Recently, I came across a couple of online PPC guides that suggested you could get a PPC program up and running in just a few hours.
The argument goes like this: SEO takes time to ramp up. You aren’t going to get on the first page of Google overnight.
In contrast, you can launch a PPC program, throw up an ad, and have revenue coming in the door within just a few hours. Ka-ching!
If only it were that easy!
Unfortunately, this description completely misrepresents what it takes to build a successful PPC program.
Let’s take a closer look at this “you can build a PPC program in a few hours” argument to see what the reality is.
It’s true that selecting your first set of keywords shouldn’t be that time-consuming. Often, you look at the keywords clients are using on their websites and start from there.
But there’s a difference between selecting your first set of keywords and selecting the right set of keywords. Because finding the right set of keywords does take time. You have to test, refine, and negate.
You also have to think about intent. Because how you and your client interpret those keywords may be very different from how others interpret those keywords.
For example, we have a client who’s main keyword means one thing to a B2C audience and something different to a B2B audience.
We want to target the B2B audience only. Figuring out how to work with the keywords and ad messaging to make that distinction (and improve our results) is a process.
A process that can take time to get right!
Messaging definitely isn’t something you want to rush.
Good messaging requires you to understand not just what to say in your ad, but how to say it and to whom.
To get this right, you really have to understand the client, the product/service, and the target market.
You also need a deep familiarity with all the Google Ads headline, body, and extension options. Again, getting it right can take a lot of testing and refining.
So can you write an ad in an hour? Sure, no problem.
But can you write an ad that will do what you need it to do in an hour?
That is an entirely different question.
Landing pages are something that a “do it in a few hours” PPCer will be tempted to skip. But landing pages are critical to paid search program success.
Yes, you could send people to your home page or product page when they click on your ad. But if you want people to convert – and not just click – then landing pages are a must.
Unfortunately, putting landing pages in place takes time. You can do this well in an hour or two.
Conversion Tracking Implementation
Implementing conversion tracking doesn’t sound that hard.
All you have to do is set up a Google tag and put a snippet of code on your thank you page, right? How are hard (and time-consuming) can it be?
A lot harder (and more time-consuming) than you might think.
For all kinds of reasons, implementing conversion tracking almost always requires a lot of troubleshooting.
Many times, I’ve spent hours on the phone with a client’s developer and a Google tag specialist trying to resolve tracking issues.
To suggest that all of this can get done in 30 minutes or an hour is naïve. The only way to avoid it is to not bother with conversion tracking at all – which is the route some DIY PPCers choose to take.
But then you have no accurate way of measuring what’s working and what’s not. And you can’t build a successful PPC campaign without that.
Understanding the Nuances
Perhaps the biggest fallacy in this “build a PPC program in a few hours” argument is the underlying assumption that PPC can be mastered quickly.
Yes, you can find many resources that can teach you how to set up an account, establish your ad groups, and write up an ad.
But there’s a lot more to PPC than pure mechanics.
PPC has a lot of gray areas. Areas where the answers won’t be found in an online guide or video tutorial – or even Google support.
I’m reminded of this every time we bring in a new team member. Learning how to set up and administer an account at a basic level isn’t all that hard. Most new team members master it fairly quickly.
But attaining expert-level knowledge is a whole different thing. It takes a long time to acquire the expertise you need to parse gray areas and make good decisions.
For most team members, this process takes years. They have to learn through experience, with a knowledgeable expert by their side for guidance.
And there’s no real way to rush the process.
The Danger of This Kind of Approach
We could poke holes in this “launch a successful PPC program in hours” idea all day long.
But maybe you think we’re being too uptight. What’s wrong with taking PPC for a spin? Why can’t you just try it out and see what happens?
I see two problems with this approach.
First, your super-simple PPC program might chug along merrily at first. But inevitably, something will happen – your ad will get disapproved or your costs will go up or nothing will convert – and things will get more complex in a hurry.
Before you know it, your “fun project” isn’t so fun anymore.
Second, and more importantly, your failed PPC efforts might put you (and your organization) off PPC for good. It can breed “PPC doesn’t work for us” thinking that can be hard to reverse.
I saw this recently when speaking to a prospective client. The marketing director had asked his SEO person to run Google Ads. Looking at the account, it was clear to me that the SEO expert didn’t really know what he was doing. A lot of money was wasted.
As a result, the marketing director is now highly skeptical of PPC! Even though PPC has many benefits, persuading him to give it another try will be an uphill battle.
And that’s a real shame. Because when PPC is taken off the table, the only people that benefit are competitors.
You Can Build a PPC Program in a Few Hours. But Should You?
So yes, you probably could throw up a PPC program in just a few hours.
But only if you don’t care about results.
And you don’t care about undermining any future PPC plans your organization may have.
This article was originally published in Search Engine Journal.