I’ve had a few things happen this week that have me thinking a lot about this topic – just how bad are some of the misconceptions businesses have about AdWords? And what, if anything, as search professionals can we do about them?
It started with this week’s PPC Chat where this topic was addressed a bit in response to one of the questions and has continued with some client interactions, as well as my long professional history with this stuff. What really got me going on this post though was an article forwarded to me, written by an “AdWords Expert” that just made my head hurt and had me wanting to weep for poor clients who might use view these kinds of things as gospel.
So just what are the misconceptions “out there” about AdWords (which is the Kleenex of paid search for laypersons, it seems!)? I thought I’d break them into two main categories:
- Whether or not AdWords (paid search) works
- Articles and posts by “experts” touting specific notions about how to either “do it right” or game the system
Does AdWords or Paid Search Work?
Let’s tackle the first one – businesses’ perception about the inherent effectiveness of AdWords or paid search. I posed the question on Twitter as to what others’ experiences have been when it comes to encountering clients or potential clients who come to the table with the notion that “AdWords just doesn’t work”. I have encountered this attitude often, it seems perhaps others less so. When I talk with someone who has this attitude, I always want to know precisely why they think this is so. By and large, the answers I’ve heard are all something along these lines – “Well, Google set up a campaign for us and we tried it for about a month or two and it didn’t do anything for us, so we stopped.” Sigh…
To be fair, I have also encountered organizations that have had success with paid search and those who are of mixed feelings about its success for their business. But, it is the vast swath of the uninformed or at least barely literate in the language of paid search that concern me the most. It is these people that I so desperately want to reach with an accessible and correct message. And, it is this – paid search can be an incredibly powerful tool to drive your business forward and significantly contribute directly to its growth. When done well, I have seen it do amazing things, as have many of the PPC pros I know. But the key to that statement is “when it is done well”. Doing paid search well, and for the sake of this article we will focus on AdWords, takes a concerted effort, as well as time and money. See my post on “What Should PPC Cost (To Do Right)?” for more on that.
I feel like a broken record on this, but it needs to be said until everyone hears it and understands it. Having Google set up your account is not “doing it well”. And, I am sure there are exceptions to this statement. But, generally speaking, having a qualified and experienced professional work on your PPC will yield better results for your business than having Google do it. Another of my popular refrains – Google’s interests and your interests are not completely aligned when it comes to AdWords. Having them build and manage your account is NOT a true test of whether AdWords COULD be effective for your business, or even really HOW effective it could be.
To answer the question I posed – Does AdWords work? Absolutely AdWords (and paid search more generally) works in many, many complex circumstances. The key is giving it a fighting chance to prove its worth (or not)! And because it does not work or work equally well for every situation, only by setting it up for maximum potential success can you really reach a valid conclusion for your organization.
“Expert” Articles Offering Specific Notions About How to “Do It Right” or Game the System
The article that inspired this part of this post was on Forbes, a very popular business site, and it had been viewed over 34,000 times when I viewed it. It essentially boiled down AdWords success to an oversimplified formula using Quality Score and bid amounts. I don’t really want to link to it because I don’t want to send more views to it, but you can read it here (and I strongly suggest viewing it Incognito, as Forbes runs an astonishing 78 tags on their site and actually locked up my browser).
When I tweeted the link to PPC pros, with the question as to whether articles like this help or hurt laypersons (clients) perceptions of paid search and how it works, the responses were definitive:
@NeptuneMoon Wondering how the hell that got published on Forbes. Not their typical content.
— Melissa Mackey (@Mel66) May 13, 2015
— Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen) May 13, 2015
Problem is, how are non-pros supposed to know the difference? I suppose, the answer is they don’t. They see an article or post by someone who is either a self-described paid search expert or they are “AdWords Certified” which to clients really does imply solid expertise. We’ve even had our own debates on this topic about how to evaluate posts, presentations and articles as professionals!
While looking for information about something else today, I found another article on Forbes that was equally dismaying to a search pro and this one has over 117,000+ views and was written by someone who speaks at big search conferences. If we’re lucky, clients or prospective clients ask us directly about this stuff. When they do, it provides an opportunity to educate them about how paid search really works. No BS. No spin. No promise of magic beans. No nonsense.
I have to wonder though how many of the 34,000+ who read this piece or the 117,000+ who read the other piece ran its advice or strategy suggestions by a PPC pro? I strive to make PPC education and understanding part of every single project I work on. We all benefit from having clients who actually understand how PPC really works and just what it can and cannot do.
How Can We as PPC Pros Combat This?
I’m putting this question to you, my wonderful PPC colleagues and friends. What, as an industry, can we do to work against these misconceptions? I really do feel it is in all of our best interests to do so. The more well-informed clients there are, the more we can do to help them maximize their potential within the paid search space.
What do you think? What, if anything, should we try to do about this? As always, sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).