Searching Beyond the Paid

Monday, May 26, 2008

3 Reasons Why PPC Management Is Like CSI

Much has been said about the shortage of search marketing professionals and how difficult it is to hire good SEMs. The field is growing rapidly, and many companies (ours included) are suffering from growing pains, made more painful by the difficulty in hiring good SEMs. This got me thinking about what traits are desirable in an SEM, and particularly a PPC manager.

This topic has been covered before, but experience has given me some ideas to add to the list.

To me, the number one trait a successful PPC manager must possess is a passion for finding the answer and to get to the bottom of the mystery. I've often said that a good PPC manager must have a "CSI mentality," meaning they must keep digging until they find out the real answer to the question. This mentality is important for several reasons:

  1. PPC is a performance-based medium. Campaigns succeed or fail based on metrics like ROI, CPA, ROAS and many other alphabet-soup measures. When a campaign fails to meet objectives, a good PPC manager must (1) be able to recognize this quickly and (2) dig until they find the reason. It's not enough to say "well, this campaign is a flop." Yes, some campaigns do turn out to be flops, but all avenues for optimization and improvement must be explored before this declaration can be made. There are many reasons why campaigns under-perform, and it takes a curious mind to look at all these reasons and test and tweak until, as I mentioned, all options are exhausted.
  2. In a similar vein, PPC is a constantly-evolving field. A good manager has to have a desire to learn and dig out the answer not only from the campaign data itself, but from external sources such as PPC program help sections, industry newsletters and blog posts, forums, search conferences, and other resources. Yes, it's challenging to keep up with the information overload when you're already so busy because you're handling the workload of 3 people due to the SEM pro shortage - but it is imperative to take the time to stay on top of the news anyway. Not taking advantage of the collective wisdom of the many PPC and SEM pros who willingly share their knowledge for little to no cost is foolish.
  3. Good PPC managers have the confidence to take risks. Most direct marketers know that testing is critical, and that sometimes tests perform the opposite of what you expect. The same is true in PPC, except the feedback happens much more quickly. A good PPC manager is willing to test everything, even the craziest of ideas, without hesitation. To do this takes initiative, decisiveness, creativity, and self-confidence - hemming and hawing has no place in PPC. Take the ball and run with it - if it turns out you were running the wrong way, you'll know quickly and can chalk it up to testing.

Not every marketer is cut out for PPC management, just like not every law enforcement professional is cut out for CSI work. If you can find a marketer who likes to solve a mystery, though, chances are that he or she will make a good PPC manager.



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