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Are We Living In A Quality Score World?

Over the years, I have seen many PPC campaigns that lack the fundamental Google Quality Score Framework, that is simple relevancy from the keyword selection to the landing page.  Even  today I am seeing this trend continue. It wasn’t until I had a recent conversation with a well-respected industry leader that it hit me square in the face. Perhaps there is too much to be lost.  If some firms/agencies make their $$$ based on a percentage of PPC spend it is  possible or simply elementary that they would prefer not to implement Quality Score methods because it could have a detrimental effect on the CPCs thereby lowering their monthly fees. This scenario may just be an end result of incompetence on part of the search marketers or their lack of. Regardless of how you interpret this, it’s rather clever and sure to keep companies in the black. So can we ask the question: Is this a dirty little secret in the industry? Personally, I truly hope that it is not and as clients become more sophisticated and educated about this industry, they will catch on and it will not last.

But the big question remains:
Is the percentage of PPC spend fee structure in the best interest of the client? Do the majority of clients even understand the difference?  Are some agencies turning a blind eye to this in order to keep their revenue streams or do they truly believe this is a good structure for clients?  I don’t know the answers to these questions.  However, what I will say, is that I have seen ridiculously encrypted redirect destination
urls for custom tracking purposes as well as poorly structured campaigns with highly irrelevant keyword groups which unanimously DEVALUE Quality Score. Furthermore, the idea of possibly taking advantage of clients by not implementing fundamental quality score methodologies for the sake of growing their own business should not be their #1 priority, it should be growing the client’s business with the hope of continued client retention and the successful case studies. Don’t get me wrong, revenue stream is crucial.  I just wonder if there is a better middle ground.

Possible reasons why agencies favor percentage spend methods:

  • More efficient for the agency to mass produce campaigns so they can handle more volume.
  • Allows agencies to lower their fees (% of spend)
  • Allows agencies to capitalize on clients’ one track mind of driving traffic
  • Customer turnover is high and therefore it is not worth the effort to commit to complex strategies
  • What the client doesn’t know won’t hurt them.

Money_2In conclusion:
My intention is not to make this a moral issue but to simply take a step back and think out loud and force the question "Why is this still going on, when industry leaders continue to preach quality score". Is this effort just the "checks & balances" that some search firms need to stay afloat and achieve financial success. Or is it simply growing pains of an industry that is still evolving and as people become more experienced and educated over time, the % of spend model will fade. I believe as the CPCs and competition continue to increase, the % of spend model will fade and either % of revenue or flat fees will re-emerge as the model of the future.

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5 Responses to "Are We Living In A Quality Score World?"

  1. I don’t think the % of revenue model is perfect by any means but there’s something about the way you’ve tied in the business model with ripping off clients that just doesn’t seem right.
    For a start you can do a bad job, either deliberately or otherwise with the flat fee model. I can’t see how this will make any difference.
    But honestly do you really think that there is widespread mismanagement of accounts to get some additional revenue? What about long term client satisfaction and professional pride? Why should the sem industry have this “dirty little secret” when practically any other industry that I can think of could do something similar if they chose to. Most professionals could find ways to mismanage with the aim of generating a bit more income short term.
    I know there are campaigns that are badly managed but there are a whole host of reasons and deliberate lowering of quality score to increase CPCs seems incredibly far fetched to me compared with just incompetence or laziness. And anyway it’s counter productive. Untargeted ads = low CTR.

  2. I meant % of spend in the first line.

  3. Greg Meyers says:

    Christine, thank you for reading and commenting on this post. I think you make excellent points and I hope that it is truly just a result of laziness or incompetence. I realize that this post maybe perceived as a little too far fetched, but when I have inherited campaign structures from multiple agencies that were utterly and completely messed up, I had to ask the question. Let’s hope this is was just a coincidence.

  4. SearchCap: The Day In Search, December 10, 2007

    Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web….

  5. Tom Hale says:

    I similar discussion is going on over at SEMpdx, a professional search organization located in Portland, OR.
    All service based fee models have moral and ethical problems; percentage, hourly, flat fee, and hybrids, can all be gamed to the detriment of the client by black-hearted vendors.
    But as stated, those operating without the best interest of the client at heart are short sited churners, milking clients for all they can before the relationship comes to an inevitable and unsatisfactory end, referrals unlikely.
    If those operating with the clients interest foremost can survive the current search madness, they will endure because of the long term relationships and reputation born of client success.
    The question: how can a client see into the heart of a vendor? How to sort the flim-flams from the committed professionals?

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