Friday, June 15, 2007
Interview with Ben Padnos, Co-founder, BetterPPC
One of the growing areas of the technology market is the area of online advertising technology. With the success of Google and others with pay-per-click ad models, there has been an increase in the number of startups and firms focused on optimizing advertising placement and targeting. Among those firm is Manhattan Beach-based BetterPPC (www.betterppc.com), a company that helps to monitor pay-per-click campaigns. We spoke with Ben Padnos, CEO and co-founder of the firm, who was an early Yahoo employee and came out of Yahoo's sales organization. Ben Kuo conducted the interview.
What is BetterPPC?
Ben Padnos: We're a technology enabled provider in the search engine marketing space. We are applying as much technology as we can, to the practice of setting up, managing, maintaining, monitoring, optimizing, and reporting on pay-per-click campaigns. Our focus is on small and medium businesses. It's based on the idea that search engine marketing is really hard. There are lots of companies on the high end, but they are focused on really big companies. If you don't spend a minimum of $25,000 to $50,000 in pay per click spending, they're not interested in your business. We came up with the idea to democratize this, and provide a high level of services to small and medium sized business. You might have also heard of a company called WebVisible, they're in a similar business, yet what they're doing is arbitraging clicks. Instead of taking that route, we want visibility and transparency. We even create accounts in Google directly for our clients, which they can access, and just charge a service fee. We provide a high level, high touch, professional service even if you're only spending $500 a month.
What's the history of the company, and what's your background?
Ben Padnos: BetterPPC is a patent pending, ad copy and optimization platform which started a couple of years ago. We have a multi-variate testing platform, which is basically putting a quantitative approach to something qualitative. What's qualitative is ad copy, which has a huge impact on how people buy, convert, etc. Our platform tests lots of variation of copy, really efficiently. That's the root of the company. It's a nice platform, which Microsoft uses to manage their Google campaign. I was at Yahoo, starting in 1997 for four years, and I've been in search marketing, SEO, and providing Pay Per Click for clients for the last six.
What did you do at Yahoo?
Ben Padnos: My last job was in the sales organization, where I was responsible for $100M in business, and responsible for part of the LA office and LA headquarters. I was part of team that evangelized Internet marketing. In 2000 it was a big deal for movies to advertise on the Internet, and today, there's not one Friday where they're trying to open a movie on Yahoo. Prior to that, we started a venture backed company in 1994, that turned into CSTV.com, owned by Viacom today. It became CollegeSports.com, the largest college specific sports site.
How's the company funded?
Ben Padnos: It's funded by some ex-Yahoo's, friends and family, and we've got around $1M into the business. We're open to raising money but have not been actively looking into it--the company is cash flow positive, has about 10 people, and we see more clients every single day.
It seems like there's a lot of companies looking at this area, do you see lots of competition?
Ben Padnos: On the lower end, I think it's a hugely underserved market. It brings high level professional services and search engine marketing to a market that is grossly undeserved. Basically the competition is WebVisible--buy a package of clicks--or a high end, full service firm but you've got to have $25,000 in spending a month. There's a whole world of zero to $20,000 a month in spend that isn't serviced well. There are lots of self service things available--I wear a Google shirt to work often, and we're part of the Google ecosystem. But, 80-90% of advertisers on Google are wasting money because they don't know how to play by the rules, set a budget, set per-click fees, don't know about things like geo-targeting, negative bidding, ad copy, and optimization. They don't know how to stretch their daily budget over the course of a day, and turn off content match. There are fifteen plus million, and fifty million plus advertisers worldwide, and Google has 600,000, where 80-90 percent are not doing things right. It's a huge market. There are absolutely other people out there, but we have the technology platform and can just out execute.
Does your service work just with Google?
Ben Padnos: Our platform is really geared toward Google. Despite what anyone claims about Yahoo's market share, Google has so much market share that most advertisers will have no problem spending their entire budget on Google. There's lots of great quality traffic. Yahoo's Panama is so darned complicated, so confusing, and so much harder to use than Google, I think the only way to protest is via your pocket book. Although we do some stuff through Yahoo, we're primarily a Google shop.
The whole disruptive notion is providing a high level of services to an underserved market. It's an interesting premise to build a business around. There's a company, LogoWorks, which provides low cost business logos -- we like to think of ourselves as being similar. They have technology that automates what used to be a manual process, which allows companies to get a $299 logo. If you spend less than $500 a month, our fees are only $99. A $2,000 monthly budget is a $399 monthly fee. And for this small amount of money, we will set up, manage, monitor and optimize your account, we'll send you weekly reports and a month-end summary. Basically, with us using our platform and a small amount of human intervention, we deliver professional management and great results. Plus, we always try to cover our services fees with money you save by optimizing performance, not to mention the additional hours of work we take off your plate so you can be focused on you core business.
One other product we have is searchformeonline.com. Think of it as a personal identity management. The premise is you are being googled, whether you like it or not. I read a survey in the Wall Street Journal, and something like 7% of searches are related to people's names. Searchformeonline.com costs $299 a year, and guarantees you a fixed presence on Google every time someone searches for you. They get your name, phone number and link to your web site, or a link to a free landing page. The idea is that every single real estate agent, doctor, dentist, attorney, financial provider, insurance agent, broker, professional services provider has a business built around referrals. What's better than having your name at the top of the page, a link to your web site, and a landing page to have lead capture information built in--things like name, phone, email, address, and best time to call--and have those leads show up in your email box? We're seeing lots of these. Every single financial advisor, anyone even if they just get one client in 5 years, it justifies having a Google business card. The other product we have is PPC Squad, which is like Geek Squad. Where they make consumer electronics simple for you, PPC Squad does for your campaigns on Google. We eat, live, and breath search engine marketing, to manage it for you and to make it very simple.
Thanks for the interview!