Medium Data ROI Beats Big Data

Fortune 2000 companies wield big data to achieve marketing ROI that crushes competition. But in a David and Goliath story, Medium Data slays giants.

Medium Data vs. Big Data
David and Goliath (from

Here I aim to coin the term “Medium Data” and explain why it can achieve higher ROI than Big Data.

By now even the general population has a sense of what “Big Data” is, but most web marketing executives don’t see how far Big Data reduces the marketing cost of acquiring new and repeat customers. Artificial intelligence (AI) and its subspecies machine learning accelerate the speed of gathering and using not only mainstream data like credit card purchases and browsing history, but also far-flung and spotty data, like patterns of proximity to stores or timing of boarding a flight to Rome. Economies of scale in AI-driven marketing automation–including on-the-fly prioritization of web page content–increasingly propel top corporations’ ROI. But the sling and stone of Medium Data deployed by a canny David can at least drop Goliath to one knee.

The stone is data you already have or can acquire easily. The sling is new platforms like Google Big Query and Data Studio. David is the warrior who knows how to use this weapon. Look, there are diminishing marginal returns from the more difficult to acquire and disparate data. Applying advanced digital marketing knowledge to only the most important sets of data means less “I” (investment) than with Big Data, raising your ROI above Goliath’s.

An Example of Medium Data in Action

Imagine this: Using Medium Data, you discover three topics and 30 pages of your website that, given a relatively small amount of SEO work, will produce over double the ROI of any other marketing channel you used in the past. Before medium data, you could have discovered this opportunity by stitching together sources such as Google Analytics, Search Console, search engine rank, and keyword difficulty scores. That’s what good search marketing firms have done for years. But now, with Google’s revolutionary new tools in G Suite and with new APIs for importing diverse data, we can do better..

Now Medium Data–gathered via APIs into Google Sheets and a Big Query database, then analyzed in part by free AI, then rendered and clearly displayed by Data Studio–reveals your most cost-effective next steps within or among marketing channels, like SEO, PPC, CRO, or email marketing. The requisite data has long been available to you but it was too difficult and expensive to gather and analyze. Examples of this data are InLinks per page, conversion rate by types of click path through your site or by browser or by demographic attribute, average page load time, average profit per offering, and recent trends in competitors’ advertising spend. In Medium Data, expertise earns its place at your table by knowing what data to select and how to weigh and correlate it in order to reveal your next best move.

For years firms have offered software that uses Medium Data, but it starts at $3,000 a month and goes way up from there. Google has “disintermediated” many marketing models, like radio and newspaper advertising, and it’s happening again in the arena of such software.

Your Smartest Next Move

Obviously I want you to contact DISC to explore your options here. But with or without DISC, your next best move is to get David and his sling and stone on your side.

Dealing with SEO Impact of Google Removing Right-side PPC Ads

During about a week in February ’16, Google removed Adwords PPC ads from the right side of desktop search results (mobile never had them). More importantly for your SEO performance than for your PPC, Google also added a slot to the ads on top, for a total of 4. This pushes down organic listings and subsequent traffic to websites.

Google Chops PPC Ads and Organic Listings
Google Chops PPC Ads and Organic Listings

This change continues a several year trend of ever less top screen space devoted to organic results. I’ve said for years that investing little or nothing in SEO means, on average, losing 6% to 10% per year in organic traffic. This trend continues. In other words, merely maintaining organic traffic is really a 6% to 10% improvement.

The four PPC ads appearing in smaller mobile screens will depress organic traffic from smartphones and some tablets more than desktop, and that traffic is close to 50% web-wide.

Stats have yet to emerge on the web-wide impact on organic traffic. Reportedly, four PPC ads appear only for competitive commercial searches, but most fields are competitive, and my spot checking all kinds of clients showed 4 ads most of the time. One study shows the number of four PPC ads increasing rapidly now.

The upshot is that you should add a 2/15/16 notation about this in your Google Analytics, and check your results before and after.

What can be done to compensate? In general, keep investing in SEO, like you do in other sales and marketing. More specifically, deploy markup and other tactics to ensure a good Google Knowledge Panel, which is in the upper right of Google search pages and summarizes entities, like businesses or rockstars or museums or most anything. It’s a good bet that Google will increasingly use the right side of desktop for special content, like medical condition summaries, flight status, definitions, and anything else relevant to a search. This data often comes from mark-up.

