How you can better communicate PPC industry updates to clients

PPC is about more than just managing accounts — it’s about managing client relationships, too. Columnist Matt Umbro provides some advice for how to talk to your clients about industry updates and account issues.



As hectic as it can be, we are lucky to be in an industry that is constantly evolving. One day it may be a new ad extension, the next day an algorithm change; it could even be a complete transformation in how ads are written. Needless to say, it’s exciting to always be learning and trying new things. That’s great for us as PPC specialists, but how do we approach and communicate this constant change to our clients?

Our clients are savvier about PPC, and digital marketing in general, than ever before. They have a general understanding of the lingo, know the important metrics and keep abreast of the more impactful updates. Having clients that understand our job helps us with collaboration and allows us to better manage accounts.

I also realize that not all clients fully understand and embrace account management. For example, Google has begun showing an overall health score for AdWords accounts. On the surface, this feature is beneficial, but it’s seen from Google’s point of view. Needless to say, Google’s goals don’t always align with client goals. Kirk Williams said it best with this comical tweet:

Image of Kirk Williams tweet

A tweet from @PPCKirk

Situations like the one mentioned in the tweet are common. Clients want to know what’s happening and may react quickly with questions, sometimes becoming emotional. That’s OK. Clients pay us to manage their accounts and keep up to date with account happenings and updates. It’s our job to effectively communicate these updates and explain potential implications.

Be proactive

Whenever a new update or feature is released, your first thought should be how it will impact your clients. Even if you don’t think the update is a big deal, your clients will want to know what they should expect. Using this framework, you can communicate the change to your clients.

Here is an example of an email I wrote to my clients when Google announced that sidebar ads would be removed:


Hope you are well. On Friday, Google made an announcement with the major highlight being that sidebar ads (right hand side ads) would be removed. This announcement means that instead of up to 11 ads showing on the page, only 7, at the most, will show. Included in this announcement are these additional details:

• Up to 4 paid ads will show above the organic listings
• Up to 3 paid ads will show below the organic listings (at the bottom of the page)
• This update will impact Google Search Partners (such as Comcast and Earthlink), though not all Partners show sidebar ads
• Shopping ads will be unaffected

The immediate concern is that fewer paid search ads will yield higher average cost per clicks due to heightened competition. Though we may see some instances of this scenario occurring, we are already in large part bidding to be in the top 4 positions. In fact, based upon our research, we’ve found that actual clicks and conversions coming from sidebar ads are only a small percentage of total clicks and conversions. In addition, though we see a fair amount of impressions from sidebar ads, click-thru-rate is generally much lower because users are being drawn to the top ads and clicking here.

At this point, we aren’t too concerned with potential conversion losses. We will be monitoring closely and ensuring our top converters are always in the top positions. If we see any drastic changes over the next few weeks as this update is rolled out we will let you know, but again, based upon the data we are currently seeing, we are optimistic. If you would like to read more about this update we’ve written a post on PPC Hero

Please let us know if you have any questions or feedback. Thank you.

— Matt

It isn’t just the major updates. You should use your best judgement to communicate anything that could be impactful, especially aesthetic updates as clients see these on a daily basis (e.g., an ad extension vs. a report). Over the last year, here are some minor updates that have been important to share.

  • New ad extensions, including structured snippets and price extensions

  • Customer Match for Shopping

  • New AdWords attribution models

  • Bing Ads upgraded URLs

None of these updates have required an extensive explanation. For example, with the ad extensions I wrote a couple sentences and shared a screen shot. The point is that you are communicating these updates to your clients so they aren’t always asking you questions.

I do realize that it would be overkill to communicate every update. Use your best judgement and consider the personality of your individual clients to determine what updates are worth mentioning.

We’ve touched on the ongoing updates, but let’s now shift toward managing client expectations with everyday account management.

Be transparent and put issues into context

Many clients will review their accounts on a consistent basis and ask questions or make inquiries. Here are some common questions I receive:

  • Why are these keywords below first page bid estimates?

  • Should we increase budgets in campaigns that are deemed “Limited by budget?”

  • Why is Quality Score low for these keywords?

  • Why are these ads disapproved?

Many of these questions originate from the surface. Notices such as “below first page bid estimate” and “limited by budget” show up immediately in the interface. The same thing goes for disapproved ads, as there is usually a notification that pops up. The problem is that these notifications aren’t shown in context. Clients see the issues and think something is wrong.

I don’t blame clients for rushing to judgment. Again, they are paying us to manage their accounts and want to make sure we’re not dropping the ball. Kirk’s tweet from earlier in this post is a realistic question a client might ask. Thus, we have to be transparent and put these issues into context.

You need to always answer these questions in relation to overall account goals. Let’s take, for example, the keywords below, where Google is deeming us below the first page bid.

Image of keyword data

Keyword statuses

Let’s say that hypothetically our cost per conversion goal is $10. The first page bid estimate for each keyword is $0.50 higher than our current max bids. However, we are below the conversion goal and our ads are showing in average positions above 2. Additionally, our exact match search impression share for both keywords is above 90 percent (not pictured). We could increase our bids, but at what point would we see diminishing returns? It might cost us more in the long run to accrue a few extra impressions.

It’s this type of thinking that you need to bring to the forefront when speaking with clients. Give them all of the angles so they understand the implications of optimizations. And this thinking isn’t to say that the account manager will always be right. Based upon discussion, both parties may decide to test a higher bid or budget, but the key aspect is that you are going below the surface to make these decisions.

Final thoughts

Just as you would want any type of advisor in your life to be proactive and communicate updates, clients want the same thing. We aren’t just managing the tactical side of PPC, we’re also relationship managers. Always be willing and proactive to communicate the landscape while explaining the reasoning behind your work.

[Article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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