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Why Your Agency’s Growth Is Limited & How To Fix It



Why Your Agency’s Growth Is Limited & How To Fix It

If you’re looking for sustainable growth opportunities and meet the following criteria, you’re in the right place.

  • Your agency has not reached the multi-million dollar mark yet.
  • Your agency is directly responsible for PPC fulfillment.
  • PPC is not your agency’s most lucrative offering.

Those are the primary factors contributing to The PPC Dilemma, creating the untapped potential for digital marketing companies.

Below is an explanation of The PPC Dilemma and its remedy so you’ll have an effective means for scaling your agency.

The PPC Dilemma Explained

Digital marketing agencies must deliver high-quality PPC to attract and retain the right clients. However, resources are limited, and PPC is typically not the most significant profit driver.

Agencies must provide it, which inevitably diverts resources from more valuable activities.

That’s The PPC Dilemma.

The Economics Behind The Dilemma

There is no need to be alarmed or try to skip class.

This is not a lecture on economics.

That being said, the link between The PPC Dilemma and this well-trusted social science will help you implement this solution with confidence.

Thankfully the connection is pretty straightforward, so this will just take a minute.

Economies Of Scale

The “multi-million dollar mark” qualifier referenced above is based on an understanding of economies of scale.

According to Will Kenton’s article in Investopedia,

“Economies of scale are an important concept for any business in any industry and represent the cost-savings and competitive advantages larger businesses have over smaller ones.”

Multi-million dollar agencies who enjoy economies of scale are likely not suffering from The PPC (pay per click) Dilemma described below and won’t qualify for the corresponding growth opportunity.

Translation: If you are not an Inc 5000 agency, keep reading.

Diminishing Returns

To understand The PPC Dilemma is to understand the law of diminishing returns, which observes that output suffers when factors of production increase.

Key Terms Defined & Personalized:

  • Output: These are your deliverables, which generate revenue for your agency.
  • FOP (factors of production): Any resource you use to produce your services.

Your FOP includes all of the resources required to fulfill each of your agency’s offerings, e.g., SEO, web design, PPC, etc.

What Did I Say?

I told you that would be painless.

The bottom line (so far) is this: Your factors of production should include PPC fulfillment if PPC is your most lucrative offering; otherwise, it’s hindering your growth. That may be current or future growth, depending on when you reach optimal capacity.

Either way, you will grow if you can mitigate PPC fulfillment from your agency’s production factors while continuing to profit from its output/deliverables.

Now that I have demonstrated the “what” of The PPC Dilemma, I will get into the practical side of how to fix it.

The Big Four PPC Fulfillment Options

So how do agencies deliver high-caliber PPC while keeping its associated factors of production lean?

Below is a list of the most viable PPC fulfillment options with pros and cons.

Determine which one enables you to eliminate PPC fulfillment as an FOP while continuing to profit from its deliverables in your output.

Existing In-House Talent

This fulfillment method tasks existing staff (current employees with additional responsibilities) with managing PPC accounts.


  • Accountability – Employees have a high degree of liability to their employers, resulting in a strong motivation to do a great job.
  • Control – The ability to determine your PPC manager’s schedule, bandwidth, etc.
  • Communication – Internal staff typically have quick response times.
  • Fluidity – Internal teams fully integrate with existing tools and processes.
  • Commitment – Employers enjoy loyalty from staff, assuming a healthy work culture is in place.


  • Disruption – According to a recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employee turnover is historically high. Employee churn will create a lot of turbulence in this eggs-in-one-basket model.
  • Demand – You are responsible for developing and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to execute PPC fulfillment effectively.
  • Limited Results – Existing staff have additional responsibilities beyond PPC management. They also have less experience than dedicated talent who concentrate strictly on PPC. Performance suffers as a result.
  • Burnout – The more hats employees must wear, the more prone they are to experience burnout.

Dedicated In-House Talent

This option refers to hiring full-time specialists specifically for managing paid media.


  • All the benefits listed in “existing in-house talent,” plus:
  • Performance – You’ll experience better results when leveraging a dedicated specialist because they will have more experience and be able to focus all of their time on that one area.
  • Bandwidth – The bandwidth of this model excels both existing in-house talent and contractors.


