A Critical Review of Trada PPC Services

Earlier this month, a new startup called Trada launched a new kind of PPC management service. Essentially, they’re crowdsourcing PPC management, connecting advertisers with SEM management needs with PPC experts who are willing to work on the account for the agreed price. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not totally convinced that it’s workable. After doing some research on their service, here are a few issues I found:

1) PPC Experts Get Paid Only When They Meet Advertiser’s Expectations. Trada has a weird way of paying out their PPC experts. An advertiser either sets a specific click cost they want to target, or chooses a conversion cost they need to stay under. If you get clicks or conversions below this target, you get to keep the difference (minus Trada’s 25% cut, of course). There are a few problems with this. First off, clients don’t always have enough expertise in the PPC space to set a reasonable expectation of performance. Back when I worked at an agency, I remember rolling my eyes as a client told me they wanted 100 conversions a month at a dollar per conversion. All this on an account where the average CPC was upwards of $10. As a PPC manager, you need to set up a reasonable expectation for cost per click (based on average bids in a certain keyword niche) and cost per conversion (based on average CPC and expected conversion rate). Trada takes these factors out of the experts hands, and places the goal squarely in the hands of those who may not know what they’re doing. Secondly, letting the client set the price ignores the environmental and competitive factors that go into how much your click and conversion costs are. I’d be happy with a $5.00 CPC if it converted at 10% and had a good ROI, but maybe Joe Client will only accept an average CPC of $0.50, effectively crippling his account. Maybe you get lucky and get a client with PPC experience, but I’m wary that this kind of system may only be appealing to novice PPC users. And lastly, it doesn’t seem like PPC contractors would be able to break even on this model. Sure, you start getting paid after you get click costs a few cents under the client’s (probably low) expectation, but after Trada takes their 25%, you had better be getting thousands of clicks to justify the hours you spent fixing that click cost.

2) Trada Doesn’t Let PPC Contractors Alter Landing Pages. Seriously? Let me be clear on this: you cannot improve PPC account conversion rates without changing landing pages. Landing pages are critical to whether or not users convert – everything else is just driving traffic. Sure, you may be able to eliminate some bad traffic to lower overall CPA, or find new keyword niches to explore to add more total conversions, but you’re never going to see improvement in existing conversion rates unless you rigorously split-test landing pages. Keeping your PPC contractor off of your landing pages is just setting both the client and the contractor up for failure.

3) More Than One PPC Expert Can Work On A Single Account. I’m all for teamwork in PPC strategy, but I think this is a recipe for disaster. On Trada’s homepage, they boast that accounts have an average of 24 PPC experts working on them. Twenty-four! That’s like having twenty-four chefs in one kitchen to bake one muffin. It seems to me like this could set you up for a lot of miscommunication – experts of different skill levels undoing each other’s changes, making changes too often, not doing enough analysis for good results. Not to mention the fact that if you get five PPC experts to look at a single account, they’ll give you ten overall strategies to improve it. This isn’t like stuffing envelopes at home. You can’t do PPC in assembly-line fashion. I’d much rather have one really good PPC contractor working slowly through an account than 24 cheap freelancers making changes at all hours of the day.

Now, I should end this by saying that I don’t think Trada is all bad. They do a few things that I applaud, like requiring all registered PPC experts to have some sort of certification, whether it’s through AdWords, SEMPO, or through their own in-house certification process. And, I recognize that there’s a real need for qualified people to do a lot of the tedious grunt work that comes along with PPC campaigns. This can be very time consuming and expensive for businesses that don’t have a lot of time to devote to SEM, and Trada seems like a good way for these companies to get things done at a discount price. But, as in all things, you get what you pay for. Good PPC service is not cheap. There are no shortcuts, and no substitutes for experience and analytical ability. You can’t just throw a dozen people at a PPC problem and expect it to be resolved.

