Here’s a check­list to make sure you’re as orga­nized as pos­si­ble to start this year off on the right foot.

As PPC mar­keters, every­thing we do revolves around struc­ture and orga­ni­za­tion. Sure, there’s a huge amount of unstruc­tured work as the result of per­for­mance trends and our analy­ses but, at the heart of our accounts, struc­ture unde­ni­ably plays a huge role.

How­ev­er, over time, that struc­ture – both in terms of account struc­ture and the struc­ture of opti­miza­tions – can become clut­tered with account growth over time and with changes in strat­e­gy. Plus, with paid search efforts being near­ly real-time, when a mar­keter becomes busy (read: hol­i­day sea­son), it’s not dif­fi­cult to start to begin to start liv­ing in the paid-search-moment as opposed to a more struc­tured rou­tine – but that’s not for the best.

As we kick off 2019, it’s a great time to revis­it process­es, work­flows and struc­ture to iden­ti­fy ways to become more orga­nized, which allows for greater effi­cien­cy, less stress, and bet­ter per­for­mance. Orga­ni­za­tion is a win – win – win sit­u­a­tion.

There are a ton of ways to approach this as orga­ni­za­tion flows through the veins of what we do so let’s talk through the var­i­ous ways that we can apply these improve­ments to our work. Check through this list and make sure you’re as orga­nized as pos­si­ble to start this year off on the right foot.

Increasing time efficiency through organization

I’ve nev­er met a PPC pro that wasn’t seek­ing out ways to increase time effi­cien­cy. There’s always plen­ty of work to do and the goal is to accom­plish as much of it as pos­si­ble while still leav­ing some time on the table for those inevitable things that sneak up on us.

Let’s be real; it’s not uncom­mon that unex­pect­ed tasks and projects pop up – either from a client’s last-minute deci­sion to run a pro­mo and their need for ads, due to per­for­mance shifts, or the need to quick­ly launch some­thing new. The hope is always that we’ll be in the loop well in advance, but the real­i­ty is that we aren’t always. Becom­ing more effi­cient means that these sit­u­a­tions are less stress­ful as they arise because it becomes eas­i­er to accom­mo­date them with­out inter­fer­ing with rou­tine opti­miza­tions.

There are a few dif­fer­ent ways to go about increas­ing effi­cien­cy and the most suc­cess­ful peo­ple will tack­le them all.

  1. Deter­mine what you need to do man­u­al­ly ver­sus what you can auto­mate. Our world is becom­ing increas­ing­ly auto­mate-able and while that may seem scary to some, it’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty. The things that can be auto­mat­ed are the deci­sions that are pure­ly based upon log­ic. There are still so many oth­er things, though, that require strat­e­gy and cre­ativ­i­ty. Pre­serve your time for the lat­ter by automat­ing the things that you can.
  2. Cre­ate repeat­able process­es. Instead of re-invent­ing the wheel over and over, look for ways to find effi­cien­cies in the tasks that you do over and over – espe­cial­ly if they can’t be auto­mat­ed. I’m a big fan of cre­at­ing tools in Excel to make rou­tine reviews and opti­miza­tions quick­er and eas­i­er. Cre­at­ing dash­boards for repeat­able analy­ses can be a big help, too. The more famil­iar and dis­tilled that a process becomes, the quick­er it is.
  3. Revis­it the 80/20 rule. There’s a pret­ty good chance that the major­i­ty of your impact is achieved by a small por­tion of the tasks that you’re exe­cut­ing. Tak­ing the time to mon­i­tor the impacts of your efforts and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly clear­ing your sched­ule of the activ­i­ties that don’t make an impact is a great way to shed some dead weight from your sched­ule.
  4. Review your week in advance. Either at the begin­ning of the week or the end of the week for the fol­low­ing week, out­line your big pri­or­i­ties, look at your meet­ing sched­ule and deliv­er­ables and get a feel for how to best allo­cate your time to make it all hap­pen with­out putting your­self in a bind.
  5. Fig­ure out how you oper­ate best and pri­or­i­tize accord­ing­ly. I like to tack­le a few quick and easy tasks just to cross things off the list to start my day, while there are oth­ers that pre­fer to start with the biggest project on their list to get it out of the way. I focus best on big­ger projects lat­er in the day. That’s just me, but every­body has their pre­ferred rhythm. Fig­ure out what yours is and learn how to orga­nize your tasks so that you can be most effec­tive with­out spin­ning your wheels.
  6. If pos­si­ble, find ways to del­e­gate. This isn’t pos­si­ble for every­one but if you work on a team with a tiered struc­ture, find­ing ways to del­e­gate tasks is a great way to free up time while also get­ting oth­er eyes on the account. Win-win!
  7. Know when to say yes and when (and how) to say no. This may be the most dif­fi­cult of tac­tic in this list. Say­ing no is always tough, but it’s crit­i­cal. As men­tioned above, you will find which tasks are impact­ful and which aren’t. Selec­tive­ly say­ing no to those that aren’t impact­ful is key to keep­ing your time avail­able for impact­ful tasks.

