5 essential PPC skills every agency pro must have
Most digital agencies today are willing to hire beginner marketers.
Unfortunately, many do not provide meaningful training on pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. Even worse, some colleagues might hide or misrepresent essential information.
While you can find much of that information online for free, it’s often a complicated mess.
To address this, here is a basic five-step growth plan to become a PPC expert as fast as possible.
1. Master client relationship
I realize it may sound cliché for the top skill.
But after over a decade working in PPC (and training hundreds of specialists), it’s by far the primary reason for PPC people to climb the agency ladder.
Why? Because you’re responsible for driving your client’s growth – and that’s a people-first business.
Be aware PPC expectations are high, and performance is never a straight, easy line.
You’ll have to fix stuff that people think is critical or convince those same people not to touch anything despite what they perceive as red flags.
And that can quickly become stressful, getting in your way when it comes to handling relationships.
To go through these relatively tough times all while keeping your client happy and on board, you’ll need to display composure, explain technical and analytical concepts in plain English – and remain patient!
So how do you master client relationships, you ask? It’s a deep topic to unpack in a few lines, but here are some pointers to get you started.
Trust comes with time. Whenever your client needs you for real, make sure to be the one person your client knows he or she can rely on.
Let’s take an example: picture a last-minute project that really matters to your client but not so much to you. (Not to mention that it’s slightly out of your scope.)
An untrustworthy agency point of contact would not support this client. But you should.
With trust comes long-term, impactful achievements.
Believe it or not, I’ve seen plenty of agency people not preparing for client meetings. Some don’t anticipate questions and can only respond with “I’ll get back to you.”
Do not be that person. Send meeting agendas in advance.
Provide meeting notes, action points, and deadlines.
In short, be reliable.
Not everybody behaves the same way. And not every meeting has to be sunshine and flowers.
You don’t like your client that much?
Guess what, that’s OK.
Give them a break: not everybody likes you either, anyway.
Make sure to be the person in the room who makes the project go forward, even if times are tough and people are getting rigid.
2. Think strategically
OK, I know. Strategy is one of those buzzwords, along with cloud computing, innovation, big data and blockchain. However, it remains absolutely vital for successful agency PPC specialists.
What does it mean to be strategic? It varies a lot based on the field you work in.
Just read this HBR strategy article, and you’ll see it doesn’t quite apply to day-to-day PPC work.
So, with all its flaws, allow me to provide a very PPC-centric, operational strategy definition:
- “Strategy is a combination of items that allow long-term, significant business growth. Significant being at least 30% of your top KPI.”
In other words, thinking strategically means prioritizing your efforts based on the outcome.
Here is an example to help make it clearer. Next time you want to run an A/B test, go through the following steps:
- Take a hard look in the mirror.
- Identify if your A/B test doesn’t drive a 30% growth in your top KPI.
- Reprioritize using higher-impact items.
PPC beginners will rarely work on operational strategy. However, if you can understand the above, it’s a great starting point.
To help you get to the next step, here is a media plan-like framework to structure your strategy thinking:
For ecommerce clients, it will often be revenue paired with return on ad spend (ROAS).
With lead gen clients, marketing qualified leads (MQLs) will be paired with cost per MQL.
Can you challenge those?
For example, include margin to improve ROAS. Or MQL value instead of simply MQL volume.
It will either be “unlimited as long as you hit a specific ROAS target” or a specific $ number per month/year. Can you challenge that?
For example, is the budget allocated to the right product line or geo to maximize your goal? Is seasonality taken into consideration?
You want to reach a target audience. To do that, you will want to use ad networks and channels. Sometimes, those items aren’t set up to maximize your goals.
When you find such pockets of growth, you can think strategically.
Messaging, landing page and CTA
Now, that seems like an obvious one, right?
Careful, though, since there’s never just one way to talk to prospects and have them act to reach your goal.
Use your critical thinking and Ads Libraries to develop other (hopefully better!) ways to address your target audience.
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3. Navigate data with precision
Isn’t data another buzzword? Sorry about that! 😀
Let me break down that data skill set and provide PPC beginners a clear path.
