5 Uncomfortable Truths about PPC

If you’re reading this you’re probably either working in the PPC industry, or you’re struggling to make your PPC campaigns work for your small or medium-sized business. You may be scratching your head wondering what you have to do to ‘get it right’ and start seeing positive results. PPC may have been pitched to you as a guaranteed route to business success. Fully measurable? Well almost. Choose your own budget? Yes. More effective than display advertising? Usually.

PPC is an excellent way to drive more sales to your business, but it’s not a bed of roses and here are some harsh, uncomfortable truths you learn as you spend more time in this industry:


1. PPC is not an exact science

While PPC is more ‘exact’ than SEO, it is by no means a predictable industry. With SEO you are at the mercy of overnight algorithm changes, and with PPC it’s no different. You simply can not look at a PPC campaign on a day to day basis and expect uniform, predictable results. My first mentor told me to take a month-long view of a PPC campaign otherwise it will drive you mad – experience has taught me that this is pretty accurate, although I think weekly or fortnightly views are probably more wise. You will see days where traffic disappears for no apparent reason. As a PPC agency this is hard to deal with, especially when you’re faced with anxious clients. There are so many variables that you can not look at a PPC campaign in microcosm.

2. PPC is expensive

There’s no getting away from the main reason companies shun PPC – the cost. SMEs only want to pay money out for actual sales. Being asked to pay for a click, regardless of whether that click converts into a sale, terrifies them. But they are usually more than happy to splash out X amount of dollars on a radio or TV campaign with no way of measuring success.

If you’re in an industry like insurance or finance, the thought of paying $30-50 per click may make your stomach churn. What if a competitor clicks your ad to check out your website? It happens. You must look at the bigger picture and make sure that your cost per acquisition, may that be lead or sale, is where it needs to be.

3. Blackhat PPC techniques still work

Warning: controversial viewpoint coming up. In the most competitive of niches, PPC good guys finish last. Do a search for something like ‘Forex’. The ones who play by the rules are hampered by the strict regulations in place which force them to put ‘Your Capital is at Risk’ on their Adwords ads. Not only are you losing valuable characters here, you’re dissuading customers from signing up. The companies who don’t play by the rules are still winning with more enticing ads. I fully expect them to get ‘slapped’ eventually, similar to the payday loan companies who worked out the SEO algorithm – but these guys are short term ‘churn and burn’ merchants – and there is a long line of people waiting to replace them when they do finally get banned.

Competitors who click your ads are highly annoying. The ones who do it regularly in order to force you out of the PPC space are verging on criminal. You can ban IP addresses from clicking your ads, and Google are pretty hot on this, but it sadly still happens.

For long-term, sustained PPC success I would strongly advise you to play by the rules as an Adwords ban is not easy to overturn. Just realise that you are occasionally sharing the space with people who don’t take such a long-term, ethical view on things, and be careful.


4. PPC is boring

PPC is boring. There’s no getting away from this fact. Spreadsheets are not fun, no matter how many PPC accounts managers you see on Twitter claiming to love them. Remember those maths lessons in school where you fell asleep? My personal strength is the creative side of PPC – creating the ad copy, optimising the landing page & choosing keywords by thinking ‘outside the box’. I strongly believe that this is the most important side of PPC – this is what makes your campaign stand out from others in the same niche. However at some stage you will get bogged down in maths – bid variations, conversion calculations and the like. Like any job, there are boring aspects which nevertheless demand your attention.

5. PPC is increasingly difficult

The ‘thinking outside the box’ I mentioned in the paragraph above is getting harder and harder as Google slowly attempts to take control of PPC management from agencies and in-house PPC managers. I see it as a progressive ‘dumbing-down’ of PPC – a recent change which highlights my point is their removal of the option to exclude misspellings and close variants from phrase and exact match keywords. Everything seems to be becoming more generic, and this only suits the larger companies who don’t worry too much about thousands of wasted dollars a day – it can be signed off as ‘brand awareness’ and doesn’t make an obvious dent in their bottom line. For a small or medium business, the attraction of PPC is the measurability. Every cent counts. Just like affiliate marketers doing SEO, their main success route is the long-tail. The ability to target this is being slowly eroded over time.


So should we all quit PPC and start building backlinks for our SEO campaigns right away?

…Absolutely not. Despite these ‘uncomfortable truths’, PPC (and in particular paid search) remains the most cost-effective and measurable form of online advertising out there. It trumps all forms of offline media too. The key to success is to employ a PPC consultant or agency who knows exactly how to make it work…


Comments/questions are welcome…



About The Author

Michael Madew

PPC expert with over 10 years' experience in creating and managing highly profitable PPC campaigns on Google Adwords, Bing Ads and other paid search platforms.

1 Comment

  • Andy Black

    Reply Reply January 24, 2015

    Haha. I don’t find it boring, but then I was doing IT for 15 years before falling into AdWords. Being seen to add value rather than being seen as a cost is novel. 5 years doing paid search and it’s still a buzz going into a new niche and getting those first impressions, clicks, and leads/sales.

    Oh, and I LOVE Excel, and writing programmes to generate millions of keywords and ads. But that’s that geeky IT background again. :)

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