Be more deliberate with your time

Now that you’ve tak­en steps to be more effi­cient with your time, it frees up your avail­abil­i­ty, but the key is not to acci­den­tal­ly squan­der it. It’s so easy to nick­el and dime your own time. Here are a few ways that you can take con­trol of your time to ensure that you’re reap­ing the ben­e­fits of your height­ened orga­ni­za­tion and to increase your over­all effec­tive­ness as a mar­keter.

  1. Ded­i­cate time for projects and tasks. If you have high pri­or­i­ty tasks or projects that require more focus or time than oth­ers, block the time on your cal­en­dar. It’s okay to be pro­tec­tive of your time; in fact, it is wise. At the end of the day, you’re account­able for achiev­ing the tasks that you’ve com­mit­ted to and that becomes much eas­i­er if you take a proac­tive approach to ded­i­cate time.
  2. Ded­i­cate time for learn­ing. In this ever­chang­ing dig­i­tal world, things are evolv­ing all the time. It’s easy to fall behind if you keep your head down. Block­ing out time on your cal­en­dar to ded­i­cate toward read­ing blogs, watch­ing webi­nar record­ings, or even par­tic­i­pat­ing in forums and chats can be valu­able. This is one of the eas­i­est things to start to shirk when time is lim­it­ed, but it’s incred­i­bly impor­tant to be dili­gent and you’ll be bet­ter for it.
  3. (Occa­sion­al­ly) shut down your inbox. Sure, it’s not real­is­tic to keep your inbox shut down for long peri­ods at a time but if you find your­self eas­i­ly dis­tract­ed by email noti­fi­ca­tions, it can be help­ful to shut down your email for 30–60 min­utes while you work through projects requir­ing a lot of con­cen­tra­tion. I can almost promise no one will notice if you don’t return an email with­in 60 min­utes.
  4. Sched­ule your meet­ings in a way that improves your pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Dif­fer­ent peo­ple have dif­fer­ent pref­er­ences for their meet­ing sched­ule. Some like them back-to-back and some don’t. For exam­ple, I hate hav­ing only a 30-minute free win­dow on my cal­en­dar because it’s hard for me to get into focus with­in 30 min­utes before then com­ing back up for anoth­er meet­ing. The only thing worse than hav­ing a 30-minute win­dow is hav­ing a day that is lit­tered with 30-minute meet­ings and only 30 min­utes between each. For that rea­son, I much pre­fer to sched­ule my meet­ings back to back so that I have 2–3 hours of meet­ings and then a big block of time to focus. That way, no mat­ter what projects or tasks that I’m work­ing through, I know that I have a block of time that will accom­mo­date it. Dif­fer­ent strokes for dif­fer­ent folks; if you hate hav­ing meet­ings back to back because you like to struc­ture meet­ing prep dif­fer­ent­ly, that’s what works for you. Proac­tive­ly sched­ule meet­ings in a way that will help you to be as effec­tive as pos­si­ble.
  5. Hold more pro­duc­tive meet­ings. Inef­fec­tive meet­ings lead to fol­low-up meet­ings. Don’t be that per­son. Make an agen­da for your meet­ings in advance; deter­mine exact­ly what you need to con­vey and what you need to get from the meet­ing. Even if you aren’t the one host­ing the meet­ing, know­ing what you need to gain from it ensures that you have your direc­tives at the end. Tak­ing notes and con­firm­ing take­aways is also a good prac­tice to ensure that every­one can divide and con­quer.

