How a Standard of Practice Can Make Your Search Agency Better

We often hear of a “way of life” that is representative of a certain company. In some industries, such as a bakery, it can be a strong asset that proves that you are really mastering what you are doing. This mastery is difficult to identify when you think about the true nature of the paid search industry: innovation and new products released. How can you be sure that you are truly at the top of your industry?

Standard of Practice : A Necessary Evil

A standard of practice is the idea that a company will rely on the same way to execute and/or think for a particular type of product – in this case, paid search. Instilling a standard of practice presents a lot of advantages and should be considered, especially in a vertical like PPC, where there are so many ways things can wrong.

In order to avoid mistakes that can cost you, it is common to see clients reimbursed after mistakes on targeting or because of an overspend. It is important to have some good practices and checkpoints along the way to minimize the errors.

At our agency, we use checklists and a rigorous quality assurance process to make sure that those errors aren’t happening during the building period of a new account or campaign. After that, it becomes hard to control and check everything that is done on the accounts; this is when a standard of practice is essential. Bakers from the same bakery will know how to react when something goes wrong. The analysts of the same company will optimize in a similar fashion in order to achieve the objectives of the client. It is the duty of the company to train them to react in the way managers have defined as best.

A standard of practice is also really helpful for beginners. New employees need to be taught in the right way so they can pass this legacy when they acquire more experience and assure the perpetuity of the good practice.

Standard of Practice : A Brake on Innovation

However, a standard of practice also has its downsides. The biggest one is that if you wait long enough, you will eventually see a total lack of innovation within your company and people won’t know how to react when new challenges come up. How can you expect your employees to think by themselves when all you did during their training was tell them to follow the playbook?

Our industry is in constant evolution and consequently, you have to make your practice evolve, as well. It’s not realistic to think that your best practices from last year are still 100 percent valid now. New competitors have entered the game and new products have been released. If your employees are not trained to analyze a situation first, they will just apply the old best practices that could – in the worst case scenarios – cost you your client’s business.

Let’s keep in mind that in order to achieve always better results, the key in PPC is A/B testing. By no means have all tests been done, let alone thought of, and you need to have employees that can think outside the box to discover new ways to optimize or structure accounts. Your staff needs to have the ability to call an audible from the playbook defined at the beginning during their training.

So What Should You Do?

Even if there are no perfect answers to this problem, there are ways to minimize the negative impacts of al standard of practice.

It all begins with the way you hire people. During the interview process, you should be able to say whether prospective employees are passionate enough about PPC to go the extra mile. People with no curiosity or no strive for excellence won’t give your clients the expected results. They will then take their business someplace where people do. Giving the keys of your practice to someone trustworthy who does possess those qualities will result in that person guiding others without making them unthinking robots.

In short, a standard of practice is definitely something you want to have inside your company. It assures you and your clients of the quality of what you deliver; however, you should be really careful not to stifle the creativity and the passion of your employees. By balancing the needed rigor while doing paid search and the liberty it requires, you will provide better performance and take your accounts to the next level.

Alexandre Valladon, Paid Media Advisor at iProspect, also contributed to this article.

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