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Got PPC Stockholm Syndrome?

  |  October 7, 2011   |  Comments

Paid search conditions have improved in recent years, but do your old habits still linger?

A summer of home renovations gave me a whole new routine to enjoy. Up at the crack of dawn to slap on a baseball cap and pretend to be busy with something, lest the men doing the "real" work think ill of me and my kind.

And then there were the weeks without a laundry tub in the basement. In my former (damp, 120-year-old) home, I enjoyed the convenience of dumping the proceeds of the dehumidifier's work into the sink just steps away. New way: haul the heavy, sloshing water thingy up the stairs into the kitchen. This is about as close to hard labor as it gets over here.

The point? When everything was done, I once again had access to a nearby laundry tub. But wouldn't you know, I was halfway up the steps with dehumidifier water for about the third time before I realized I was forever free of that routine. I literally had to force my legs to turn right into the laundry room rather than trudge up the steps.

It's said that prisoners and kidnapping victims have similar troubles adjusting to normal civilization.

In that spirit, this column is about the things you used to have to do in paid search because of a lack of choice or circumstances years ago. Those conditions have long since improved, but many of the habits have lingered. Are you still stuck in the past?

  1. Obsession with bid management to avoid "waste." Would the bid management aspect of PPC have eaten up such a huge chunk of people's budgets and mental bandwidth if the "bid discounters" at the search engines had been features at the start? Would anyone have even entertained the notion of adjusting bids a dozen times a day - on each keyword? Before bid discounting, constant bid management was a must. A sizeable chunk of your budget would be wasted simply by ignoring the gaps between you and whoever was the next lowest bidder.

    Today, we're less worried about basic waste, and freer to approach campaigns with a more multidimensional approach to bid management that may be poorly captured by many of today's tools. Typically, we might perform less frequent bid changes but use more intelligent bid rules. Bid management needs to take account of more segments, match types, and strategies today. Bidding to a simple CPA rule is also less relevant for many companies than the prevalence of that technique would have us believe; incorporating ROAS and/or secondary KPIs might be better. On top of that, we could even layer in more sophisticated attribution models. Accurate bidding is still paramount, but some aspects of it are now set and forgotten, and you can use the extra brain cells to add more judgment and depth to your strategy.
  2. Running separate "reports" even for the most basic metrics in day-to-day account management, having meetings about them, and someday taking action. Count me as the world's biggest fan of Google's new emphasis on incorporating extensive reporting - say, network placements' performance - right into the workflow of the AdWords platform. An analyst can dive right in and start managing the account based on that reporting. The old way? I can't count the number of times I'd drop into the reporting area and literally hear the whirring sounds as the reporting regimen someone had set up was generating a raft of daily reports no one ever read (let alone acted on), and often emailing them out to several people (someone in the Department of Business Prevention who knew just enough to be dangerous, for example).

    Not having to wrestle with this type of fractured workflow and fetishization of the "report area" (the whole thing is both one big campaign and one big report, all the time, anyway, if you're immersed in the task): for me, about as freeing as no longer having to make small talk with the prison warden.
  3. Having to talk about "click fraud" all the time. It isn't an accident that you rarely hear about click fraud anymore. In the early to middling days of the industry, click fraud was a serious problem. It was a problem on the paid search side, and it was even more of a problem on the content network side. In Overture's world, some of what was really the content network was always called "search," anyway, so you couldn't opt out of it. Spikes of bad traffic in content could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in a single day. Once, one of our financial clients got ripped off by a variety of publisher partners, a memorable one being a fake DMV site. The company told Overture it would pull a million dollars of spend across all its divisions if it didn't start taking the complaint more seriously. They got the runaround, and pulled the million dollars. Google's approach was 180 degrees different from this. The system isn't perfect, but the proactive filtering and relentless optimization of the display network - along with a raft of exclusion options and significant transparency in reporting - is why you're unlikely to run across a conference session on click fraud today.

    What can you do with your time instead? Focus on marketing.
  4. Having to explain to people that it's called the "content network," and you can also show banners on it. Having to make your "search" buy on one platform, and then go around and chase display advertising buys in a most inconvenient fashion. Well, this one isn't fully done yet. We still have to explain to many people that Google now calls it the Display Network. Every trend here is pretty much favorable to hard-working marketers. The AdWords platform is a container that you can put a wide variety of ad formats into, and seek a wide variety of audiences and targeting methods. While search and display will always have distinctive elements, I like to think that they both speak to a passion I've had for improved targeting and less advertising waste, ever since I was enticed into this industry. Why do I like the Display Network, or for that matter, its cousins, the ad exchanges, Facebook, etc.? Call it effective audience targeting.

Someday, when the promise of digital marketing reaches its full potential and transcends even more cumbersome siloes, you can tell your grandchildren about all the stuff you had to do just to get relevant messages in front of your targets. They won't believe you.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Goodman

Goodman is founder and President of Toronto-based Page Zero Media, a full-service marketing agency founded in 2000. Page Zero focuses on paid search campaigns as well as a variety of custom digital marketing programs. Clients include Direct Energy, Canon, MIT, BLR, and a host of others. He is also co-founder of Traffick.com, an award-winning industry commentary site; author of Winning Results with Google AdWords (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed., 2008); and frequently quoted in the business press. In recent years he has acted as program chair for the SES Toronto conference and all told, has spoken or moderated at countless SES events since 2002. His spare time eccentricities include rollerblading without kneepads and naming his Japanese maples. Also in his spare time, he co-founded HomeStars, a consumer review site with aspirations to become "the TripAdvisor for home improvement." He lives in Toronto with his wife Carolyn.

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