Paid Search Campaigns: What Makes The Heavy Lifting So Heavy

IT IS A CRITICAL COMPONENT of the day-to-day tasks that occur behind the scenes of any paid search marketing campaign. It’s commonly experienced by those on the frontlines. It is a necessary evil. It is something that does not need to be so complex and cumbersome–but often is.

Simply put, it is customer service. But in this case it is the engine’s service of its customer–the agency.

It’s only keywords and textlinks

On the surface, our clients are presented with only the end product–neat, detailed, executive-level campaign summaries and charts that indicate efficient search marketing performance tied with strategic recommendations. Often these summaries validate the need for an ongoing search marketing presence. Clients also understand such top-level tactics as expanded keyword lists and lowered bids for non-performing terms.

What remains hidden is the time-consuming back and forth with each engine in order to ensure a perfect launch or retrieve ongoing campaign updates. As much as we try to streamline our interactions with the engines, there will always be a need for constant conversations and confirmations. If you haven’t already today, please go thank your campaign managers for what they frequently have to endure.

As mentioned by Gord Hotchkiss in a previous “Search Insider” article, those not connected to our industry tend to simplify what we do as nothing more than “typ[ing] phrases to drive ad traffic.” If only it were that simple.

The customer (agency) is always right…sometimes

Each engine has its own methodologies, terms and conditions, processes and policies. During the course of a paid search marketing campaign, you may very well experience one or some of the following issues that contribute to the “heavy lifting,” such as:

• Regardless of client pedigree and potential, you’re required to invest a monthly minimum spend threshold. Last time I checked, there was more than one engine in the marketplace.

• The text creative that you initially submitted, following several stakeholders’ approval, has mysteriously been altered based on what the engine “felt would perform better.”

• When they were asked for explanations on what the effect of certain engine guidelines (such as cosmetic changes in the way a result would be listed) would mean for existing campaigns, engine staffers simply stated that they “don’t know” and they “were not privy to that information from upper management.” How can we set our client expectations when the engines themselves are unable to provide guidance?

• Without prior notification, your set daily spend caps are exceeded above a normal percentage. The engine claims there was an unforeseen “system error,” and kindly apologizes for burning through a large percent of your monthly budget.

• Somehow another advertiser is securing sponsored listings against your client’s brand name. You’re aware of the engine’s policy and have taken action, yet the advertiser’s listings links to a page that is not compliant with the engine’s existing list of guidelines. Poor result relevancy is more important than trademark infringement?

• Depending on your client’s business, setting up a new campaign requires coordination with several engine representatives that in some way serve the same purpose or do not effectively communicate. Remember the days of ONE engine representative handling ALL of your paid search campaigns, regardless of vertical?

While these issues have not affected our client’s campaign performances, because experience allows all of us to set realistic turnaround times and expectations, they have cost us all additional hours in dealing with the engines behind the scenes. Maybe no one side is to blame. Maybe these are just outcomes of our industry’s tremendous growth spurt in the past few years. Is there a fix?

Industry standards?

While all engines do their best to fix any unforeseen system glitches, editorial oversights or overall lapses in customer service, one question still remains–can standardization minimize pain points and improve engine-to-agency customer service?

Are these issues isolated incidents, or industry-wide? At a recent conference, this was a recurring topic of discussion among a few SEM enthusiasts. Feedback among the group was mixed. There was no unanimous engine winner or loser. For every account of an engine that did something great, there was a horror story worse than any in the aforementioned list.

Thankfully, it appears that the engines are heading in a direction of standardizing some of their offerings, including text creative character limitations, soon-to-be-special algorithms for determining a sponsored ad’s rank, and dayparting capabilities. This will at least allow for a common level of expectations around process and procedures. How long before standardized back-end financial systems, electronic insertion orders, trademark policies and agency relationship models follow?

Will things get worse before they get better?

We’re in this together

Every day brings another announcement about an engine’s new technology, acquisition or ad management component. So, nothing indicates that our jobs will get easier. I’m sure we can all say that the various engines’ customer service has improved over the past few years, but it is not ideal. Agencies will continue to offer solutions on how this can be improved. Engines will continue to make minor improvements here and there. Our industry will continue to evolve.

At the end of the day, our interests should be aligned with delivering value to our clients and making the heavy lifting a little lighter.