This week, instead of discussing specific paid search tactics, I’d like to take a broader look at how you can become a better professional search engine marketer. In short, there are some ethical ways to conduct yourself as a paid search pro that you should embrace. These aren’t necessarily just my own opinions, but rather how I think the search community as a whole feels towards PPC ethics. However, if you want to grow your career (or your business), win and keep good clients, and be a good-standing member of the SEM community, you’ll want to keep these “core principles” in the back of your mind as you carry out your professional duties.
Embrace transparency. Happily, the age of the black box is almost over. In the early days (i.e 2001-2003) when search advertising was more of a mystery than it is now, there were some questionable practices used by less ethical paid search pros. Even if it was just a few rotten apples, everything from wasting budgets on irrelevant keywords, building in incredibly high margins on click costs, and downright fudging of numbers certainly occurred. As the popularity of the channel has increased, though, more and more online marketers have at least a working knowledge of paid search and know what to look for to fend off these unethical practices. I urge you to be transparent with your partners and colleagues with all facts and figures—a bad reputation in this area can be disastrous to your business or career.
Be accountable. When something goes wrong (and eventually, something always will go wrong), make sure that you own up to the issue and take steps to fix it immediately. No one likes excuses, but a proper explanation of the problem and proposed solution are required. Remember, even if it was your tech vendor whose tool went down, it’s still your fault in they eyes of the client/boss. Sometimes it even means working all weekend or even dipping into your own pocket and paying for mistakes.
Always do your best. In-house teams usually have a good understanding of how important their marketing dollars are to their business, so this is more of a reminder to agencies and outside consultants to not just treat the client accounts as well as they would their own—but actually treat them better. I try to always have the mindset that if their paid search doesn’t work, someone could get laid off at that business. Yes, that might not be the case and it can add more pressure to what I do, but I have to know that it just might be the situation and that drives me to make sure I do the best I can at all times. For the most part, there’s a direct correlation between sales and when employees are added and removed. So, how well you manage an SEM budget might mean the difference between influencing lives for the better or for the worse.
Don’t click competitor ads. Three words: don’t do it. Okay, if you want to click once just to see their landing pages or whatever, then that’s not too bad. But to click their ads just to drive up a competitor’s costs is just plain nasty.
Don’t just spend the budget. Just because you’re given a budget for paid search doesn’t mean you have to spend it all. If you’re only spend a portion of those dollars effectively, don’t just spend the rest ineffectively and call it a day. I know this is hard to take for agencies who charge a percentage of spend for their fees, but it doesn’t serve the client well nor you in the long run. Maybe you can reinvest that money into content or placement campaigns? Maybe it would be better to put that portion of the budget aside and spend it in other months (such as the holiday season) when your conversion rates are higher?
Always keep raising the bar. Let’s assume the account you are managing is doing fine. Frankly, you’ve done your optimization work well and it’s practically on autopilot. Your clients/bosses are happy with the efficiency and pat you on the back for doing a great job. Well, don’t stop! Continue to innovate and try new things. Your fee/paycheck probably is still being paid so you owe it to your advertiser to keep pushing to make the account work even better than it is now.
Don’t just jump when they say how high. You’ve been given the account because you’re the person for the task. For example, “test” can be a four-letter word to many decision makers. In their minds, they’re paying you for results, not to try new things out. It’s even harder to get test budgets when performance is low but, in fact, that might be the most crucial time to test! Ultimately, it’s their money and you have to do what they say, but don’t feel like you can’t challenge your directives if they aren’t beneficial to the account. Explain your position better and show how going against their initial decision can actually benefit them—it won’t always work, but you will gain their trust and respect when it does.
Don’t work for competing clients. This is one that many agencies and consultants battle with not only in paid search, but with any service. It’s hard because once you’re experienced in a certain category, your knowledge is even more beneficial to competitors. And who wants to turn down clients? But the difference with paid search is that keyword buying happens is an auction based environment. It’s okay if you overlap just a bit—for example, if you have both a national retailer like Walmart and a small online shoe company—Walmart does sell shoes but it’s not their primary business. But, if you’re bidding on the same keyword set with the same geographical targeting, then its starts to cross the line.
Respect privacy and data security. You should have a very secure process and set of tools to ensure that your advertiser’s account data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Be wary of who you share data with. It’s a best practice to have non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with any partner who will have access to private data. You also should be prepared to share with your client/boss what your data standards are and how you have taken steps to maintain the best security possible. With privacy such a big concern these days, its important that you put measures into place that cover your assets.
Transfer accounts with grace. If and when the time comes for you to pass along an account to another colleague or agency, please be kind and help the client as much as possible. Sometimes there are some very negative feelings when contracts are canceled and the impulse is to not play nicely. However, in most instances, the actual search engine marketer who will be the next account manager had zero impact on the decision. So, if you find yourself in this situation, try hard to work together and help during the transition. Chances are that you’ll be on the other side of the fence one day and will really benefit from a smooth changeover from another professional.
It’s Graduation Time
Congratulations! You made it through this entire year of PPC Academy with me!
My goal was to create a comprehensive, paid search course over fifty-two weekly posts. From defining search marketing to walking you step by step through your first PPC account, I hoped that beginners would learn a lot and that even advanced search marketers would pick up some new tips and tricks. There remain only a few posts left which will include a two-part recap to this year’s column and a test to see what topics you might want to go back and revisit.
PPC Academy is a comprehensive, one-year search advertising course from beginning to end. Starting with the basics, PPC Academy progressively explores all of the varied facets of paid search, and the tactics needed to succeed and become an advanced paid search marketer.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.