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PPC isn't TurboTax – it's QuickBooks: Why You Probably Need a Professional to Manage Your AdWords Campaigns

Published: May 9, 2011

Author: David Rodnitzky

Every AdWords pro has probably had the same reoccurring nightmare: Google or a 3rd party software provider releases killer technology that suddenly makes it incredibly easy for anyone to effectively manage PPC, rendering our years of experience and training obsolete overnight. I don’t have those dreams anymore, and you shouldn’t either. Here’s why.
There was a time – circa 2002 – when PPC was really straightforward. There was just GoTo and AdWords, and the PPC game pretty much consisted of finding tons of obscure keywords for a few cents a click and then jockeying for position on head terms. Sure you had some choices around geo-targeting and match-type, but for the most part PPC was a straightforward game.
Had things never changed, you could imagine some software coming along that could ask a business owner a few questions and quickly (and automatically) create a pretty darn good PPC campaign for the business. You could probably limit the software to three questions:

  1. What category is your business in?
  2. What geographies do you serve?
  3. How much can you pay per conversion?

Maybe this is an over-simplification, but I think the overall point is pretty sound: you could have created a “TurboTax-like” tool that guided anyone through PPC, just as TurboTax un-complicates the tax code for the average tax filer.
When TurboTax was released – and especially after it started to gain adoption – it probably caused many a sleepless night amongst local tax preparers. And since there are now more than 23,000,000 people that use TurboTax annually, I’m going to assume that there have been some tax preparers that did lose their jobs as a result of this software.
Of course, the flip side of this argument is that there are still plenty of accountants and tax specialists who continue to do quite well during tax time. Despite TurboTax’s success, any individual with a slightly complex tax situation and virtually all corporations still rely on humans (humans who probably use some software) to file their taxes. It’s hard to imagine Intuit coming up with a version of TurboTax any time soon that can replace highly skilled individuals.
In the last ten years, I’ve seen many, many attempts to “TurboTax-ize” AdWords. 3rd party applications like Yield Software, Clickable, WordStream, and Click Equations all offer turn-key PPC management solutions, usually starting at just a couple hundred dollars a month. Companies like Trada and BoostCTR are attempting to use crowd-sourcing to create an alternative to often pricey PPC agencies (like mine, PPC Associates!).
Google has also made a concerted effort to make AdWords as easy as possible over the years. This includes everything from the CPA optimizer, ‘expanded’ broad match, category targeting on the Google Display Network, an ever-expanding learning center, roving training seminars, toll-free support, and AdWords Engage.
And yet, despite all of this effort – internally and externally – AdWords is not getting easier, it’s actually getting much harder. AdWords advertisers now have to consider site extensions, text vs. display ads, mobile ads, YouTube, integration with Google Shopping, custom geo-targeting, new match types, behavioral targeting, remarketing, placement targeting, day-parting, Quality Score, and probably 20 other things that I can’t think of at the moment.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Google isn’t the only game in town. Bing/Yahoo is still worth mastering and Facebook PPC could be the biggest challenge ever to AdWords’ PPC dominance (on Facebook, by the way, you need to choose between sending users to a fanpage or your URL, whether to use sponsored stories, which image is most effective, which demographics and psychographics to target, and many other factors). Put succinctly, PPC today requires a lot of specific knowledge – and that demands dedicated, full-time experts looking at your account.
This leads me to QuickBooks. I tried to learn QuickBooks, really I did. I even had a friend of mine come over to my house for three hours and walk me through it step by step. He then left me with several books from the leading QuickBooks training seminar. I consider myself a reasonably smart person, but about 15 minutes after my friend left, I felt as lost as I did the day I installed the software. Quickbooks is not designed for novices like me. It’s designed for accountants and bookkeepers. While it true that you can learn QuickBooks even if you don’t have an accounting background, most business owners would be better served focusing on their actual business instead of trying to master QuickBooks.
This is the way I think about PPC today. If you have a very simple AdWords account – let’s say you’re a dentist that serves a mid-sized town through one office – you are probably a “TurboTax” AdWords user. You can either learn enough through the AdWords Learning Center to get reasonable ROI, or you can use a basic 3rd party software to get the results you need. If you have a complex business – or if your business survival literally depends on the effectiveness of your PPC programs – you are a “QuickBooks” AdWords user. You need a pro to manage your PPC and you need to spend your time managing your business.
In the near future (i.e., the next five years at least), I don’t see either Intuit, Google, or a 3rd party coming up with a TurboTax-like solution for all users. PPC experts, your jobs are safe. Rest easy.

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