Would I use Trada for outsourcing my PPC management? Probably not. Instead, I would find a quality freelancer with a solid background in PPC through LinkedIn, eLance, or personal contacts. But, I should end this with a caveat that I have never used Trada’s service and don’t know anyone who has – I’m merely basing my conclusions on their own explanation of the service. I’d love to hear if anyone out there has any experience (good or bad) with Trada’s PPC management service – let’s hear about it in the comments.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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18 Responses to A Critical Review of Trada PPC Services

  1. Bill Quinn says:

    Thanks for your post on Trada. I’d like to offer a few points of clarification:

    1. In your first point, you said that an advertiser may have totally unrealistic expectations about what their CPC or CPA should be, and thus takes the control out of the hands of the capable PPC experts. Because Trada is a marketplace, the market dynamics take care of this problem where it exists. If an advertiser says they want a Cost Per Action of $1, but all the PPC experts know that $10 is more realistic, none of the experts will join/work on the campaign. The market will give its feedback to the advertiser, which will require the advertiser to set more reasonable payout rewards. Also, Trada has in-house account managers that have years of paid search experience who help advertisers get their campaigns set-up and where needed consult with the advertiser to help them set bid prices that are realistic and likely to attract PPC experts to the campaign.

    Additionally, the Trada application gives constant feedback to the advertiser to tell them whether their bid price is set optimally. For example, the advertiser can see the first page bid estimate relative to keywords running in their campaign. So if they’ve set their click bid price at .50, but they see that there’s a large cluster of keywords running with a .75 first page bid estimate that could be working for them, the advertiser can add a bid price tier that’s above .75 (.90, perhaps) to allow PPC experts to utilize the keywords in that price range. Advertisers can continue adding price tiers until they reach the practical limit of what they’re willing to spend for clicks, based on their ROI. The same type of mechanisms are in place for Pay Per Action campaigns.

    2. Trada Doesn’t Let PPC Contractors Alter Landing Pages: This is true for now, but it’s on our product roadmap to address later this year. We’ll give PPC experts the ability to create and propose new landing pages to the advertiser, which the advertiser can either automatically approve, or review and approve/reject based on the landing page content. This is how ad copy is handled in Trada currently, and has worked very effectively for both PPC experts and advertisers. In the meantime, we do provide a communication mechanism in the Trada application that lets PPC experts give feedback to advertisers on landing pages (or anything else, for that matter). We’ve seen that advertisers typically love getting this feedback from PPC experts and implement their suggestions into landing pages. As you astutely pointed out, the PPC experts are the ones with the paid search experience and advertisers know this. They’re as interested in making their paid search program a success as the PPC experts, so are more than willing to implement their feedback.

    3. More Than One PPC Expert Can Work On A Single Account: The way you’ve described how PPC experts work together isn’t how it actually works in the Trada application. Rather than everyone “sharing” a Google or Yahoo account, each PPC expert works on the campaign independently of one another. So PPC expert A would create their own ad groups, ads, keywords, bid prices, etc. At the same time, PPC expert B would do the same, with no cognizance of what PPC expert A is doing. Trada then takes the work of all of the PPC experts working on a campaign and sends the ad groups (and their associated ads and keywords) out to a single AdWords/YSM account that Trada runs on behalf of the advertiser (each advertiser has their own dedicated account). Google/Yahoo then decides which keyword/ad combinations will be displayed on a search, just as they do with any other AdWords/YSM account. When a click occurs, Trada can track which PPC expert’s keyword/ad generated the click (and subsequent conversion), and attributes the click/conversion to that PPC expert. Therefore, each PPC expert is responsible for their own work – they don’t see or make changes to the work of other PPC experts.

    Again, thanks for your review of the Trada marketplace. I encourage you to join the marketplace and try it out for yourself. I hope it will give you a better understanding of how the marketplace works, and changes your mind about its effectiveness on advertiser campaigns and its earning potential for PPC experts. In the meantime, keep the feedback coming – contrarian views always help us learn and highlights new ways we can improve Trada.

    Bill Quinn

  2. Nate_Concerned says:

    After reading some articles this morning in reference to Trada, and working in the Search Marketing for the last 6 years, I feel this product will not benefit the Industry at all. Instead it will hurt it. Here is why (sorry if the explanation is drawn out!)

