted to do something, we had to learn how to do it first. Lots of Google searches later, we would have put together a strategy to execute, then hope to the PPC gods that it worked. Although it made for some tough days when info wasn’t available or a strategy didn’t work out, I still feel like this self-starter method is the best way to learn PPC. And that’s why I use a form of it to train people today. Below I’ll discuss my four step strategy for training, then outline some of the benefits of it that I’ve seen come out of it that I didn’t realize would when I started it.

Four Steps to Self-Guided PPC Training

1) Research

I like to start with a relatively broad topic like Dynamic Search Ads strategy or Call Only campaigns, then task the trainee with doing research on their own to answer a number of questions:

  • What are the basics of the tool, targeting type, ad format that we’re talking about? What does it look like? What is it supposed to do?
  • How does this thing function? Are there any stipulations about who can or can’t use it?
  • Are there any themes out there about best or worst practices? Are there things others have learned through experimentation that we should incorporate into our own execution?

This step is designed to have the trainee take matters into their own hands. Give some light guidance if you know there are good resources on a specific topics out there, but don’t dictate where they can/can’t get information. Encourage them to go beyond what you suggest and discover for themselves. Lastly, give them a reasonable amount of time to conduct this research, specifically if they have other work to attend to. If you lock down too short of a time table, you’ll be most likely be underwhelmed with the results.

2) Discuss

This is my favorite part of this process. Make some time to have a discussion about the research your trainee has done. Here’s the usual flow from the discussions I’ve had.

  • Have the trainee explain to you what they found and answer the questions from the research phase. They should be able to give a rundown of what the tool/strategy/format is, where it’s useful, and any best or worst practices they’ve found.
  • Then the trainer is to address any specific strategies or best practices you think are particular interesting or counter to your own. Just because someone wrote a blog about it, doesn’t mean it’s right. Keep an open mind to new techniques, but if something seems fishy, make sure it gets addressed.
  • Next, have the trainee make suggestions for which accounts this strategy fits and identify those that where it doesn’t. Have them apply what they’ve learned to their roles and see what suggestions they have.
  • Lastly, work together to flesh out strategies for the accounts where the topic fits. Outline a work plan with specifics for the trainee to execute.

3) Execute

Simple enough. Up until now, the trainee has just needed to talk the talk. Now it’s time to walk the walk. Have them execute your agreed upon strategies you developed during the Discussion phase. Ideally, this can take place in a couple or three largely different accounts to they can learn how to utilize the strategy in a number of different ways. At the completion of this stage, make sure to give any feedback about the work itself and guide them for best execution moving forward.

4) Teach

It’s a common saying that you don’t truly know something until you can teach it to someone else. So that ends up being the last step of the process. The trainee is then to either write a blog post on the topic or help train someone else on the team on that specific topic.

At this point, the trainee has gone through the necessary steps to learn something: discovery, critical thinking, execution, then teach someone else. It’s a powerful process that can benefit all sides, even those not involved in the initial training.

Surprise me pumpkinUnintended Benefits

After completing the strategy above on a few different topics with one of our employees, I began to notice a number of things I didn’t expect to come out of the process.

My Continued Learning

It’s a pretty reasonable thing to think that when you’re training someone, you’ll be sharing your knowledge and they’ll be benefiting. But what I didn’t expect was to be learning new things myself. On a number of topics I’ve tasked out, I’ve had my eyes opened to a number of different strategies. Why? Because the information and strategies being gathered didn’t come from me. They came from other folks in the industry. Whether through blog posts, webinars, live chats, etc., there are so many resources out there for learning that it’s no wonder I haven’t heard everyone’s thoughts on DSA campaigns or Call-Only ads. It’s been a wonderful surprise to not only be teaching on a topic, but to also be learning new strategies along with my teammates at the same time.

Blog Content

I included this as the last step in the process above because it became such an integral part of the training process. We’ve been able to take our internal learning processes and turn them into new content so hopefully someone else out there will use it during their research process. Pay it forward, right?

Employee Evaluation

This process isn’t for the faint of heart. Teaching yourself anything can be a challenge, especially when it’s not necessarily a common topic like PPC. This process can reveal a lot about your employee. Can they actually conduct successful searches to solve the problem at hand or do they give up and ask you for the answers? Are they able to stick with something until the end? Are they able to tie general learnings back to specific strategies within accounts?

All of these pieces are signs of people who make strong PPC pros. You learn a lot about someone when you kick them out of the proverbial nest. They’ll either fly or they won’t. But it’s hard for them to go beyond your expectations if you don’t give them room to impress you.

This strategy certainly isn’t the only way to train employees on PPC. There are some out there who use a rigorous training period after hiring to bring folks up to speed. Other resources like StuKent strive to teach students in universities the basics of PPC before they even hit the job market. But this is the one I was brought up on, and it’s the one I still prefer to employ today.

What do you think? How did you gain your PPC skills? Were you trained by someone else or are you self taught? What strategies to you employ or like when it comes to training folks who are new to PPC? Share with us in the comments!