  • The disadvantages listed in the first model (except for burnout), plus:
  • Recruiting – Headhunting is challenging, especially in today’s competitive market. It is time-consuming, and there are also a lot of uncertainties when onboarding a brand new employee.
  • Obligation – With salaried employees (vs. project-based), you are committed to a high monthly operational cost regardless of the workload of the individual. Similarly, you are committed to that cost indefinitely, irrespective of the term of their projects.
  • Limitations – Unless you have $12,000 to $13,000 per month to spend on multiple specialists, you will have to settle for someone who handles both paid search and paid social. This results in a reduction in skills compared to channel-specific specialists who are laser-focused on one channel.

Hiring Contractors

This fulfillment method involves independent individuals who do not work exclusively for one person or business.


  • Economical – This is a cost-effective method because 1. You only pay for specific projects (accounts), and 2. Contractors typically have limited overhead costs.
  • Control – While the level of control in this model can’t compete with the in-house models, there will be more flexibility here than working with an organization.
  • Flexibility – Contractors do not come with long-term obligations.
  • Talent – This economical option enables you to hire channel-specific specialists versus a generalist who manages paid search and paid social.


  • Risk – There is an inherent vulnerability with hiring contractors due to the independent nature of their position.
  • Lack of commitment – This is the other side of the flexibility coin, e.g., you have an individual servicing multiple agencies.
  • Communication – Communication gaps are inevitable when one individual manages multiple clients (agencies), each with their accounts.
  • Accountability – Independent contractors have the least amount of accountability.
  • Mediocrity – Innovation is uncommon in this model due to the natural constraints of a single individual.
  • Disruption – Like either of the in-house scenarios, it is disruptive when this person exists stage left. Remember that contract work does not carry the same unspoken expectation of a two-week notice.

White-Label PPC

With this fulfillment method, your agency purchases a white label company’s services and offers them to your clients under your brand.


  • Cost-effective – Hiring an outsourcing partner eliminates payroll and reduces costs associated with recruiting, infrastructure, workspaces, and resources.
  • Performance – A reputable white label PPC vendor will provide optimal performance. The reason for this is two-fold: 1. Given that they manage millions of ad spend at scale, they will have a lot of data, automation, etc. 2. They will have channel-specific specialists vs. paid media generalists.
  • Stability – This is the only model that provides immediate, alternative specialists during churn. They have other acclimated specialists who can step in to minimize the impact during transitional phases.
  • Low commitment – Like contractors, you never have to worry about idle, paid staff when a project ends as you only pay for active services.
  • Accountability – White-label PPC companies come with their brand and upper management, which means specialists are held to high standards.
  • State of the art – In addition to the specialists managing your accounts, a white-label provider will have leadership dedicated to continually improving their service.
  • Turnkey – I know of one vendor that empowers agencies to efficiently white-label PPC management at scale across the entire client journey through one dynamic interface. A robust client portal that isn’t limited to simple functions like submitting a support ticket is a big deal if you have multiple accounts.


  • Additional tools – You can’t expect an organization dedicated to white label PPC to integrate with your systems. You will need to acclimate to additional tools.
  • Minimal control – White label providers already have their service level agreements in place. The result is that you can’t dictate or amend their processes.
  • Communication – There is simply no way to replicate the responsiveness of in-house staff.

Note: The disadvantages here could easily be longer depending on your chosen vendor. I assume that the white label provider 1. has full-time W2 employees who reside in your country; 2. does not take over ownership of your assets (ad accounts, landing pages, etc.), and 3. has channel-specific specialists, e.g., paid search specialists and paid social specialists.

Four Tips For Success

These are the most common PPC fulfillment options available to agencies.

You’ll want to identify which one will provide your agency with the most potential for scalability.

I’ve provided four tips to help you identify the most effective model to resolve The PPC Dilemma.

1. Properly Weight Your FOPs

The most effective option will be the one weighed toward your agency’s most lucrative offerings.

In other words, when it is all said and done, your FOPs should be dominated by activity related to your wheelhouse/flagship offering.

Consider asking yourself, “Which model will minimize PPC fulfillment’s production factors while still allowing us to profit from its output/deliverables?”

2. Be Proactive

When confronted with opportunities like this, it is easy to be ruled by the tyranny of the urgent.

