My Top 3 PPC Blog Posts of 2013

Here we are in the waning days of 2013, and the web is abuzz with “year in review” and “predict next year” posts. I actually find these posts to be fun – it’s interesting to look back and see if our predictions came true, and it’s good to have the “best of the best” in one post.

In true New Years fashion, let’s count down to the top 3 posts on my blog from 2013, as determined by page views. Enjoy!

#3: What’s Up With Bing Ads?

This post was written in September 2012, and yet it was the 3rd most popular post this year. As my longtime readers know, over the years I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Bing Ads. This post covers both good and bad at that time – some of the issues I ranted about have since been fixed.

#2: 8 Killer Landing Page Optimization Tips for PPC

In April, I asked the experts at PPC Chat to give me their best landing page optimization tip for PPC. They came through with flying colors in this popular post – and readers offered additional tips in the comments. This one is worth a bookmark.

#1: My Top 10 PPC Blogs

Here, I list my go-to sources of great PPC news and information. If you’re not reading these blogs, what are you waiting for? Again, readers shared additional resources in the comments.

I hope you enjoy these posts, whether as a review or in case you missed them the first time around. Happy New Year, everyone!

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Reader Poll: PPC Topics for 2014

Thanksgiving was last week, and people are still thinking about what they’re thankful for. I’m thankful for a lot of things: my family, my awesome job, my Michigan State Spartans, and much more.

I’m also very thankful for you, my blog readers. Without you, I’d be, well, talking to myself. Many of you I’ve never met; many others I have met in real life and we’ve become friends. Whichever camp you fall into, thank you.

Now is your chance to tell me what PPC topics you’d like to hear more about in 2014. Answer the poll below and let me know!

Got something special you’re thankful for? Share in the comments!

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The Top 3 PPC Engines That Don’t Want My Money

Here it is – the post I’ve been threatening to write. In today’s online advertising world, it seems as though new social media platforms are sprouting every day, and adding an ad network at the same time. Advertisers are excited about testing out new platforms like Promoted Pins and Instagram Ads.

Most of the new platforms’ ad interfaces are awful. Even some stalwart PPC engine interfaces are awful. Now it’s time to name names. Here are the top 3 PPC engines that don’t seem to want my money.

#1: LinkedIn Ads

I work at a B2B-focused agency, so naturally many of our clients are interested in LinkedIn ads. We’ve had good luck with LinkedIn – the nice thing about advertising with them is that if you reach just a handful of people in your key target audience, the ads pay for themselves. As a result, clients who try LinkedIn are often eager to spend more money once they see the results.

And what a challenge it is to spend more money. LinkedIn’s advertising interface has countless shortcomings, and they’re detailed in this wonderful post by Merry Morud over at aimClear, so I won’t rehash most of them here.

I have to mention the timeout issue, though. The LI interface times out after about 5 minutes, even if you are working in it. Yes folks, you can be in the middle of adding companies to a campaign (one by one, because there is no bulk upload), and then it times out. It’s enough to make me take my money and go someplace else, like Facebook which never times out.

The icing on the user interface disaster cake is that LinkedIn’s CPCs are well above industry averages. The minimum CPC on one of our campaigns is $4.00 – because we excluded entry-level people. LinkedIn, please take some of that exorbitant CPC you’re charging and use it to overhaul your interface.

#2: Twitter Ads

In Twitter’s defense, their ad platform is fairly new. They haven’t had a lot of time to work out the bugs. Also, audience data is limited to 140 characters – so it’s no easy task to achieve laser-focused targeting.

Still, Twitter Ads leaves so much to be desired. For one thing, their reporting is TERRIBLE. It took me about a week to even find out where to download a custom report.

Imagine you’re new to Twitter. Where would you go to download a report?

twitter report

I see the “CSV” button, but it’s not clear that that’s the button you click to customize your report. Even at that, the available stats are very limited.

The thing is, if I can’t download detailed results data, I can’t optimize the campaign. If I can’t optimize the campaign, I’m not inclined to keep spending money there.

Another big downfall of Twitter ads is the lack of dayparting. Businesses often want to promote tweets during business hours, not at 2am when Twitter is full of drunk college students. Want to do that? No can do.