    1. The engines only allow one ad with a particular display URL to show per search query (keyword).

    2. Every ad’s display URL must match the landing page domain.

    3. Google will show the highest Quality Score Ad, the others will not show.

    Keeping these three facts in mind here is what will happen…

    1. 24 experts bid on a single term relevant to the campaign in hopes of it either providing a low CPL or a low CPC. Each will have the same display URL as they use the same website.

    2. Google will use its Quality Score to determine which ad will show. Without differences in landing pages the CTR and MAX CPC will weigh heavily on who has the higher Quality Score.

    3. Each expert is now bidding against the other and artificially inflating the CPCs as they want their ad to show instead of one of the other experts.

    4. Google (or others) now get more $$$, the expert gets paid, and the client pays a larger “out-of-pocket” costs than necessary….in relation to the CPC model.

    Now take that keyword and multiply it by however many cross-over keyword combinations that might exist. Possibly thousands.

    Now, I understand that the client is setting the goals, so you might say “who cares if the client is getting what he is asking for” or “what if they use CPL”. Well, if the goal is conversions…how are they tracked?

    Most system use “last click” to determine who gets the conversion? If this system does as well, Expert A could have quality top funnel keywords that will eventually lead to a conversion or lead, but will never get credit for it.

    Example:If a searcher queried the term “shoes” and that was Expert A’s keyword and and clicked on Zappos ad, then great. But, if he or she came back the next day and searched the brand term “zappos” (after he was aware he or she could get shoes there from the previous days research) and Expert B has the highest CPC bid on that term…now Expert B gets paid but it and Expert A, who generated the original interest, does not. This also eliminates any chance of gaining this insight from the advertiser.

    Overall I feel Search Marketing is moving in the right direction and putting the emphasis on Marketing. Without a consistent strategy and a strong understanding of the client’s needs, objectives, competitors, life-time values, etc…search regresses back to simple excel and data junkies.

    Granted if you are a client who could not care less about any of the above and you just want a low CPC, then maybe Trada is for you. But, I do not see myself ever becoming a believer in this system and hate what it means for the Search Marketing industry.

  3. Phantom says:

    I think Trada is a great concept but it’s not lightning in a bottle. Unfortunately, search marketing is no where near as simple as it use to be 5 years ago. It takes a lot more than good keywords and ads to succeed. Just as Nate mentioned above “last click” models make Trada questionable. I currently work with an agency, who specifically has developed their own system for tracking all things SEM. A few of those data points they look at are assists and dependent clicks which will soon be broken into discovery, engagement, and concluding clicks. We find that several keywords assist their selves and therefore a more in depth tracking/reporting is required to effectively analyze the value of a last click. For example, A client in particular has a very low brand CPL though their non brand CPL is twice as high. The client has made it clear they are not happy with their non-brand CPL though with the ability to track assist and dependent clicks were were able to show non-branded driving search for brand keywords and driving conversions. All of a sudden the CPL of non-branded terms wasn’t all that bad.

    To get to the point, there are several factors outside of keywords and ads that make a campaign succeed. Perhaps that’s not as important when you’re a small business with a limited budget but it could make a difference.

    Obviously this is a start up that has a lot of work ahead of them. Though if the Google Ventures team thinks it’s worthy perhaps we should all give it a second look. I will try it out and after a month I will return and give it a small follow up review.

  4. Robert - CEO says:

    We are a publisher paying $50k per month in Google pay per click. I just had to stop because lead costs (CPA) kept climbingc. etc… I am going to try Trada and report on my experiences. As an “owner” let me tell you how I see it. I’m smart at SEO/PPC and my consultant is even smarter, but.. there are smarter people than us, for sure. And, more ideas = better copy = more tests and hopefully I will drop my conversion cost from $15 to $7 or less in some words and in some areas. I have reasonable expectations, and I have data to compare it against. My only real worry is that their SEO people are “average” and we waste time. .. but even if we find one new idea and conversions at a great price, then I am happy. So, as I said, I’ll report on this as we go.

  5. Mark from Ark says:

    Thanks for this post, and I know it is a few months old now. Let me just say that, for the keyword “Trada”, it ranked high in the natural search.

    Anyway, has anybody had any more worthwhile experience with this service to share? We are evaluating it?

