For anyone making use of AdWords or having someone else doing it, it can be difficult to to know if you’re getting the most out of the people doing it, and sometimes that includes yourself. A former boss, before I started my own agency, drilled in me the importance of processes and systems as a way to make sure things were done thoroughly and completely. So we internally, developed a PPC checklist to make sure there is complete unity between client goals and us, and that all of the best practices are covered soup to nuts.

Proposal Reviewed

The first step in any campaign is planning, this is often worked out between the client and salesman. During this process client goals and expectations are set, and a proposed plan – tactically and strategically – is set up and agreed upon. This is an important step, but we see an all-too-common flaw where there is a clear misalignment with the sales team and fulfillment team. This misalignment results in two consequences:

  • Internally: The sales teams not understanding the fulfillment team’s capabilities
  • Externally: The fulfillment team not fully grasping the client’s goals

When this happens, things tend to fall apart: communication breaks down as misunderstandings aren’t quickly and easily cleared up and/or the client onboarding process comes crashing to a halt as the client isn’t clear on what you can offer them and won’t feel confident you can help them achieve their goals.

So how can we ensure alignment? Here are some common practices:

  • Before proposal or scope of work is set, the sales team, fulfillment team, and client should get aligned and talk it out (either through email or phone).
  • Make sure our proposal is comprehensive and well written so you can pick it up and know exactly what we offer. We use PandaDoc, but whatever works.
  • The first 6 weeks are the most critical in sorting out issues that arise, so it’s important that communication be frequent and detailed during this period between all parties.

If it’s not done right at this vital stage, your goals won’t be reached, plain and simple. 

The proposal reviewal is an opportunity to gain a greater understanding and clarification of goals and how to reach them. 

We are huge advocates of fulfillment and sales teams working alongside each other throughout the sales process to create the best strategies and tactics that focus on a clear goal for you.

PPC Audit Done &/or Reviewed

The sales team will ask for an account audit or perform one themselves. This is actually usually done before the proposal, just to get a better sense of what should be done. The purpose is to bring to light high-level issues, such as poor ad copy practices, non-optimal accounts structure, weak areas of the account, and places for growth.

This type of information will allow for picking off all low hanging fruit and provide initial direction in planning and launching the account.

Kick-Off Call Completed

The kick-off call is the fulfillment team’s chance to build report and leave a lasting impression of domain expertise. The main point of the kick-off call is to give everyone working on the project the chance to gain clarity on the overall goals and their part in achieving them. Typical we topics discussed thoroughly at the kick-off call include:

  • Sales and ROAS goals
  • Marketing initiatives
  • Tactics and tools used to reach goals
  • In-depth industry knowledge
  • Sales cycle and how you will go about measuring KPI’s
  • Audience and positioning value proposition

Going into detail at the kick-off call clarifies these points so that everyone is on the same page and that we are all working towards the same goal. We introduce our team to you and everyone’s roles and responsibilities are covered so you can put a face and name to each aspect of the project.

Check out Hubspot’s checklist for a successful kick-off call covers the kick-off call in more detail, giving you an idea of what to expect from a quality agency onboarding.

Dossier Completed

The dossier is basically a hard version of the kick-off call that can be transferred from party to party or team to team. It’s a way to ensure a comprehensive, easy to follow blueprint that someone could use to pick up the pieces if something were to go wrong or there’s a delay. It helps all the teams to be one the same page and know what needs to be done and when.

We follow a template in order to construct a well written and easy to follow dossier for your project. We add and delete sections to suit your goals and need.

Account Access

You may already have some level of access, depending on what you have audited. Whatever you don’t have access to however can be accessed by following the instructions in our PDF which covers how to get access for your Google Properties. The PDF can be sent to you upon request.

We recommend access to both AdWords and GA because you can get a look at data from different perspectives using those tools. If it is an eComm site, then you will also want to get access to the data feed or shopping cart and access to Google Merchant Center.

Project Manager Organized Account Template

At this point, you should have a plan, the next step is creating out a list of initial tasks that need to be done. This creates a systematic approach that, if all the previous steps are accomplished, works towards your goals. As these things go, sometimes further challenges and issues arise, that can be correlated with each task.

Workflow systems are also valuable, some people just use waterflow lists, but we’ve found that a combination of waterfall and kanban work the best. We use this very same checklist in our organization template to make sure all key tasks are completed.

If you are unfamiliar with Kanban software, you can read about the benefits of using a Kanban board for management in Asana.