Limited options mean limited spend, Twitter.

#3: Facebook Ads

I realize I praised Facebook Ads earlier in this post. They have many, many positive features.

The constant changes to their ads interface are not on that list.

Merry Morud strikes again with a nice comment on the latest changes:

FB ads

(Side note: If you want a good laugh, go read the whole conversation, especially Andrew Goodman’s response. You won’t be disappointed.)

I had the same challenge as Merry with updating URLs. Like most FB advertisers, to create new ads I duplicate ads and then edit them. I tried this in Power Editor, but it wouldn’t let me edit the destination URL. All I was doing was updating the Google Analytics tag – I wasn’t changing the URL itself. And what if I did want to change the URL? So what? Why can’t I do that, Facebook?

If I can’t track it, I can’t optimize it. If I can’t optimize it… You know the rest.

Honorable Mention: Bing Ads

Sorry Bing – I have to put you guys on the list for the recent login fiasco. You did not win friends and influence PPC’ers with that move. I was thisclose to pulling every dime out of Bing when I couldn’t log in.

Thankfully, the issue was resolved and we’re back to seeing the good results we normally do with Bing. I get that there were security issues, but this was not the way to handle them – especially when so many people are reluctant to use Bing due to low traffic.

I find it interesting that Google is all too eager to take our money (case in point: their “optimization” suggestions that equate to “increase your bids” – I just got one of these from them today), and yet their competitors throw up roadblock after roadblock.

Are they competitive with Google? Hardly. I’m not sure they want our money.

What do you think? Do you agree with my list? Got someone to add? Share in the comments!

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Why Agencies Need Better PPC Support

There has been a lot of chatter in the PPC community recently about Google Adwords support, or lack thereof. I’ve written more than my share of rants on the topic. It’s no surprise that Google would bear the brunt of PPC pros’ frustration – after all, they are the market leader and therefore are the platform we all use every day.

But step back from your daily annoyances and think about the big picture that is Google Adwords. They actually have built a decent platform for agencies, with MCCs and sub-MCCs. They have Adwords Editor. They have Google Partners.

I know Google Partners is nothing to write home about. But have you tried working in any of the social PPC platforms? Tried contacting their PPC support team? Gotten any nice gifts from them?

I thought so.

Here’s the thing. Agencies handle many (not all, but many) of the large PPC accounts out there. We are frequently the ones getting advertisers to try new things like Pinterest Ads. It behooves the search engines to give us the support we need to spend our clients’ money!

I’m sure that many of the questions crossing the desks of the engines’ PPC support staff are basic, and likely come from mom and pop advertisers trying to do PPC themselves. So why should the PPC engines offer any support to agencies when our numbers are relatively small? Isn’t general support enough?

No. And here’s why.

We are not beginners.

Sure, agencies hire new PPC staff all the time, and frequently these new hires have no experience with PPC. The fact of the matter is, though, the newbies aren’t always the ones calling Google or Bing for help. In the agency world, many of us who call are very experienced in PPC. Experienced PPC’ers see support calls as a last resort. We’ve already exhausted all other resources, including reading the help files and tinkering with the interface ourselves. We’re stuck, and that’s why we’re calling.

Therefore, we need dedicated PPC support staffers who are experienced themselves. This is where Bing really shines. We have a dedicated team at Bing, and they are experts. They are not the latest new hires cutting their teeth on the 1-866 number. They get that we get it, so on calls we dispense with the basics and talk strategy; and when we have a problem, they don’t read us the help files – they go in and fix it.

That’s what we want from you, Google – and from all the rest of you: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… LinkedIn only offers support via email, and I don’t think Facebook or Twitter offer it at all. So when we do have a question or something isn’t working, guess what? We often pull our money and spend it elsewhere.

We handle multiple clients.

Like I mentioned earlier, Google is the leader by a long shot in making it easy to work with multiple clients. Bing has gotten better, but their MCC-equivalent leaves a lot to be desired. Facebook has a decent interface for multiple accounts – and they have Power Editor which is awesome. But their reporting is pretty terrible, and both the online UI and Power Editor are glitchy at times.

