What is PageRank Sculpting, and Why Do It?

PageRank-Pyramid

PageRank Sculpting Isn’t Easy

PageRank sculpting directs the flow of search engine spiders, indexing, PageRank, and other trust and authority assignations by using tools to open and close valves in the pipes of your website’s hierarchy. PageRank sculpting is vital to SEO management of large, dynamic websites, and it helps smaller websites doing redesigns. It is also crucial in dealing with Google’s Penguin and Panda updates. Visibility Magazine’s Fall 2012 edition publishing my complete guide to this highly technical topic. Here, I offer the big picture.

Google’s Matt Cutts noted the importance of PageRank sculpting, being sure to distinguish it from the bogus nofollow sculpting. (For more on this, see http://searchengineland.com/pagerank-sculpting-is-dead-long-live-pagerank-sculpting-21102.)

In PageRank sculpting, it’s important to understand the distinctions among spidering, indexing, and the passing of PageRank. Spidering includes a page in SERPs (search engine results pages), whereas indexing goes further to include the page’s words in the index, which is matched to searches. Pages can be spidered without PageRank assigned, and indexed pages may or may not get PageRank or pass it on to other pages in your website.

PageRank sculpting deploys standard tactics in combinations that should vary to fit each website’s CMS, navigation scheme, and budget. These tools are:

  • The robots.txt file
  • 301 redirects
  • Canonical meta-tags
  • Pagination with rel=“next” and rel=“prev”
  • The noindex meta-tag
  • X-Robots-Tag HTTP header directive
  • XML sitemaps
  • The nofollow meta-tag
  • Advanced and less essential tools (perhaps for a future post here) include cache controls, last-modified headers, the unavailable_after X-robots-tag, and a few others.

In addition to these tools, most of the standard rules of CMS-SEO pertain to PageRank sculpting.

(For an overview of CMS-SEO, see VisibilityMagazine.com/internet_marketing_magazine/previous_issues/html/december-2007 and VisibilityMagazine.com/disc-inc/rob-laporte/cms-and-database-seo-guide).

Choosing and coordinating the best PageRank sculpting tools for your website, and avoiding conflicts among the tools, is one of the most difficult jobs in SEO. There’s a need for an article or ebook which shows various scenarios and pitfalls. A good primer on avoiding conflicts is seomoz.org/blog/robot-access-indexation-restriction-techniques-avoiding-conflicts.

Once learned, it’s difficult to remember which of the tools block or redirect spidering, keyword indexing, and PageRank, and my Visibility Magazine article will serve as a reference. The important take-away in this blog post is simply to know what you don’t know.

The search engines will likely change relevant rules or become better at dealing with sites that have weak or faulty PageRank sculpting, but usually such changes are backward compatible (though recently Google has broken this implied contract with webmasters a few times). So, PageRank sculpting, like its parent categories of CMS-SEO and technical SEO, is an investment where you “write once, and profit in perpetuity.”

Bookmark this Graph that Encapsulates SEO Prioritization

Chart of SEO tactics by Cost-Effectiveness and ROI

From Marketing Sherpa’s “2012 Search Marketing — SEO Edition

This graph reveals in one view how web marketing managers should think about allocating resources among SEO tactics. Study it first, and then let’s talk (well, I’ll talk about it, and I hope to hear back from you).

This graph and the Marketing Sherpa survey it comes from illustrate the principle that you should allocate web marketing capital according to cost-effectiveness (with cost indicated by “Degree of Difficulty”).

The main weakness of this graph is indicated by the analogy that blending a lot of really bad scotches doesn’t make a good cocktail. In economics, for example, often the average of a bunch of economists’ projections proves wildly wrong, and likewise this study compiles estimates and less than scientific data. Similarly, a lot of beer drinkers used to like Pabst. Very few economists predicted the financial crisis (and I bet a lot of bad scotch and cheap beer was consumed as a result!). Still, I believe that this graph does a good job of suggesting how on average you should invest in various SEO tactics.

Of course on average, all women are about 1/50th pregnant. That is, your particular business situation and the web marketing work your team already has done well could make your optimum allocation differ tremendously from what this graph suggests.

What remains true for you, however, is that you should think about your web marketing according to the principles and categories of tactics illustrated in the above graph.

How Simple Can You Make ROI Reporting for Search Marketing?

