Monday, July 22, 2024

How to build a high-performing paid search team

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How to build a high-performing paid search team


In today’s paid search environment, the ability to build powerful and proficient PPC teams is paramount.

Paid search teams require a blend of PPC expertise, data analysis, communication skills and team collaboration.

This article explores how to build a paid search team that aligns with your organization’s objectives and delivers outstanding results for your brand or clients. It also includes expert advice from agency leaders and owners on what they prioritize when hiring.

Why you should care about building a strong paid search team

Paid search is a critical component of many advertisers’ marketing budgets.

When paid ads underperform, or strategies are misaligned, the repercussions for a business can be significant.

Therefore, assembling the right team ensures that paid search strategies align with marketing goals and drive business success.

The skillset for paid search managers is evolving

Managing paid search campaigns used to start with bidding on keywords, but today’s PPC landscape demands much more specialization and knowledge outside of the platforms.

Mastery of bid strategies, AI, platform updates and various campaign types, from Performance Max to YouTube, is essential.

Paid search managers must proficiently structure campaigns and organize ad groups, keywords and ads within each campaign type.

Different industries prioritize various metrics. For example, brick-and-mortar stores may emphasize tracking store visits, while lead generation specialists should be familiar with platforms like HubSpot.

For paid search managers, focusing on specific industries or budget sizes can be more effective than broad experience.

Each business variance demands unique expertise, making specialization in paid search necessary because of the nuances of each industry, conversion focus and budget size.

Experienced paid search managers vs. new talent: Insights from the experts

  • “I have experience running the gamut of hiring for agencies, from super-experienced PPC candidates to fresh slates. The new ones you can mold are actually the best fits.
  • “Experience in PPC is great, but it doesn’t always equate to a great hire, especially in legal, which is nuanced and manual. Fresh slates with potential or newer account managers who are more lead-gen focused and align with our processes are preferred.
  • “Key traits: curiosity, creative problem-solving, entrepreneurial mindset, ability to drive hard conversions and honesty. The humblest ones are the best ones. Honest, humble and hungry!”

Higman’s perspective emphasizes that seasoned candidates might struggle to adapt to new methodologies. Instead, focusing on candidates fresh out of college or with less experience offers opportunities to mold them into ideal team members.

Brianna Deboever, paid search manager at Optidge

  • “Fresh slates are the best hires; we are learning if things aren’t working out to pull the plug early and to cut them loose and just move on. Of course, this is an extremely emotional decision, but it is best long term for the agency.”

Deboever’s experience highlights the value of hiring individuals eager to learn and adaptable, even if they lack extensive experience. Fresh graduates or newer professionals often bring curiosity, creativity and a willingness to embrace new strategies.

Ameet Khabra, owner at Hop Skip Media

  • “I started my agency about 8 years ago because I felt like other agencies were not advocating for clients.
  • “Building a high-performance team isn’t about having more analysts on your team, it’s about maximizing your impact for clients. While junior talent offers the potential for molding and often comes at a lower cost, the investment in training and close supervision can quickly become more of a burden than we expected.
  • “Hiring someone who is a bit more experienced, on the other hand, brings in immediate value.
  • “Yes, they do come with a higher price point and will occasionally challenge your existing campaigns and perspective, but they can quickly identify and address opportunities that may have been overlooked in existing campaigns.
  • “I think this is an incredible asset to have on a team. Their expertise acts as quality control which ensures that our clients are getting the best possible service and results.
  • “Hiring talent isn’t just about having someone to manage the accounts, it’s a strategic decision that directly affects or benefits your clients along with your business through better results and a higher standard of service. It’s my way of saying that we’re committed to excellence.”

Khabra’s perspective underscores the value of experienced talent in delivering immediate impact and maintaining high standards of service.

While it may come at a higher cost, the expertise and quality control they bring can be invaluable.

Additionally, she points out that this is a strategic choice because her agency is focusing on a potential gap in the market: the client experience.