LinkedIn? Well, they sort of have an MCC but its usefulness is totally overshadowed by the fact that their ads interface times out after about 5 minutes.

A few weeks ago, I was creating a campaign for a client who wanted to target 100 companies. After painstakingly spending an hour entering each company one by one (since LI has no bulk upload function whatsoever), I hit “next” and got the login screen. Thankfully, LI did save my work – but why give people that heart attack?

Agencies are in PPC interfaces all day. Don’t time them out! Facebook and Twitter never time out on me, and neither does Google. Bing only does after several hours of inactivity. C’mon LinkedIn – if you want agencies to spend money with you, don’t force them out of the ads interface every 5 minutes.

I joked on Twitter a while back that I was going to write a blog post called “The Top 3 PPC Engines That Don’t Want My Money.” Let’s hope we get some fast improvement, or I may yet write that post.

What do you think? Is agency PPC support just a pipe dream for all but the largest spenders? Found a way to get better support? Share in the comments!

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Conversion Rate Optimization: Whose Responsibility Is It, Anyway?

Used to be, in the agency world, we had to sell clients (or bosses – when I say clients here, I’m talking bosses too) on the idea of PPC. Heck, we used to have to sell clients on the idea of a website once upon a time.

As recently as 5-6 years ago, clients didn’t know what PPC was, or that it even existed. That’s all changed now. I’ve met few clients who didn’t have at least a basic understanding of PPC. They may not be experts at it, but they know what it is.

Nowadays it’s not hard to convince clients to engage in PPC, or even SEO for that matter. Driving qualified traffic to your website via search is something almost everyone wants to do.

The challenge today is what happens once people get to the websites.

Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, has been around for a long time. Entire companies exist to help website owners with CRO. Entire books have been written about it. Great blog posts like this one are being written about it. And still, it seems, few companies are actually doing it.

As a PPC manager, then, how much can we be responsible for conversions? And how can we lower the cost per conversion without touching the landing page?

It’s a constant challenge for both agency and in-house PPC’ers. When I worked in-house, I had more input into website optimization than I often do now in an agency setting, but our in-house web development resources were stretched thin. There were always 20 other projects ahead of CRO.

In the agency world, it’s both better and worse. Sometimes we have a budget for CRO – that definitely falls in the “better” camp. But sometimes, clients are unwilling or unable to optimize their websites. I’ve had clients who can’t even install tracking codes, much less use them to optimize for conversion.

So what’s our responsibility as a PPC manager, then? Well, of course there’s still a lot you can do:

  • Optimize ad copy & keywords for conversion rate or cost per conversion
  • Optimize for CPC
  • Pare down the program to the best-converting keywords, ad networks, etc.

Those are all good things to do, depending on the situation. In my opinion, though, a good PPC manager will do one thing no matter what the situation:

Make recommendations for improvement.

So often I see advertisers whose campaigns have been optimized to within an inch of their lives, and yet the website is terrible. It practically scares visitors away instead of enticing them to convert. And of course, conversion rates are low.

It’s our job as PPC managers to recommend simple site changes that could make a big difference in the conversion rate. We may not be the ones to implement the changes, but it’s our responsibility to suggest them.

What do you think? How have you convinced your client or boss to do some CRO? Is CRO your responsibility as a PPC manager, or is it someone else’s? Share in the comments!

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What’s Up With Bing Ads in 2013?

One of the most-viewed posts on this blog is one I wrote in September 2012 called What’s Up With Bing Ads? In that post, I commented on their constant rebranding, interface and editor issues, and support challenges. That post is consistently in the top 10 most-viewed posts on my blog.

Let’s fast forward 13 months and see what’s changed. I just got back from Bing Ads Next, an exclusive event held at Microsoft’s Redmond, WA campus. About 20 of the biggest names in PPC were there, and we spent a day seeing Bing Ads’ version of the future of search.

The highlights of the event have already been covered elsewhere, so I won’t rehash them here.  Instead, let’s review what’s changed with Bing Ads over the past year or so.

Online UI and Editor improvements.

