Earlier last week, I signed up for Trada, a crowd sourcing PPC management service as an Optimizer. Basically, PPC Experts can work on various campaigns, and make money if they meet, or beat advertiser targets.
If I were to sum up my impression from the few days that I’ve used it, I can tell you I hate it. And that impression may be enough for most of you who trust my opinion and recommendations. There’s such an overwhelming number of reasons why I think Trada doesn’t work for both Optimizers & Advertisers that I almost can’t be bothered. It’s that bad. Shawn Livengood points out a few reasons why Trada fails as a PPC management service nicely. There are small and big concerns, nitty gritty user experience problems, to larger management/concept issues.
Generally what bothers me the most is how annoyingly inefficient the Trada interface is to use as an Optimizer. Given the choice between an Adwords interface or Trada, there’s no match. Setting up and managing campaigns is painfully slow, and time consuming. The optimization tools are also severely lacking. The Adwords interface gives me so many options to control how/where/when/on what my ads show up, while Trada does not. PPC managers not using device or geo-targeting are doing a disservice to their clients. Same goes for heavy and constant negative keyword diving and management. Using the Trada tools literally takes the joy out of my passion for PPC management. Makes me wonder if Trada has any User Experience designers (who do not code), because it seems that the inmates are running the asylum (somewhat).
Speaking again of control, as a PPC manager it’s important to have either total control over the landing pages, or at least a moderate amount of influence. This greatly affects both the cost of the clicks and the conversion rates. Landing page copy/content will affect the Quality Score, and even the smallest changes to the call to actions can make or break a PPC campaign. Trada does not allow the Optimizers to access this in any way. How then can I be truly successful as a PPC Optimizer, and how is the Client getting the most out of her campaigns?
Now let’s talk about Client expectations and interaction: As an SEM I can’t imagine NOT having access to the Client. The Client’s descriptions or campaign details on Trada aren’t always enough to craft a great campaign. Sometimes, when I check out the Client’s desires and research their opportunities, I wish I could tell them to NOT spend their limited budget on Google or MSN PPC! Sometimes, their money is best spent elsewhere, and a good SEM expert will say this when it’s in the best interest of the Client’s ROI. (eg. A fresh website and well designed call to actions can do wonders.) Then there are other Client campaigns, where the expectations are unrealistic, or their setup is actually sabotaging their own success.
In concept, the idea of dozens of optimizers on one campaign sounds amazing. But it seems Trada has set it up so that the Optimizers are competing against each other, instead of working together. How is that crowdsourcing? I think part of the concept behind crowdsourcing is that ALL the data, opinions and decisions are transparent and readily available, and can be utilized/merged and crafted together to create a brilliant campaign for the Client. The current setup, simply put, is stupid. If you can’t taste the current soup, you could ruin it by adding the wrong ingredient. Optimizers have no idea what has already been tried, or what markets or keywords are untapped.
There’s so many specific issues with Trada that don’t make sense either. When I’m joining a campaign with 9 or 10 other optimizers and I don’t have insight into the historical data, it’s like flying a plane blindfolded and with my arms tied behind my back. This is frustrating, because as an optimizer I want to be able to drive great results. Of the campaigns that do get good results, it seems that they are accidental, and taking advantage of the fact that PPC is still somewhat the “wild wild west” and an immature market with cheap, untapped opportunities.
Last but not least, compensation for the optimizers, and campaign performance management. Payments and the structure aren’t clear, and I feel like Trada isn’t at all interested in helping the Optimizers do well. And nor is it always fair. On one campaign where I saw the most opportunity and spent a chunk of time on it, the campaign was immediately paused by the Client. Well that was a waste of time. On another one, my best performing keywords with the highest conversions were suspended and pending Client review. Three days later and they are still paused. Why? The suspension reasons should be made clear. In what universe does it make sense to suspend the best performing keywords? In the interim you’ve irritated me as the optimizer (because I’m losing money), and if the Client understood what just happened he’d be annoyed too because he’s lost out on some good conversions. And counting on the Client to diligently and regularly monitor his campaigns kind of defeats the purpose of having your campaigns managed by experts. [Hmm, Trada product development team, it might be valuable for you to study and perhaps mimic the patterns of post-trade risk algorithms of financial trading of highly leveraged instruments. They have the most mature and carefully developed ways to suspend trading, or in this case spending.]
Overall, like I said earlier, Trada is inefficient and I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a so-so product. I give it a C minus. In concept a crowdsourced PPC management service sounds enticing, but Trada hasn’t done a good enough job with its execution. I hope Trada has some serious push on the development, and also some other company comes along and sees the opportunity at hand, and gives Trada a run for their money.
Update 02/01/12: I’ve been contacted by a few of you considering PPC wondering about alternatives to Trada. This is shameless self promotion: check out my PPC services at PPCPlans.com.