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.