In my 2012 post, I complained about issues with the online UI: it timed out too fast and, despite its overhaul, was still clunky to navigate.

In my opinion, most of the interface issues have since been fixed. It no longer times out after 15 minutes – I’ve been able to stay logged in most of the workday. The import function from Google seems to work well (more on this in a minute). The reporting interface is very fast, and in some ways is better than Google’s.

All that said, there are still niggling things missing from the Bing Ads online UI. During the Bing Ads Next feedback session, Matt Van Wagner said what we were all thinking: Why doesn’t the online UI show conversion rate? It’s 2013, for crying out loud – this is a must-have metric and why it’s not available in Bing Ads can only be a gross oversight.

I won’t even get into the login and account creation issues. The Bing Ads team has heard the PPC community loud and clear on this one. Let’s hope there’s a fix in place before this becomes mandatory in 2014.

Let’s talk about Bing Ads Editor for a second. I use Editor all the time, and it’s improved a lot over the past year, too. The import from Google function is nearly flawless. Editor stayed on par with Google’s move to Enhanced Campaigns – and I can only imagine what a curve ball that was to the Bing Ads development team. The fact that they were able to offer the same features as Google, with the same timing, is a Herculean feat of engineering.

But Bing Ads Editor continues to have silly bugs in it, too. The most recent one is that changes you’ve posted still show bolded in Editor, as if they didn’t post. And, only some of them show up this way. So it’s not clear whether all of your changes posted or not – you’ll have to go look them up in the online UI to be sure.

Bing Ads Support.

Here’s where Bing Ads really shines – far outshines Google and their joke that passes as support. When was the last time Google invited a bunch of PPC influencers to the GooglePlex to talk about Adwords? Anyone? Bueller?

My Bing Ads rep was at all the social functions held during Bing Ads Next. He’s a true partner in helping us succeed, and is knowledgeable and responsive. The weird support issues that I outlined in my 2012 post have, thankfully, gone away. Bing Ads Next attendees universally praised Bing Ads support, both their assigned reps and those who man the Bing Ads Twitter account.

So What’s Really Next for Bing Ads?

Only time will tell. I liked a lot of the new things we saw at the event. I love the fact that Bing Ads is listening to us.

But one comment I heard this week is that there was a little too much talking and not enough listening at the event. Bing, if you’ve brought in what amounts to the best minds and biggest influencers in search, ask them questions! Spend twice as much time listening as you do talking! Learn from them! Don’t lecture them about stuff that they already know. Show them more new concepts and ask them what they think!

Amid rumors that Yahoo wants out of the Bing Ads deal, I don’t think any of us truly knows what’s next for Bing Ads. At its core, Microsoft is a software developer, not a search innovator. Their pace is too slow and their products too bloated to keep up with Google. But I love that they’re trying. With advertiser support that’s far superior to Google, and with better ROI nearly across the board, I still think they have a chance.

What do you think? Is Bing Ads going in the right direction, or are they doomed? Share in the comments!

 

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The Top 5 Ways To Use Pivot Tables For PPC

PPC managers live in Excel. We use it for everything from keyword research, to ad copy creation, to results data crunching. We love Excel so much that a recent PPC Chat discussion centered on it.

Pivot tables are one of the most powerful features of Excel. I discovered the magic of pivot tables fairly recently – I started using them in earnest about 3 years ago. Once I got the hang of them, I wondered why I’d waited so long to use them.

If you’re not using pivot tables to manage PPC, it’s time to start! Here are 5 resources that will help you get started.

Ultimate Visual Guide to Pivot Tables for PPC Data by Mark Jensen at Get Found First.  This is your starting point for learning how to set up pivot tables. You’ll want to bookmark this fantastic resource as you’re learning how to use pivot tables for PPC.

The 10 Reports that Made Me Fall in Love with Pivot Tables by Sean Quadlin at PPC Hero. Sean walks through 10 ways to use pivot tables to analyze your PPC data. If you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s going on with your PPC account performance, try running some of these analyses using pivot tables.

