My comment started to get pretty long so I turned it into a blog post with questions you need answered before you start a new PPC project. But, most of these are applicable to any marketing initiative, including SEO.
1. Who is the decision maker for the client? Frequently you will work with numerous people that represent your client. They may all have valuable input but, you need to agree on which one is in charge. Who has the final say if a decision needs to be made? If you don’t determine this before moving forward, any answers you get to the following items may come into question if there is a problem down the road.
2. What are the fees and terms? You need to have a contract that outlines how much the client has agreed to pay and what they get in return. You also need to include a minimum time commitment to ensure that you have enough time to properly optimize the campaigns and try to meet the client’s goals.
3. What is the budget? The client’s budget is an integral part of the campaign development process. If you don’t know what the client’s budget is when you start, you may start developing a strategy for a budget that is not in line with reality. Without knowing the budget you really shouldn’t discuss any other facets of the campaign including which networks you’ll advertise on and what the goals are.
4. What is considered a conversion? Which type of conversion is most valuable? In most cases, it’s fairly easy to look at a website and understand what is considered a conversion. But, your client may have different goals for different products or services, may want more phone calls than emails or may not consider anything but an actual sale a conversion. You need to clearly define what will be considered a conversion, how conversions will be tracked (AdWords code, Analytics, etc.) and the value for each type of conversion in order to properly set up your campaigns and reporting. If your client doesn’t want phone calls, you wouldn’t want to use click to call ads. If your client doesn’t consider form submissions to be conversions, only actual sales, you may still want to track the form submissions but not count them in your CPL calculations.
5. At what point does getting a conversion become the client’s responsibility? You can send a significant amount of qualified traffic to a client’s website but if the landing page doesn’t convert (more on landing pages later) or if the leads are not handled properly, the campaigns won’t be successful. Even if you are meeting your cost per lead goals, the client may tell you that the leads aren’t turning into sales so the campaigns aren’t profitable. Before you begin advertising you will need to agree on what part of the process you are responsible for and what part the client is responsible for. You will need to agree on what a qualified lead is and you may need to review how they handle those leads so you can ensure that they are converting at a reasonable rate, giving the campaigns a better chance at succeeding.
6. What are the goals of the campaigns? Each client will have different goals but you should always set client expectations and have goals that you both agree on to measure the success of the campaigns. If your client can’t give you any guidance on goals or doesn’t know how much they can spend to get a lead or sale, you may not want to rely on them being around long term. You should be able to determine an acceptable CPA goal, number of leads, traffic level or other acceptable metric. This should be an attainable but aggressive goal to get the most out of the campaigns. The goals can be revisited at a later date if they are too lofty or too easy to attain. Yes, if the goals are too easy to attain you should revisit them. If you aren’t challenged by the project, it’s too easy and you may be doing your client a disservice by not trying for more.
7. What is the timeline for the campaign? Short term campaigns and long term campaigns are managed somewhat differently. If you only have 6 weeks you’re going to need to be much more aggressive with changes than you would be with a 6 month campaign. You may also choose not to use certain keywords on a short term campaign since they are keywords that are generally associated with a consumer in an earlier stage of their buying cycle.
8. Can the client withstand the initiation period where you may not meet their goals? At the launch of new campaigns, there is typically a period of time where you may not meet the goals you set. Optimization and finding the right mix of bids, keywords, ads and landing pages can take time. You need to make sure your client is prepared for this and that they can afford it.
9. Does the client have a creative resource? You need to determine upfront if your client has a designer they want to use for banners and landing pages. In some cases, you will use the client’s regular site for PPC landing pages. In many cases you won’t. You need to determine if they have someone available to design and build these landing pages or if they expect that will be included in your fees. You also need to make sure that you have access to the designer so you can steer the development of the pages and banners. If the designer has never designed a good PPC landing page, you’ll need to be very involved in the process to ensure your campaigns perform well. If the client doesn’t have a designer available, you’ll need to build this cost into your fee structure. Make sure you are very detailed about what those fees will cover (10 banners and 4 landing pages with two rounds of revisions for example).
10. Does the client need to approve the ad text or the keywords you choose? In some cases, it is necessary for clients to review and approve the ad text and keywords you use. This is very common in highly regulated industries and for large corporations that have brand guidelines. Make sure you know if the client is expecting to review and approve everything before you get too far into the process.
11. Is there anything you can’t or shouldn’t do with the campaigns? Some clients may have restrictions regarding where and how they can advertise. They may have specific websites where their ads cannot appear which you need to block from display network campaigns. They may not be able to ship their products into certain states for legal reasons. They may also already have a lot of intelligence about what has and hasn’t worked with other advertising. Asking for this intelligence upfront will save you and your client a lot of time and stress.
12. Who do they consider their competition? Through your research, you will find many of your client’s competitors but there may be competitors that are not advertising or that do not have a strong online presence. Asking your client who their competitors are will give you insight into your client’s mindset and may expose new keywords or advertising opportunities. You also need to ask if your client has any issues with advertising on their competitors’ brand keywords. It may seem natural to you to have a competition campaign but your client may have agreements with competitors to not advertise on each others’ brands (yes, it happens), may have legal restrictions or may just not feel comfortable with it (not matter how much money it could make them).
13. Is the client comfortable letting go and allowing you to be the expert? It can be hard for some clients to allow other people to make decisions that will affect their bottom line. You need to understand that your client is the expert in their business, and therefore has valuable information to provide to you. But, you also need to make sure that you have the freedom to properly manage the ad campaigns and that your client won’t also make changes in the campaigns which could affect the outcome of your optimization efforts. If you sense that a client will be uncomfortable if they are not able to be hands-on with the campaigns you will need to discuss this with them candidly. If you discuss it and still feel that they won’t be able to let go of control, the success of the campaigns could be at risk.
14. What are your client’s expectations for reporting and communication? Some clients are very hands-off and are happy with a monthly progress report. Others need weekly or even daily contact to feel like there is progress being made. You should agree on how frequently you will provide progress reports and how other communication will be handled. It’s generally a good idea to also discuss the best method of communication. Does your client only check their email once a week? Email may not be the best way to contact them. Do you only answer your phone when you have to (me)? It may be good to let your client know that you may not be available by phone regularly so they don’t think you’re ignoring their calls.