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21.4% of Paid Search Experts Get Right Answer to Tough Question

Posted September 29th, 2010 by Andrew Goodman

In a recent Ultimate Quality Score Guide created by WordStream, 14 PPC experts including me were asked the annoying, but ultimately revealing, question:

“(Question #4:) Quality Score vs. Bid Management: If you could pull just one of these levers in every PPC account you touch, which would you pull and why?”

Andrew Goodman said: “Hello! It’s all about bids.”

George Michie said: “It’s about bid management, hands down.”

Elizabeth Marsten said: “Bid management. You pay what you pay.”

Thus 21.4% of us actually got the right answer.

Now, I’ve been “optimizing for Quality Score” since 2002 when it was CTR only, and I’ve been explaining how and dealing with how different versions of the formula cause low CTR’s to harm your account, in great detail, for that entire time. So I’m secure enough in my QualityHood that I don’t feel I have anything to prove there. I assume Michie and Marsten, as well, know they don’t need to impress anyone, because unlike most marketers, they get the math.

Richard Cotton (7.1%) actually agreed with us, and in fact criticized others for giving “evasive answers,” but then left in two references to how it is both and they are “inter-related”. So, while claiming not to hedge his bets, he hedged his bets.

7 of 14 (50%!!) gave often painfully evasive answers, choosing to not only speak in favor of both levers, but also in some cases, kicking into the big sell of all of the other factors you need to consider. One had hyperlinks to two bid management and campaign automation companies in his response, even though he voted for Quality Score. One respondent, on about his 7th coffee apparently, even mentioned trademark infringement, dayparting, and affiliate URL hijacking. Talk about changing the subject.

3 of 14 (21.4%) voted for Quality Score. Two of the three work at WordStream, so they’re clearly selling something. A WordStream white paper on improving Quality Score was promoted right in the text of the interview.

You do have to wonder how the marketplace will be educated when most vendors are pitching even when they’re supposed to be answering direct questions. I’d like to thank George and Elizabeth for confirming that I’m not crazy.

[To the fellow gurus, I know you're on the ball most of the time, so maybe this is more along the lines of the disgruntled electorate's plea to "shut up and answer the question". Shifty answers suggest you either don't know, or are selling me something other than an answer.]

4 Responses to “21.4% of Paid Search Experts Get Right Answer to Tough Question”

  1. Bid management is about your ROI reality. Optimizing for quality score is like any other type of testing you should be doing, but at the end of the day you are optimizing for profit not a higher QS. Sometimes a higher QS means more profit and sometimes it won’t.

    I have several low quality score lead-qualifying ads that once they do get clicked have 65%+ conversion rates. If I focused on QS I would absolutely give Google more money without any benefit

    Quality Score is Google’s metric, profit is yours.

  2. aaron wall says:

    Is that a line of people queuing up to give Andrew some exposure so he can run them through the mud? I bet the folks at Wordstream are less than excited for including you & probably wouldn’t have if they thought it was going to create an associated blog post smearing them. :)

    And the point of “selling something” … how is that even a legitimate data point? Is there a single person in the world who aims to portray themselves as a PPC expert who is not “selling something”? That is like faulting someone for breathing IMHO.

  3. Hello Aaron,

    Back to basics, no one gets exposure just handed to them like a free gift. Usually exposure comes to those who demonstrate some kind of integrity or expertise. Or in this case just being opinionated enough to spark a discussion.

    I think dragging through the mud / smearing is one thing; gentle chiding is another. I thought I was gently chiding. Also, I actually agreed with two other members of the panel, putting them in the elite of people who are right about this one!

    And to be very very clear, I do not worry terribly about “crossing” a vendor in a debate like this, because I don’t have any arrangement, no business relationship, and so I would in fact be very concerned about any commentator who felt muzzled just because they felt flattered by some exposure or a small favor.

    That being said, I do think my wording was harsher than it needed to be, but maybe next time Wordstream could be more subtle than to stick a white paper promo in with their clearly wrong answer to an interview question they asked of 15 experts, two of whom were their own in house experts? :)

    Of course, in this debate, it appears wrong is a matter of opinion. Most of all I was saluting George and Elizabeth for sticking their necks out there with me. There’s a certain “no waffling” Jill-Whalen-esque quality to answers that include phrases like “hands down” and “money is money” that I admire.

  4. aaron wall says:

    – Usually exposure comes to those who demonstrate some kind of integrity or expertise. –

    There are a lot of new-age new-media folks & public relations hacks who are the exceptions that proves the rule ;)

    And I thought your language was a bit harsh too. Granted I use it more often than I probably should, but usually only when I am angry at somebody :D


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