Wasting Money In Your PPC Accounts? Pivot Tables Are Here To Help! by Dave Rosborough at PPC Hero. If you’re a visual learner, check out this how-to video. Dave does a nice walk-through for using pivot tables to figure out where you’re losing money in your PPC campaigns.

Brad Geddes Presents: How to Identify Google AdWords Quality Score Problems by Brad Geddes for PPC Hero. My good friend and PPC Moses Brad Geddes has a guest appearance at PPC Hero with a video on how to use pivot tables to analyze quality score. I first learned about this technique from Brad at HeroConf 2012, and I’ve used it ever since to optimize PPC quality score.

How To Manage Big Data with Pivot Tables by the brilliant Annie Cushing at Search Engine Land. If you’re having trouble with Excel, head over to SEL and read some of Annie’s posts. She’s probably the top expert on Excel in the SEM field. This post is a how-to, complete with screen shots, on culling insight from large data sets using pivot tables.

I use pivot tables weekly, at minimum. My favorite way to use pivot tables for PPC is for ad copy analysis. Finding the best-performing ad is easy with pivot tables.

What’s your favorite way to use pivot tables for PPC? Share in the comments!

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Should PPC Clicks Ever Be A Goal?

From time to time, I like to check out the PPC thread on Reddit. Unlike some other online discussion sites, this has some pretty good questions and answers.

One of the threads I noticed asked the question, “What do you do when a client wants more clicks utilizing the same budget?” The poster was concerned about the lower traffic he was seeing when he reduced the CPC.

The answers given in the thread are quite good. Suggestions included:

  • Shifting budget to the display network
  • Track performance by ad position
  • Prune under-performing keywords
  • Try 3rd tier PPC engines
  • Research new long tail keywords
  • Try retargeting

These are great ways to lower PPC cost per click, although many of them may not deliver the same number of clicks.

Several commenters, though, rightly pointed out that clicks may not be the right metric to focus on. My favorite comment is this: “Clicks is the worst metric of all. It is your job to advise your client to go beyond. What is value to him? What is a conversion? How can you measure it? Can his website be improved conversion-wise (hint: it always can)? Otherwise, these discussions will keep happening over and over again: it is a race to the bottom (emphasis mine).”

I have to agree. It’s not unusual to see clients whose primary goal is site traffic, but they always leave me feeling like 1999 called and wants its hit counter back.

Sure, you can and should look for mid- and long-tail keywords that drive a decent amount of traffic at a low cost. Another thought would be to beef up on brand terms. Brand terms have the added bonus of not only traffic, but usually also a high conversion rate.

But getting more for the same money is just not always possible. After all, don’t we all want more for less? If you’re looking for a new house, wouldn’t you like to get the biggest one for your money?

Think about what that bigger house is going to be like, though. It might be in a not-so-nice neighborhood. It may look like a throwback to the 1950s and need a lot of cosmetic updating. Or worse, it may have serious deficiencies like a cracked foundation, water damage, or other problems.

It’s all about quality vs. quantity. So if a client comes to you and says they want more clicks for the same budget, remind them of a few things:

  • There is a limit to the number of low-cost keywords you can add to your account that will really drive traffic.
  • Tactics like trying 3rd tier engines may drive more clicks for the same budget, but are those the type of clicks you really want? I remember testing a few of the 3rd tiers like LookSmart back in the day, and while they drove tons of traffic, none of it converted. (When I did in-house PPC, we tested one engine in about 2005 that was abysmal – the name escapes me at the moment, and it probably doesn’t exist anymore, but we got probably 1,000 clicks and 0 conversions – on a site that converted at 5% or better at that time.) There is a lot to be said for quality.
  • Have a frank conversation about whether clicks should be the ultimate metric. I always tell clients that I can drive tons of PPC clicks to their site – all I have to do is put “Free iPads” in the ad copy. But unless your business model includes giving stuff away, that makes no sense.

I almost always steer clients away from clicks as a primary KPI. There has to be some type of conversion that’s being measured – or at minimum a CTR you’re trying to reach. Driving more traffic for the same budget is just unrealistic.

