PPC: Anything But Routine

Robert Brady wrote a great post this week over at the Clix Marketing blog called How Valuable Are PPC Skills Anyway? I love the perspective he shared on PPC skills and commoditization – something that’s been talked about a lot in the search blogosphere of late.

Some people have wondered whether automation will eventually put PPC professionals out of a job. It’s a fair point. Look at the manufacturing industry, where many jobs have been taken over by machines and robots, and others have been shipped overseas, where labor is cheap. Could the same thing happen in PPC?

In his article, Robert postulates that routine PPC tasks can be done via automation. If you’re just doing routine tasks, your job may be in jeopardy. There are tools out there that can do bid management, budget management, keyword research, ad testing, and many other routine tasks.

But if you’re actually working on strategy, and overseeing the work that the tools do, then your job should be secure. Check out this graph that Robert referenced in his post:

graph
Back in 1983, when I graduated high school, the same number of people were employed in routine cognitive and non-routine cognitive jobs. Over the past 30 years, the number of routine cognitive jobs hasn’t grown – the line is nearly flat. But non-routine cognitive jobs have grown – and at a faster rate than the other 3 job types.

Strategic PPC is non-routine cognitive work. I can’t tell you the last time I did the same thing 2 days in a row. It doesn’t happen. Are there routine tasks I perform? Sure. Do I do the exact same thing every day for every account? Absolutely not!

There is a place for routine work in every job out there. But if you’re spending every day doing routine tasks, your job may be taken over by automation someday soon.

It’s my hope that all PPC professionals end up doing non-routine cognitive work. It’s what makes this industry so much fun. It’s also my hope that search marketing conferences start focusing less on how-to tactics and more on strategy. It’s in PPC strategy that our value lies.

Do yourself a favor and check out Robert’s post if you haven’t already. And if you’re practicing or teaching assembly line PPC, you might want to start thinking about PPC strategy a little more. Check out the “pay per click strategy” section on this blog. Read blogs by others. Focus on objectives. Ask “why” every day. In short, make sure you’re doing non-routine cognitive work.

Did you read Robert’s article? How do you balance routine PPC tasks with non-routine PPC strategy? Share in the comments!

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PPC Advice For My 18 Year Old Self

I’ve seen a lot of posts out there recently with people giving advice to their 18-year-old selves. One I liked featured some of the top college basketball seniors, including one of my favorites, Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine.

Tomorrow, my twins will turn 19. I don’t expect either of them to go into PPC – they’re not interested in it – but nonetheless, I was inspired to share PPC advice for my 18 year old self.

Don’t be afraid to fail.

I was an 18 year old hotshot. I did well in school and was good at a lot of things: sports, music, writing, and more. I thought I’d be a huge success right out the gate.

Not even close.

The very next year, when I was 19, I took accounting. It was the hardest class I had ever and would ever take – including grad school, and that’s saying something. I studied for hours every night just to get a 2.5 in the class.

A couple years later, my first job was a disaster. It wasn’t a good fit for me. I failed at it.

But failing is learning. I learn far more from failing than I do from succeeding. At 18, I was afraid to fail. I can’t say I love it now, but I’m not afraid to fail. 18 year olds, don’t be afraid to fail. It’ll teach you a great lesson.

Technology will evolve into something you can’t imagine right now.

Let’s face it – I’ll be 50 next month. I was 18 in 1984. Google wasn’t even a gleam in Larry and Sergey’s eyes – in fact, Larry Page was an 11 year old student right here in East Lansing. The internet itself didn’t exist, at least not publicly. Computers existed, but were not commonly used. We had a Commodore 64 at home, but I didn’t have one at college. No one did. We hand-wrote term papers and then typed them on a typewriter. DVDs and iPods didn’t exist either – we rented VHS tapes and listened to music on Walkmans.

Just the other day I was talking to my daughter about VHS tapes – she had watched the movie “Be Kind, Rewind”  in her film class at MSU and thought it was funny. Even at 18, she remembers using a portable CD player and watching kids shows like Veggie Tales on VHS. A ton has changed in her lifetime, not to mention mine.

My point is, the career you end up with may not even exist right now. Mine sure didn’t. Go with the flow. Learn skills that translate across jobs: writing, thinking, and analyzing will get you a long way in whatever career you choose.

