Are PPCers a Dying Breed?

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I realized in the past few weeks that I am having a hard time keeping up with the new releases in Google AdWords. They are innovating faster than I can test the new features. I love it. But I also start to question, is this all going to be the end of PPC managers? Are Google, Yahoo, and Bing innovating so much that the PPC role will diminish?

Think about it. No, I am not giving my thoughts just yet, you have to wait for those. 😛

First Point: Google and Yahoo Assisted Setup

Google offers new advertisers help in getting their account going for free. They are only testing it in the US and Canada right now but I can see how this would be an awesome service for people worldwide once Google has the staff to assist different languages. In fact, I used something like this when we built an account for a large news agency in December. Due to the size of the spend, Google not only helped get things set up, I had a dedicated team for my account for a few months longer than the account was open. Very nice to have around.

Yahoo offers assisted setup but for account of a certain size and they charge a fee, or so says their Q&A. The difference here is that they are not assisting setup, Yahoo is setting up the accounts. Keyword research, organization and everything included. This service is a little up in the air it seems right now, as two parts of their site are in disagreement. One states that the minimum monthly spend is $1k, and their landing page states $5k. Perhaps there is no fee for accounts over $5k per month? Would love clarification from Yahoo if possible.

From FAQs:

“With Assisted Set-Up, Yahoo! Search Marketing can help create a Sponsored Search campaign for you customized to your business goals and budget. We will help choose relevant keywords, write ads and suggest maximum bid amounts that work within your budget. You can expect to receive your proposed campaign within 2 to 5 business days, and we will contact you to discuss it in detail. This is a one-time set-up service to provide you with a strong foundation from which to manage your account and from which to model future campaigns. There is a fee of $199 associated with this service, and a minimum budget of $1,000/month to qualify.

To get started with assisted setup, call (866) 310-6837. Our hours of operation are Mon-Fri 6am-6pm (PT).”

From Landing Page:

I am unaware of a AdCenter assisted setup, but with the merging of Yahoo and Microsoft (Bing, Live, AdCenter, whatever), I can see this being picked up soon over there.

Second Point: Tools for Competitive Analysis

The Opportunities section of AdWords now includes an “analyze competition” section (see below). This is going to be just the tip of the iceberg. Google nor AdCenter will ever allow advertisers to see into someone else’s campaign (long gone are the days of seeing someone else’s bid and position, exactly), but this section of PPC platforms can only grow. As PPC people, we know where to get some of this data, make it into a nice report and make decisions from it, but Google is starting to do that as well. Clients are getting recommendations from Google, who hold more data than we could ever dream of having access to.


Third Point: Automatic bidding

The final point is in the automatic bidding tools that are popping up all over the place. Conversion Optimizer has been around since 2007, but now Google allows target CPA bidding as well. Advertisers on the content network can bid based on demographic. And now day parting and geographic bidding is more focused than ever. With the right settings, the time between required optimization for smaller accounts is getting longer.

So Should PPC People Start Packing?

No. Of course not. As I have always said, automation HELPS but it doesn’t run an account. A Google Account Rep isn’t the best manager either, sorry guys. But most of them have less experience than the greenback fresh on the auto lot (I once taught a Ford salesman the difference in Mustang models). They are getting better, but just like some of the bad agencies out there, the “research” they do are automatic lists from a computer. Any real search engine marketer can take those lists and save a client thousands by reviewing them for validity. Not all of those words are relevant after all.

For the PPC Managers out there, a few tips to ensure your professional survival.

  1. Don’t Just Do PPC – This goes for everyone in Search Engine Marketing, no one part is more important than the others. You need to know and understand social and organic, as well as email marketing and others. The more well rounded you are, the better you will be able to see the trends of the future. Alerting clients to changes across the board is a competitive differentiator. Go that next step for them.
  2. Focus on Relevance – We can pull lists just like a computer, and slower. Show your clients what they are paying for by giving them recommendations from the data you pull. Think outside the box and give them reasons for the decisions you make. The trends you see could impact their business elsewhere. If you add value, I guarantee they will keep you around.
  3. Market Reflective Pricing – Remember when we charged thousands for setup? Yeah, guess what, that is free now. And I guarantee that clients will start picking that up. Instead, think outside the box. Offer something else that will give them value they can’t get elsewhere. What is that? That’s up to you, but I am sure you catch my drift.

Just Breathe.

Things are changing in the PPC space everyday. It’s time to earn our money for being the ones that are paid for keeping campaigns relevant and at a lower cost than if the client did it alone or with free help. Time to change the marketing we use to sell services. Are you changing with the market?

Kate Morris
Kate Morris is an SEO Consultant for Distilled Consulting in Seattle, WA. You can find her on twitter @katemorris.
Kate Morris

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  • Nice post Kate. I did have to take a breather so as to not go into a long rant about Google and Yahoo assisted account set-ups as I have never come across an assisted account that that was worth paying “Free” for!

    • @Meg and @James,

      I am with you, the work is sometimes very shoddy, but I think over time and depending who you get, it *might* be good. But it's a crap shoot. Needless to say, even with the changes, PPC managers are still needed. 🙂

      @Justin – thanks, and yeah, they are all just tools, but our brains are still the most important ones.