Google Analytics and paid software like Omniture provide tons of potentially useful information, but the amount of information can overwhelm and paralyze if you don’t distill it into a minimal executive summary.

While every business has unique needs for metrics, all businesses want to see the resulting cash, so I show a couple of spreadsheets that allow you quickly to input data from analytics packages to produce monetary ROI projections and results.

Below is an example of an Excel projection of PPC ROI. Research with Google tools and with the client’s server analytics produces data inputs, which can all be altered to play with scenarios. Of course you can input actual numbers once the campaign is live. This simple spreadsheet for a small business was further simplified and compressed to fit here, but serves to illustrate.

Clear, simple spreadsheet for chief executives and marketing managers who invest in pay-per-click advertising.

Sample Spreadsheet for Showing PPC Profits after all Costs

Of course marketing managers often want, and DISC gives, other metrics as well as a few paragraphs about strategies done and planned, but when very busy, the snapshot above allows you to move on down your todo list, and of course the projections help you decide whether or how much to invest in PPC.

SEO reporting should also be driven by monetary measures, as in the simplified example below, where we use 75% of the clients’s industry’s average $1 click cost as a proxy for cash value of each organic search engine click. This client already had excellent SEO and organic traffic before SEO, so while improvements were only 29%, the monetary ROI is good.

Clear, simple spreadsheet for chief executives and marketing managers who invest in search engine optimization (SEO)

Sample Spreadsheet for Showing SEO Profits after all Costs

Given the incredible stat packages out there (which we at DISC love), the above tables seem too simplified. Exactly!

Depending on your server analytics package, you can create such views within the package, rather then exporting to excel, but either way, your search marketing work can and should be distilled to show costs and profits in one glance.

Is There an Optimally SEO’d CMS & Ecommerce Platform?

Automating SEO Writing and Attributes within CMS's and Ecommerce Systems

Thomas Jefferson’s copy machine: Is CMS-SEO much better these days?

No, there isn’t.

It amazes me that, given the huge benefit of having a CMS and ecommcerce system automate SEO, no pre-built solution does so optimally.

DISC has reviewed many of the top candidates, and while some are better than others, and most can be coded for much better SEO, none has completely seized this huge opportunity to help businesses implement SEO programmatically.

This post won’t review the candidates, for that would take too many words. I can tell you that CMSs purporting to be ideal are not. A CMS that allows you to edit meta-tags and URLs is not close to enough. An SEO’d CMS should automate these and other SEO attributes, while allowing manual override. A site with several hundred or thousands of pages needs to automate SEO as much as possible, so that you don’t have to manually enter all SEO attributes. (Of course body text must be written manually – though there are ways to automate some body text SEO by using database pulls into SEO’d footer taglines and small paragraphs of recurring, product-variable text on each page). To get an introduction to principles of CMS-SEO, please see my two Visibility Magazine articles at http://www.2disc.com/about-us/press-and-media/visibility-magazine/cms-and-database-seo-guide-part-1/ and  http://www.2disc.com/about-us/press-and-media/visibility-magazine/cms-and-database-seo-guide-part-2/. These articles are about four years old, but the principles remain sound, while only a few details are dated.

DISC is currently building an SEO’d CMS based on osCommerce. This platform has the advantage of years of proven infrastructure, a large community, and some SEO modules that, properly adjusted, enable close to ideal SEO for e-commerce and large websites. True, like all platforms, osCommerce has some drawbacks, but accusing osCommerce of deficiencies is like accusing HTML of deficiencies: it’s not the platform so much as how you wield it.

DISC has SEO’d other content management systems and ecommerce platforms —  the choice of platform depends in large part on your particular needs. All in all, we’re finding osCommerce best for SEO in most cases.

I’d be grateful for your comments and suggestions regarding CMS-SEO platforms. Have you found a CMS that is great for SEO? Are you developing one that you’d like DISC and other firms to consider? Let’s chat (right here on this blog or via Rob@2disc.com or 413-584-6500).

There’s still an enormous opportunity for a firm to market an optimally SEO’d CMS and ecommerce system. DISC is building one now, but if anyone has one or soon will, I’d love to consider it, and perhaps review it here.

In SEO, How Much Should You Plan vs. Implement?

Planning SEO vs. Implementing SEO

Planning SEO vs. Implementing SEO

As SEO options proliferate, and as websites and their web marketing intricacies proliferate, an ever greater percentage of time should be spent assessing and prioritizing. Just plunging into this or that tactic may seem to save on overhead, but it can waste plenty more time than you’d spend in proper planning. This is especially true in SEO troubleshooting.