Don’t limit yourself to thinking about what would help you now; consider your potential 6 – 12 months from now.

To flesh this out, imagine yourself 12 months from now saying, “I wish I would have __________,” and then take measures to avoid that regret.

3. Don’t Underestimate PPC

Many aspects of an agency are evaluated, but few are as important as PPC.

Consider the number of users on Google and Facebook, the high level of intent associated with PPC, and the unmatched control over marketing dollars available to advertisers.

This is not a facet of digital marketing that you want to take lightly.

4. Remember Opportunity Cost

Instead of looking strictly at direct costs, remember to respect and factor in opportunity costs when making strategic decisions.

When we emphasize secondary priorities, we miss opportunities to zero in on what most contributes to our success.

This can be likened to the inverse of diminishing returns.

Make A Confident Decision

In his book, “From Good to Great,” Jim Collins observed that you need to confront the facts to make good decisions.

There are fewer effective ways to do this than basing decisions on proven scientific laws.

You can relax and make a call that economists back.

If appropriately executed, you can look back 12 months from now with a strong sense of satisfaction, knowing you made a wise move.

Here’s toward your future, sustainable growth!

More resources:

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Google’s AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility




Google's AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

An analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries by Bartosz Góralewicz, founder of Onely, reveals the impact of Google’s AI overviews on search visibility for online retailers.

The study found that 16% of eCommerce queries now return an AI overview in search results, accounting for 13% of total search volume in this sector.

Notably, 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.

“Ranking #1-3 gives you only an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews,” Góralewicz stated.

Shift Toward “Accelerated” Product Experiences

International SEO consultant Aleyda Solis analyzed the disconnect between traditional organic ranking and inclusion in AI overviews.

According to Solis, for product-related queries, Google is prioritizing an “accelerated” approach over summarizing currently ranking pages.

She commented Góralewicz’ findings, stating:

“… rather than providing high level summaries of what’s already ranked organically below, what Google does with e-commerce is “accelerate” the experience by already showcasing what the user would get next.”

Solis explains that for queries where Google previously ranked category pages, reviews, and buying guides, it’s now bypassing this level of results with AI overviews.

Assessing AI Overview Traffic Impact

To help retailers evaluate their exposure, Solis has shared a spreadsheet that analyzes the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.

As Góralewicz notes, this could be an initial rollout, speculating that “Google will expand AI overviews for high-cost queries when enabling ads” based on data showing they are currently excluded for high cost-per-click keywords.

An in-depth report across ecommerce and publishing is expected soon from Góralewicz and Onely, with additional insights into this search trend.

Why SEJ Cares

AI overviews represent a shift in how search visibility is achieved for ecommerce websites.

With most overviews currently pulling product data from non-ranking sources, the traditional connection between organic rankings and search traffic is being disrupted.

Retailers may need to adapt their SEO strategies for this new search environment.

How This Can Benefit You

While unsettling for established brands, AI overviews create new opportunities for retailers to gain visibility without competing for the most commercially valuable keywords.

Ecommerce sites can potentially circumvent traditional ranking barriers by optimizing product data and detail pages for Google’s “accelerated” product displays.

The detailed assessment framework provided by Solis enables merchants to audit their exposure and prioritize optimization needs accordingly.


What are the key findings from the analysis of AI overviews & ecommerce queries?

Góralewicz’s analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries found:

  • 16% of ecommerce queries now return an AI overview in the search results.
  • 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.
  • Ranking positions #1-3 only provides an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews.

These insights reveal significant shifts in how ecommerce sites need to approach search visibility.

Why are AI overviews pulling product data from non-ranking sources, and what does this mean for retailers?

Google’s AI overviews prioritize “accelerated” experiences over summarizing currently ranked pages for product-related queries.

This shift focuses on showcasing directly what users seek instead of traditional organic results.

For retailers, this means:

  • A need to optimize product pages beyond traditional SEO practices, catering to the data requirements of AI overviews.
  • Opportunities to gain visibility without necessarily holding top organic rankings.
  • Potential to bypass traditional ranking barriers by focusing on enhanced product data integration.

Retailers must adapt quickly to remain competitive in this evolving search environment.

What practical steps can retailers take to evaluate and improve their search visibility in light of AI overview disruptions?