There are lots of data-related roles, but as a PPC beginner, you should think about data in three ways:
- Data analysis: Do you understand each KPI in-depth? For example, do you know how CTR impacts CPC?
- Data generation: Do you understand what a conversion is, how it’s triggered and how to check these parameters are OK?
- Data visualization: This is a tiny bit more advanced, but can you tell a story from the data you gathered?
Again, that can sound a little out of touch so here are real-world tools to get you started:
Google Analytics (and other related analytics tools)
In PPC, you must build reports to understand traffic sources, conversion attribution, conversion rates per funnel stage, product-level performance, etc.
So get busy learning GA4 and other related analytics tools.
Dig deeper: Google Analytics 4 guide for PPC
Google Tag Manager (and other related tagging tools)
At the very least, you want to understand what event triggers your conversions.
More often than not, that means using GTM’s preview mode and testing your client’s website live. Make sure you understand how it works.
Looker Studio (and other related visualization tools)
Don’t make the rooky mistake of throwing lots of KPIs at your clients who will not understand a thing you just said because they hate Excel.
Spend time vulgarizing your data to craft a compelling story that’s both easy to understand and impactful.
And to do that, you can use powerful visualization graphs and tables within tools such as Looker Studio.
Dig deeper: 5 things your Google Looker Studio PPC Dashboard must have
4. Commit to learning every day
This is the skillset where I’ve seen tons of PPC people skip steps, unable to fix that later down the road. This paves the way for poor operational and managerial performance.
Take your time; no rush here.
Primary PPC channels are undoubtedly Google Ads and Meta Ads. Most clients will use either or both of these ad networks. What’s the issue with that, you ask?
It’s the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Too many people handle a few campaigns in Meta Ads and believe they know the platform inside out.
Some others will run SKAG campaigns in Google Ads their whole life without realizing there’s a whole world outside of this structure.
In short: you want to build a solid foundation of technical knowledge for those primary ad networks (at least) but also be open to challenge that foundation now and then.
Don’t believe the hype that says PPC changes every few days, but don’t get stuck in your old habits either!
So, how can you get started as a PPC beginner? Here are some pointers:
Google Ads certifications aren’t very useful.
But they have a great advantage: they provide an equal starting point for PPCs, vocabulary, perspectives and more.
Similarly, Meta offers training and certifications, so be sure to use those.
If you’re reading this, then you know Search Engine Land is a great resource to stay up to date and learn new stuff.
Make sure to follow other content creators. For example, you can read Jon Loomer for everything Meta Ads or follow agencies’ blogs.
Test on your own
Google Ads and Meta Ads offer ad credits for new advertisers. And it’s never been easier to set up a shop since Shopify started out.
Don’t be afraid to run your side project. It will be a safe place to experiment with and learn.
All projects are different and you will never be able to master them all on your own.
By talking to other PPC peers, you will basically take shortcuts to PPC mastery.
And did I mention it’s super cool to talk to people who understand what you’re going through?
5. Get organized
Am I stating the obvious? PPC is a detail-oriented world, so you will quickly realize you need a second brain to keep up with everything without going crazy (or destroying an account).
Even the tiniest hiccup can have dramatic repercussions on performance. Good luck finding that needle in the haystack six months later!
So as a PPC specialist, you should be comfortable with:
Do you know tools like Monday.com, Asana, Notion, and so on? If not, use them.
You want to organize your projects and tasks using priorities, deadlines, dependencies, etc.
It will provide you with a clearer view on your schedule and work.
Like project management tools, you want to remember and understand what happened on specific dates for future reference.
For example, do you know what happened on Nov. 29, 2019? 😉
Templatize your work
Running into the same task over and over again? It sounds like a perfect case study to templatize.
This way, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. And you’ll be able to delegate that easily when the day comes up, paving the way for a great managerial career.
Essential PPC skills that every agency pro should master
PPC is about more than choosing the right keyword match type or writing ad copy.
Once you layer the above skills on top of the technical nitty-gritty, you are ready to move up the agency ladder.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.