Conversion Tracking Check

This next is making sure we’re tracking to goals, meaning if your business lives on phone calls, are we tracking them? Contact Form Fills? Is getting people signing up to your mailing list important? What about actual eCommerces sales? While it sounds simple making sure these are set up correctly gets hairy. We’ve seen issues with double counting conversions, lack of clarity on which conversion model to use, and not knowing which conversion are important to track. We’ve had one client we started with tracking 25 different goal conversions. This created challenges in tracking to the conversion actions that mattered. We like to say, if it costs money, you should know how much and for what.

Here’s a quick list of the move valuable conversion metrics we see:

  • Sales Transactions
  • Revenue
  • Phone Calls
  • Form Fills

With this data, we’ll measure cost per customer acquisition and return on ad spend, which will need to fit into your bottom line.

Without proper conversion tracking, you will not be able  to accurately identify areas of opportunity for growth (e.g. which keywords, ads, campaigns and ad groups are the most effective at driving traffic to your phone and website).

We recommend installing Google Tag Manager, and using that for all tracking and conversion action setups.

Competitive Search Analysis

Competitors online and offline are not always the same. Performing a competitive search analysis will help to find which of the client’s competitors will rank above them when it comes to their most important keyword phrases.

Using a combination of auction insights in AdWords, SEMRush competitive insights, and good old fashion looking at the competitors search ads and landing pages, should give you a really clear picture of what the landscape looks like, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how you can improve your results.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is usually initiated from a head keyword, topic or idea comprised of industry knowledge and the products/services being provided. This research will delve into finding the most effective keywords for the client. During the research activities, you should be looking for the following:

  • Head keywords
  • Very similar keywords
  • Long-tail keywords
  • Grammatical variations
  • Spelling errors
  • Negatives
  • Account structure

Let’s say you’re selling tactical gear.

  • “Tactical Gear” might be your head keyword, it’s exactly what you sell, but doesn’t full indicate purchase intent.
  • Long tail keywords where where either intent to purchase has been specified, as in “best places to buy tactical gear,” or product specificity has been specified, as in “combat tactical belts,” “blackhawk tactical belts,” and “tactical belts military grade.” This will ensure better click-through rates and conversion rates.
  • Grammatical variations in things like “gear for tactical missions” and “tactical belts for missions.”
  • Spelling error variations pick up on words in your keywords spelt wrong and allows them to still pick up your ad (e.g tactcal blts” would still be picked up as “tactical belts” when using spelling error variations.

When we research keywords for you, we get an idea of what users are looking for when purchasing, how users go from broad searches to more specific searches as intent to purchase heats up.

Search Campaign & Ad Group Structure Creation

The keyword research process is extremely important; as we’re doing it we’re getting an idea of the best account structure for your goals. Creating the structure for your account is the single most critical aspect of running a paid search campaign. The right structure gives you 3 important things:

  1. Visibility and ability to control ad spend
  2. Ability to deliver an ad that resonates with those search queries
  3. Optimal data sets for faster, more impactful improvements in the campaigns

We’re going to discuss all 3 using one example. Say we get a far better return on “blackhawk tactical belts vs. “tactical belts” having those in separate ad groups, and possibly campaigns, will give you better visibility and control over each search query.

Using the same example, having those in separate ad group will allow you to build a message around each different query. Say you run a promo on BlackHawk belts; having those in separate ad groups will allow you to message those search queries with that promotions.

With the same example, let’s touch on that last point. “Blackhawk tactical belts” might be extremely low volume in which case it could take weeks, months, or years to collect enough data for optimization. This is also bad, and ideally you want to take into account search volume in your campaign structure that allows you to gather data quickly for faster campaign ops.

This all of these are tough decisions, but the first place we would start is creating a campaign and ad group naming convention that makes the most sense. Done, right it’s going to allow you to see performance much more clearly and make reporting far easier.

Ad Copy Creation and Split Testing

As mentioned above – ad copy is extremely important and the right structure can help you get the right message. That said, always be testing. There’s a number of different ways you can test, but our recommendation is controlled ad copy testing through strict A/B testing to find out specific things.

For example, you may want to find out whether free shipping or quality of product matters to consumers (it could be both) so our first test should be distinctly testing those two messages. Once you’ve found that out you can pause the ad that didn’t win, create a new ad for testing that mentions both value props to see if that impacts click-through rates and conversion rates. Split testing is an ongoing process that serves two purposes:

  1. To understand your audience better
  2. To drive better performance on your campaigns.

Seeing one ad with a click-through rate of 10% and another with a rate of 5%, you might already think you know which one is more effective, but you should also consider conversion rate as part of your decision to declare a winner.