Of course this PPC change impacts Adwords management, but any good AdWords pro will know what to do, and this is just one small part of the PPC dashboard that rivals a fighter pilot cockpit. It’s really business as usual for PPC.

How to Avoid PPC Rip-Offs

Recently I’ve had a front row seat to a seemingly good PPC firm ripping off a client. It is a vivid case within the all too prevalent trend of bad PPC firms that hurt the reputation of the whole search marketing industry and drain cash and opportunity from clients.

PPC Fraud, Waste, or Abuse In this case the perpetrator is a Google Partner who broke Google’s Partner rules, and engaged in egregious disrespect for the client. The client (now with DISC) is a substantial organization employing hundreds–and perhaps soon to employ a few less thanks to funds drained fruitlessly by the dishonest PPC agency.

I often tell prospects that the greatest danger is not the robo-called or spam-emailed promises of “page one in Google” and the like, which are obvious scams, but rather the firms that have good websites, stellar sales people, even Google Adwords Partner status, yet mercilessly exploit business people’s lack of knowledge of what good PPC and SEO require.

Case in point:

  • The offending PPC firm, which is a Google “Premier Partner” (their website claims one of only 21 in the US) set-up a PPC campaign for a regional service where 75% of the spend was triggered by any searches containing a single, very general word nationwide, for about $7 per click. 95%+ of searches triggering ads were almost totally irrelevant and drained the monthly budget within days.
  • Similarly absurd PPC ads were dumped into an AdWords account that was not optimized in the least for well over a year.
  • The bounce rate was over 8 times that of organic traffic, and PPC done right almost always has much lower bounce rates and higher conversions.
  • No conversion goals were set-up in Google Analytics.
  • The agency denied the client access to their AdWords account, claiming that such access would show the client all of the PPC firm’s client accounts. The agency presumed the client does not know that Google enables agency client centers to give single-client access. In fact, Google strongly encourages its partners to give this access to clients.

I will report this firm to Google. Google wants businesses to trust Google Partners, so Google encourages use of their complaint form at .

You might be inclined to accuse the client of mismanagement in allowing this to happen, but marketing managers dealing with all marketing often don’t have the time to learn how to evaluate PPC performance and firms–that’s why they seek a professional that is Google certified!

Here’s the truth about PPC (and SEO) that you won’t hear from salespeople at the PPC factory firms: it takes a lot of training and time to do well. Good PPC requires more training than lawyers get in law school and the first two years on the job. Done right, though, most businesses will earn better returns than from any other marketing channel. If a business can’t afford the most cost-effective marketing available, well, what does that say about the business model? Many managers desperately want to believe that good PPC costs less than it does, and even a mediocre salesperson can turn that desperation into big sales commissions.

Because PPC is so complicated now, it is indeed difficult to assess an agency or freelancer. Still, it is possible, and here’s a list of criteria with cautions about the fallibility of the criteria.

  1. Is the firm a Google Partner? I hope the case above is a rare exception to the rule that Google Partner status indicates competence and honesty. However, passing the partner certification test used to be brutally difficult, and now the test can be passed by practically anyone willing to do a few hours of prep reading. Moreover, while the firm may have certified employees, none of them may manage your PPC. Ascertain exactly who in the firm will work on your campaign, speak with him or her, and speak with his or her current or very recent clients.
  2. Does the firm have a good track record? It may, but that could be by the leaders of the firm who are now managing the firm towards big profits and no longer managing PPC for clients. Even terrible firms with a few years experience can have at least a few success stories to tout. After getting a list of references, perhaps in the proposal, ask for the complete client list and choose ones to speak with who are not on the first list.
  3. Will the firm give you actual reports for current or recent clients? Good PPC reports reveal to non-experts the ROI performance. Though such reports don’t indicate how much better the PPC could have performed, they at least show if the PPC is profitable for the client.
  4. Does the firm offer predictive analytics? PPC ROI can usually be ascertained accurately enough before launching a campaign. It takes excellent skills to produce such projections, so you assess the firm and get ROI projections without a large cash commitment.

Pretty much everything else is not a good criteria:

  • Publishing history: This means little now that anyone can publish somewhere. It is worth reading what the person who will do all or most of your PPC has published, but great PPC pros may do little or no publishing because their results and word of mouth accomplish all the promotion they need.
  • Impressive website: While a terrible website is a warning, a good one can be the equivalent of a great snake oil salesman–high art in sales, scoundrel in results.
  • Membership in or certifications by trade associations: though better than being in none, this is the firm marketing itself, not its clients. Search marketing has no associations like the AMA or ABA. That is, anyone who pays to get into the association is in, and there are no rigorous admission tests like there are throughout the process of becoming a lawyer. The Google Partner program is the best, but as the above example shows, it’s no guarantee.

