A few weeks ago I chastised Meltwater Reach – a sparklingly brand new PPC firm started last year – for trying to poach one of our clients by suggesting that they shouldn’t be showing up on the keyword “custom logo headbands.” We subsequently noted that Meltwater Reach was advertising on the equally obscure keyword “Meltwater Reach headbands” and a senior representative from Meltwater posted a comment on this blog promising to instruct his team to be more targeted with their keyword research going forward (oh, and not click on ads when doing sales research).

Today, I have some good news and some bad news for Meltwater. The good news is that it does indeed appear that their keyword selection for their sales letters to our clients has improved. We have a client in the evening wear category and this time Meltwater used the term “backless evening dress” for their client hunting. This is a real thing that a real person could really search for, so I have to give credit where credit is due – way to go Meltwater!

But alas, Meltwater still has some work to do. The contents of the pitch letter this time focuses on the ad text. Here’s what it says (in relevant part):

The real reason why I’m reaching out to you is because I came across one of your paid search ads on Google on the search for “backless evening dress” and saw that the ad copy could be a lot more targeted.  Knowing that this is a competitive arena in the PPC space, a more compelling ad copy would allow you to lower your Cost Per Click and Cost Per Acquisition in the long run (see screen shot below).

So let’s take a look at the screenshoted ad, here it is (I blacked-out the client’s name, everything else is straight from Meltwater):

For starters, this ad mentions “dress” twice and has “evening” in the display URL. So other than not specifically mentioning “backless”, I would count this as a well-targeted ad to this keyword. Indeed, the only ad that mentions the exact query does so in such a lame dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) fashion that it feels a lot less targeted than this client’s ad. And then we have the Nordstrom and David’s Bridal ads that don’t even use the word “dress”, opting instead of “gown.”

And of course, let’s look at the actual data behind this query. From my clever team member Sean:

Amazing!  The best part is that this query has generated an 0 impressions in the last thirty days.  It’s plural counterpart “backless evening dresses” has a whopping 28 impressions and 2 clicks for a 7.14% CTR.

If Meltwater has enough time to customize ads for the 38,000+ queries we were matched to last month I doubt they’d be able to do much else.  Good thing for us that we’ll focus on those that actual convert and show impression potential :)

Given all of this, I once again question the sales approach here, which appears to be as follows: 1) Find any medium to large advertiser on AdWords. 2) Do a keyword search (preferably for a relevant keyword – improved process!, do not click on the ad – improved process!); 3) Come up with any reason to suggest that there’s a problem with the advertiser’s SEM campaign, whether there is or not; 4) Close new client!

C’mon Meltwater, you’ve made some good progress since we last chatted, but you’ve still got plenty of room for improvement. I’m anxiously awaiting the next sales pitch iteration.


  1. Leslie Strickland April 6th, 2011

    To be honest, I’m extremely annoyed with anyone trying to poach clients. Find your own! If they are unhappy, they will find someone else and maybe it will be you. Are companies really finding that direct email condemning others’ work is working?

    Thanks, Leslie

  2. davidzhawk April 6th, 2011

    Apparently so Leslie. Given that this is at least the 4th or 5th client of ours that has received this email (and we only have a few dozen clients), either this is a massive waste of time, or a profitable technique!

  3. Jeremy Brown April 6th, 2011

    Hi David,

    This is Jeremy Brown, the SEM Director at Meltwater Reach.

    I’d like to address your specific point that searching for mis-use of broad match is an inappropriate tactic. Overuse and abuse of broad match is one of the largest problems we run into with accounts managed both by agencies and in-house managers. Google may claim that “broad match is best” (a quote from an actual Google webinar), but it should be used in moderation. Modified broad match is a step in the right direction and something I requested years ago from Google.

    I generally agree that searching for random terms isn’t all that helpful (‘aerospace software for dogs’, for example), but I question the validity of your issue in these cases. The previous client featured “t-shirt or clothing design” on their website. Headbands are not that far afield; I’ve seen worse actual examples from a number of clients with Google’s broad match.

    Our sales team researches potential clients by looking at a number of outward-facing aspects of their campaigns (overuse of broad match, ad copy, sitelinks, position, etc.). We understand that it’s an incomplete picture which is why we request to perform an audit. Many times those outward-facing issues are symptomatic of larger problems around structure, match types, keyword selection, and more.

    I understand your perspective, but I’m sure you would agree that many agencies could be doing a better job for their clients. I’ve been working in PPC since 2003 and I’ve seen far too many mismanaged campaigns.

    As a growing field, SEM is going to get more competitive, not less. I look forward to robust competition driving better results for clients.

    Jeremy Brown
    SEM Director
    Meltwater Reach

  4. Terry whalen April 6th, 2011

    Agreed – totally lame way to try to get clients. Slimy X 2. Very underhanded. But, I do give credit to Jeremy for a certain smoothness of tongue. Because there are many poorly-managed accounts, he seems to be saying, the end justifies the means (the means being sales tactics that are very clearly underhanded).

  5. Jeremy Brown April 7th, 2011

    Hi Terry,

    I disagree that attempting to identify overuse of broad-match is something that’s inappropriate.

    That’s one of a number of factors we examine when looking at the forward-facing aspects of prospects’ campaigns.

    Overall, we are focused on driving great results for clients.

    Cheers, and have a great day!


  6. davidzhawk April 7th, 2011

    Jeremy, here’s my problem with your approach. At this point my teeny little agency has had about 10-15% of our clients contacted by your staff, all with the exact same message: “I found you on {insert keyword} and I felt you needed to improve your targeting.” In every case so far, the example given to demonstrate over-use of broad match was poor – either because it was based on a ridiculous term that no one ever searched for, or because it highlighted ad text that was in fact targeted to the query!

    So I think this means that your team is “carpet bombing” every advertiser on AdWords and trying to scare them into talking to you, regardless of whether that advertiser’s campaign is really sound or not.

    I think basically we just need to call a spade a spare here – you guys are trying to grow your business – I have no problem with that. You have a large inside sales team and they are reaching out to as many advertisers as they can. They are instructed to try to raise doubt in the advertiser’s mind that their campaign is not optimized, regardless of what the truth may be.

    I have always said that “fear” is one of the four human emotions that can sell anything, and that’s what you are using in your sales approach. I personally wouldn’t use that approach in sales, and it sounds like others who have chimed in wouldn’t either, but we don’t run your business, do we?

  7. Terry Whalen April 7th, 2011


    Broad, phrase, and modified broad match are extremely important to any well-run account. Like David said, there is no way to filter out all non-relevant search queries before they happen. You guys are taking something that is true – “broad match is bad when it’s over-used or not properly used” – but then you are applying this truth in an indiscriminate way, taking cheap shots at other agencies or PPC managers.

    The details matter – if you see an advertiser that does not sell X but is bidding on X keywords – and if X truly has little or no relevance to what the advertiser sells – and if X is a product or term that does in fact get a good amount of impression volume – then, yes, it’s very fair to point that out. But it seems like you guys are churning and burning – you are taking a shot in the dark, and hoping it initiates a conversation with a prospect. It’s just a cheesy way to do it. It’s just a different style of business. An aggressive, sales-y style.

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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.