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A Systemic Approach to Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

Pay-Per-Click Advertising Systems ThinkingANYONE WHO CLAIMS that paid search advertising is easy is misguided. Sure, at its core, the components that make up a paid search campaign are easy to assemble – campaigns>ad groups>keywords>text ads>landing pages. How to organize a pay-per-click account for Quality Score, conversion growth and cost efficiency is well documented but what is not well documented is the systemic approach that should be taken to achieve pay-per-click and search engine marketing results.

Today, pay-per-click platforms like Google AdWords, Microsoft adCenter and Facebook Ads are becoming much more complex. Beyond the core components of a pay-per-click account mentioned above, adding to the complexity of a pay-per-click account are features and tools such as campaign settings and automation, ad extensions and retargeting. At times the complexity can be overwhelming but there is a way to think about all this that can help you dance through your day as a search engine marketing manager a bit easier and it begins by thinking in systems. This elevated view and thought process into pay-per-click advertising and search engine marketing enables accountable parties the ability to increase their capacity to think, learn, communicate and act more systemically1.


The Pay-Per-Click Dance


In 2001, the late Donella Meadows published an article Dancing with Systems about her journey towards understanding systems. Dancing with Systems is a 14-step approach to learning how to develop your own way of working within any type of system – pay-per-click advertising and search engine marketing included. The key take-away for me by reading this article is that if you give up the need to control the system and predict outcomes you leave more time for delivering value-added work. The 14 steps include:


1. Get the beat.
2. Listen to the wisdom of the system.
3. Expose your mental models to the open air.
4. Stay humble. Stay a learner.
5. Honor and protect information.
6. Locate responsibility in the system.
7. Make feedback policies for feedback systems.
8. Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.
9. Go for the good of the whole.
10. Expand time horizons.
11. Expand thought horizons.
12. Expand the boundary of caring.
13. Celebrate complexity.
14. Hold fast to the goal of goodness.


When it comes to pay-per-click advertising, I’ve often thought that there is a certain rhythm, or beat, to managing accounts on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. I’ve written before about the idea that, if you listen and pay attention to what is important, keywords and text ads will tell you their story once the data begins to unfold. If you watch, listen and learn you will know what to expect from certain parts of the system and can prioritize work based on that knowledge.


Each day, search engine managers should crave to learn something new about an account or their approach to managing accounts and share what you learn not only with your immediate co-workers, but also with your clients. Like it or not, you are not isolated – everyone who touches a keyword is a part of the greater, global pay-per-click system. It is irresponsible to withhold information and doing so will come back to haunt you in the long-term. Collaboration and sharing of ideas and results, good or bad, can only help grow pay-per-click advertising efforts.


Paid search advertising has become an increasingly powerful marketing tool, but it also has the ability to make 95% of the users look like used car salesmen. Understanding the implications of how your approach to pay-per-click advertising, whether positive or negative, influences the greater system of search engine marketing and eCommerce is critical to its sustainability allowing you to dance all night long…



Thinking in Systems – Donella Meadows

Systems Thinking – F. E. Emery

1isee systems

Filed under: Facebook Ads, Google Adwords, MSN AdCenter, Online Strategy, Systems Thinking · Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to "A Systemic Approach to Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising"

  1. Gargoyle PPC says:

    Absolutely right. And it’s only going to get more competitive. Anyone who takes a back seat to learning new approaches/innovating in ANY field is destined for mediocrity. With the PPC game changing so rapidly, this is especially true. I’ve gotten to the point where I have no choice but to brush up on my higher level stats and learn how to code R. Subjectively managing PPC is no longer a feasible option given the level of complexity nowadays.

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