Be curious and ask why.

PPC is like CSI – performance fluctuations are often a mystery begging to be solved. The answers are not going to be fed to you – you’ll need to dig them out. Learn how to research and ask questions. You should always be asking “why” – why isn’t this keyword performing? Why did that ad perform better? Why didn’t this feature work the way I thought it would?

Critical thinking is a crucial PPC skill as well. Don’t believe the hype and hyperbole in the blogosphere – read, understand, test, and think for yourself. Don’t fall for gimmicks like “great PPC hacks” and “this feature is a unicorn” and other hyperbole. Some things you read or hear might work great; others will be a disaster for the accounts you’re managing. Learn to spot the BS.

Find mentors and sponsors.

This advice goes whether you decide on a career in PPC or anything else. Find a mentor or teacher who will take you under their wing and show you the ropes. In every job I’ve ever held, I’ve tried to find someone to emulate. Sometimes it’s been a manager or boss. Sometimes it’s been a more senior coworker. In PPC, it’s often been colleagues I’ve met at conferences or online. The point is, find someone who is willing to answer your questions and give advice. Find someone whose actions you respect, and emulate them.

Also be on the lookout for what I call “reverse role models” – those who show you what not to do. We’ve all had bad bosses and coworkers over the years. Take note of the things that upset you and make sure you don’t do them!

My husband and I have always tried to teach our kids that there are good and bad people out there. You will not always get along with everyone. You’ll have bad teachers, bad classmates, bad sports coaches, and bad neighbors. Learn how to deal with these people in a mature and professional manner. We’ve never allowed our kids to quit or switch just because of a bad teacher or classmate. We’ve helped them learn to deal.

(Let me caveat this by saying we haven’t forced them to tolerate abuse of any kind. There is a time for parents to step in, too – and part of being a parent is knowing when to draw the line.)

Do what you love.

This is perhaps the most important advice I can give. When I was 18, I wanted to be the next Jane Pauley. I loved television and everything about it. I was a telecommunications major at Michigan State and was convinced I had the smarts and the skills. I’d wanted to do this for as long as I could remember.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. I’m not the anchor of NBC Nightly News. By the middle of my junior year of college, I realized I needed to be more realistic. But I didn’t give up on what I loved. My first job was in broadcast – selling advertising for a local radio station.

I learned that I hated selling, but I loved advertising. I eventually got into marketing for a local company. It was there that I got into search when Adwords launched their CPC program in 2002. I’m doing what I love, even though my job now is something I couldn’t even have dreamed of at 18 in 1984.

The moral of the story is, don’t give up on your dreams – but find something practical to pay the bills in the meantime. And be open to new directions.

The Final Word

So much has changed since I was 18 – it’s literally a different world. What was once the stuff of Star Trek fantasy is now a reality. It’s amazing. So to all the 18 year olds out there, enjoy the ride.

What would you tell your 18 year old self? Share in the comments!

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Teachers

I was going to write a post today about ad extensions and their importance, especially now that right hand side ads are gone from Google. But I just wasn’t feeling it. Ad extensions are important, now more than ever. Here’s Google’s take on the issue. Read that. Activate ad extensions if you haven’t already.

There.

Instead, I’d like to talk about teachers. Later today, I’m having dinner with one of my former clarinet teachers. I took lessons from him briefly while he was a grad student at the University of Michigan. Now he’s an internationally renowned performer. I’m super excited to catch up with him.

As I thought about all the great teachers I’ve had over the years, I got to thinking about PPC teachers. Who has taught me PPC skills over the years?

As with many of us who started in the early days of PPC (I started in 2002), I was mostly self-taught in the beginning. SES was a fledgling conference, and SMX wouldn’t exist for another 5 years. Blogs were a new thing, and there weren’t many out there. Twitter didn’t exist either. I got most of my info from either trial and error, or from reading forums: I Help You, Jill Whelan’s High Rankings forum, and later, the forums at Search Engine Watch. Of the three, only High Rankings remains – and Jill’s been out of the search business for a few years now.

There are several individuals to whom I’m indebted for imparting their search knowledge to me in the early days. Andrew Goodman was infinitely patient with the zillions of questions I asked him during a brief consulting engagement in 2002 or 2003, and his e-book on Adwords was dog-eared on my desk as a reference.