What do you think? Does it ever make sense to have clicks a primary KPI, and then ask for more of them for the same budget? Is it even possible to get more clicks for the same budget? Got any ideas that weren’t presented here? Share in the comments!

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Google Remarketing: Easy as 1, 2, 3

Remarketing has been all the rage for a couple of years now, and with good reason. How cool is it to be able to show a tailored message to people who already visited your website and took (or didn’t take) an action?

And yet, many advertisers weren’t utilizing remarketing due to 2 main barriers: ad creation and site tagging. While Google has pretty much always allowed text remarketing ads, they don’t perform as well, and don’t get as many impressions, as image ads. So, advertisers had to find a creative designer to put together remarketing ads – adding time and expense. And site tagging, as we all know, can be a huge obstacle for advertisers, especially those who outsource their site development.

Well, Google has removed both of these barriers, and now Google remarketing is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Step 1: Install the Google Analytics remarketing tag.

In the early days of remarketing, advertisers had to create individual tags for each remarketing segment or audience, and site owners had to place them on individual pages. As a result, in my experience, few clients were taking advantage of remarketing.

A while back, Google released a revised Google Analytics script that enables anyone who uses GA to create remarketing lists within GA – without additional tagging. If you haven’t installed the new script on your site, do it now!

Once it’s on all of your site pages, you can set up remarketing segments for anything you can measure in GA: all PPC visitors, all visitors to a specific page, people who spent more than 5 minutes on the site, all visitors who put something in the cart but didn’t check out, etc. It’s hugely powerful. You can think up a segment and create it in a few minutes, and boom, you’re ready to go.

Note that if you want to combine segments, you’ll still need to do that in Adwords using Custom Combinations. Still, there’s no additional code to install!

Step 2: Discuss goals with your client or boss.

You’re probably tired of hearing me talk about goals, but it bears repeating: don’t launch a campaign without first getting clear on your goals! Sit down with your client or boss and discuss or review your objectives for remarketing. Are you trying to get repeat buyers? Are you trying to move initial leads further down the funnel? Are you just looking for reach and awareness?

For example, if awareness is your goal, it doesn’t make sense to spend time and money setting up remarketing segments to try to convert shopping cart abandons. Be very clear on goals before you launch any remarketing campaigns.

Step 3: Create ads that match your goals and audience.

Once your segments are set up, you’re ready to build your ads. Just a couple weeks ago, Google released Ready Ads: the ability to create image ads, including animated Flash ads, with a few clicks. All you have to do is enter a page URL, and Google will pull images and copy from it. They’ll show you several different variations, sizes, and options. You have the ability to edit the copy and reject any you don’t like.

While Ready Ads aren’t as nice as ads created by a professional designer, they’re a huge, major step forward from the Display Ad Builder. I tried using Display Ad Builder in the past, and the ads looked like something a kindergartner cut and pasted. Ready Ads are actually quite nice – and you can set them up and push them live in minutes. You can literally think up a message for your audience, and with a few clicks, make a nice display ad!

That’s it! Remarketing as easy as 1, 2, 3. Since I’m feeling so positive and generous, here are 2 bonus tips.

Bonus Tip 1: Use frequency caps.

Frequency caps enable you to limit the number of impressions per visitor for a given time: day, week, etc. Use them, and set them low: 3-5 impressions per day. Trust me, nothing is worse than having a client say, “I’m seeing our ads all day long on every site I visit!”

Bonus Tip 2: PPC best practices still apply.

Don’t forget about basics like ad copy testing, bid management, and daily budgets. Standard display network best practices apply too: check those placement reports! Look at your performance by audience and make sure they’re all performing the way you want them to.

Are you ready to start Google remarketing? Are you already using it and loving it? Got any fun tips? Share in the comments!

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Google Partners: More Of The Same?

This week, Google announced their new Adwords agency program, Google Partners. It replaces the old Google Engage, and the rollout was much-ballyhooed by Google. They even sent out chocolates in an Advent calendar-type box, counting down to the Google Partners 2-hour livestream this past Wednesday.

While the chocolate was delicious, the livestream was not. Only about 20 minutes of the 2 hours was devoted to talking about benefits of the new program; the rest of the time was filled with speakers giving keynote-ish talks about sales. Chatter on the Twitter hashtag was not positive, to say the least.

