Love Your In-House PPC Employee? Pay Them More

By Kirk Williams | @PPCKirk | Owner of ZATO

Let’s get the elephant out of the room right now.  I’m an agency writing about in-house and I’m NOT trying to talk you into switching to agency. Period.

There are pros and cons to using an agency or staying in-house for your PPC. The purpose of this article is not to try to talk you into one or the other. I’m writing this post to the business owner or VP or manager who currently has an in-house PPC department… whether that is 45 people or 1. If you pay a PPCer as an employee, this post is for you.

I had a great experience working in-house PPC and I have talked with many in-house PPCers over the years. I would like to say for them what they have always wanted to say. If they are good then pay them for it.

CAVEAT #1: Since this post is not about all of the other aspects of employees, I am assuming here we are discussing a good PPC employee who has given your company profitability in his/her department.

CAVEAT #2: This post is written specifically about in-house employees, but many of the same “benefit to longevity” principles apply to agencies as well. I.e, there is more benefit to an agency with a longstanding relationship to a client than an agency who has been around for 1 month.

CAVEAT #3: Obviously money alone cannot keep good employees. Sometimes an employee just gets the itch and there’s nothing you can do about that. On the other hand, we would be foolish to assume pay-rate & chance for further growth are not significant contributions to the overall draw to stay at a company.


Here are 5 Reasons To Pay Your PPC Employees What They Are Worth


(1) Context


Perhaps you have heard the phrase: “context is king” before. In this instance, the veracity of that statement remains true.

The context I am referring to here is the account context. Whether you see it or not, your company’s PPC account does not exist in a vacuum. There is a reason for virtually every single decision (or lack of decision) made in the account. That is the context.

  • Why were mobile bids lowered to -50%?
  • Why is this keyword paused but not that one?
  • Why did we raise the bids on this keyword?

Let’s say your PPC employee gets a better job offer and leaves the company to make way for the next employee or agency. How will that agency know the reasons behind previous decisions?

Replicating past mistakes or ignorantly retrying previous lessons-learned is inevitable whenever there is an account management change of hands. Don’t miss the meaning with that statement. What that means is you are paying someone to relearn or remake the same mistakes or lessons already made or learned. Not only that, you are wasting ad money on the double lesson there.

Context is a great reason to “save money” by paying your good PPCer more to encourage them to stay around.

(2) History

History differs from context. It is the “what happened” to the “why it happened.” Of course, those two can often be found interwoven into a rich tapestry of complexity.

It would be easier here to demonstrate what I mean by using a made-up example.

Let’s say your PPCer moves on. They have a better offer somewhere else so they leave. Your new PPCer is excited to dig into the account. They begin comparing numbers and realize the past 30 days of account history have seen a 10% reduction in conversion rate from the previous year, and PPC was about 10% lower YOY as well.

They immediately send over their findings to you with promises (and perhaps a disparaging remark or two regarding the “previous account manager”) of getting things back to normal. They spend time digging into the account, experimenting with various ads, adding negatives, raising keyword bids, turning on and off mobile bids, adjusting geo-targeting.

They spend hours investigating and researching and testing. Unfortunately, the needle doesn’t move, actually it gets slightly worse.

At some point, in an off-hand discussion with a salesperson they discover the fact that there had been a company-wide sale the previous year during that month that was not offered this year. They begin to realize this is the reason for the “drop” and that they just wasted a lot of time trying to figure it out.

Now there are ways history can be tracked more easily – analytics annotations, etc. However, the point still stands that a person who has “been there,” especially a good PPCer, really does usually just remember those things.

One of my clients significantly changed their conversion goals last year. Actually, it was September 8, 2014. Because I am in the account all the time, I just know that. I know that when I pull back history, I need to pull it to 9/8/14 or it’s going to skew my data.

Without being told these things, (and really, it’s not possible to communicate all things that have happened in an account), a new person is going to have to learn that through trial and error and analysis, and really, just time. Time takes money.

(3) Subtleties

If context is the “why” and history is the “what”, then subtleties are the details. Perhaps this could sit as a sub-category under Context, but it is so important that I wanted to call it out specifically.

Subtleties are like the Force. They can be good or bad and they hold the world together.

Every company, account, and person acts in unique ways for unique reasons, and the problem here is that subtleties are generally understood and therefore, impossible to recognize.

This is why I wanted to point them out, because they are so difficult to actually point out. They can’t really be communicated, because they are understood. Every account will have millions of subtleties about them.

  • The general manager’s preference for past 2 month reports and the VPs preference for past 30 days reports is a subtlety.
  • The profitability of Product A, but the VP’s interest in Product B and the need to balance the cost of the two each month to keep everyone happy is a subtlety.
  • The product disapproval when that one word is added into the description is a subtlety.

Don’t under-estimate the damage ignoring subtleties can do to an account. I have seen $$$$ wasted because of a lack of appreciation for subtle product differences. A great, current PPCer will know those things, but they are hard to communicate so you may be tempted to miss them. Ignore subtleties at your own peril!

(4) Culture

I referenced this previously so I will only briefly call this out. If you have a PPCer that fits in well with your account and that knows your company “culture” you have a valuable resource. My previous example in the reports can work here as well:

  • The general manager’s preference for past 2 month reports and the VPs preference for past 30 days reports is a subtlety.

Another example of the value of “culture” could be:

  • Your current PPCer has a friendship with one of your developers who is more inclined to help push landing page tweaks out more rapidly.

If your current PPCer fits in well with your company, and does a great job, what could happen if the next person doesn’t get along with your dev team? Or if they just can’t figure out how to report well in a way that helps you demonstrate value to your owners?

(5) Complexity

The final note here is that you need to have a realistic view of the growing complexity of PPC. Let’s say you hired someone 2.5 years ago to manage your Adwords, Bing Ads, and CSEs. In this time period, they have weathered the Enhanced Campaigns changes, seen the Google AND Bing Shopping campaign types completely change, a new AdWords Editor, and a head-throbbing number of policy and practice changes in both Google and Bing.

To put it bluntly, if you went out and hired a new person worth the amount you are currently  spending upon the PPC pro who has weathered these changes, you would likely be unable to match the skill level to the compensation.

Unfortunately, sometimes businesses learn this the hard way when their PPCer leaves for financial reasons and then they begin to search for a replacement.

Don’t get caught in this trap, respect the growing complexity of PPC and pay your current PPCer for the skill level they are currently at, not where they were at when you hired them.




Now I should be clear, none of these things mean your account is sunk if you have to hire someone else. In fact, a good indication of a really great PPCer, in-house or agency, is the ability to move past these challenges more quickly. Even then there will always be a learning curve, and learning curves cost you money.

If you have an in-house PPCer that you are happy, will you do me a favor? Will you investigate fair rates across the board and consider giving them a raise that will reflect their value?  I hope I have shown you above why it could actually be very much in your whole company’s best interest to do so.

Thoughts? Questions? Insults? Leave them in the comments below or on Twitter to @PPCKirk!