Contemporary SEO entails many parts, such as:

  • about 15 SEO technical tests;
  • about 30 CMS-SEO rules;
  • social media SEO, including blog and video SEO;
  • SEO keyword research and copywriting;
  • ROI reporting and subsequent optimization;
  • And much more.

What should you do first?

This planning time is especially important when troubleshooting sudden declines in organic traffic, such as many businesses suffered under Google’s new Panda regime. In troubleshooting, you must audit thoroughly, and since you must completely eliminate one after another of the possible causes of your losses, you must redress each possible cause 100%. If you do only 75%, then you’ll remain haunted by the suspicion that your continuing organic losses could have been solved by one of the tactics that you decided to only partly address in the interest of saving money.

Let’s consider and an example pertaining to database-driven websites. Software that mimics search engine spiders often finds problems in multiple URLs leading to identical end-pages. Although Google’s spiders are very smart and may overlook such issues, the cause of the website’s loss of organic traffic may be related to what the spider software found. Resolving problematic results of spider test can be expensive, and meanwhile other issues may be either primary or accessory culprits, like excessive intra-site links, or too much SEO writing, or a pattern of slow loading. (Often declines are due to several negatives, with one or two main problems pulling the lesser weaknesses into the vortex of Google’s demotion tipping point.) Each of the tasks in a troubleshooting list can take a lot of resources if they are to be treated 100%. Again, which should you tackle first?

This situation means that you can easily spend 40% of your budget running tests, estimating time and costs to fix each issue, multiplying costs by the probability that the weakness is indeed a cause of decline, and delegating who does what within the final prioritized list. While working on each item, people must keep good, time-stamped, detailed notes of what was done, so that, if more troubleshooting is needed in the future, people can double-check what was and was not done.

Success in business (and in society as a whole) is all about allocating capital efficiently. Planning your SEO assiduously will lead to such success.

 

Google’s Panda Algorithm Update: Is it Grizzly or Good for You?

Google Panda Bear

Was Google Panda Good for You?

The lessons of Google’s Panda algorithm update launched on February 24 are simple:

Grizzly Google Panda Update

Or Grizzly?

(1) Don’t do black hat SEO.

(2) Think hard about the risks of grey hat SEO.

(3) Do what Google tells you in their extensive guidance pages.

(4) Design good website usability. That is, put your human audience front and center.

Google’s Panda update justly punishes sites that have more than one of the following, but a single item that is especially abused may be enough alone to cause demotion:

  1. Scraped (or stolen) text content.
  2. Websites with lots of pages without unique content. When there are too many such pages, probably the whole site is demoted, not just those pages or categories.
  3. Excessive SEO keywording.
  4. Excessive intra-site links.
  5. Maybe more punishment then prior based on poor incoming links, according to some researchers.
  6. Maybe poor code. If not, expect this to play a greater role over time, because Google rightly assumes some correlation between a site with good code and a site with good content.
  7. Poor usability. It’s unclear what site features Google’s algorithms would identify as a proxy for poor usability, but here again, it makes sense that Google would see a correlation between good usability and searches being satisfied with Google when the searchers find first a site that pleases the brain.

Some of the above items are debatable and still being investigated by SEO researchers (including DISC), but the consensus is that items 1 through 4 almost certainly prompt demotion. And they all entail black hat or grey hat SEO.

White hat SEO endures for years, without risks which reduce the current value of your company. DISC has always practiced white hat SEO, and so far we have not found a single current client of ours punished by Panda (although a long dormant client who did much of their own SEO has come back to DISC for help in redressing a 40% drop in business starting on the day Panda went live).

In some forms of managerial accounting, risks are factored into ROI projections of capital investments and into the current value of the company. This logic applies to investments you have already made, so that the risks of those investments failing at any time in the future reduce the current value of your firm. Some simple math illustrates this principle.