Put it in writing to de-stress and stay on track

Men­tal tax­a­tion is a real thing, the more things that you force your­self to retain pure­ly on mem­o­ry, the quick­er that you’ll burn through your san­i­ty. It’s sci­ence (it’s not real­ly sci­ence).

Some­times just the act of writ­ing every­thing down that you’ve been men­tal­ly track­ing can be a huge stress relief, for a few rea­sons: typ­i­cal­ly, the list looks much short­er on paper than it seems and because it relieves you of hav­ing to try to remem­ber it all. A to-do list is a great first step for stress-relief and orga­ni­za­tion, but I would sug­gest tak­ing it even a few steps fur­ther for opti­mal orga­ni­za­tion and time man­age­ment.

  1. Set up goals and bench­marks. It’s much eas­i­er to improve per­for­mance if you know what you’re work­ing toward and how you’re track­ing to that goal. Set­ting up goals and bench­marks helps to hold you account­able.
  2. Set up a mas­ter per­for­mance overview doc­u­ment. This could man­i­fest in many dif­fer­ent ways. I have one doc­u­ment that I use to track all of my clients’ per­for­mance. I rate each client with green, yel­low and red high­lighter based upon where they are against their goals and/or where they stand in the midst of cur­rent ongo­ing ini­tia­tives (launch­es, strat­e­gy changes, report­ing, new land­ing pages, etc.) and whether there are any obsta­cles. I update the sheet a few times through­out the week and it serves as my one-stop-shop for client health at a glance. You can be as high-lev­el or gran­u­lar as you like, but the point is to have one point of ref­er­ence for the sta­tus of all of the ini­tia­tives that you are work­ing on.
  3. Build a cal­en­dar out for all of your rou­tine activ­i­ties and upcom­ing projects. With PPC, every­thing has to be a bit flex­i­ble. This cal­en­dar serves to ensure that all of the opti­miza­tions are account­ed for and spaced out across the month to ensure that you aren’t mak­ing too many changes at once with­out being able to mon­i­tor the impact of those changes. It also allows you to map out any big launch­es or ini­tia­tives along­side both your opti­miza­tion cal­en­dar and your broad­er cal­en­dar of activ­i­ties. Now, am I sug­gest­ing that the cal­en­dar should be writ­ten in stone? No, of course not. With PPC, opti­miza­tions are flex­i­ble based upon what the account needs at any giv­en time based upon results, but there are rou­tine tasks that should be exe­cut­ed rou­tine­ly so those can be sched­uled and every­thing else can be ten­ta­tive­ly planned with the option to shift as need­ed.
  4. Lever­age a project man­age­ment sys­tem. There are a ton of pros of imple­ment­ing a project man­age­ment sys­tem. One of the many is that it allows you to com­bine your cal­en­dar with your to-do list, so instead of hav­ing just one list of items to check off, you can eas­i­ly pri­or­i­tize what needs to be done today ver­sus lat­er in the week. You can add upcom­ing dead­lines as they arise. You can take the cal­en­dar you cre­at­ed and apply it across your paid search project(s). Pos­si­bly even bet­ter, you can main­tain all of your notes in one place. If you’re work­ing off of a recur­ring task, you can car­ry over your notes from each pri­or com­ple­tion. It also makes it easy to bring in addi­tion­al team mem­bers, since they now have access to all of the his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion. There are quite a few free project man­age­ment sys­tems – so whether you’re imple­ment­ing it for a team or just your­self, price doesn’t have to be an issue.