I could debunk other qualifications, and I bet you could too if you think critically.

In the end, what really matters is what the person who will do all or most of your PPC has done for other clients, as shown by monthly reports actually sent to past clients, and as confirmed by your speaking with those clients.

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.

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

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 (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.

Tips for Determining your Ideal PPC Budget Part 2

Polish abacus - Liczydło
We'd recommend a calculator, but it's your call.

Welcome to Part 2 of “Tips for Determining your Ideal PPC Budget”. Last week, in Part 1, we started talking about a strategy for determining your ideal budget for PPC (for those who haven’t been lucky enough to have such a budget imposed upon them from above). This strategy helps take a lot of the guesswork out of the process, and can give a pretty close to accurate projection of what a business could expect to gain under various budget scenarios. We figured out our average sale amount, our estimated conversion rate, and our estimated cost-per-click in Part 1. And now, it’s time for the fun part…

Let’s Do the Math!

Using your average sale amount, your estimated conversion rate, and your estimated CPC, you can make predictions based on different budgets.

Let’s start with a very modest budget of $5,000/month. The average sale amount is $200, estimated conversion rate is 1.5%, and average CPC is $1.50:

$5,000/month (budget) /$1.50 (CPC) x 1.5% (conversion rate) x $200 (average sale amount) = $10,000 (net revenue)

Not bad! But you need to factor your costs, including cost of goods, click costs, and any fees for a professional PPC firm to manage your campaign (I wouldn’t recommend trying to run a PPC campaign without quite a bit of training, as it is so easy throw money away if you don’t know all the ins and outs). Let’s say you’ve paid a PPC firm $2000 to manage your campaign for the month, and that for every order, 45% of the selling price goes toward manufacturing costs:

$10,000 (net revenue) x 65% (portion of product revenue retained after factoring production costs) – $5000 (click charges) – $2000 (management fees) = -$500 (immediate gross profit)

Oh no! After factoring in your costs, you’re in the negative. Of course, if you consider longer term effects such as likely future repeat purchases by these new customers, not to mention synergies between PPC and other sources of traffic, you’ll get a lot more than the immediate figures indicate. Still, it seems that at this level of spending, you can’t really expect to earn much ROI, if any, up front. Even if you were to bring up conversion rates significantly, the return would be in the positive, but still relatively low.

Increase the Budget, Increase the Returns

Let’s see what happens with a $15K budget. We’ll factor more out of the overall budget for management costs, and assume our firm has been able to at least keep conversion rates steady:

$15,000/month (budget) /$1.50 (CPC) x 1.5% (conversion rate) x $200 (average sale amount) = $30,000 (net revenue)

$30,000 (net revenue) x 65% (portion of product revenue retained after factoring production costs) – $15,000 (click charges) – $4000 (management fees) = $500 (immediate gross profit)

That’s looking a lot better! It’s not a huge immediate profit, but it goes to show how increasing scale can tip ROI in your favor. Of course, if conversion rates are increased, ROI is boosted and more gross profit is ultimately generated. For instance, in the above scenario, if conversion rates were brought up by just 0.5%, profits would increase significantly:

$15,000/month (budget) /$1.50 (CPC) x 2% (conversion rate) x $200 (average sale amount) = $40,000 (net revenue)

$40,000 (net revenue) x 65% (portion of product revenue retained after factoring production costs) – $15,000 (click charges) – $4000 (management fees) = $7,000 (immediate gross profit)

By using formulas like this, and experimenting with different budgets, conversion rates, and CPC, it can take a lot of the guesswork out of what to expect from your campaign. PPC is a bit unpredictable, so any calculations you make shouldn’t be read too literally, but formulas like this can definitely help to give direction as to how much of an investment and what sorts of conversion rates will likely be needed to return positive ROI.

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.

Tips for Determining your Ideal PPC budget Part 1

How much to invest in PPC can be a bewildering task for business owners. We are often approached by companies that already have a PPC budget in mind, and just need us to help determine how to best allocate that budget. Just as often, though, companies have no idea how much they should be spending on PPC, and need some advice. Here are a few techniques we use to figure out a reasonable figure.

