If you want to play the online advertising game, chances are your business will need to do a little pay per click marketing at some point. Many small businesses try to make a go of it on their own, and often fall behind because of a lack of PPC experience and a couple of rookie mistakes. In this situation, you can either buckle down and study PPC hard, hire an expensive agency to manage your accounts, or find a competent freelancer to manage your account. Of these three options, finding a freelancer is the best option for most businesses with a tight budget. I’m sure most business owners have better things to do with their time than perfect their PPC talents, and most agencies are charging some pretty ridiculous fees for minimal results right now. But, if you’re going to hire a freelancer, you need to make sure they know what they’re doing. This industry is still relatively new, so there are a lot of hucksters out there who are taking advantage of a general ignorance about how to do things the right way. Here are some tips to help you vet any potential freelance PPC workers.
Certifications are good, but they’re not everything. – No one is offering a college degree in PPC right now, so if you want to make sure your freelancer has some sort of industry qualification, certifications are probably the best indicator. A good freelancer should be both Google AdWords certified and MSN AdExcellence certified. A Google Analytics Qualified Individual certification is a good one to have as well, but not quite as necessary as the other two. These certifications consist of a timed, multiple choice test on each advertising platform, and are written and administered by the search engines themselves (or a partner working on their behalf). The tests cover basic knowledge of PPC account structure and strategy. In order to pass the test, you need to have a pretty good familiarity with how PPC accounts work, so you can be assured that anyone who holds the certification will know what they are doing in the account. But, certifications do not teach experience, so there’s no telling how talented a certified freelancer really is. Use Google and Microsoft certifications as a bare minimum qualification, but try to look for someone that has more credentials than just that. Also, be aware that there are a lot of other agencies and online schools offering internet marketing certifications of dubious quality. These certifications may look nice on a resume, but the quality of the educational material in the certification course varies by who is offering them. To be safe, just make sure that your freelancer has certifications directly from the search engines, and treat any other certifications with a critical eye.
Your freelancer should focus on fundamentals, not gimmicks. – When choosing a freelancer, you should request that they review your account and make a few suggestions about what they would do to improve it. This is probably the best litmus test you can have to test your freelancer’s knowledge. A lot of times, a freelancer (or even an agency) will make a pitch for the latest gimmick that will miraculously save your PPC account. This could be anything from remarketing to a proprietary bid management software to location/demographic targeting functions. The bitter truth is that while some of these gimmicks end up providing a marginal benefit to established accounts, nothing beats a strong focus on good PPC fundamentals. Nothing. If your freelancer isn’t giving you suggestions on how to effectively use keywords, ads and landing pages in perfect harmony, then they don’t know what they are talking about. A focus on the latest gimmick-of-the-week shows that their PPC management would be shortsighted and your account could take a beating as a result.
Staying current on PPC news. – Another sign of a good freelancer is that they are aware of industry news and trends, and how they will affect individual PPC accounts. If you’re an outsider to the online marketing world, you probably don’t know what’s going on either. Before you talk to your prospective freelancer, go to a PPC news site like Inside AdWords, PPC Hero, or Search Engine Land, choose what looks like a top story, and ask your freelancer what they think about it. If they haven’t heard about that news item or have trouble explaining how it relates to your own PPC account, then that should be a big red flag.
There are plenty of great PPC freelancers out there, but there are also a couple of inexperienced ones that make the rest of us look bad. Don’t get burned by crummy PPC management. Take the time to vet your potential employee using these three tips and better account performance will be your reward.