      @Simon – You mean Google reps incentives? Not sure, but I am sure its the number of accounts and the performance of such. Given I am not sure what the performance numbers are set at. Maybe someday someone at Google will give us insight? 😉

      • for starters they don't know your business. most of the times they use keywords that were supposed to be in the negative list. nothing beats having somebody who knows the business to manage your account. not even the G and Y reps. that's based on experience. it's good if you have a rep to call at times though when the need arises. 🙂

  • Great insight and I agree – PPC Managers are here to stay. There is no doubt that some of the tools available in Adwords and software like ClickEquations and Kenshoo can help someone without years of PPC experience run a campaign, chances are they are not running it effectively. Paid search is Google's cash cow and they want you to continue to increase your spend, not necessarily create an account that is optimized.

  • The assumption that allowing a publisher to manage your advertising strategy on your behalf is tantamount to forwarding a blank cheque.

    How do you think these [sales] staff are incentivised?

  • Google does not offer anywhere NEAR the support necessary for the average “end user” to run an effective AdWords account. I've seen the results of the Assisted Setup – they aren't pretty. Even Google reps themselves have advised (via the forums) that small business owners should not try to run accounts themselves but go find an expert (the posts are buried, but they're there – I've seen them!)

    Google still doesn't know how to talk to end users. Small business owners have businesses to run, not hours to spend trying to figure out how not to waste money on AdWords.

    I see no end in sight for AdWords managers. On the contrary, I'm turning away more business than ever, because there are only so many hours in a day. The strategy here seems to be to attract as many end users as possible with endless vouchers, and hope that some percentage won't give up in frustration and disgust. Rather than give real support to the people who need it, and keep them coming around for more.

    But hey, if Google actually did that, what would people need me for?

    adCenter seems a lot more user oriented, but they haven't had the traffic. Merged with Yahoo, that might be enough to make a mark. But it'll take a while.

  • I always find G solution for PPC help is “bid on more keywords” or “Spend more money”

  • Most of the advice from Google seems to be based around increasing CTR (thereby making them more money). Whether of not that's actually beneficial to the account is another story entirely.

    the few times I let Google build an account, it was almost laughable. Really broad and generic ad copy, and keywords that weren't really relevant to the account. On the plus side, those Google-built accounts are a great source for negative keyword research 😉

    Anyway, to agree with everyone else, GOOD PPC managers are here to stay. Those of us that actually provide value and can effectively drive conversions for our customers will always have a place

  • If you are having a hard time keeping up with the new releases in AdWords, just imagine how the small business advertiser feels. They are clueless. There used to be a time when campaign setup was pretty straightforward and while Google might like you to believe that is still the case, it's not.

    Now, more than ever, it is crucial for new campaigns to get off to a great start. So whether you enlist the help from the search engines themselves or hire a PPC manager/agency, get the help you need to before you end up losing your shirt or mind in the process.

  • Good PPC Managers are most certainly here to stay. A much needed culling of hucksters and cheats is on the way I reckon


  • This may just help PPCers as it attracts more businesses into the systems. Once they realise they can't get it to work themselves, they call us.

  • Assisted set up is one thing, but its effective management that separates the successful campaigns from the floppers. And until things like ad copy testing, quality score optimization and landing page optimization become automated, PPC managers will still have a desk to come back to in the morning.

    I'd actually would like to thank Google for offering assisted set up. I've gained new clients who went with this option and hired me to restructure and manage their accounts properly.

  • Asefati

    I am a search marketing manager at a finance company and I handle both SEO and PPC and I seriously don't think we are dying.

    Both SEO and PPC aren't rocket science…they are thigns that any web savvy person can learn (for most part) but its matter of finding the most qualified person to do them and manage campaigns.

    I can change my own car's oil and tires but I never do it. I don't have time and I don't want to get messy. I rather have a professional do it.

  • I agree PPC is here to stay. General help guides and tools can help an individual but they're no match for the experience of PPC managers. Plus, of course, some companies would rather outsource and have someone else do the legwork – not just of managing the account but also of keeping up with the constant innovations!!

  • rp

    Hey Kate,

    All good observations, and as a former yahoo employee of 6+ years, I can assure you that they have large teams of people working towards greater automation capabilities. In most cases, the end result of the team's success will be their severance, but simply, when it comes to the idea of eradicating PPC managers, it was in my best interest at Y to get a top tier automotive client to bid the term, “car” to top position. After leaving Y, and going to work for a top tier automotive client, I can assure you the term, “car” was bid quite low. The agenda of the engine in many very expensive cases, does not line up with the agenda of the advertiser, hence the need for a PPC manager.

    • Wow, awesome insight there! I wish more people understood that. Thanks so much for writing in!!

  • I haven't read through all of the comments yet, but just by reading bullet points and arguments I'd have to say that PPCers are no where near a dying breed…

    I have just one case in point: We had a junior campaign manager take advice from their Google rep about certain keywords and offerings that could help expand their reach and exposure (and hopefully lead flow). Long story short, Google reps are just sales people trying to push every product they can.

    The campaign went gangbusters- in SPEND. The results were miserable. We got a partial credit back so there wasn't any bad blood, but no where near the amount we had lost in testing these suggestions.

    My point? PPC managers do more than just add keywords, write ads and bid. They understand how to take a multitude of factors: products, markets, audiences, assets, budgets and goals, and actually orchestrate a profitable campaign. No automated or even service rep would be smart enough or take the time to do these across all clients. It's just not possible…

  • Great article Kate.When I first received a Google Adwords Account manager about 2 years ago I thought I was going to get some super inside information. Little did I know she had no clue what PPC was. I used her as my errand boy to report errors, fraud, and password issues. Nothing more.

    Good to hear they are getting a little better.