  6. Tim says:

    Hi Mark – I’ve used Trada – unfortunately doesn’t match up to the promise. I had high expectations and really thought it would make our campaigns fly.

    Unfortunately traffic was only from Bing, no Google traffic, mostly outside our target area. I was hoping for lots of experts on our campaign, but it turned out to be 20 with only a small amount of effort.

    It was a step backwards for us, CPA went up, lead quality went down, leads where not in our target Geolocation and we were charged for blank leads. When reporting this to client services there was no sensible response.

    I’m still waiting to hear back from them about our issues.

  7. IM says:

    Any new insights on Trada?

    I’ve been working with them for the last 2-3 months and had all kind of experiences that make me a little suspicious.

    Here are a few examples:

    (1) They have serious bugs in their UI which makes it hard for me to trust their statistics.
    (2) The optimizer are not responding to my messages
    (3) It’s quite hard to understand how the budget is consumed. For example, I’ve recently increased the target CPA significantly to provide a better incentive for the optimizers, and the CPA report updated the historical average CPA based on the new one I just setup.
    (4) The account manager I worked with suddenly disappeared, and I was told he’s no longer with the company, even though he’s still showing up on their website.
    (5) In addition, changes are being made to my account settings without my knowledge.

    I’m considering leaving them and finding an independent PPC expert (anybody knows a good one?) to manage my PPC campaign. While the idea of crowd-sourcing PPC is very appealing, I get the feeling that we’re not getting the ROI we want and deserve.

    Please share your experience if you have one!

  8. Melody says:

    We tried them as well with no success. I would be interested to continue monitoring this thread to see how others do. It seemed to me as though they used a scattergun approach, knowing that something would stick.

    However, I got no input back on landing pages when asking, other than that they would use the ones I sent along. They didn’t seem like “experts” to me.

  9. Melody says:

    Darn, I left a bit off there, sorry- can we delete that last comment and post this instead?

    I’m back- my CEO requested that I input my feelings on our experience, and so I’m ready to be more detailed.

    We started with trada early in July 2011. We decided to give them a run at our Bing Search Alliance campaign because our Google adwords was doing fine, but our Bing campaign didn’t do very well. First let me say that after 2 months and hundreds of dollars, we’d had 7 conversions.

    The first thing they do is get you to add some of your successful ads and keywords. I found that some of the optimizers would just hook onto those, so they weren’t even creating their own content, just using your keywords and ads.

    Others were more careful, adding a few ads at a time and seeing what worked. But most just threw up everything they could think of. Landing pages I suggested were used, but there was very little conversation with the optimizers. I had one thrown off the campaign because he didn’t respond at all.

    The onus is on you, the owner of the campaign, to decide what works. But with over 300 keywords and with 7 or more optimizers to handle, the money just poured out of our hands. It’s impossible to understand what to do exactly, in terms of which ads to knock off and which to keep, as well as what keywords to blacklist for the optimizers, when we had had only 7 conversions.

    Also, my experience was with what worked for us on Google. I said again and again that I didn’t know what worked on Bing, that’s why we had them on that campaign. I emailed the Trada support team: “I’ve emailed the optimizers with sample landing pages, asked them to ask me to design landing pages any way they want, asked them to work with me, asked them for advice on how I can help them succeed, and only one has gotten back
    to me.”

    After a month we paused all the ads, had some conversations with the Trada team, and they asked for access to our Google campaign so that they could,”to break it down and see what’s successful and then get it to the optimizers”.

    In other words, copy our campaign. I already did that on Bing, didn’t work, that’s why we hired Trada.

    In conclusion, we don’t think it’s a very well-thought-out program, and we were extremely unhappy.

  10. Thank you for all of these comments. I am in charge of marketing for a company currently and helping advise parent company on some marketing efforts. At this time, I had considered Trada for their PPC campaigns as I do not have the time to manage those as well. It appears that the rate of a PPC consultant that I specifically choose and monitor may be better option. I will continue to monitor Trada as I think the idea has some value but still has some kinks to work out.