Retailers can take several practical steps to evaluate and improve their search visibility:

  • Utilize the spreadsheet provided by Aleyda Solis to assess the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.
  • Optimize product and detail pages to align with the data and presentation style preferred by AI overviews.
  • Continuously monitor changes and updates to AI overviews, adapting strategies based on new data and trends.

These steps can help retailers navigate the impact of AI overviews and maintain or improve their search visibility.

Featured Image: Marco Lazzarini/Shutterstock

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Google’s AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny




Google's AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

Google’s rollout of AI-generated overviews in US search results is taking a disastrous turn, with mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, BBC, and CNBC reporting on numerous inaccuracies and bizarre responses.

On social media, users are sharing endless examples of the feature’s nonsensical and sometimes dangerous output.

From recommending non-toxic glue on pizza to suggesting that eating rocks provides nutritional benefits, the blunders would be amusing if they weren’t so alarming.

Mainstream Media Coverage

As reported by The New York Times, Google’s AI overviews struggle with basic facts, claiming that Barack Obama was the first Muslim president of the United States and stating that Andrew Jackson graduated from college in 2005.

These errors undermine trust in Google’s search engine, which more than two billion people rely on for authoritative information worldwide.

Manual Removal & System Refinements

As reported by The Verge, Google is now scrambling to remove the bizarre AI-generated responses and improve its systems manually.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company is taking “swift action” to remove problematic responses and using the examples to refine its AI overview feature.

Google’s Rush To AI Integration

The flawed rollout of AI overviews isn’t an isolated incident for Google.

As CNBC notes in its report, Google made several missteps in a rush to integrate AI into its products.

In February, Google was forced to pause its Gemini chatbot after it generated inaccurate images of historical figures and refused to depict white people in most instances.

Before that, the company’s Bard chatbot faced ridicule for sharing incorrect information about outer space, leading to a $100 billion drop in Google’s market value.

Despite these setbacks, industry experts cited by The New York Times suggest that Google has little choice but to continue advancing AI integration to remain competitive.

However, the challenges of taming large language models, which ingest false information and satirical posts, are now more apparent.

The Debate Over AI In Search

The controversy surrounding AI overviews adds fuel to the debate over the risks and limitations of AI.

While the technology holds potential, these missteps remind everyone that more testing is needed before unleashing it on the public.

The BBC notes that Google’s rivals face similar backlash over their attempts to cram more AI tools into their consumer-facing products.

The UK’s data watchdog is investigating Microsoft after it announced a feature that would take continuous screenshots of users’ online activity.

At the same time, actress Scarlett Johansson criticized OpenAI for using a voice likened to her own without permission.

What This Means For Websites & SEO Professionals

Mainstream media coverage of Google’s erroneous AI overviews brings the issue of declining search quality to public attention.

As the company works to address inaccuracies, the incident serves as a cautionary tale for the entire industry.

Important takeaway: Prioritize responsible use of AI technology to ensure the benefits outweigh its risks.

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New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App




New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

A keynote at Google’s Marketing Live event showed a new AI-powered visual search results that feature advertisements that engage users within the context of an AI-Assisted search, blurring the line between AI-generated search results and advertisements.

Google Lens is a truly helpful app but it becomes unconventional where it blurs the line between an assistant helping users and being led to a shopping cart. This new way of engaging potential customers with AI is so far out there that the presenter doesn’t even call it advertising, he doesn’t even use the word.

Visual Search Traffic Opportunity?

Google’s Group Product Manager Sylvanus Bent, begins the presentation with an overview of the next version of Google Lens visual search that will be useful for surfacing information and for help finding where to buy them.

Sylvanus explained how it will be an opportunity for websites to receive traffic from this new way to search.

“…whether you’re snapping a photo with lens or circling to search something on your social feed, visual search unlocks new ways to explore whatever catches your eye, and we recently announced a newly redesigned results page for Visual search.

Soon, instead of just visual matches, you’ll see a wide range of results, from images to video, web links, and facts about the knowledge graph. It gets people the helpful information they need and creates new opportunities for sites to be discovered.”

It’s hard to say whether or not this will bring search traffic to websites and what the quality of that traffic will be. Will they stick around to read an article? Will they engage with a product review?