Lastly, AdWords has a built-in split testing feature, which can be accessed and used through your AdWords account. This how-to video explains exactly how it works so you can use it to find out about your most effective ads. We use this information going forward to reshape your campaign, creating a more streamlined vision with a higher click-through rate to your page.

Ad Extensions Optimization

Ad extensions, the small sections of information added to AdWords text ads, can inform readers about the client’s business in a short amount of words. Ad extensions optimization allows us to find the best combination of words and information to use in the ad extension through market research and testing.

Your business’ location, phone number, and business ratings are just some of the points that can be added to your ad extensions. Our optimization research allows for maximum effectiveness in minimum words. Automatic and Manual ad extensions can both be added, and we work with you to discover which would be most valuable to your campaign.

Negative Keywords Found, Added, & Organized

Negative keywords can help prevent your ad from showing up in irrelevant searches. While many service providers may overlook the use of negative keywords, we understand and highly value their usefulness. By adding them, you essentially cut waste by eliminating “bad clicks,” or people who will not be interested in your product/service.

Use the search query report examine every query in order to find erroneous queries, driving up cost and not conversions that could be triggering your ad to come up.

Also, there could be some “grey” keywords, or keywords that might be relevant but you’re not sure. In this case, we recommend not negativing them out until you’ve ran a long term report that looks at costs and conversion when instances of the “grey” keyword appear. If it’s a high cost and little conversion, you can afford to negative it out in order to focus your ad dollars where it matters more.

Bid Initial Bids Set

This initial bid is set by using all the data at our disposal. We thoroughly research the suggested bid for each keyword, competitors, historical CPCs, and financial goals and integrate this information into your account strategy and tactics.

Location Targeting

Depending on whether or not your business is location dependent, will dictate how location targeting is set up.

If your business is a local business and you only serve customers within 5-10 miles, bid modifiers on the location level will be limited, but far more important to your bottom line than a national ad campaign.

On national ad campaigns, optimizing bids or setting up campaign structure around location, can help drive impactful results. Say for example, you have a product that does extremely well in rural areas, we could bid 50% lower in metropolitan cities.

On an ongoing basis, you should be reviewing performance by location and adjusting bids according to performance.

Budgets Identified & Set

The budget is set by taking into account your needs and the goals you wish to achieve with your business’ campaigns. If the daily budget is not sufficient you will stop showing at some point throughout the day, and you have two options:

  1. Lower bids, which will lower impressions share and average position
  2. Or increase budget

While some companies have set marketing budgets, we like to recommend that budgets be determined based on performance. If you’re willing to spend a dollar to get 10 and you’re currently doing that, then why would you stop doing that by limiting your ads from showing?

Campaign Settings Set

All the settings for the campaign need to be set correctly and, in a way, to optimize the effectiveness of the campaign. We will look over these settings and ensure the campaign type, networks, devices, ad delivery, and ad rotation are set up to maximize your opportunity..

Brand vs. Non-Brand

Ideally, there should be separate campaigns for branded and non-branded search terms. It’s largely to do with account structure and the differences in performance between brand and non-brand, but it’s also going to help you understand you funnel as you track changes in branded performance vs. other search campaign and other ad channel activities.

Additionally, some people question the value of brand – do I need it? In most cases yes. If you’re doing well and have a well known brand name, competitors could be bidding on your brand name and stealing hard-won traffic and customer away from you, so it’s a protect and defend strategy.

Reporting Set Up

Reporting is almost equal to the work itself. There’s a lot of different options out there that help make great reports. We personally have found that between excel, Google Sheets, Supermetrics, and Data Studios we can accomplish any report.
What I think is more important is that you have someone or something with the flexibility to produce ad hoc reporting as needed and a predefined report that allows you to track KPIs on the high level.

Dayparting Review & Optimizations

The use of day parting means the performance of campaigns during specific hours of the day or week can be seen and analyzed. This option is very useful to clients who are on a daily budget, as it will allow us to increase or decrease bids at certain times in order to make the most of the peak times for the keywords used in the ads.

We check day parting reviews in order to optimize the daily budget and improve your ROI by scheduling start and end dates and times for ads.

Thank You & Good Luck!

Following this client onboarding checklist template will help you make the most of your ad dollars. Your goals is to increasing traffic, increase sales, and increase profitability, and search is a great channel for that. Contact us to find out more about how we can help get your AdWords working for you.