  • $100,000 capital investment (in a new machine or in SEO, for example) is predicted to improve profits by $500,000 in one year.
  • But there’s a 50% risk of failure (in equipment or SEO) causing, in turn, a 50% reduction of the $500,000 ROI.
  • This means $275,000 ROI, not $400,000 (subtracting the $100,000 investment from the pre-risk-adjusted $500,000 increase in profits)

However, black or grey hat SEO can risk decreases in current organic-based profits, never mind the risk of not achieving increases. That math looks like this:

  • $100,000 capital investment in SEO is predicted to improve profits by $500,000 in one year.
  • But there’s a 50% risk of failure in SEO causing no increases and a 50% reduction of the, say, current $1,000,000 in annual organic-based profit.
  • This means negative $100,000 ROI (loss), which is $600,000 less ROI than would be the case if you eliminated the 50% risk.

While it is impossible to predict exact ROI and risks, the principle of risk nonetheless holds, and it should guide your SEO investments. If you take no SEO risks and, per Panda, you invest in website usability as well, or if you invest in eliminating all current risks, then the present value of your company rises immediately.

Business, like equity investments of all kinds, is all about reducing risks. Less risk of future losses via white hat SEO and usability enhancements adds current value to your business portfolio — and certainly to your peace of mind.

Should You Hire an In-House SEM Employee?

Should You Hire a Search Marketing Employee?

Should You Hire a Search Marketing Employee? (photo courtesy of BusinessInsider.com/negativity-has-no-place-at-your-startup-2010-6

My previous post discussed considerations in contracting with an SEM consultant, and concluded that you should (1) ask how the firm trains new and old employees and (2) interview the people who will actually work on your account. Here I address criteria for hiring in-house.

My 2003 article “SEM: In-House vs. Outsourced” published at SEMPO.org (Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization) is still well worth reading. It’s executive summary states:

“SEM (Search Engine Marketing), which consists of the distinct activities of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and paid placement, requires exceptional linguistic and technical aptitude, at least six months of experience, and ongoing research and training. Therefore, a manager who would like to have SEM expertise in-house should expect to allocate at least $50,000 (in the US) towards employee salary and training. Good programmers rarely make good search engine marketers, because of the highly linguistic nature of the work, so that a manager should be cautious about using existing web programmers for SEM. Marketing personnel may have the linguistic and product knowledge, but they need to have substantial technical knowledge of web programming relating to search engines. Even in SEM firms, it is rare that one person possesses sufficient mastery of the various fields of knowledge that impinge on SEM, and people who do have this mastery are likely to cost more than $50,000 per year.”

I then discuss the core aptitudes required of an SEM employee, in order of importance: linguistic aptitude, research skills, brains and education, technical aptitudes and experience, SEM experience. The only change to that priority I would make now is to move SEM experience up one notch.

I also discuss the kinds of business situations that warrant hiring.

Consider the problem of needing less SEO work after year one and the lack of synergies when using just one SEM employee. In theory, if any one facet of search marketing will cost more than, say, $80,000 in labor per year, you’re better off hiring in-house. However, the various parts of search marketing these days work best when synced together with several synchronized people each commanding distinct disciplines within search marketing. Such a team can deliver far more synergies than a single employee. Also, many SEO tasks require a majority of the labor in the first year, at least on a single web site that doesn’t undergo major changes each year, which means that an in-house expert would eventually run out of cost-effective jobs.

The tendency is to not hire soon enough because most businesses aren’t qualified to project the ROI of search marketing, and many firms have been burned by unscrupulous or incompetent SEM firms in the past. I advise paying an SEM firm well to assess the ROI of hiring in-house vs. contracting an SEM consultancy. If you don’t pay the firm well for this work, you may end up with a proposal disguised as an objective study which concludes that, what do you know, you should engage that SEM firm.

Why are Search Marketing Firms like Hospitals?

Who is the search marketing "Professional" cutting into your website

Have you met the search marketing employee cutting into your website?

The hospital’s website rocks, but who the heck will be holding the scalpel over your anesthetized body? Likewise, a search marketing firm can sport a fantastic website, employ great sales people, be led by a luminary (who used to do the actual work), but success for your website depends entirely on the person or people actually doing the work for you.

In search marketing, there’s no upper limit to the expression of genius. An SEO or PPC Einstein would blow away the best of us every day. Like law or medicine, the professionals working directly on your case make all the difference. But in law or medicine, usually the goal is either accomplished or not: a surgeon doesn’t remove 80% of a tumor, and you’re either in jail or you’re not. In search marketing, each step in the sequence of work – a sequence which itself is a product of many brilliant choices about tools and processes – the search marketing pro (or his pre-conscious mind) will make key decisions almost every minute.

