I usually don’t post personal, non-SEM related pleas on my blog, so apologies in advance for this post. I have a good friend who got in a car accident last week. He was driving about 25 miles over the speed limit in a residential area and he was wasted. I think his breath alcohol content was close to .2, more than double the legal limit here in California. He rammed into the back of a car full of teenagers. Though none of them were killed, two of them are still in the hospital with broken bones and head trauma.

This is his first time in trouble with the law and he’s freaked out. The DA has said that he is going not going to give any mercy because my friend is a first-time offender, which means the sentence could be up to 10 years in jail if convicted. I abhor drunk driving as much as anyone, and there is absolutely no excuse for driving drunk, but this guy is a genuinely good citizen. He volunteers for charity, he’s well-liked, he’s got a stable job. Frankly, he doesn’t deserve to rot in prison for ten years – it would be a disservice to society.

Since he knows that I’m a law school grad, he’s asked me for help in finding him a DUI lawyer. I’ve thought this through and I think I know the profile of the type of lawyer he needs. Please read the profile carefully and if you know someone that fits this description, send me an introduction:

  • Must be a very smart person
  • Must be hard working
  • Must be inexpensive – no top guns that are going to charge $300/hr, I’m thinking that perhaps a recent grad or even someone who is still in law school will fit the bill
  • Specific knowledge of DUI law is a nice to have, but not a necessity
  • Courtroom or trial experience is also a nice to have

If you know anyone that fits this description, please email me ASAP.

Now, before you accuse me of being a bad friend, the above story is completely fictional. 100% made-up. I don’t have a friend with a DUI charge, and I don’t need a lawyer. And if I did have a friend in trouble, the last thing I would do would be to try to find him an inexperienced, non-DUI expert to represent him in what might be the most important moment in his life.

And yes, in the SEM world, this is apparently the attitude of some people looking for SEM help. If you don’t believe me, just take a read of a recent blog post over at Search Engine Land. Here are a few the key points the author makes in support of his argument that you don’t need SEM experts to run your SEM campaigns:

The right person for PPC management on your team does not necessarily have to be an expert in PPC. I have found that it is better to have personnel with the right skills sets (strong copy writing, math, analysis, and research skills) which broadens the job pool and decreases expert leverage for salary requirements.

I have hired three people to do PPC management for my large campaigns. None of them had PPC experience. There is a learning curve, of course, but it worked out better and saved money in the long run.

I responded to the author in a comment (well, actually several comments) on the original thread. In relevant part:

The thing about SEM is that it *looks* easy. And, in fact, just adding keywords, negative keywords, ad text, and basic bidding are easy. Its the rest of the stuff – the stuff that can actually drive huge profit – that isn’t easy.

Poker is an easy game to understand and learn. Trying going up against a pro and you’ll understand that a game that seems “not that complex” is anything but. But every day in Vegas folks come in for the weekend convinced that their mad skillz they’ve perfected playing their buddies in the basement are going to make them big bucks in Sin City. Usually doesn’t work out that way.

Its the same thing with SEM. There’s a lot of ‘dumb money’ on AdWords – completely mismanaged campaigns by folks who have read the AdWords Learning Center and are convinced they know all they need to know about SEM. They may even make a little profit too, assuming they are either in a low competition vertical or happen to have a very cool product that sells itself.

For the most part, however, they are 25-40% under-optimized. Google makes a lot of money that way. Again, not saying that this is you, but I am saying that true SEM experts can crush anyone who thinks SEM is straightforward and can be handled by a bunch of smart, non-experts.

No one would consider hiring a “smart amateur” to represent them in court, perform surgery on a loved one, or dispute an audit with the IRS. Google, however, has done an amazing job of convincing laymen that AdWords management is an exception to the rule that hiring professionals is necessary for great results. No doubt this makes money for Google, in that it encourages more advertisers to try their luck at SEM, and it also pushes dumb money into the system. A side effect of these advertisers is increased costs for smart advertisers, as dumb advertisers over-bid and/or spend money on keywords they shouldn’t be buying at all.

A lot of life is admitting that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I’d never sell myself as an SEO expert, even though I think I know quite a lot about SEO. For that matter, despite going to law school (and graduating with honors, thank you very much!), I’d never pretend to know enough to represent someone in court. Tons of experience, expertise, and intelligence is what turns someone into an expert. And a good expert is worth every penny, which is why they tend to charge a lot. So if you want to save money, go ahead and hire that recent college grad to manage hundreds of thousands of dollars for you on AdWords. Oh, and if you are planning to go skydiving any time soon, I hear you can get some great deals on slightly defective parachutes at the outlet mall!

1 Comment

  1. Gargoyle Consulting September 19th, 2011

    Very true. In the long run, though, the feeble will inevitably succumb to the forces of competition. That is unless Google keeps coming up with ploys like AdWords Express, which reinvigorate waves of overconfident DIY types

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.