Coaching a High-Functioning PPC Team

Okay I’ll admit it.  Like many others in Seattle, I’m still a little jazzed up about my beloved Seahawks winning the Super Bowl.  It was an exciting showcase of a team that works well together and where each player excels at various specialties and brings it to the field. It wasn’t a game dominated by one or even two superstars.  It was game where many contributed to the whole to dominate and stun a normally solid opposing team and football legend.  Sorry Peyton.

And yes, I’ll admit this too, I haven’t always been the biggest fan of Pete Carroll, but I have to admire his ability to keep it positive and manage a team
of talented players while connecting with the front office, the players, the media and ultimately, the fans.  And I love the way he always gives credit to his team, first and foremost.

Carroll has been seen as a “nice guy with a reputation for being too enthusiastic, too friendly, too positive” – better suited for the rah-rah world of college football.  Maybe so, but in this world of all kinds of bad news, isn’t this enthusiasm for the game refreshing, rather than watching all the serious-faced coaches talking into microphones and playsheets? I happen to like seeing some passion from the leader of a team. I can also relate to this perception of being generally positive and mostly easy-going in my own managerial style.  That’s just who I am and how I operate.  If you are not having fun in what you do for the majority of your day, what’s the freaking point?

A lot of people have written blogs or have theories on what it takes to be a great paid search account manager, but what characteristics do you need to manage a high-functioning PPC team?

Here are the kinds of hats that I wear on a daily basis in managing a team of PPC experts:


I like to get into accounts, see patterns, and start digging. It’s important as a lead to be able to explain things and understand cause and effect across accounts/channels. Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves, download reports yourself, ask a lot of pointed questions and figure out the “why” of things.


This is the part of my job that I probably enjoy most, but don’t spend nearly enough time doing.  I love being on top of the most recent developments in the search world, and love passing those learnings along to my team.  But I often have to rely on my team to teach each other and shadow each other for less experienced folks to learn the fundamentals, because there is simply not enough time in my day to do it myself, and frankly some of my team  members are much better teachers and ppc technicians than I am. My job as leader of a team is to create an atmosphere where those learnings can be shared through shadowing, in team meetings, or through project communications. If I see someone struggling, my job is to figure out why and how to best support them with knowledge/experience so they can be more effective and confident.

Facilitator/Air Traffic Controller

Sometimes the rate at which all the gears are in motion on several levels of a big account and changes/launches/migrations are all happening at the same time can be overwhelming.  In these cases, as the coach you need to sit back and let your team do their jobs, be a good listener, help prioritize workload, acquire resources, and be as much of a backup as you can.  Setting up processes and enforcing realistic expectations can also help reduce stress and expedite progress.

Cost Controller/Efficiency Advocate

Stuff like efficiency, time tracking, cost per hour, hour allocations per employee, capacity, projected hours aren’t the most fun metrics to analyze, and often take more time than you would ever think possible, but they are very necessary in staying solvent, not going over budget, and staying competitive in the marketplace for digital services.  Just a required evil of the job.


To manage a growing ppc team, you often have to look at your staffing needs one, three, or six months out.  As a management team, we revisit our capacity and needs regularly, and it’s often hard trying to de-fog the crystal ball and understand growth and contingency plans.  Recruiting the best and the brightest at various levels of experience which will fit well in your company culture requires time and thought but it’s critical to the long range success of the team.


This role is crucial.  Sometimes no matter how hard it is, you have to be the rule-maker, the nag, the disciplinarian, the provider, the voice of wisdom and reason, and above all, the supporter who will be there through thick and thin with your team members.  Being the ultimate responsible party can be a heavy weight, but it can also be richly rewarding as your team grows.


I’ve had a lot various work experiences in different marketing roles and in different types of companies. I get a lot of satisfaction in trying to leverage some of those experiences to help several people on our staff trying to figure things out – personally and professionally. Having meaningful conversations with staff about their careers and development can foster deep connections with people that reaches beyond the present.


Similar to Pete Carroll, I like to root, root, root for my team.  Not in a half-hearted “good job” kind of way, but in a way that makes people proud of what they are doing, no matter how “small” their role. It’s important to them, to you, and to the team as a whole to call out their efforts to both internal and external stakeholders.

Decision Maker

Sometimes someone has to make the hard call or strategy decision in order to move forward.  Do you punt or go for the first down? I’m not generally a risk-taker, unless I have experience to back up my intuition/gut when data points are limited. I take calculated risks with my team, or babysteps on projects to help gather information in order to achieve desired outcomes. The buck has to stop somewhere. Own it.

Whether you are managing a team of 2 or 20, I believe these roles will all apply to various degrees.  And in the end, it’s about performance, trust, and letting your team be their best by being themselves, and hopefully they will have fun doing this thing we call ppc.  What do you think it takes to run a highly effective PPC team?

And as far as the Seahawks being a dynasty team?  Well, I certainly hope so, but I guess we’ll just have to wait until next season and see how it plays out. #gohawks

Lisa Sanner About the author
No Comments

Leave a Comment: