I Don’t Want No Scrub (Agency)

You know the song, so sing it with me people! I made some modifications to the lyrics below that demonstrate my point well:

I don’t want no scrub (paid search practitioner)

A scrub (PPC ) is a guy (PPC person) that can’t get no love from me

Hanging out the passenger side

Of his best friend’s ride

Trying to holler at me (a customer and/or prospect interested in PPC)

To me, a scrub practitioner pretends to know the ins and outs of PPC. They go to search conferences, read related forums and articles, use the right jargon, and send out flashy looking proposals.

In the end, they’re a bunch of PPC posers who “talk the talk” but don’t contribute much to a company’s bottom line. A real shame as PPC can be a fantastic customer acquisition tool if used well. In this article, I’ll discuss what I think excellent PPC practitioners do for their clients. Then you can determine if you’re working with a PPC winner or someone from the scrub club.ppc-puzzle-featured

Here are the telltale signs of a scrub practitioner:

1. They Don’t Ask About KPIs

A scrub move is to not ask about KPIs and to track bogus metrics not tied to a company’s revenue. Some scrubs may decide to improve bounce rate or increase traffic to a home page whose income is not derived from impressions. Or they report on half the story. For example, they track leads but the leads are not tied to specific sales (more on this below). There are obviously countless more examples.

As many companies are off in terms of their KPIs and the metrics they’re tracking, a paid search person who knows what they’re doing will ask about them. As you know, good metrics tie into a very specific goal (for example, a lead, a sale, etc.) and track conversions from initial click to final sale (I’ll also refer to this as “closing the loop”). There’s usually a sequence of conversion events, so it’s obviously important to track the appropriate sequence. Here are some examples:

Email capture -> email sequence -> purchase inexpensive item -> purchase additional items (higher cost) -> increase overall lifetime value of customer

Email capture -> trial subscription product -> paid subscription product

Capture a lead -> “close the loop” and track which specific leads turn into sales.

“Closing the loop” can be implemented using a third party call tracking and/or analytics company to integrate online and offline data. Here are some examples: Salesforce, Marketo, Mongoose Metrics and Sugar CRM.

There’s a recently launched manual option called AdWords Conversion Import feature. It allows Google AdWords users to track sales not made online but through a call, in person visit, etc.

2. They Don’t Get Better CPA Off The Bat

Right off the bat, an excellent PPC person will fine tune/tweak ROI so that CPA figures are better off almost from the get-go. Here’s an example:

Runners CPA = $11

Runner CPA = $110

Running shoe CPA = $12

Running shoes = $13

This is a very simple example, but tuning off “runner” will likely lead to lift in account ROI. Remember that the above decisions need to be considered in the context of the overall purchase funnel. In other words, broader keywords that occur at the beginning of the buy cycle can have an impact on purchases made from terms later in the buy cycle. The seemingly no value and high CPA terms could be driving people to convert on terms later in the buy cycle. This will certainly change as we increasingly move away from last-click attribution models.

Another way to improve ROI is to focus on geographic areas that are performing well and/or not performing well. Here’s an example:

New York

Ad spend = $2000

Conversions = 2

CPA = $1000


Ad spend = $1000

Conversions = 100

CPA = $10

In the example above, it would make sense to ramp up bids in Chicago and decrease bids in New York. (Note: the above example is for illustrative purposes. It’s important to ensure data are statistically significant before making changes in an account.)

There are obviously many other examples. A seasoned PPC professional is able to access an account and hone in on low-hanging fruit. Based on experience, they will also find “undiscovered territory,” so you get PPC wins right off the bat.

3. They Don’t Increase Account Breadth

The 80/20 rule is not uncommon in paid search, so it’s not unusual for sales to stem from a smaller percentage of terms and/or tactics in an account. A scrub move would be to not increase account breadth so that sales stem from more keywords/PPC tactics. A scrub may also shoot all over the place.

In many cases, we see accounts with too many keyword terms, many of which are costly and contribute to only a few conversions. The key is to focus relatively quickly on the areas that will drive incremental revenue and not bark up a lot of trees that won’t work. A PPC pro will also be able to increase breadth with a variety of tactics like efficient keyword research, display campaigns, PLA campaigns (if applicable), remarketing/retargeting campaigns (if applicable), dynamic campaigns, etc.

4. They Don’t Take Interest In Your Business

Does your PPC person take a larger interest in your business and how it works? For example, do they:

  • Look for relationships between various online initiatives like search & display?
  • Look for connections between offline/online marketing initiatives (if applicable)?
  • Look at Google Analytics (or similar tools) for additional conversion insight?
  • Ask questions about how customers buy from your company?
  • Look into the cart to see if there are areas of friction that will reduce conversions? For example, I recently noticed that visitors to a site had to add items to the cart two times before the item actually appeared in the cart. Talk about serious cart friction! This would decrease conversion events.
  • Attempt to understand how your customers buy from you? For example, let’s say consideration for your product is less than 5 minutes and the product is only bought when the client is in deep need. In this case, it would make absolutely no sense to do a remarketing campaign, even though it’s a pretty big trend in marketing. A savvy marketer would recognize that there’s no market to remarket to. In this instance (and in other instances as well), a scrub may only consider that remarketing is a growing trend — a bad and potentially very costly move for this particular client.

5. They Haven’t Developed A Detailed Campaign Plan

A total scrub move is to wing it with no plan. Worse yet is to let the client completely dictate the keyword strategy, bid positions, etc. Excellent PPC folks bark up trees that are specific to the client’s business, product or service. This includes a comprehensive diagnosis of an account and then creating custom strategies for the particular client. Only a scrub would do what some article says even if it doesn’t make sense for a particular client. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Has the agency developed a detailed campaign plan that will act as strategy for the first 3-6 months?
  • Is the plan customized?
  • Does it contain PPC fundamentals as well as new initiatives (as paid search is constantly changing)?
  • Does it contain specifics like, “We’ll work on these particular items in week 2, 3, etc.”?

Pick A PPC Winner

To sum it up, you don’t want no scrub practitioner who pretends to know it all but actually doesn’t. I’ve outlined above what excellent PPC practitioners do for their clients. It’s up to you to decide if you want to work with a PPC winner or someone from the scrub club.