Revisit account and campaign structure

Okay, I real­ize that this top­ic is a big ask. Don’t take the fact that I’ve nes­tled it into a larg­er post as a casu­al rec­om­men­da­tion. This is one of the tips that will take a lit­tle bit longer to work through because there’s quite a bit to unpack here. There are a lot of dif­fer­ent ways that you could review your cam­paign and account struc­ture. I start here:

  1. Review ad group struc­ture to ensure that all ad groups are still struc­tured into small, tight­ly themed groups. As an account grows over time, it’s easy for ad groups to become a bit hairy and where they may have once been tight­ly themed they could now be more loose­ly defined. Tight­en­ing these up can have a big impact on ad rel­e­vance.
  2. Review query map­ping to ensure that queries are map­ping to the appro­pri­ate search terms and add neg­a­tives as need­ed to chan­nel queries to the most appro­pri­ate key­words as need­ed. More on the impor­tance of query map­ping and how to review it, here.
  3. Review tar­get­ing lay­ers, cross-cam­paign efforts and mul­ti-chan­nel fun­nels to ensure that the full eco-sys­tem plays well togeth­er and to ensure that all roads point to con­ver­sion.
  4. Review per­for­mance out­liers to deter­mine if any restruc­tures are so that could ben­e­fit per­for­mance. For instance, some­times restruc­tur­ing to sep­a­rate geog­ra­phy has its mer­its if the geog­ra­phy is per­form­ing much bet­ter than oth­ers and war­rants more bud­get, or if it’s gen­er­at­ing con­ver­sions but could be more effi­cient giv­en oth­er con­straints around set­tings or tar­get­ing. That’s just one exam­ple of many where restruc­tur­ing can be war­rant­ed based upon per­for­mance.

Organize your testing plans

This ties nice­ly to the last point. Putting things in writ­ing is a huge help in orga­niz­ing tasks but, I sug­gest tak­ing it one step fur­ther. When it comes to test­ing, the brain­storm­ing can take as much time as set­ting up the tests them­selves. Save your­self time in the long run by tak­ing the guess­work out of what you’re plan­ning to test next. Devel­op test­ing cal­en­dars that will guide your sub­se­quent tests. I like to build out plans that are a bit like what you might think of like a tour­na­ment brack­et, except back­ward. Each test has an if/then sce­nario so the win­ning vari­ant becomes the con­trol and, the test will spin­off of that vari­ant with an addi­tion­al, new vari­a­tion. This applies to any form of tests that you plan to per­form, includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to ads, land­ing pages, and cam­paign exper­i­ments.

Organize your nomenclature

For the love of paid search, get orga­nized with your nomen­cla­ture if you haven’t already. This means cam­paign names, ad group names, audi­ence names and so on. Heck, even hav­ing a nam­ing con­ven­tion for your image ad (and social ad) cre­ative can be use­ful. There are a vari­ety of rea­sons why nomen­cla­ture is valu­able; just to name a few:

  • Ease of fil­ter­ing for report­ing and appli­ca­tion of edits, rules, scripts and so on.
  • Ease of com­pre­hen­sion – whether it be tran­si­tion­ing an account to anoth­er per­son at your agency, vaca­tion cov­er­age by anoth­er PPCer, or even a client’s under­stand­ing of per­for­mance; nomen­cla­ture incon­sis­ten­cies can cre­ate a lot of unnec­es­sary con­fu­sion.
  • For bet­ter or for worse, slop­py names seem… well, slop­py. That’s not a good look.

Fur­ther­more, it’s incred­i­bly impor­tant to orga­nize your tag­ging if you’re run­ning on any plat­forms with­out auto-tag­ging (or if you aren’t employ­ing auto-tag­ging on your cam­paigns). Report­ing is a real night­mare with­out con­sis­tent track­ing, so make that clean up a pri­or­i­ty.

This is so easy that you can often map it out in an hour or less. Block some time on your cal­en­dar and get it done.