  11. Reg says:

    As an ppc professional, and and also an optimizer on Trada, I can say that things don’t always go as predicted with paid search advertising. Unlike other forms of advertising, its not always a straight forward formula (ad + exposure = success). There are many variables to take into consideration when determining what may be causing a campaign to struggle. It could simply be targeting the right traffic with ads and keywords at proper bids, or, and more likely, quality of a product or service, competitive pricing and quality of websites and landing pages (none of which a ppc expert has control of). In a few cases above, for example, they were working with bing only campaigns on Trada. Bing and search alliance have a fraction of the traffic Google has; traffic which, bear in mind, provides us with the data to optimize (more is better). In addition, their traffic can represent a different crowd of more browsers, less buyers. I could go on about the short comings of Adcenter vs Adwords, but suffice it to say CPAs between the two search networks usually vary considerably, so to compare an adwords campaign with an adcenter campaign is often a fallacious approach to judging campaign success.

    I’m sorry to hear some have not had success with Trada, but I’ve personally worked on dozens of successful campaign with them, so I can attest to their existence. Its not uncommon to have campaign CPA goals drop down immediately when we’ve achieved CPAs significantly lower than advertiser’s historical campaigns.

    As Trada has matured, its seeing both better features, better integration with adwords, as well as better optimizers. Like any crowdsourced platform, the introduction of more people has increased competition and, in turn, quality, in just the few months I’ve been there. It goes without saying that, as a new ppc advertising model, it only stands to get better with time.

  12. Very good points brought up here. I to have been managing search for 6 years and at the end of the day it is not that complicated. It’s like many things in live, 90% is fundamentals when building and managing good search programs. There is a small amount of value that is created by bringing different perspectives together but 1 or 2 EXPERIENCED search experts managing an account will do far more than 25 amateurs. Good analogy about the cooks. 25 cooks wont make a better muffin. I have tried testing them for a very large financial company to substitute what we are doing in search but found there sales staff to be very self serving and the moment it takes them any work to close a client they disappear. Where crowd sourcing works great is in innovation not raw production which is 90% of creating a successful search program. Crowd sourcing in search is a bad idea for the same reason why you don’t crowd source your accounting. There is no substitute for an expert doing a great job.

  13. Mr. Lucky says:

    I’ve been a Trada Optimizer for a nearly two months. I’ve been managing PPC campaigns for 10+ years. Of all the campaigns I worked on there’s never been more than 7 to 10 optimizers. One client was very responsive to my suggestions with regard to landing pages; another replied that my suggestion of placing a CTA button on all of their product module pages was “overkill” No CTA on your product pages; Huh? Not much of an incentive to work on that campaign. I’ve been on the agency side for six years and clients will be always be “clients”. A certain degree of them will always be easier to work with. From my perspective the biggest problem with Trada is the UI. It’s got lots of bugs, shortcomings and painfully slow. Many of the issues are going to resolved in “January”. We’ll see. Because of the bugs in the UI there’s little if any incentive to “optimized” a campaign.

  14. Thanks so much Shawn for starting this discussion with your review and analysis – and thanks to all those who have shared their Trada feedback. As a search engine marketing agency, clients are starting to ask about Trada, so it is good to get honest user feedback about it before diving in to do some testing on our own. More and more of our pay-per-click work for clients is focused on landing page testing and optimization. Without the ability to change landing pages, it is very difficult to drive the kind of results clients want and need. Landing page platforms like Unbounce give agencies a great way to create pay per click landing pages for clients. I can easily imagine some type of Unbounce/Trada integration in the future. In any event, PPC optimization takes continued testing, analysis and hard work. From the comments above it seems like the Trada platform has some issues with respect to keeping testing organized so that the optimizers don’t step all over each other.

  15. Anna Sawyer says:

    Thank you to everyone who left feedback about Trada. These types of candid responses are immensely helpful as we continually build and improve the Trada Marketplace.

    This thread is over two years old and we have made many positive changes to Trada in that time, so I’d like to take the opportunity to address them.