For example, in SEO, selecting key phrases to lace into your website is helped by software that ranks hundreds or thousands of synonymous phrases, and the final choice of phrases depends on an intuitive grasp of how much your inbound linkscape and subsequent PageRank will enable you to win for the shorter, more competitive and searched phrases vs. long-tail phrases for which page one positions are more likely. When writing the selected phrases into your text, the choice of repetition and close variants should factor, quickly and intuitively, the amount of conceptually related words and phrases already in that page’s copywriting. In theory, one could make such choices using more software and statistics, but that could take hours for every word choice. The SEO Einstein’s preconscious genius would make most of those choices with lightning speed and staggering acumen.

In PPC, rigorous and standardized optimization procedures that any bright employee could follow would accomplish a lot of success for you. However, the PPC Einstein would rapidly intuit the optimum blend of ad copy, landing page content, bid amount, and exact, phrase, or broad match with negative keywords – all prior to testing, so that from day one of the campaign weekly optimization is several months ahead of your competition.

Of course employee training, experience, and permission to research on company time are as vital as innate aptitude. A good search marketing firm will have procedures for efficiently transmitting to both new and seasoned employees the knowledge and wisdom in the firm’s and SEM industry’s leading minds. Still, some employees will never achieve that grace in search marketing which emerges from a rare blend of linguistic and statistical perspicacity.

So what does this all mean for your prioritization of web marketing investments? More than I can say in one blog post, but the salient advice for the marketing manager seeking a search marketing firm is to

  1. Ask how the firm trains new and old employees;
  2. Interview the people who will actually work on your account.

If you are considering hiring an in-house search marketer, stay tuned for my blog post next week.

When is Social Media a Better Investment Than SEO?

As a small business make sure your web marketing dollars make sense. Photo credit: Tennekis Wiki Commons

In a recent post Rob painted a bleak picture of the SEO playing field for small businesses – that an ever increasing number of small businesses soon won’t be able to compete in the organic search space because of limited budgets and increasingly savvy and well invested competition.

For some small businesses that time has already come.

Take the business owner who was experiencing booming success with his local restaurant. Great atmosphere, cheerful employees, decent food, ample parking, and the aroma of freshly roasting coffee made his restaurant a hot spot. So when he wanted to take his popular fresh-roasted coffee online, SEO seemed the logical route.

If all these people loved his coffee, why shouldn’t the search engines?

Because search engine spiders can’t taste coffee, nor can they see your local social proof, so they instead use complex algorithms to determine who makes it to the top, including the site’s age and authority, and there’s even speculation that well-known brands get an extra boost. Trying to compete as a small business with a relatively new site for competitive words is not an option for such a business.

If Not SEO, What Should a Small Business Do When They Have a Really Great Product?

People can taste coffee, and it’s people, not formulas, that run social media.

Invest in social media. And by invest, I mean invest in hiring an experienced social media firm or consultant to develop a clear and focused strategy, complete with tracking mechanisms for ROI measurement. Once you have that in hand, you can implement the strategy in-house. Not just to save money, but because an effective Social Media strategy really should be implemented in-house by the people who are most passionate and knowledgeable about your product or service.

For most mid-sized to large businesses, SEO should be the first point of attack. It establishes the all-important virtual “location, location, location” on the World Wide Web. For these businesses, social media can supplement, and is often best used for other marketing tactics such as brand awareness, market research, or customer service/relations, but organic search optimization is the best foundation.

For a small business though, social media can sometimes be the best first-line marketing tactic.

How to Know

How do you know when Social Media is your best first investment in online marketing? Here are some clues:

  • You’re a small business with fewer than 10 full time employees.
  • Your site is new.
  • Your site has little or no PageRank.
  • Your product or service area is highly saturated online – do a search for the general term that describes your product or service. If the top 10 results are strong contenders, you won’t be able to touch them as a small business.
  • Your product or service is one of many, but unique or special in some way.
  • Brand Advocate Opportunity – You already have a loyal local customer base that comes to you versus the competition for some specific reason. I.E. you have the best coffee within a 100 mile radius, or your customer service makes people feel good.
  • Your business has a brick and mortar component so that online success will not make or break your bottom line, but will grow it.
  • Your online marketing budget is less than $3-4K.