She believes that senior paid search managers are more experienced in discussing business outcomes and long-term strategies and her agency welcomes these challenging conversations.

Dig deeper: Becoming a world-class PPC ad buyer: 8 key lessons

Why your PPC team’s structure matters

The team’s structure profoundly shapes the skills that an agency or brand can proficiently employ.

  • Data analysis: Proficiency in analytics tools to measure campaign performance and optimize strategies.
  • Team collaboration: Effective communication and collaboration to align with campaign goals.
  • Marketing knowledge: Understanding broader marketing goals and how paid search fits into the strategy.
  • Adaptability: Staying current with industry changes and learning new skills.
  • Communication skills: Articulating campaign performance and presenting data effectively.
  • Creativity: Thinking outside the box for ad copy, design and targeting strategies.
  • PPC expertise: Knowledge of keyword research, ad creation, bid management and performance tracking.
  • Platform knowledge: In-depth knowledge of platforms like Google Ads, Bing Ads and social media channels.

While the list of skills above can look overwhelming, every individual may not possess every listed skill.

This understanding allows for a more balanced and dynamic team where each member contributes unique strengths in creative problem-solving, ad platform proficiency, strategic thinking or analytical capabilities.

By leveraging the varied expertise of each team member, the collective can achieve superior outcomes and continuous growth for ad campaigns.

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Steps for creating an effective paid search team

Building a high-performing paid search team starts with a plan.

  • Define roles and responsibilities: Clearly define each team member’s role and areas of expertise.
  • Look for diverse skill sets: Hire team members with diverse skills and experiences.
  • Invest in training: Keep the team updated on industry changes through ongoing training.
  • Encourage collaboration: Foster a culture of brainstorming and knowledge sharing.

Typical roles and responsibilities within a PPC team

While roles and responsibilities may differ across teams, here are some common duties that often align with titles.

Subject matter expert

  • Offers comprehensive platform knowledge and best practices. 
  • This could be the owner of a smaller agency, an external consultant or an experienced paid search manager.

Account manager

  • Manages client relationships and coordinates with team members. 
  • This role can vary at different agencies, but often this individual excels at crafting well-worded responses to complex technical questions for clients and business partners.

Project manager

  • Oversees projects, ensuring tasks are completed on time and within budget. 
  • This role is becoming increasingly essential as campaigns demand more assets than standard search campaigns. 
  • Creating video and image assets in various sizes requires significant time and coordination.

Google Ads manager

  • Specializes in managing and optimizing Google Ads campaigns. This is the person managing the day-to-day of the Google Ads account. 
  • This role is typically ideal for a less experienced paid search manager who is ready to specialize by industry, budget size or vertical and willing to adapt to the agency’s methods.

Bing Ads manager

  • Focuses on managing and optimizing Bing Ads campaigns. 
  • This role is typically handled by the Google Ads manager, but as the market evolves, the specific responsibilities may shift over time.

Paid social manager

  • Handles paid social media campaigns. 
  • Paid search and paid social are often managed separately at agencies due to the extensive knowledge required for multiple platforms. 
  • This role should collaborate closely with the paid search team to share insights and occasionally allocate budget efficiently.

Meta Ads specialist

  • Expert in managing and optimizing ads on Meta platforms. Meta, much like Google, can be a specialized field. 
  • Like a paid social manager, this role would collaborate closely with the paid search team.

Strategist

  • Develops and implements overall paid search strategies. 
  • A strategist typically holds a higher-level position than an ad manager, focusing on overarching campaign structures and alignment with marketing objectives. 
  • This role requires more experience and the ability to discuss with clients how paid ads integrate with broader marketing and business goals, adjusting as needed. 
  • Often confused with a paid search manager, a strategist operates at a more strategic level and plays a crucial role in ensuring successful marketing outcomes.

