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4 P’s of a perfect SEM meeting

We’ve all had them. Mind-numbing meetings that end with more questions than answers. These meetings provide few action items, and little direction. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) meetings are no exception. It’s easy to go into an SEM meeting and quickly get into the weeds of obscure metrics and minute details. Details are important, but not every detail is worthy of your meeting time.

If you’re not careful you’ll spend the whole time answering irrelevant questions. “Hey, why did our CPC go up so much on this campaign (that is only 2% of our total budget)?” To be sure, SEM campaigns are won or lost by focusing on the details, but meetings are different. Good meetings are better spent focusing on core metrics, strategy, and concrete planning.

There are some elements that you need in a good SEM meeting. You should be inspecting vitals, assessing performance, and planning the next period’s action items. Here is a simple four-step outline for crafting the perfect SEM meeting. When we put this in place for our clients, our meetings became much more focused and productive.

As a bonus you can run this format in as little as 12 minutes. Imagine that! A super productive meeting in under 15 minutes. Depending on how talkative your clients or higher-ups might be, this could stretch into 30. Still, this should be a vast improvement over the typical SEM meeting.

The 4 P’s of a Perfect SEM Meeting

1. Pacing

 Many clients have strict budget targets they need to hit each month. If you have SEM experience, you may have run across pacing issues. Totaling the daily budget column is not enough to hit a monthly spend target. For accounts with multiple campaigns, some might not be hitting their daily budget. You need a more accurate way to project and manage spending.

The easiest thing to do is to total up the spend for the month-to-date and divide it by the number of days so far. This is your Daily Run Rate (DRR). Then take your DRR and multiply it by the number of days left in the month. Finally, add your projected spend for the remainder of the month to your current spend. This will give you a good idea of where you’ll end up.

Example: On the 10th of the month the calculation may look like this.  $12,456 in total spend / 10 days = $1.245.60 DRR.  $1.245.60 per day X 20 days left in the month = $24,912.  $24,912 + $12,456 = $37,368 in projected spend. If your monthly budget is $35,000, you are over-pacing a bit.

You can be more accurate by looking at a seven-day or five-day run rate to see your pacing right now. Either way, the simple formula above can get you close enough in most cases. Do you need to step it up and spend more, scale it back, or hold steady? If you are hot (over-pacing) you could scale back on your lowest performing campaigns. Eliminating the lowest-performing 10% should get you back on track.
Time Needed: Two to Three minutes

2. Performance

How are your campaigns performing week-over-week, month-over-month, and year-over-year? All three of these time periods are important. Often, it makes sense to take two-week segments and analyze how they relate to the previous two weeks. It can even help to compare to the same two weeks in the previous year. This will help account for any seasonal fluctuations in performance.

Inspect the account’s Return On Ad Spend (ROAS), conversions/conversion rates/cost per conversion, CTR, and CPCs. Then look at your two-to-three top performing and two-t0-three lowest performing campaigns. Give a quick recap and offer potential ideas for improvement.  
Time Needed: Ten minutes

3. Progress

What have you been working on since the last meeting? This is where the team talks about recent changes and adjustments made, and any early indications of the impacts of those changes. This shouldn’t be a laundry list of all tasks, but, rather, a highlight of the most important changes made. Share too many details here and your meeting will veer off into the weeds right away.

Highlight changes like crucial negatives discovered and added, new ads created for testing, new adgroups, campaigns or keyword-match type testing, etc.  This is a way to hold your team accountable and make sure that enough work is being done. You can also see what changes might be having a positive or negative impact.

If this part gets skipped, clients or higher ups will wonder what, if anything, is being done on the account.  They’ll wonder, “Is the SEM team just rehashing the same old talking points in the meeting while not actually working on the account?” This is a time to instill confidence in the appropriate stakeholders.  Also, discussing progress can lead to other ideas for continued improvements.
Time Needed:  Five minutes

4. Planning

What are we doing between now and the next meeting? Are we undoing any of our recent changes if they didn’t perform? Are we waiting and collecting more data on changes made that don’t yet have a clear impact? Do we have sales promotions, events, or seasonal factors to prepare for over the next few weeks or month? This is the time to talk about new ad copy, budget changes, changes in focus, etc.
Time needed: Five minutes

The beauty of this meeting structure is that it should provide clarity. Clarity about the current state of affairs and clarity of direction. Along with the Four P’s, there are three questions we always answer in the process:

What’s Working? What’s Not? and What’s Next? 

Most PPC meetings end without clear answers to any of these three questions. If you practice this structure with your team, you’ll grow to love (or at least not hate) your SEM meetings. The best part is, you can get better performance from your paid search campaigns in the process. Have 12 minutes? Put the Four P’s to work for you.



by Brett Curry