Managing large PPC campaigns can be a lot like keeping a handful of spinning plates in the air. You do your best to make everything look and perform well without dropping and breaking anything.

The sheer size of the campaigns make it challenging to apply the same techniques you would for smaller campaigns. But at the same time you have to ensure you are managing the campaign as nimbly as you can in order to take advantage of opportunities as well as to counter any negative trends that may develop.


What Qualifies as an Enterprise Pay Per Click Campaign?

Before jumping into the differences let’s define what large really is. If the majority of the following sounds like one of your campaigns, then you’re probably working with one that’s quite sizeable:

  • You call it a campaign (singular) but it’s really an umbrella term for a number of campaigns that you are managing
  • Keyword baskets can number in the thousands
  • Ad groups can reach into the hundreds
  • Budget reaches seven-figures annually
  • The campaign spans multiple search engine platforms
  • You are using bid management tools to automate some of your bidding
  • You have access to a search engine account manager

How to Manage Large PPC Campaigns

#1 – Focus

Let’s face it, there are only so many hours in a day. We also have to face up to the fact that not all campaigns are as critical as others within the same account.

You have to prioritize your resources accordingly to focus on areas of the campaign that either need the most attention or could yield the highest returns. That’s where applying the Pareto principle or commonly known as the 80-20 rule comes in handy.

Applying this principle to PPC campaigns can come in many forms. Whether you focus more effort on a particular search engine, on critical campaigns or collection of ad groups the key thing to take away from this is that your focus is applied to the parts of your campaigns you feel needs the most attention. Your criteria for determining where you should spend the most of your time could be on the highest revenue areas of the campaign or the areas of the campaign that just aren’t pulling their weight.

The goal here is to use your time wisely where it will yield the highest return.

#2 – Thresholds & Alerts

You are only as strong as your weakest link.

It’s somewhat tempting when managing a large PPC campaign to throw your hands up in the air and say that you can’t come up with a maximum CPC because your average order values and margins fluctuate depending on the product line or that applying a universal target CTR is ridiculous. But you have to start somewhere. That’s where coming up with campaign thresholds are important.

Thresholds helps you set a minimum performance bar; where if certain areas of your campaign fall below them you have to shift your attention to ensure that it doesn’t slide any further. What do thresholds look like? (Keep in mind that these are minimums and maximums and that my scenario could be quite different than yours. Apply as needed)

  • Ad CTR should be a minimum of X%
  • Keyword CPC should be no greater than X
  • Any disapproved ads should be brought to your attention
  • Conversions or Revenue per day should be no lower than X for a three day trend
  • PPC budget spent should be a minimum of X per day
  • Conversion rate should be a minimum of X per month

These types of thresholds accompanied with some form of alerts whether that is email notifications or results from weekly report reviews will help draw your attention to potential problem areas within your campaigns.

#3 – Service Level Agreements

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are a set of commitments you agree to abide by to successfully manage an account. Traditionally an IT related term, it’s appropriate when managing large PPC campaigns. SLAs could either be a direct client commitment spelled out in a contract or an internal team commitment. Either way it’s a to-do list that has a high visibility and accountability.

Creating a set of rules for you and your team to abide by will be helpful to remind you of the tasks that you must consistently perform to keep your campaign in tip-top shape. What types of PPC management tasks should your SLA include?

  • Test new ads every month
  • Eliminate invalid keywords once a week
  • Evaluate keyword performance once every X months or weeks
  • Test new landing pages every X weeks (if possible)

#4 – Bid Automation

Bid automation is a lot like power steering in your car. You could get by without it, but having it makes driving much easier and responsive.

Bid automation helps you stay competitive by passively managing your keyword bid management and reacting to changes that your competitors may have influenced. There are a number of bid management tools. Here are the more popular tools in the industry:

Bid management may seem costly when looking at the sticker price (most have a monthly fee plus a percentage of your PPC budget), but rather than comparing the ROI you may get out of it directly from your campaign, consider comparing the cost to both the boost in campaign performance combined with the additional headcount or time spent you are saving by using the tool.


Managing an enterprise level PPC campaign can be overwhelming at first. But when you break out the work into manageable areas, it becomes less daunting. The key points to remember are that the basic concepts of managing any size PPC campaigns still apply. However, it’s all about opportunity cost and focusing your efforts where it’s most needed that is the key to iteratively improving your PPC campaign.

Hey there, I'm Marc!

I'm the Director of Growth Channels @Hootsuite. I've worked in digital marketing since 2000 for agencies, startups and companies like Electronic Arts & SAP. Thanks for checking out my site where I share digital marketing strategies on how to increase website traffic and generate more revenue.


  1. Marc,

    I think you have a good start. Honestly, I don’t think of campaigns as hard to manage until you break a thousand ad groups.

    To me, enterprise level is:
    six figures a month (but could be 7)
    50,000+ keywords (more than a million isn’t unheard of – the largest I built solo by hand was 1.2 million)
    Google had to enable an enhanced account for you
    1000+ ad groups

    The reason I say the above is there are campaigns spending $100k/month with less than 5k keywords; and you can apply small account best practices to them.

    While I agree that benchmarking is essential; you need a system of working through ad groups based upon their potential profit, actual profit, and the current difference. You might ignore long tail ad groups for a month at a time if you are doing it by hand; but you can’t ignore them forever.

    In this type of account, automation is essential. Click Equations is also another enterprise level bid management system.

    I think you need to start with a reporting and action calendar. I’m about to release a longer (and still free) version of one calendar that you can find here:

    You hit the key right here: “when you break out the work into manageable areas, it becomes less daunting” — determining how to manage it with a strategy is the key.

  2. Thanks Brad. I find that it’s easy to overlook areas in large campaigns without some form of alerts. But you’re absolutely correct, you have to balance that out with looking for opportunities in the campaign with some investigative reports.

    The reporting calendar is a great idea.

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