Successful PPC campaigns hinge on strategic management — from a meticulous buildout to recurring optimizations. Here’s how to do it right.

Here, you’ll find:

PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is like a spark — it can light the fuse that leads to a sales and scaling explosion… or it can send your ad budget up in flames.

Without someone monitoring a fire, things can get out of control fast. The same goes for PPC advertising (aka paid search), whether that means a poorly-targeted campaign or throwing money at keywords you’ll never rank for.

The right PPC manager knows how to balance all the various factors that go into a paid search campaign, along with what to do after it’s launched and running.

Digital marketers working on a plan

The purpose of management is to improve the performance of the PPC ads you run. (Image: Adobe Stock)

 What is PPC management?

PPC management is the act of monitoring, optimizing, and making improvements to paid search strategies and campaigns. PPC experts have multiple tasks to juggle to get this right, including:

  • Keyword optimization

    Not to be confused with SEO-style keyword optimization, PPC keyword optimization involves pruning, adding new keywords, and removing search terms from your target keyword list, using negative keywords, changing match types, and adjusting the keywords used in the ad copy.

  • Channel optimization

    Deciding which channel to use, how to use it, and what messaging will work best is crucial to PPC management. These ads can be launched across many channels, including search engines like Google Ads and Bing Ads, display ads on display networks, native ads, shopping ads like Amazon Advertising, and social media ads like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

  • Ad campaign monitoring

    PPC is a feedback cycle. You design and run ads, monitor their campaign performance and metrics, and use the data you harvest to make changes to your ads and ad groups to make them more effective.

  • Audience analysis

    Paid advertising isn’t just about knowing the search queries you want to target. It’s also about understanding the audience using those keywords and what they want from the results. Using the wrong messaging with the wrong target audience will fail to resonate.

  • Split testing

    To understand what resonates most with your audience, you can split test (also called A/B testing) alternative versions of your search ads, landing pages, keywords, and other campaign elements that have a single element changed. The findings may surprise you.

  • Competitive analysis

    When managing PPC, don’t limit yourself to data about your ads and ad performance. You can also gather information about your competitors’ ads, estimate their performance, and use that info to your advantage.

 The difference between SEO and PPC management

As we outlined above, PPC management involves tracking, iterating, and optimizing online advertising campaigns. Search engine optimization (SEO) management involves using similar tactics to keep track of and improve your brand’s visibility in organic search results. 

When used well together, both PPC and SEO management bolster your online presence to generate more brand awareness, lead quality, click-through rate (CTR), and, hopefully, conversions. 

Furthermore, one method can give you actionable insights to help iterate and improve on another. If you discover you’re not ranking well organically for a certain keyword, for example, you can add that keyword to your PPC campaign and rank for it faster. We’ll dig into this a little bit more below.

 Why PPC management matters

When it comes down to it, the purpose of management is to improve the performance of the PPC ads you run. It’s all about analyzing data, paying attention to algorithms, and improving over time.

While the primary function of a PPC account manager is to manage PPC accounts, that’s not the only thing they do. They’re also an integral part of the marketing team, generating data, testing new messaging at scale, and providing insight into your audience.

Remember, too, that all of this is ongoing. Optimizations can be time sensitive. Ads that perform very well for a summer sale won’t necessarily maintain that track record once the season is over. Ads promoting a new product lose their luster when the product is no longer fresh, and so on. 

Optimization never ends, and you may often encounter cases where optimizations need to be reversed or abandoned altogether to make any further progress. Sometimes, the specific optimization isn’t even the important part — it’s merely the act of changing that refreshes interest.

 What are the benefits of PPC management?

Only 10% of advertisers reportedly optimize their Google Ads accounts each week. This stat means there’s a huge opportunity for those who more consistently manage their PPC accounts to beat the competition.

Along with that, here are a handful of other reasons why PPC management is key.

  • Improve brand visibility

    People searching for keywords see your ads, click through, and find content or products they might be interested in. This phenomenon allows you to capture a more significant audience segment than you would with SEO and word of mouth, which can also result in building brand awareness more quickly.

    Remember that you only pay for clicks, not the number of eyeballs on your ads. Even if users don’t click your ad at that moment, people may remember seeing your brand name and engage with your company in the future.

  • Multichannel strategies

    Not only does PPC improve brand visibility, but it also allows you to control your brand message and image. For instance, Facebook ads allow you to provide consistent messaging on a platform where user-generated content can overwhelm organic brand posts.

  • Appear for relevant events

    Let’s say you’re a roofer, and there’s just been a major storm. You’d like to reach all of the people who need your services. Even if your SEO is top-notch, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll reach your target audience.

    If you use Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) or another PPC channel, you can show ads to users looking for someone to repair their storm-damaged roofs. You can even set up a script to bid higher on roof repair in locations based on the weather. Appearing for relevant events helps boost return on investment (ROI) and improve sales.

  • Assist in the keyword research process

    PPC provides a window into how users search for your products or services. Your search query reports are a wealth of knowledge. In turn, these keywords can be used in SEO.

    Plus, data can be cross-analyzed, and cost keywords can be moved to your SEO plan while keywords you’re struggling to rank for can be added to your PPC campaigns for a quicker result.

  • Rank for keywords quickly

    SEO is a long game – while the efforts are certainly worthwhile, it can take a few months or more for significant results to surface. By contrast, PPC is a “short game,” often resulting in a quicker ROI.

    If your SEO team discovers your competitors are ranking for specific terms and you are not, then you can add those keywords to your PPC campaigns so that you’ll come up in those searches. Meanwhile, they can work on improving organic ranking for those terms without worrying about the potential negative effects.

  • Test audiences

    In other forms of marketing, you can attempt to target specific audiences like parents or people interested in golf. But you can’t guarantee you’ll ever reach them.

    When you use Google or Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads), you can reach these people through the robust audiences these platforms offer. They read “signals” or behaviors to ensure your ads show to the right people.

  • Warm leads

    While it’s true that you can use paid ads for top of funnel campaigns, that’s not all you can use them for. Search campaigns can target intent-based keywords like “buy” and “hire” to provide warm leads rather than people who are still researching.

    Using in-market audiences provides another avenue to reach those who are ready to buy or sign a contract.

    When Columbia Virtual Academy (CVA) needed help reaching potential students, they partnered with HawkSEM. Through strategic paid search campaign restructuring and expansion, we were able to help the CVA team increase Google Ads conversions 134% year over year and increase their CTR by 45%. Read the full case study.

 Tips for successful PPC campaign management

OK, so how do you keep your PPC campaigns in tip-top shape? There definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy here, but there are some things you can do to make sure you set yourself up for success. This is also where a PPC agency may come in clutch.

  • Regular maintenance

    It may go without saying, but some people really do think that ad accounts don’t need regular maintenance. We’re here to tell you that they do. In fact, they should always be under the watchful eye of a PPC manager. It doesn’t always mean making changes but checking, analyzing, and updating when necessary.

  • Bid adjustments

    If you’re not using a Smart Bidding strategy or if your chosen marketing strategy allows you to adjust bids, you should. Adjusting device, location, audience, demographic, time of day, remarketing list (RLSAs), and other bids will allow you to fine-tune your campaigns and control costs.

  • Split-testing

    Split-testing or A/B testing should be something you do to improve click-through rate (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and other metrics or test new theories. You can A/B test your landing pages, ads, or even campaigns themselves. Google even has built-in split-testing features in the form of Experiments.

  • Smart Bidding

    Smart Bidding has come a long way since its inception. Initially, it wasn’t always reliable, and PPC managers were wary of it. These days, it can help you scale your business and help you hit targets like your cost per acquisition (CPA) and return on ad spend (ROAS). Using Smart Bidding gives you a real-time advantage. It also helps you by optimizing bids and using contextual signals to improve your performance.