Visual Search Results

Sylvanus shares a hypothetical example of someone at an airport baggage claim who falls in like with someone else’s bag. He explains that all the person needs to do is snap a photo of the luggage bag and Google Lens will take them directly to shopping options.

He explains:

“No words, no problem. Just open Lens, take a quick picture and immediately you’ll see options to purchase.

And for the first time, shopping ads will appear at the very top of the results on linked searches, where a business can offer what a consumer is looking for.

This will help them easily purchase something that catches their eye.”

These are image-heavy shopping ads at the top of the search results and as annoying as that may be it’s nowhere near the “next level” advertising that is coming to Google’s search ads where Google presents a paid promotion within the context of an AI Assistant.

Interactive Search Shopping

Sylvanus next describes an AI-powered form advertising that happens directly within search. But he doesn’t call it advertising. He doesn’t even use the word advertising. He suggests this new form of AI search experience is more than offer, saying that, “it’s an experience.”

He’s right to not use the word advertisement because what he describes goes far beyond advertising and blurs the boundaries between search and advertising within the context of AI-powered suggestions, paid suggestions.

Sylvanus explains how this new form of shopping experience works:

“And next, imagine a world where every search ad is more than an offer. It’s an experience. It’s a new way for you to engage more directly with your customers. And we’re exploring search ads with AI powered recommendations across different verticals. So I want to show you an example that’s going live soon and you’ll see even more when we get to shopping.”

He uses the example of someone who needs to store their furniture for a few months and who turns to Google to find short term storage. What he describes is a query for local short term storage that turns into a “dynamic ad experience” that leads the searcher into throwing packing supplies into their shopping cart.

He narrated how it works:

“You search for short term storage and you see an ad for extra space storage. Now you can click into a new dynamic ad experience.

You can select and upload photos of the different rooms in your house, showing how much furniture you have, and then extra space storage with help from Google, AI generates a description of all your belongings for you to verify. You get a recommendation for the right size and type of storage unit and even how much packing supplies you need to get the job done. Then you just go to the website to complete the transaction.

And this is taking the definition of a helpful ad to the next level. It does everything but physically pick up your stuff and move it, and that is cool.”

Step 1: Search For Short Term Storage

1716722762 15 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows an advertisement that when clicked takes the user to what looks like an AI-assisted search but is really an interactive advertisement.

Step 2: Upload Photos For “AI Assistance”

1716722762 242 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above image is a screenshot of an advertisement that is presented in the context of AI-assisted search.  Masking an advertisement within a different context is the same principal behind an advertorial where an advertisement is hidden in the form of an article. The phrases “Let AI do the heavy lifting” and “AI-powered recommendations” create the context of AI-search that masks the true context of an advertisement.

Step 3: Images Chosen For Uploading

1716722762 187 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows how a user uploads an image to the AI-powered advertisement within the context of an AI-powered search app.

The Word “App” Masks That This Is An Ad

Screenshot of interactive advertisement for that identifies itself as an app with the words

Above is a screenshot of how a user uploads a photo to the AI-powered interactive advertisement within the context of a visual search engine, using the word “app” to further the illusion that the user is interacting with an app and not an advertisement.

Upload Process Masks The Advertising Context

Screenshot of interactive advertisement that uses the context of an AI Assistant to mask that this is an advertisement

The phrase “Generative AI is experimental” contributes to the illusion that this is an AI-assisted search.

Step 4: Upload Confirmation

1716722762 395 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

In step 4 the “app” advertisement is for confirming that the AI correctly identified the furniture that needs to be put into storage.

Step 5: AI “Recommendations”

1716722762 588 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows “AI recommendations” that look like search results.

The Recommendations Are Ad Units

1716722762 751 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Those recommendations are actually ad units that when clicked takes the user to the “Extra Space Storage” shopping website.

Step 6: Searcher Visits Advertiser Website

1716722762 929 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Blurring The Boundaries

What the Google keynote speaker describes is the integration of paid product suggestions into an AI assisted search. This kind of advertising is so far out there that the Googler doesn’t even call it advertising and rightfully so because what this does is blur the line between AI assisted search and advertising. At what point does a helpful AI search become just a platform for using AI to offer paid suggestions?

Watch The Keynote At The 32 Minute Mark

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