Applying Critical Thinking Skills to SEM

The daily grind of maintaining PPC accounts can be harrowing,
as I’ve discussed in the past. I haven’t been able to find an easy way to maintain search
marketing campaigns other than good, old fashioned daily ditch digging mixed
with a healthy dose of big picture thinking.

But for a lark, I thought I would ask my friend Joe Jordan,
whose company
specializes in helping corporations with their decision making process and
critical skills what he thought about process when it comes to search
marketing. You see, Joe is not a search marketer, but he knows process and I
feel it’s always good to get an outsiders perspective. Joe used his
considerable experience in teaching others critical thinking skills to lay out
a framework for creating an SEM process that I think is great from a big
picture perspective. All it needs is someone who knows SEM to fill in some
tactical details. I think I’m just that person.

Before you go any further, read Joe’s comments here.
Finished? Ok, let’s talk about this.

Joe’s first step is to “identify” the problem. In SEM, this
means looking at a number of things, including bid placement, conversions,
other analytical data and keyword choices. Your SEM team should be checking
these items on a daily basis. It’s even good to have someone checking in on the
weekends just to make sure things aren’t going haywire when the rest of the
world is taking the day off. I’ve been known to check campaigns on Christmas
before my afternoon nap.

The next step is to create a list of possible solutions.
This should include additional keywords to target, bidding strategies for the
future, testing opportunities, landing page tweaks, etc. I like to create a
list of solutions and prioritize them daily. After all, some process take
longer to implement than others I’ve stolen and idea from David Allen and his
popular book “Getting things done”.
If you can get an item on your list done in less than two minutes, just do it.
Otherwise, prioritize it for later and work on it. In your daily maintenance of
your campaign you want to make a list of things to do, but realize they don’t
have to be done at once.

That’s where Joe’s next point comes in – select your best
solutions from clearly defined criteria. I think the most important aspect of
this point is to know your clearly defined criteria. Those being your goals. In
order to get where you want to go, you must know where you want to be. Sounds
like something that Yogi Berra might say, but it is so true when it comes to
SEM process. You must know your goals in order to achieve them.

Joe’s next point “anticipate the problems that are inherent
in every change” is the hardest part, but in keeping up with industry changes
through publications like Search Engine Watch and others, hopefully you can
know when changes occur and react accordingly. Keeping up with the changes in
the engines is imperative to running a good SEM process. 

 Defining your own process can be difficult, but my best
advice is to make your process a daily routine, whether you run one small PPC
account or many for different clients. Daily diligence as well as the ability
to step back and look at the big picture are what makes a successful PPC


  1. Jeff Martin says:

    Thanks for the info Tony. Having a logical process in place that you perform daily and an ordered system for change is key to managing large PPC campaigns and trying to break into a rank set for competitive keywords as well.

  2. Thanks, Tony. Great article. It reminds me me of an old saying, “He who aims at nothing, is sure to hit it.”

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