 PPC management mistakes to avoid

As with any advertising strategy, there are plenty of pitfalls. Here are a few of the gotchas you should avoid.

  • Location settings

    Location settings should always be set to Presence: People in or regularly in your targeted locations. Otherwise, you’re likely to reach people outside your target area and, therefore, not interested.

  • Setting your budget too low

    This is another way to hamper your success. You need to give your campaigns enough budget for at least a few clicks a day to get anywhere. Certainly, more than that is better since it will take more than a handful of clicks to get good data and conversions.

  • Not using your own data for Performance Max campaigns

    If you aren’t doing this then you are not using all of the cards you have up your sleeve. If you have a customer list, you should always upload it. This will teach Google what converting customers looks like and find more of the same. Use caution with the audiences you add, though. Adding audiences that haven’t converted will teach Google the wrong thing.

  • Failing to confirm your conversion tracking is working properly

    This is probably the single biggest mistake you can make. Not seeing conversions? Check to make sure your conversion event is firing. Conversion rate seem  suspiciously high? Make sure you’re not double counting. A good PPC manager confirms the conversion tracking works when it’s set up and continues to check occasionally to make sure nothing is amiss.

ecommerce seller

When you’re competing for customers, you want to give them promotions, prices, and important features immediately. (Image: Adobe Stock)

 Ecommerce PPC management tips

While many of the tips and tricks for lead generation apply to ecommerce, it also has its own set of pitfalls and traps, particularly when it comes to management and structure. Read on for a handy list of dos and don’ts.

Ecommerce PPC: Dos

  • Make sure you set up robust tracking – Go beyond the purchase and track product views, abandoned carts, and other parts of the journey. These data points give you important data to analyze and audiences for campaign creation.
  • Upload offline dataIf your purchases can be completed in-store or over the phone, that data is essential to understanding the true value of your campaigns. Currently, Salesforce and HubSpot are the only CRMs that integrate directly with Google, but you can manually upload data or use Zapier to upload this data regularly.
  • Add assets (formerly ad extensions) to eligible campaigns – When you’re competing for customers, you want to give them promotions, prices, and important features immediately. You only have a few seconds to catch their attention. Use these to end up on their shortlist in the research stage.
  • Optimize your merchant center settingsTake advantage of everything the Merchant Center has to offer. Complete both the paid ads and free ads setup. Who doesn’t like free? You should also check out your Shopping Experience Scorecard under the Growth tab. Fulfilling all of the requirements there will give you a trusted store badge and allow your ads to display in better positions.

Ecommerce PPC: Don’ts

  • Don’t focus on one campaign type – Your first instinct may be to put all of your money into Performance Max or shopping campaigns because they’re purchase-focused. In practice, you’ll likely find diversity is key. Setting up search, display, and YouTube campaigns allow you to touch potential buyers during every step in their journey and help you stay top of mind.
  • Thinking purchases are the only thing that matters is costly – Purchases are important, but if it costs too much to get a purchase, or the value of the purchase is less than the CPA, it probably isn’t helping you. Keep an eye on key metrics like ROAS and ROI.
  • Optimize everything – There are many levers to pull. Go beyond the most common ones, like bid adjustments and negative keywords. Review product performance and exclude ones that perform badly. Analyze location data and eliminate costly, low-converting locations. Look for ways to optimize and improve landing pages and shopping carts.
  • First-party data is king, don’t forget to use it – Upload customer lists, subscriber lists, and other first-party data. This type of data is perfect for Performance Max campaigns, setting up Value Based Bidding, and remarketing.

 The benefits of PPC management software

PPC software gives you time-saving automation, robust data reporting, and a second set of “eyes” to ensure you don’t miss optimizations. You’ll be able to work more efficiently, and alerts will keep you up to speed on every aspect of your account. 

With the help of PPC management tools, you can potentially save on marketing costs, improve performance, and scale your account.

