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How to Have an Opinion

Published: October 17, 2014

Author: Caitlin Halpert

Whether you’re transitioning into a strategic role or you want to better manage your client relationships, it’s important to develop an opinion and effectively communicate that opinion to the client. I’ve summarized three key steps to getting back in the driver’s seat of conversations with your client.


SEM Knowledge

First and foremost, you should be an expert in search. Paid search is an ever-changing world, so being an expert is less about years of experience and more about your ability to keep up with the changing landscape. There are a few ways to do that:

1. Keep up with industry blogs (like this one) and read the AdWords official blog for alerts about new product releases.

2. Outside of publically available information, work with your Google and Yahoo reps (if you have them) to keep up with any newly available betas.

3. Always consider how anything you learn in one account is applicable to another one. (Example: Dynamic Search Ads had a rough start in Client A because I started with bids that were too high. Now that I’m opening up DSA in Client B, I’ll be more conservative.)

Client Knowledge

Whenever you start a new relationship with a client, make sure you understand the business. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you won’t be able to drive great strategy unless you understand their revenue model. Beyond the overall business, try and get a full history of their search campaigns. What tests have they run? What’s worked and what hasn’t?
To flesh out your understanding even more, learn more about their overall marketing strategy. How does search fit into the overall picture? How can you help search fit into that overall picture even better?

Account Knowledge

You need to know the account like the back of your hand. Know not only what’s in the account, but why it’s there and what typical performance looks like. The best way to know a new account is to deeply dive into the structure. Explore each campaign and ad group, review the settings, and look at the previous 12 month’s performance. This process should help you generate initial ideas for what you’d like to change because of your solid knowledge of the client goals and of SEM best practices. Start a list of all your initial thoughts and keep adding to it as you get to know the account better over time.
As you continue working on an account, it may be helpful to log in every day and review day-over-day performance to quickly notice when things fall off the rails. Logging in every day and looking at campaign performance, spend, and top keywords will help you create a mental baseline to easily identify any issues that come up in the future.

Get Opinionated

Once you have the knowledge foundation and you continue to keep pace with the industry and client changes, you should feel more comfortable determining what’s best for the account/client.
Take a look back at your running list of ideas for improvement in the account. Create an optimization framework by categorizing each opportunity on two points:
-Ease of implementation (easy, med, difficult)
-Potential impact (low, med, high)
Once each task is categorized, it will be easier to determine which items to tackle first, and you can build a project plan with goal completion dates for each.
You may find in your review that you aren’t sure how difficult a change will be or how much impact it will have on the account. At this point it’s good to circle back to step one: Learn. Ask questions of the client, your peers, and PPC experts to get to a point where you feel comfortable classifying the tasks you’re less familiar with.


Now we get to the part that can sometimes be the hardest. You know what you want to do; now it’s time to communicate your plan to the client.
Remember that this isn’t a one-time task; it’s ongoing. Fostering a trusting relationship with the client is key. With your list of tasks in hand, determine which ones you’re ready to share. Anything that requires additional research should be kept top-of-mind, but you shouldn’t feel any pressure to tell the client all of your ideas at once because it can be overwhelming.
Start with the easy-to-implement and high-impact tasks (category 1 and 3). Be sure to lay the groundwork for a few higher-difficulty high-impact tasks (category 2 and 4) as well, since this will start the ball rolling on more long-term projects.
Generate a client-facing roadmap to guide your strategy and communication over the next few weeks. Review the roadmap with the client on a call and explain the benefits and implications of each recommendation.
Don’t worry about recommendations failing. Everything in paid search is a test, and you can qualify your opinion with exactly what facts brought you to your stance. You can and should also state what outcome would nullify your recommendation and be ready to own up to your mistakes. Nothing is better at earning trust than feeling confident enough to admit to your own mistakes.
Here are a few examples of stating a confident, informed opinion:
Example: I recommend we launch sitelinks in your account because they are proven to increase click-through rate. They can help improve Quality Score so you can get more traffic to your site within a given budget and therefore make more money. We’ll keep an eye on the sitelinks after launch to be sure nothing out of the ordinary happens with your specific account.
Example: Given that we’ve been running this ad copy test for 6 weeks and still have not reached statistical significance, I think it’s time to turn off the test and try a new version. The current test version may be too close to the control, so trying something more unique is more likely to make an impact. We’ll give the same 6-week testing time frame to the new test as well to be sure we move on if the data isn’t there.
Example: Since the original site URLs will redirect to the new ones, I recommend against changing out all paid search destination URLs at midnight. There’s high potential for error at this time of night, and we won’t be able to closely watch the account after the change to be sure there are no issues. Instead, let’s make the change first thing in the morning and closely monitor performance through the day to be sure there were no unforeseen consequences of the URL change.
After your discussion, you probably learned some new things and maybe even changed your opinion. Make any adjustments to your client-facing roadmap, and attach it with your meeting follow-up notes. If you need any tips on writing a good email check out these tips.
This is an ongoing process – don’t stop learning, forming opinions, or communicating!

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