Given the rocky start, I was not feeling bullish about Google Partners. Kicking things off by wasting 2 hours of busy agency PPC’ers time was not giving me the warm fuzzies.

Later on Wednesday, though, I got an email from a Googler who’d been assigned to our agency. The email was legit-looking, unlike emails we’d received recently that, honestly, we thought were spam. I agreed to a call with the Googler, eager to hear if we were actually getting an agency rep, or if we were just going to hear more sales pitches.

The call was yesterday. Overall, I’m feeling lukewarm about Google Partners – not ecstatic, but not as angry as I was a few months ago.

Some of the positives from the call:

Google has revived agency support for specific accounts.

They’ve essentially gone back to the model they had a year or two ago – assigning quarterly reps to specific accounts by vertical. To someone like me who’s done PPC for years, this wasn’t new – but it was a huge step forward from the previous “we can only help with large new business accounts” approach.

In addition, the rep told me that she could help with other clients not assigned to her – at a minimum, she’d try to find out if the other accounts had an assigned rep, or if there was some way she could help. This was definitely encouraging – instead of saying “I can’t help you with existing clients,” Google is now saying “Let me see how I can help you.” Huge step forward.

Roles are more clearly defined.

I’ve gotta hand it to the rep I spoke with – she was prepared. She’d reviewed the accounts that were assigned to her, and sent me a spreadsheet outlining the exact topics we’d be discussing and focusing on. She also sent me a helpful outline of who can help with what:

google roles
While the accounts she is assigned to are only a fraction of our client base, it’s a start.

The spreadsheet also included a resource list – sites we can go to for help with Google products, case studies, and other pitch materials. I was familiar with most of the sites, but it’s nice to have them all in one place.

The rep is local.

One of my biggest complaints over the years has been the weird way that Google assigned teams geographically. I live and work in Michigan, and Google has an office in Ann Arbor. Yet, despite my repeated insistence that they assign me a rep out of that office, we’d get stuck with someone in California – 3 hours behind us time-wise. I complained repeatedly that having to wait until 11am EST at the earliest to get someone on the phone was not helpful when we had a crisis; it didn’t matter.

Until now. The rep I spoke with yesterday is based in Ann Arbor. Yes! She even invited me to come meet with her. I’ll definitely take her up on that. While it may seem like a minor thing, the ability to meet with your rep face to face can’t be overstated.

The call wasn’t all rainbows and chocolates, though. There were some definite negatives:

We still have multiple points of contact for our agency.

I probably sound like a grumpy old lady, but I miss the old days where we had one rep for our entire agency. It was so nice to call someone we knew well, and who knew all of our accounts. Although the reps changed frequently, we often had the same rep for a year at a time.

It seems as though those days are gone forever. Google is still assigning reps on a quarterly basis. So, just about the time you get the person up to speed, they’re gone. Can you imagine if your clients switched agencies every quarter? How well do you think their campaigns would perform?

There’s still a heavy sales push.

The list of “optimizations” in the aforementioned spreadsheet was full of the same old stuff: use mobile, use sitelinks, use display, etc. The thing is, we DO use those things when they make sense for our clients. But some of our clients only have one landing page, for example. This means we can’t use sitelinks. A lot of our clients don’t have mobile sites; and they’re B2B to boot. So, no mobile for us.

The bottom line is, we’re agencies. We know that Google offers these things. If clients use them, it potentially makes us more money. And when we don’t use them, there’s a good reason why. Please, Google, stop pushing stuff we can’t use.

To sum it up, we’re back where we were a year ago.

Google Partners isn’t all that new. The service levels are back to where they were a year or so ago. It’s déjà vu all over again.

The only new thing I’ve heard so far is that Google can revoke your partnership if they think you’re not using “best practices.” Yikes. We all know how Google defines best practices: “Use all our stuff and bid as high as you can.”

In their defense, it’s still early. I’m hopeful that we can finally make some progress.

What’s your take on Google Partners? Is it a step in the right direction, or is it more of the same? Share in the comments!

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