The top reason you should be using PPC software are:

  • Insights into your account
  • One-click optimizations
  • Alerts
  • Automation
  • Reporting on your most valued KPIs
  • Find missed opportunities

Pssst: We wanted to help businesses find more qualified leads, better understand their audience, and view all their necessary ad data at a glance. For all those reasons and more, we created ConversionIQ, our secret sauce that helps us help our clients overcome common digital marketing roadblocks to more effectively drive sales and scale. See it in action here.

 Is it time to partner with a PPC management agency?

When considering who should manage your PPC, consider the fact that the the actual management of PPC involves data monitoring and analysis, continuous split testing, and implementing changes to create further tests. Then there’s budget management, keyword lists, analytics reports, ad copy and brand assets, and landing page optimization – it’s enough to make even the most experienced marketer’s head spin. 

Partnering with a marketing agency can be an investment, but thousands of companies (if not more) have seen all the benefits that can come with putting your digital marketing program in the hands of experienced pros – and they have the ROI to prove it. 

  • Get industry-leading expertise right away.

    There’s no learning period, so be prepared to hit the ground running. Professional PPC management firms know what they’re doing and can implement advanced-level PPC strategies on day one. Plus, you likely will gain access to a team of experienced pros, not just one person.

  • Achieve results cost-effectively.

    When you learn independently, you have weeks, months, or even years before your investment bears fruit. When you hire someone, you’re paying a full salary and benefits. Whereas, when you hire a company, you’re generally paying some fraction of ad spend, meaning that if the company wants to get paid, they have to perform well enough to be worth the investment.

  • Save your own time.

    You, whoever is reading this right now, have an important job. You won’t likely have the time to learn PPC’s intricacies, and it will get in the way of your other duties. Even in-house marketers have a whole lot to juggle on their own. By outsourcing your PPC ad management you have more time to focus on the things only you can do for your business.

 When will I see results?

As we briefly mentioned, PPC is the “short game” to SEO’s “long game.” PPC can technically yield results overnight, however, you’ll want to give it time to really start working for you before throwing in the proverbial towel.

Typically, PPC campaigns take between 3 to 6 months to work. The first couple of months will be a sort of training period for your ads where you can get a good idea of what’s working and what you might want to adjust. Remember: Data is king in PPC, so the more information you gather, the better your PPC campaigns will perform.

 PPC management services

Each agency will have different offerings. That said, some typical PPC management services you can expect include:

  • PPC audit
  • Market research
  • Competitor analysis
  • Goal and conversion tracking review
  • Advertising platform review
  • Keyword and audience research
  • Campaign strategy and execution
  • A/B testing and optimizations
  • Reporting

 PPC management costs

The price you pay for PPC management will vary from agency to agency, depending on the services you want. You’ll likely see three common fee structures which are as follows: flat fee, percentage of ad spend, and performance-based.

For a flat fee, you can expect to spend between $2,500 – $10,000+/month. At HawkSEM for example, we charge a simple, straight-forward fee without any setup costs.

The takeaway

Sure, PPC management isn’t simple or easy, but that’s a big part of what makes it such a powerful digital marketing tactic when you’ve mastered the ins and outs. What’s more, a good PPC marketing manager can make all the difference if you’re trying to gain more brand awareness, market share, clicks, conversions, or just more profits on your existing advertising.

If all of the above has opened your eyes to the fact that it’s time to pass the torch on your company’s PPC management initiatives, you’ve come to the right place. Our team of senior-level experts are ready to take a hands-on approach to your PPC efforts and work with you to ensure you’re getting the most ROAS possible. Connect with us today.

This article has been updated and was originally published in December 2022.

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Shire Lyon

Shire Lyon

Shire is a passionate writer and marketer with over eight years of experience as a writer and digital marketer. She's well-versed in SEO, PPC, and social media, helping businesses both big and small grow and scale. On her downtime, she enjoys hiking, cooking, gardening, reading, and sailing.