Determine your average sale amount. Get an average for the entire year if possible, as to account for any seasonal fluctuations in sales volume. (Note: in this article we’re focusing on e-commerce sites, but the same principles could be applied to a non e-commerce site by assigning theoretical monetary values to whatever actions you’re trying to drive, whether it be a newsletter sign-up, a phone call, or anything else you’re hoping will occur as a result of this advertising)

Estimate conversion rate. Typically PPC, when done right, produces higher conversion rates than most other sources of traffic to a site. And, as the campaign develops, you further qualify through optimization until you’re targeting only the highest-converting traffic. What to expect for an initial conversion rate can be tough to figure out with no previous PPC data to look at as a reference point. So many variables play into conversion rate (ad copy quality, landing page, overall site quality, etc.) Still, most search marketing companies that have been around awhile have handled campaigns in many industries, and may be able to give you an idea based on their past experiences.

Estimate average CPC. Run a handful of the most basic terms that describe your business through Google’s Traffic Estimator to see what you can expect to pay, on average, per click, for your most popular terms. Of course part of PPC is finding the less searched on, more qualified, cheaper and higher converting keywords, but this will work for a rough estimate.

In Part 2, we’ll show you how we can use this information to make predictions about what kind of return we might get under different budget scenarios.

Top 3 Things to Look for when Hiring a PPC Agency

This is a topic that’s been covered in many other blogs over the years, but I thought I’d add my own perspective, especially since it has somewhat changed over the years as PPC Marketing, particularly Google Adwords, has developed. The initial approach a potential PPC firm should take to managing your campaign would vary quite a bit depending on several factors such as type of site/industry, whether there’s an existing campaign, etc. So, there isn’t really a set list of questions that would suit every case. Whatever the situation, there are certain skills you should be sure a potential PPC firm posesses before it is trusted with managing your campaign.

1. Experience
Not nearly enough can be said about this. There is a certain understanding of PPC advertising, and how it fits in and influences other types of traffic, that can only come with years of experience in managing campaigns and interpreting statistics. If your potential firm doesn’t have adequate experience, they are likely to make a lot of trial and error mistakes that a more experienced firm would foresee, causing your campaigns to deliver lower ROI than they should, especially in the beginning. The ads are also the “face” of your company, and if the ad copy is poor, or the landing pages are not intuitive based on the search query, your image and reputation could be damaged for good. Ask how many years your campaign manager has been doing PPC professionally. A manager should have years of experience with all sorts of different sites and all sorts of different budgets. Also, find out how much this person will actually be managing your campaign, or if the majority of the work will be passed on to a less-experienced underling.

2. Progression
Experience without progression is pretty much useless. New features in Adwords are being added all the time, and advertisers who are early adopters can gain a huge edge over the competition, or at least remain competitive if the competition is also using the latest tools and techniques. Evaluating the degree to which the potential firm is progressive, and just their overall level of skill, can be tough without being a professional yourself. However, you can get an idea of how up-to-date the firm is by asking about some new Adwords developments and seeing how well they can explain them to you. It would be very worthwhile for the person evaluating a potential PPC firm to do a little reading on the Google Adwords Blog, particularly posts like this: Put the potential firm on the spot; pick a few of those new Adwords features and ask them to explain them to you in plain terms verbally, and whether or not they think any of these features would be useful for your campaign. Or, just ask them, what are some of the latest features in Adwords and how can we utilize them? If the manager doesn’t know about this stuff by now they’re pretty much in the dust, as will be your campaign.

3. Reporting
Reporting should be totally transparent, and you should get some sort of regular, standardized report that clearly shows the current and historical ROI of the campaign. The report should factor in all costs, including click costs and whatever fees are paid to the managing firm. You need to make sure you can easily verify the figures being reported to you, particularly conversions. When dealing with a large amount of data, the figures can easily be presented in a way that really slants things to give more credit to the PPC campaign than it really deserves. Have the firm explain how they will be measuring performance i.e. what analytics package will they use. Whatever they do, you should at least have something of your own that you control, like Google Analytics, set up on your site with conversion tracking. You need to make sure the managing firm will evaluate PPC performance within the context of overall site performance. Sometimes PPC done wrong can not only provide negative ROI itself, but also negatively affect other forms of traffic. When done right, PPC should not only provide positive ROI, but also provide a synergetic boost to other forms of traffic, particularly organic and direct. Make sure the potential firm will be monitoring these sorts of effects, and spend as much time as you can on your own looking at and trying to understand your own stats.