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Five Signs Your Paid Search Manager Is An Imposter

You know the type, in any industry. Someone who talks a good game, but turns out not to be a professional? The ones who think a collection of tips from forums are equivalent to years of job experience?

In my career, I’ve had the opportunity to look into many paid search marketing accounts. Lately, I’ve seen a disturbing number of accounts characterized by busywork of little value, dated strategies, and worst of all, accounts that completely disregard analytics and reporting in general and rely on arbitrary decisions disconnected from statistically significant data. Enough is enough! In this article, I’m calling out various fake PPC tactics.

Be afraid if you notice these tactics in your account. They usually go hand in hand with underperformance. And they are likely signs that your account manager is merely doing an impersonation of a true paid search professional.

Too much broad matching

In many accounts, there’s an over-reliance on broad match terms. This is limiting as there are tremendous opportunities with other match type options. For example, with the correct bidding strategy, phase match terms tend to convert well in paid search. Here’s an example from an account that sells a home related service (data below is from June 26 to July 10 2010).

Broad match term (two word query)

  • Ad spend = $1848
  • Conversions = 110
  • Cost per conversion = $16.80

Phrase match term (two word query)

  • Ad spend = $1211
  • Conversions = 108
  • Cost per conversion = $11.21

A new matching option in Google called modified broad match is converting well for some of our clients. The new match type places restrictions on how broad match ads are triggered and is a good alternative to regular broad match. Take a look at the following example (same home related service as above):

Broad match term (two word query)

  • Ad spend = $1848
  • Conversions = 110
  • Cost per conversion = $16.80

Modified broad match term (two word query)

  • Ad spend = $2150
  • Conversions = 177
  • Cost per conversion = $12.15

Daily budgets set wrong

In many accounts, budgets are set incorrectly. Based on conversion data, budgets are either set too low or too high in particular campaigns and/or countries. Take a look at the following example. For a particular product, sales in Austin, TX were significantly better than they were in Dallas, TX. In Austin, there were more conversions and the cost per conversion was significantly better:

Austin, TX

  • Ad spend = $34K
  • Conversions = 700
  • Cost per conversion = $49

Dallas, TX

  • Ad spend = $20K
  • Conversions = 315
  • Cost per conversion= $63

In this account, bids were set uniformly across the board. At a minimum, adjustments should have been made to reflect higher conversions & cost per conversions in Austin, TX. Adjustments were certainly necessary in other geographic regions of the account.

Not managing account to ROI

In some accounts, paid search managers take an “all or nothing” approach to account management like bids are set high or bids are set to “off.” Managers can be prone to pushing the panic button instead of using bid levels to manage ROI. This can stem from numerous sources like poor tracking, or tracking insignificant conversions.

For example, in one account, an imposter manager was tracking prospects who reached a lead form, with no measurement of weather they filled out the form. If managers are not using Google Analytics (GA) or customizing goals in GA, they are missing significant opportunities to optimize accounts. In an even worse example, an imposter manager had not even installed conversion tracking in Google. And, in this particular case, the client was metric-driven and wanted the data! I’m not sure how the manager got away with that! I repeat – client goals should be tied to specific and relevant account metrics.

Using outdated paid search assumptions

Many PPC impostors work with outdated assumptions like total avoidance of the content network or putting too high a priority on second-tier engines that were knocked out of the game long ago. There are significant opportunities in many new online advertising areas. Failing to take advantage of the diversity of tools available today—whether it be modified broad match, YouTube advertising, local advertising, or product extensions—cheats accounts of new opportunities. True account managers need to be in the loop with current-day digital advertising strategy and tactics.

Lots of reports but no substance

Some impostor PPC managers run huge reports and try to impress with workload and keyword volume to mask a lack of insight. Instead, a considerable portion of the reporting should focus on performance metrics. Depending on the project, some sharing of experiment designs or progress towards agreed objectives should also be part of this discourse. Generic platitudes like “phrase match is good and we’ll use it more in the account” is not good enough!

Failing to use readily available reporting tools to make more accurate decisions is a sad commentary on the commitment level of the impostors. They’d rather work on the appearance of work rather than on building a business. In the indisputably frank words of Avinash Kaushik: getting actionable analytics insight is as easy as pressing a button. So, I have a grand idea—press the button!


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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