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SEM account management: Part 1 — How to avoid getting fired…

This is the first of a three-part series about SEM account management. SEM is a fun and constantly changing online marketing channel. There are numerous things that account managers can do to improve their account performance, and even to excel and get more responsibility from their organization.

However, the first requirement of being a good SEM Manager is to be one. If you get fired by your boss, you can’t really work on excelling, can you? I have some pretty substantial experience in this area — both in being fired myself and in being on the scene when other account managers have been removed from accounts.

This article details some of the most common career-limiting ways that an SEM account manager can run into trouble, and how to avoid them. Parts 2 and 3 will focus on how to “deliver the goods” and gain more responsibilities.

The first way to get fired: Letting your budget get out of control

Most organizations budget yearly and quarterly. Within the quarter, you tend to have some leeway as to how to spend. In some organizations, though, a simple monthly limit is the guidance one gets from management. The surest way to get fired is to blow through that budget in a big way. Factors that can contribute to this can be:

  • launching new campaigns with incorrect targeting or budgeting and allowing them to get out of hand.
  • not having provable result tracking in place to justify the spending.
  • generally failing to keep an eye on spend.

Of course, if you have proper tracking in place and are achieving an acceptable Cost Per Acquisition (if you’re lead-focused) or Return On Ad Spend (if you’re transaction-focused), then the reward for blowing through your budget limit is often… an increased budget. Spending $12K out of a $10K budget may simply result in the budget being increased by your boss to $15K next quarter. But this will only happen if you’re “delivering the goods” — and can prove it.

The second way to get fired: Failing to protect your brand

A company’s brand is a precious resource that should be leveraged but treated with the utmost respect. There were several articles in various media a few years back about a new Mickey Mouse game where Mickey was going to be mischievous and how everyone involved with the project was thrilled to be involved in updating and making Mickey more “edgy.”

Are you kidding me? Disney invested in the brand consistently for over 75 years, and they then allowed people to play with the brand like that? It’s hard to fathom why they would do that.

A brand should be reinforced and recommunicated constantly, and its positioning should only be tweaked after incredibly careful consideration. If you’re going to mess with your brand, you should read every book by Al Ries and Jack Trout you can get your hands on first. Start with “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.”

In SEM, protecting the brand involves three things: being careful with the content of your messaging; aggressively defending the brand against any use by competitors; and being careful where your messaging is displayed.

Brand protection: Messaging content

For the content of your messaging, a simple rule is this: Always have someone else review your creatives.

As far as defending the brand against usage by competitors, you should make sure your company has applied for trademarks around its brand name. If you see competitors using your brand name in ads, research the process for filing a complaint with Google to get them to stop — and keep your corporate legal folks in the loop when you’re going through it.

Brand protection: Messaging placement

Being careful where your messaging is displayed probably deserves an entire article, but the basic question here is, do you even know where your ads are running?

AdWords lets you place ads on the Google Display Network (for instance, remarketing ads), and you should run “placement reports” to see what sites your ads are showing on. If you’re showing on a crappy viral site next to some terrible unmentionable click-bait article, don’t be surprised when your chairman of the board sends an email to the CEO… who sends it to the VP of marketing… who sends it to your boss… who sends it to you… saying, “Why is our ad showing on this site?”

You should run placement reports frequently and update your placement negative lists. Yes, I know it’s a pain, but try not doing it. Fortunately, there are tools available to help identify poor placements.

The third way to get fired: Someone checking the account history & noticing you’ve been doing nothing

I once audited a company with a six-digit monthly AdWords spend, where the results were not considered adequate by the internal customers. The AdWords GUI showed that only 17 changes had been made in the entire previous year (i.e., keywords added, bids changed, or ads changed). As you can imagine, this discovery caused quite a ruckus.

If you’re using a system that tracks what you’re doing, and you haven’t been doing much, eventually, that will become a problem! The simple remedy is this: Make sure you’re generating an appropriate amount of activity for the spend involved.

Congratulations, you’re not fired!

In a world where layoffs are a periodic fact of life, it’s important to make sure you have your ducks in a row. If you can get a grip on your budget, protect your brand and show that you’re actively managing your accounts, you have a pretty good shot at riding out any bad times at your company.

The great thing is, if you can stick around, you can work on improving performance and getting more responsibility — all great for your career. Parts 2 and 3 of this series will reveal how to achieve success in those areas — now that you’re assured of actually being around to work on them!


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



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