Data analyst

  • Analyzes and reports campaign data to identify trends and insights. 
  • Many agencies and brands employ data analysts to:
    • Create comprehensive reports.
    • Develop measurement plans.
    • Design testing frameworks.
    • Integrate data across various platforms.
  • Managing a live dashboard is often a full-time role, becoming increasingly essential for brands.

Tagging specialist

  • Ensures accurate and functional tags on websites. 
  • They verify that conversion tags are firing correctly and that data is being populated across all platforms, from Google Ads to Meta and GA4.

When assembling a high-performing paid search team, remember that not every member needs to meet every job requirement to succeed.

Dig deeper: 5 essential PPC skills every agency pro must have

How PPC teams work together

Remote work has changed the way brands and agencies work as a team. 

  • Cross-functional teams: Members from various departments bring diverse skills.
  • Self-managed teams: Operate autonomously, leading to increased motivation.
  • Virtual teams: Collaborate remotely using digital tools.
  • Problem-solving teams: Formed to address specific issues or challenges.
  • Project teams: Work closely to plan, execute and close projects.
  • Operational teams: Handle day-to-day operations efficiently.
  • Innovation teams: Focus on developing new ideas, products or services.

Employees often participate in multiple teams, leveraging different skills to contribute effectively across different contexts.

For instance, someone might be on a cross-functional team, collaborating with colleagues from paid search, SEO and paid social departments to complete a project.

All these individuals are likely to be part of a self-managed team, taking on tasks autonomously.

Additionally, they could be involved in a virtual team, using tools like Microsoft Teams or Zoom to coordinate with remote colleagues globally.

This multi-team involvement enhances the growth of companies by exposing individual contributors to different working styles and perspectives.

This approach maximizes results for brands and clients, offering teams greater flexibility in work location and scheduling.

Tips for successful hiring and job posting

Finding the right talent for your paid search team isn’t just about filling a position – it’s a strategic skill that can significantly impact your team’s performance and overall success. 

Job postings

Avoid seeking a “PPC unicorn” and focus on core competencies. Job postings in 2024 still seek individuals to handle everything for a low salary, which benefits no one, including the new hire.

Value well-rounded individuals

Candidates with a strong understanding of PPC principles and the ability to learn new platforms. Prioritizing personality and a willingness to learn in hiring can be more beneficial than focusing solely on PPC skills, which can be taught.

Set realistic expectations

Avoid demanding unrealistic workloads or 24/7 availability. In today’s world of constant connection, this message is crucial. 

Many agencies, under financial strain, are pushing employees to overwork, leading to alarmingly high burnout rates in our industry. Addressing this issue early in the hiring process is imperative.

Be flexible when it comes to experience level

Some agencies and brands prefer to cultivate in-house talent. However, the choice isn’t black and white. Numerous experienced candidates can make an immediate impact or seamlessly fit into consulting and business development roles while also offering high-level strategy.

Your view on AI is now a factor when building a team

Hiring individuals who can adeptly navigate AI without feeling threatened is crucial for building a forward-thinking paid search team.

Understanding that AI is a powerful tool designed to augment human capabilities, not replace them, is helpful.

Teams should confidently leverage AI to automate repetitive tasks, optimize campaign strategies and extract actionable insights from data.

However, they should not prioritize AI without thorough consideration and proper fact-checking.

A team composed of both AI skeptics and enthusiasts offers a valuable advantage by providing diverse perspectives.

Building a PPC dream team starts with a strategy

In paid search marketing, building a high-performing team is crucial for brands and agencies. 

The debate between hiring experienced professionals versus nurturing new talent reflects varying strategies in the industry.

Ultimately, successful team building in paid search marketing requires aligning individual strengths with organizational goals, fostering continuous learning and embracing technology while prioritizing human insight and creativity. 

By following these principles, agencies and brands can build resilient, forward-thinking teams that drive sustained success in the ever-evolving paid search industry.

Dig deeper: How to set and manage PPC expectations for teams and stakeholders

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.



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