What qualities should you look for in a PPC?

This article also appeared on Find a PPC.

When you want to hire a PPC–particularly to work on display and programmatic campaign-heavy accounts, but these tips apply to all PPCs!–there are a bunch of requirements that it may be helpful to keep in mind during your selection process. At least these are helpful for me. Here they are.

Note that, since it is 2021 as I write this, whenever I use the word “he” below, please assume that it refers to people of any gender they want!

1. Does he/she specialize in your niche?

I’m a huge fan of hiring specialists. Why are you even finding & hiring a PPC rather than doing it yourself? Easy: you want a specialist! Well, we can get infinitely recursive here. Which PPC is more likely to be good for you if you’re a plastic surgeon: the one who has helped 50 plastic surgeons grow their businesses by an average of 3x over the last 3 years? Or the one who has worked with lots of gardeners and lawyers and a few doctors, but you’ll just be his second plastic surgeon client? The first, overwhelmingly (every case is different; so this is on average; the specialist may not be right for you for other reasons; etc, etc). He will know your space, your niche, and all the details needed to make a campaign successful.

2. Is he/she certified?

PPC Certification is a helpful sign–but that’s all it is a sign. The PPC Certification process of course isn’t perfect; there are personal interviews for each one, but no certification process is full-proof. But it is a sign that, at least, there is both a minimal amount of competence and that at least one other outside–and disinterested, in the “the objective eyes of an outside observer” sense–PPC has interviewed him and come to the conclusion that he knows what he’s doing. It’s a hint, and the way to find a good PPC is to compile a bunch of hints together and see where it leads you.

3. Does he/she have a team behind him/her to do what he/she can’t do him/herself?

There are advantages and disadvantages to hiring an individual or a team.

The individual: he will be cheaper. In fact, that’s the usual advantage and more often than not, the only one. Indeed, on teams, a common problem is that during the sales cycle you’ll meet the smartest, best members of the team–but then you’ll be given a lower quality account manager. (Hint: solve this problem by, during the interview process, ask to talk to the person who will be working on your campaign itself.)

The team: the challenge with an individual is mostly that one PPC, no matter how awesome he is, can’t really do everything that’s needed. Even if he’s a superstar. Perhaps, 10 years ago, a good PPC could sit there in his underwear and just play with numbers and run a campaign. But today, you need a bunch of different skill sets:

  • You need to be good at data analysis
  • You need to good at copy-writing
  • You need to be good at design for display ads
  • You need to be good at video creation, to create video ads (increasingly important, in Google eyes!)
  • You need to be good at client-relationships, client-management, and communication.
  • You need to understand Adwords/Google Ads at a deep enough level to be able to know which tools to leverage, how and when, what strategies to use.
  • (If you expect the PPC to do work beyond just Adwords, then) A set of other, related skills, such as Conversion Rate Optimization

How many people do you know who are good at all of those? I thought so! But on a team? You have a much better chance at getting the variety of talents you need to get a good campaign going and continuing to grow.

4. What are his/her weaknesses?

Everybody says they’re strong. But perhaps the way to analyze a PPC or a team is to understand what their biggest weakness is, and how they account for it or not?

Judging weaknesses rather than strengths is an interesting and counter-intuitive approach. Perhaps you want the team that admits they have a weakness (as opposed to those who pretend to be good at everything)? Perhaps you want the team who knows others to compensate for their own weaknesses? Perhaps for your strategy, it’s okay if the person is weak here, or there, or over there–because of the cost savings that implies and you happen to be strong in that part! Perhaps you want to not choose the best team or PPC so much as eliminate the teams or PPCs that have the most and greatest weaknesses?

There isn’t a right answer or right approach, but this is a good way to go about figuring out which team to work with.

5. What is his/her work style?

Every individual and every team has a different style. It may be that you want to hire the person or team who may not be the best but may fit your style.

Morbid metaphor: I dated a girl many, many moons ago, whose mother was dying of cancer. Her family–superstar intellectuals and artists, each one smarter than the next–ended up choosing not the most famous doctor with the stellar record because he was cold, distant, and treated the mother as a number in an Excel formula; but the doctor who wasn’t quite as good but was warm, attentive, called, on top of every little detail, proactive.

One choice wasn’t necessarily better than the other; they are very different styles, and often it makes sense to choose the one whose numbers or track record may not be the best in the world if that person’s style just doesn’t match enough with yours.

More specifically: do you want a PPC who tells you want to do, or who listens to what you want to do? One who is tech-first/AI-first/machine-learning first/shiny-new-object or who is a slow tech adopter? One who answers the phone himself or has someone else who answers the phone? One who trains you or one who does it all himself he doesn’t need to train you? One who is overly responsive or one who is under-responsive? And so forth.

Said differently: the perfect PPC (individual or team) doesn’t exist–or if he does, you probably can’t afford him. So in real life, there is a series of trade-offs you have to make, and you may want to think about what “style” you want, and what trade-off-s you’re willing to make to get there.

6. What related work beyond mere campaign management will he do or not?

When we talk about PPC, we’re talking about the art and skill of running a good pay-per-click campaign, we’re talking just about running the PPC campaign, and everything that entails, from data analysis to image creation.

But what PPC does not include is anything that happens on the destination page itself–that’s a separate universe, that starts with “conversion rate optimization” and spreads from there to marketing automation and many other related skillsets. Often, PPCs–for example–create and manage their client’s websites, and regularly-enough they also try to turn leads into sales as well. And PPC and SEO are closely aligned, as well: often, the team you want to do one, you want to do the other (for many reasons we’ll explore another day.)

So one question to be clear on is, what work beyond the PPC campaigns themselves, do you want the individual or team to be responsible for? And are they strong there, too?

7. Is he a good person who puts your interests first?

I know many people who make decisions just by the numbers. But one number that is less obvious even think about, or to even estimate if you do think about, is this: does he put your interests ahead of his own?

Here’s the challenge: in any relationship with any vendor, they need to make money from you, directly or indirectly. Thus they are always trying to find what they call the “sweet spot” where both of you make the most. (Less ethical ones try to make the most for themselves but not for you, but we’ll put that aside for now.)

So how do you spot that he has your best interest in mind, or that that sweet spot is found?

We’ll explore this more in other articles, but for now, I’ll point out that part of this is just gut instinct (see the next question), but there are lots of other techniques: ways to structure the working arrangement (do they even suggest that?), and questions to ask that, whose answers will hint at what is likely below the surface. But those are for other days.

8. What does your gut instinct tell you? What do you smell?

Don’t discount your gut instinct or your metaphorical sense of smell. It tells you messages that your senses perceive but you don’t have the logic to translate into an argument in that voice in your head. Perhaps this is the most important point here.

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