PPC Professionals: The Mechanics of Digital

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Earlier this week, I took my car to the shop for an oil change and tire rotation. 30 minutes and $30 later, it was done. Easy.

When I was a kid, it was common for people to change their own oil. Cars were simpler then. My first car was a 1972 Ford Gran Torino. Yes, I’m dating myself. But I loved that car. It looked just like this one except it was powder blue. It was awesome. I wish I still had it.

Anyway, back then cars were simple. You could easily change the oil, the filter, the air filter (which I did myself many times, it was a 5 minute job), the spark plugs (which I also changed), and many other parts to keep it running. The mechanics of it were simple.

Fast forward to cars now. I now drive a 2011 GMC Acadia Denali. I love this car too. It’s big and bossy and has lots of fun toys, including satellite radio, OnStar, and a fancy nav display.

I can’t fix a single thing in this car.

The engine is crammed into a third of the space of the engine in my Gran Torino. Everything’s hooked up to computers. I’m afraid to even open the hood, much less try to tinker with anything under there.

Keeping PPC running well is a lot like keeping a car running well. When I started doing PPC in 2002, it was simple: keywords and ad copy. No Google Display network. No remarketing. No social PPC. No multi-device fancy stuff. Just keywords and ad copy. PPC was easy for a novice to do, and do well. I fell into it as a special project, and we made money the first day, even though I didn’t know what I was doing. I was, in essence, changing my own oil.

Nowadays, PPC is complicated, just like my Acadia. It’s easy to mess up royally and cost yourself thousands of dollars. There’s way more competition than there was in 2002, so CPCs are higher. There’s Bing and Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram…. the head spins just thinking about it.

PPC is not DIY. It hasn’t been for a long time. I know that if I try to mess around with anything under the hood of my Acadia, I’ll screw it up and it’ll be an expensive mistake. The same thing goes for amateur PPC managers. It’s cheaper and better in the long run to hire PPC professionals.

What do you think? Can PPC still be done DIY? Or do you need a pro to succeed? Share in the comments!

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  1. Any comment I make on PPC will obviously be biased…

    I agree 99.9% on cars. Though I still have a 2003 Ford Focus which I have replaced the coil pack on 3 times now myself (approx £15 from Ebay), and I changed the oil in my wife’s 2013 Ford Focus recently (after forgetting to get the damn thing serviced until it was more than 8,000 miles past the first service mileage limit). I guess we’ll be keepin this one and running it into the ground until lack of service history has no bearing on it’s scrap value :-).

    Sorry about the lack of PPC related comments…

  2. Love the analogy – I always call SQR’s the oil changes of search 🙂 Alot of solo folks can probably do AOK on the basics of search, but if they want to get advanced or scale you need to grow.

    Car analogy – you can maintain the basics, do your own oil changes and change the windshield wipers on your own. Need new tires (landing pages)? You should probably go to a pro. Something serious break and you need to change the timing belt & brakes (CRM)? Gooood luck.

    Maybe a stretch?

    • Melissa Mackey says

      I love this Aaron – very true. Everyone has to start somewhere and the basics are easy to learn. It’s when things grow and morph that they get complicated.

  3. Cool car 🙂

  4. Here is another car analogy…..even if you COULD do alot of the more car work, it becomes a question of whether you want to spend your “extra” time doing that? Lots of people can change the oil in a car, but then you need to go get the oil & filter and then properly dispose of the waste, etc. It involves more time than you think.

    Personally I’d rather just drop my car (or PPC depending on how you are looking at it) and have someone take car of it for me so I can work on other things, like what I like and enjoy….PPC.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Exactly. The $30 oil change I got this week was worth every dime. I can’t even imagine crawling under my car, working in that tiny space, dealing with oil waste, and so on. No thanks. Instead, I sat in the dealership lobby doing PPC work while they changed my oil. 🙂

  5. You need a pro to succeed in PPC – no doubt about that. However, it can still be done DIY by employing a fulltime pro inhouse, like several companies I know do. The more important question is, should an advertiser making, say, software, bother to do PPC inhouse (by employing a PPC pro) or is the software maker better off by outsourcing PPC to an external PPC agency. Not just in PPC, the answer to that question in a lot of fields (e.g. software development) depends upon a comparison of inhouse versus outsourcing option on various parameters like domain expertise, subject matter expertise, timescales, responsiveness, flexibility, control, cost, etc.

  6. I mostly agree with the point you are making, but not completely. A $30 oil change WITH tire rotation is a great deal. Oil is no longer $0.79 a quart and while it’s still a simple task that doesn’t require a lot of knowledge ( What kind of oil? How much oil? Where to drain? Where to add? How to check oil level?) someone doing it for the first time is going to have to do some research. But as we both know, when the cost is so low, you just pay someone else to do it for you.

    PPC is on an entirely different level. More like drywalling a basement room for example. You are going to do a lot more research before you have a chance of doing it right, and the cost to pay someone else is considerable. It may still be worth paying to have it done, but the choice for a DYI-type is not as clear.

    When I do PPC for clients I charge for my TIME. The hourly rate is not cheap (to me), but the industry practice of charging a percentage of spend strikes me as unfair for services rendered and has an incentive to spend more and not less. While consultant time is considerable early in the project, it generally becomes less over time. I have older campaigns running that I have not even checked on in months. I do run a MCC report weekly to make sure things are running as we expect, but I don’t go into the accounts and look at the details. I would LOVE to get percentage checks each month for what is spent($nnn,nnn), but I don’t steal or take charity. 🙂

    Even if you hire someone else to do the work, clients will do themselves a big favor by learning some of the details involved with PPC. One of my clients hire another firm to do a small project when I was busy. Some time after the campaign had been running I got access to the account to check it. I was shocked to see widespread use of broad match keywords and zero (0) negative keywords. In this case the failure of the campaign was clear even to the client due to painful CPConv. But a quick look would have identified glaring omissions could have saved thousands of dollars in wasted clicks.

    I would never recommend someone learn how to do an oil change before they pay to have it done. But for SEO and PPC I highly recommend learning something about it first so you can be an informed consumer. Or get a second opinion if you have doubts.

  7. David Secrest says

    In most cases you should hire a pro. Off the cuff, I would recommend someone to do it themselves is if they are a SOHO/SMB and the fee’s of a pro outweigh the benefits. Lastly, while I agree 2002 was simpler I still see too many examples of people who consider themselves professionals at search getting keywords and ad text wrong.

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