5 non-traditional skills to look for in a PPC account manager


Hiring a dedicated pay-per-click marketer is tough.

Just about every two- and four-year university in North America offers a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and some even offer the opportunity to minor or specialize in digital marketing. But you can’t get a degree in the disciplines that correspond to an actual job — PPC, AdWords, Facebook Ads, online ad design, interactive ad copywriting and so on.

So, when you’re looking for new talent, unless you want to do the training yourself, you need to find candidates with prior experience.

A quick scroll through LinkedIn or AngelList shows a common thread of agencies and businesses seeking out a “number-driven, passionate, creative and analytical individual with 3+ years of experience managing accounts.”

The problem is that any motivated would-be marketing hire will claim to possess these skills. So what makes a candidate stand out?

5 skills that differentiate you from the everyday PPC marketer

Top-notch PPC (pay-per-click) marketers need a diverse set of skills to conquer new opportunities, roles and challenges working in digital. For me, a variety of capabilities and a willingness to learn new skills on the job are some of the most valued features in a potential candidate.

I believe that there are five skills seemingly unrelated to PPC that truly make up the Full-Stack PPC Marketer.

Note: I do not talk about Excel or Data Science, though these are important. Search Engine Land already has some great content on Excel (sexy charts, combo charts, mini-series for search) and Data Science (similarities between PPC and Data Science, testing ads like a data scientist).

Skill 1: Design

We’ve all grown tired of the overused phrase “visually engaging ads,” but there’s a reason why it’s repeated so often. Our content consumption behavior is becoming more visual than ever, so a deep understanding of design makes your ad creatives stand out above the rest.

That said, you shouldn’t expect your Account Managers to come up with brilliant, engaging ads from thin air for each new client, campaign and product.

You want someone who understands the guidelines of each platform and is resourceful enough to apply best practices around color, sizing and call-to-action (CTA) buttons.

Frequently, a screen shot of a landing page with a CTA button overlay gets the job done, but this may require a deep knowledge base and the ability to work with a design tool.

Must-have design knowledge for PPC marketers:

Skill 2: Sales

Google’s internal sales training was one of the most valuable assets I gained from being a part of the AdWords team.

I like to give account manager (AM) candidates an AdWords account and ask them to treat me like the client — explaining performance, immediate opportunities and potential for long-term growth. I expect account managers to be able to do these four things:

  1. Educate yourself. Google’s client-first approach requires that account managers do the work necessary to fully understand who they are working with before any sales discussion begins. This means getting to know the business owner, the marketing team, the product and the different customer personas.
  2. Educate the client. Once you understand the business, you can clearly explain what strategies will work for them and WHY. If you and the client can stay on the same page, they will feel that they are still in the driver’s seat in making marketing decisions.
  3. Set expectations. The worst thing you can do is oversell and underdeliver. It isn’t just an awful customer experience; it kills long-term revenue for your business.
  4. Handle objections. The most passionate business owners (the best ones to work with) question strategies, decisions and the lack of changes in their account. They want to make sure you’re on top of things. The way candidates handle confrontation is essential to their ability to build a strong relationship and keep clients happy in the long run.

Sales must-haves:

  • Strong research skills
  • Objection handling
  • Expectation setting
  • Active listening
  • Pass Google’s new Digital Sales Certification

Skill 3: HTML & CSS

Understanding how websites work is a critical skill to becoming a full-stack PPC marketer. For everything from ad design to website troubleshooting to conversion-tracking implementation, a basic understanding of HTML & CSS will go a long way.

HTML5 is a versatile markup language that is used to create a wide variety of ad formats. For example, HTML5 display ads are interactive and act as microsites within a page, opening up opportunities for higher conversions and experimental ad tactics.

Another great application of HTML5 is in Gmail Ads. Once someone opens your Gmail ad, they get an expanded version where advertisers can follow Google’s kinda tricky guidelines to create some pretty cool experiences. Expanded Gmail ads let you embed forms, videos, images and interactive elements directly in your ad.

Must-have web development skills:

  • Knowledge of the inspect element tool on preferred browser
  • Understanding of web elements like classes and IDs
  • Code Academy’s intro to HTML and CSS course

Skill 4: JavaScript

There are two levels of proficiency an AM can have with JavaScript. At the very least, candidates should understand what JavaScript is and apply that understanding to Facebook’s tracking Pixel, Google Tag Manager (GTM), Google Analytics (GA) and AdWords conversion tracking.

The next level up is being able to create custom events in GA, GTM or Facebook that track the correct conversion event and ideally capture important metadata around how much the conversion is worth to you.

This allows you to not only optimize your ads for conversions; it also allows you to optimize your ads to the most valuable conversions to the account.

A bonus attribute would be the ability to apply free public AdWords scripts and even make minor manipulations to the script when it isn’t working properly.

After getting comfortable with scripts, one of our employees modified an existing script to send a Slack notification whenever the CTR of an ad falls under a certain rate.

Must-have JavaScript skills:

  • Ability to set up event tracking in Analytics and Facebook Ads
  • Implement basic Google Scripts using the script console
  • Ability to educate someone else on how Facebook’s Pixel and Conversion tracking work
  • Code Academy’s Free Javascript Course

Skill 5: Writing

AdWords only gives you 140 characters to catch your audience’s attention, convey value and entice a click. Candidates who can combine Hemingway’s succinct, impactful diction with the enthusiastic value propositions of an As-Seen-on-TV salesperson should be shoo-ins for the PPC job.

The mark of a skillful writer is the ability to communicate your unique value proposition, implement advertising best practices (keywords and strong call to action) and add a dash of brand personality to the mix.

The best way to sharpen writing skills is by writing more. Look for candidates with content marketing experience or an English or Journalism degree, or consider requiring a writing sample with the job posting.

Writing must-haves:

Anything else?

What other skills provide above-and-beyond value from your account managers? Share your insights with Search Engine Land on Twitter or Facebook.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.




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