    When Trada first launched publicly in March 2010 (eighteen months after it’s inception: the first year-and-a-half was spent building the product and testing), we saw a great deal more value in the application of large numbers of paid search experts and placed much emphasis on keyword generation. The offer ‘an average of 24 paid search experts’ was indeed a value proposition in March 2010, but as Shawn and Jason point out, 24 chefs won’t do much for a single cupcake.

    As it turns out, however, the concept works very well with smaller groups of chefs (current Trada campaigns have 2-10 Optimizers, depending on budget and campaign goals) and with some support and platform changes in the Marketplace. Each advertiser now has a dedicated account manager who is available to ensure that goals are aligned and everything runs smoothly. Finally, it’s important to understand that the competing work performed by Optimizers in a given campaign doesn’t drive up bid prices – rather, it’s used as an A/B testing option within the Google/Bing serving algorithms.

    I understand that the Marketplace has not worked for all advertisers in the past, and I am sorry. We do regret the advertisers we’ve lost as we’ve grown as a company. At the time of this posting, Trada is committed more than anything else to the retention of our advertisers, and this is accomplished through an improved Marketplace platform, dedicated account management, and rigorous reputation systems within the Optimizer community.

    1. Your team is made up of the right Optimizers. When we launched Trada, we believed in the power of self-selection. Optimizers would inherently choose the campaigns they were qualified to work on. But our results revealed that a curated approach works better. Today, in addition to being initially qualified before joining the Marketplace, Optimizers must apply to work on a given campaign, and then must prove in the campaign buildout phase that they are qualified specifically to drive campaign results. In addition, Optimizers’ performance is tied to a reputation score which is visible to advertisers and other Optimizers throughout the Marketplace.

    2. Landing pages can be curated by the Optimizer team. As many have pointed out, landing pages are a critical component of campaign success – from both a keyword/landing page relevance standpoint (imperative for Quality Score) and from a conversion-centric design and content standpoint. We have partnered with Unbounce to provide the option to have your Optimizer team build and maintain a suite of landing pages that are designed to boost conversions.

    3. Messaging platform. Consistent communication between an advertiser and his/her Optimizer team is critical to campaign success. The messaging center makes this easy. The importance of communication about campaign goals, new products/strategies, research and optimization, landing page buildout, etc is part of our training for new advertisers and Optimizers. We continue to make Optimizer/Advertiser communication a priority when adding Marketplace features.

    4. Dedicated account management. Advertisers now have a single dedicated account manager who helps with campaign setup, buildout, goal setting, and Optimizer team management throughout the lifetime of the campaign. You can reach this account manager by phone, email or directly through the Marketplace support system.

    A key responsibility of the account manager is helping set goals for the campaign. Target cost-per-conversion and average click price are determined based on your AdWords/AdCenter account history and industry data provided by Google.

    5. Advertiser goals are aligned with ours. Optimizers are paid when they are able to beat an advertiser’s target CPA. This means every worker on a campaign is directly incentivized to get quality clicks and low-cost conversions.

    6. Automatic ad network budget allocation. Another mechanism designed to reduce CPA, the automatic ad network budget allocation tool calculates the optimal percent being spent on Google and Yahoo/Bing. This removes the guesswork that most non-Trada solutions rely upon when deciding how much to spend on each network. We will simply spend your budget where you are getting the most low-cost conversions.

    Again, we do appreciate feedback on the Trada Marketplace platform, and we rely on honest appraisals to be able to improve our experience and results for advertisers and Optimizers. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly at anna@trada.com.

  16. sahil says:

    Bill Quinn is being paid to write review about his company. If he know exactly that trada is cheating advertisers then also bill will try to clarify it. so bill please stop your clarifying statements because I know what your company is doing behind advertisers money and how its looting them. why don’t you talk about the advertisers who have lost their money with trada? offcourse there are numbers of them but I don’t want to disclose because I am one of a trada optimizer and don’t want to disclose my name.

  17. Rachael Cihlar says:

    Hi, I’m Rachael from Trada. We take these concerns very seriously and strive to address issues with advertisers who do not succeed in the Trada Marketplace, and we owe our high retention rate to the feedback we get from customers and Optimizers. Please contact us directly so that we can have a dialogue that will help us improve our service.

    rcihlar at trada.com