Warning

Many small businesses falsely think they can handle social media completely on their own. They recruit a member of their staff, usually someone young who is well versed with Facebook or Twitter, and set them loose. Or sometimes the business owner is savvy enough in social media themselves to make a go of it. Of course there are cases of this working rather well, but there are plenty of disastrous cases too. Best-case disaster scenario is an unfocused and ineffective campaign that bleeds time and resources with little to no results, souring business owners on the effectiveness of social media. Worst-case scenario – one major faux-pas can bring your whole business to a screeching halt. It is well worth hiring an expert to guide you, and definitely to have on call if disaster strikes.

How Social Media Can Open SEO Opportunities

The best part of investing in social media first, and investing well, is that it can open SEO opportunities for later. For example, a well-written and interesting blog incorporated into your site can capture long-tail search (less competitive, but less searched for terms), offer fresh content to the search engines for real-time search, and inspire incoming links that boost your PageRank. All of this preps your site to be eligible for investing in SEO later down the line, further boosting your online positioning strategy. Not to mention, if your social media strategy worked, you’ll have the money to invest in expert SEO services.

One Caveat

Are there cases where SEO can work for small business? That really gets determined on a case-by-case basis. It could be that your small business offers something in a generally competitive online marketplace, but fills a certain niche for which long-tail keywords can get you enough traction for success. Most search marketing firms offer free assessments to help you determine your best online marketing opportunities given your site’s current positions, the state of your competition, and your budget.

Can Spending Too Little on PPC Labor Cost You More?

Balancing PPC Labor and Click Costs

The Tug of War between PPC Labor Time and Click Costs

In previous posts I discussed how to allocate investments in SEO, and DISC’s head PPC guy, Dale Webb, recently posted on determining your ideal PPC budget. Here, I try to help you understand that if you spend too little in monthly PPC management, you will pay more in click costs – often more than revenue or profit per conversion.

Think of it: if you divide costs by hourly rate to get labor time, even $2000 a month at a suspiciously low $100 per hour is less than one hour per business day. And think about the work that must be done in PPC (and in shopping comparison site marketing, which is also PPC-driven, except for Google Product Search):

One must

  • write brilliant ads with the discipline of haiku;
  • assess and choose from among thousands of phrase combinations — each with options for exact, phrase, broad, and negative matching;
  • produce ad groupings that maximize quality score and minimize the risk that a few bad ads will spoil the adgroup barrel;
  • marry each landing page text with each ad;
  • track which of several positions produce the best combination of clicks and conversions, for every ad;
  • do split A-B and multivariate tests on landing pages to maximize conversions;
  • report clearly the results, the plans for next month, and the precise ROI;
  • keep reading and learning to stay apprised of the most profitable tactics;
  • and choose and tune many other variables that the search engines allow you to alter.

All of this work must be done by an excellent mind with exceptional linguistic and analytic aptitude, and lots of experience. If you don’t do this work at least as well as your top 10 competitors, you will pay much more in click costs relative to conversions than you will save in labor cost.

Of course the extent and acumen of your PPC competition is a major variable in the calculus of how little labor time you can get away with before you fall below maximum ROI towards negative ROI. But remember that Google’s market capitalization is close to GE’s because 95% of Google’s enormous revenue comes from its PPC, which means few industries are under-investing in PPC now. Increasingly, if a website has mediocre or worse usability (conversion rates), or if a business’s margins are too low, no amount of PPC expertise and time will produce profit.

Having managed PPC campaigns for as long as they have existed, we at DISC have found that $1500 per month in labor (10 hours per month, or 2.5 hours per week) is the minimum labor time – and that’s in industries with poor PPC competition, and after more time up front to set-up the campaign. Average PPC competition requires at least $2500 per month, usually $3500. Of course large businesses often spend upwards of $50,000 per month in labor to achieve maximum ROI.

The substantial amount of labor time required to find, implement, and tune the lowest hanging fruit means that you can’t just dip your toe into PPC to “test” the waters. A valid test must look at the best opportunities in PPC, and ascertaining those opportunities takes highly skilled time – the easy quick pickings have long since been bid up to the max.

If you are among the fortunate few, your resistance to spend what it takes is shared by most of your competition, which means you have opportunity to win profitable business that they neglected. Moreover, because there is a shortage of PPC talent, a gifted (and thus well-paid) PPC manager – who is given enough time — can deliver great ROI even if your collective competition is heavy. Fortune favors the bold – and the smart.