Poor Bastard of the Month: The AdWords Specialist

There was a time when AdWords was cutting edge advertising. Even though it launched in 2000, in 2006 the whole thing still had that new car smell. Targeted advertising for the small business owner was still a new concept and the ability to reach out to a specific demographic of people based on buying keywords in a geographical location seemed like magic.

Fast-forward to 2012 and I don’t know anybody who’s thrilled with their AdWords campaigns. The old-media mentality of “it’s just something we have to do” still rules the day. It’s easy to blame business owners with this casual attitude for their under performing campaigns. But there’s one big problem: There’s money to be made in confusing business owners.

Enter the AdWords Specialist

This is where your typical Search Engine Marketing (SEM) specialist comes in. They ride to the rescue with promises of optimized, targeted, efficient AdWords campaigns. And since they’re operating on the Google network, they arrive with all the cache a name like Google provides. Business owners know they’re going to be on a quality network. And they trust that the AdWords specialist will know what knobs to turn to make the whole thing work out.

The specialist usually makes a big deal about choosing appropriate keywords. This is treated like voodoo science. Incantations are said as keyword suggestions are spit out of the AdWords keyword tool. Reams of keywords are generated. They’re put into AdGroups and then ads are devised for each group. Each group is targeted to a specific region, demographic, or time of day. Each keyword is set to broad, exact, or phrase match. Or all three. It’s details, details, details.

The day the first campaign is launched, the business owner feels good. He’s heard the plan of the specialist and he’s sure that tomorrow there will be fresh sales to process.

There are almost never fresh sales to process.

This is the sad, true fact of AdWords advertising. Rarely does it live up to the hype.

Sure, sales happen. But for most, it’s not worth the cost. The cost-per-conversion is too high.

When faced with this prospect, every AdWords specialist I know redirects the conversation into all the other positive attributes of the campaign. Yes, you’re losing money but if you stop to think about it, you’re 2.3 on the page. That’s branding!

No, that’s bullshit.

You’re losing money and your specialist can’t fix the situation. That doesn’t make him bad at his job. It means that it’s going to take more than one monkey to eat this banana.

Here’s the Problem

The basic problem is that he’s a traffic guy and you need a results guy.

This is why he reroutes his clients into thinking about traffic and branding: that’s what he does.

Since this is true, it’s a little disingenuous for them to talk about the cost-per-conversion if they can’t affect that number. His tools are the ones provided by Google and they give him the ability to choose keywords, write ads, and to pick when and where they are run.

Certified AdWords Professionals are trained to use Google’s program, NOT to understand how to make your website better functioning.

So What’s the Solution?

Well, for one thing, you don’t hire that poor bastard. It’s not that he’s not a nice guy or whatever. It’s that what you need is not something he provides. And without the other side of the coin – somebody tending to the effectiveness of your website – you’re literally throwing money away.

The first thing to do when you find yourself wasting money on an AdWords campaign is to see if you have a strong sales pitch/sales funnel. Most companies, especially local companies, run into problems here.

Look at the analytics for the pages you’re driving traffic to through AdWords. What percentage of that traffic is bouncing? Is it higher or lower than normal? If you’re seeing high bounce rates, you know you have a problem.

Look at your ads. Does the text make sense relative to the content on the landing page? The hand off needs to be as smooth as possible.

What really needs to happen is that you need to consider your goals and flows. You need to define your sales funnel and then you need to craft one to be as efficient as possible.

This is why your AdWords campaign stinks. It’s because your website blows. It’s like YouTube sensation Jenna Marbles once said about a makeup brush, “If this isn’t a good brush, whose fault is that? Not mine. It’s yours (looking at the brush). It’s not my fault, it’s your fault. You need to figure your life out. You’ve got one job, and you suck at it… brush.”


Your website needs to be looked at holistically. I know this sounds like an obvious point. But it can’t be because most of you are doing it wrong. So let me give you some direct advice.

1. Don’t hire an AdWords or SEO specialist unless they are working for somebody on your team whose job it is to improve the website. Traffic is useless to a website that can’t convert.
2. Review your website’s sales funnel. Look at the copy and how pages flow from one to another. Consider this from your users perspective.
3. Consider using UX tools to aid in your site’s analysis – analytics tools or heat mapping tools or video recording tools like ClickTale or Inspectlet to get a better idea of how people are using your site.
4. Know what you’re getting into with AdWords. It’s traffic. That’s different from revenue. Revenue is your website’s responsibility. Put the horse before the cart. Not the other way around.

If you keep this in mind, you’ll save money on your marketing and you’ll put yourself in a position to capture more revenue once you do begin spending marketing dollars on traffic.

One comment on “Poor Bastard of the Month: The AdWords Specialist

  1. Haha! What a pile of crap that post was. You expect a business user who can’t operate Adwords to be able to do all that crap your spouted on this. Haven’t laughed so much in ages.

    I’ve not met a web developer or designer yet who can optomise a site for sales. Your post should be – find a web developer that actually knows that a website is a marketing tool and not a pretty picture every company needs

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