One of the drivers of the growth of the digital industry has been the low barriers to entry in the industry. Anybody can start learning PPC from the Google site, or reading about SEO or other channels on sites like Search Engine Watch. That's been a fundamental part of the industry's rapid, vibrant growth.
But low barriers to entry have created another problem – the scammer.
Since the early days of the industry, people have fallen foul of the "too good to be true" approaches to PPC. After presenting at SES London, I was again approached by somebody who was paying a set fee to an “agency” and receiving no sales and no transparent reporting.
Here are some of the approaches you should be suspicious of when looking to outsource PPC.
X Number of Clicks for a Set Fee
Search is a dynamic marketplace, with volumes reflecting consumer demand. So the minute somebody offers a set number of clicks for a set fee, be suspicious. It makes the channel seem too simple, too easy.
How do companies "deliver" on this promise? From the approaches I've seen – including when working at a search engine – they are bundling keywords. The advertiser will have been told that they will receive a volume of clicks for a set fee; in reality, the company "managing" the campaign will be sending traffic from the cheapest keywords they can find that have some vague relevancy.
So they're making money twice – once from the "fee" they charge, and once from the difference between the click fee and the actual cost of traffic.
The reality is that this approach is like chucking mud at a wall – the keywords have vague relevancy and are being optimized to lower CPCs - not with a focus on sales. Within 3 months, the advertiser often terminates the campaign and may feel the whole PPC channel doesn't work for them. Meanwhile, their competitor is sitting on page one, earning marketshare from a sales-focused search campaign.
You Don't Need to See Your Keyword Data
PPC is a transparent channel; agencies should be happy to share their keyword-level data. However, if they're bundling clicks, they'll always be cautious to share, which will be a warning sign.
The keyword lists will probably include some words that are only vaguely relevant, but are cheap and make up a notable percentage of the clicks – and higher-volume, more relevant terms will be sending few or inconsistent click volumes because they are more expensive.
For example, a kitchen installation company pays for a set number of clicks per month. Their bounce rate is high and they aren't seeing the sales they expected. A look at the analytics for the keywords sending traffic makes it apparent that they simply don't match their business – there were types of kitchens they didn't sell and specialist searches that their business didn't offer a solution for (e.g., "disabled kitchens").
Position 1 Guaranteed for Keyword X
Great! Except that keyword is a string of 2-4 words and receives less than 300 searches a month. No doubt you will be in position one – but there will be few clicks and few, if any, sales.
”We'll List You on All the Search Engines”
So what? That's hardly difficult given that Google AdWords, Bing's adCenter, and Yahoo's Panama have 100 percent coverage in most countries. Selling this as a feature is just fluff designed to impress the uninformed.
Next Big Search Engine
Really? You can list me on the "next big search engine" that I've never heard of? That won't turn out to be a second tier PPC platform with few searches – something I'll realize after the campaign has sent me no traffic and you've got my money, right? You wouldn't do that to me, would you?
An old warning rings true when choosing somebody to manage your PPC campaigns: buyer beware. If it seems too good to be true and guarantees success, be suspicious.
PPC is a dynamic, fast-changing channel with a high level of competition. PPC campaigns can, and should be arranged in a transparent, competitive way – anybody who tries to remove that transparency needs to be carefully examined.
Image source: Photo Express