Brad Geddes was a regular on the forums back in the day. He answered lots of questions, and I made sure to attend his sessions at SES when I started going in 2003. I also learned a ton from Frank Watson aka AussieWebmaster on the forums.

Matt Van Wagner is one of the nicest guys in search, and he has always encouraged me. I still remember when he came up to me at an early conference in probably 2005 or 2006 and complimented me for asking a good question in a session.

I’m still learning about PPC, even as an old-timer. I learn from the great folks in PPCChat every day. I learn from clients, bosses, and coworkers. If you’re not learning, you’re stagnating and, dare I say, dying.

Who has helped you learn PPC? Give them kudos in the comments!

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Importing AdWords Campaigns to Bing Ads: The Guide

Many advertisers expand their PPC program by by importing their Google AdWords campaigns to Bing Ads. Bing makes it super easy to do so, with import tools in the UI and in Bing Ads Editor.

But many advertisers don’t realize that their job has just started with the import. There are additional steps that need to be taken to get the best possible performance out of Bing Ads.

Lisa Raehsler of Big Click Co has put together an excellent guide to optimizing Bing Ads campaigns after importing from Google AdWords. The guide covers every aspect of optimizing your Bing Ads imports, from search partners to daily budgets to geo-targeting.

If you’re importing Adwords campaigns to Bing Ads, this guide is a must-read. You can read the guide here: Guide-Optimizing-BingAds-From-Adwords.

Disclosure: I’m quoted in the guide. But Lisa did all the work putting it together. Enjoy this valuable resource for importing AdWords campaigns into Bing Ads!

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Let’s Not Kill B2B Whitepapers Just Yet

A couple weeks ago, my friend Kirk Williams wrote a thought-provoking post on the Wordstream blog called Can We Please Kill the Whitepaper in B2B PPC?. When I saw the title, my hackles went up. I started to think: “Kirk, how could you?”, because Kirk is one of my favorite people in PPC.

As I read the post, I found myself agreeing with him. What he’s really saying is we need to kill bad whitepapers in PPC. Bad whitepapers, according to Kirk, are “all too often nothing more than repurposed sales material.”

I agree.

The whole reason for using B2B whitepapers in PPC is to generate awareness and consideration for your product or service. B2B whitepapers are often used in the early stages of the buying cycle, when users are in research mode. No one wants to be sold to when they’re trying to do research. We all know how annoying it is when we’re trying to browse for a new appliance, car, or other considered purchase and some salesperson pounces on us with a hard sell. We don’t like it. Neither do B2B prospects. Repurposed sales material posing as a whitepaper is not helpful and should definitely die.

But good B2B whitepapers are a great fit for PPC. Our clients have created whitepapers offering opinions on news in their industry, checklists for businesses to consider when making a purchase, overviews of how to use their product, and many other valuable topics. The key is to create whitepapers that answer questions the prospect may have as they’re doing research.

Let’s look at an example. Say you’re doing in-house PPC, and your campaigns have grown to the point that you’re thinking about bid management software. This is not an inexpensive purchase, and there are many technical aspects to consider. You probably have 100 questions about what bid management software does and how it can work for your business.

Do you want to read sales brochures at this point? Of course not. You want to read case studies and information on how bid management software has helped businesses like yours.

That’s where the whitepaper comes in. A good whitepaper on bid management will explain what it is, what it can and cannot do, and how businesses can benefit. It will not be a sales brochure.

In his article, Kirk listed several alternatives to the whitepaper. They’re all great. We’ve found, though, that in situations where the user is early in the research process, free trials and discounts are too far from where the buyer is in his or her journey. Buyers at the early stages need something informative that doesn’t feel like a big commitment. Good whitepapers are just the thing.

Should bad B2B whitepapers die? Absolutely. Should all B2B whitepapers die? Of course not! Whitepapers are useful tools that belong in every B2B marketer’s arsenal. And I think that’s exactly what Kirk was saying in his article.

What do you think? Are whitepapers helpful to you as a B2B marketer or B2B buyer? Or should they be killed off? Share in the comments!

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on PPC Ad Copy

When people think about PPC, they often think about keywords first. But good ad copy is just as important to a successful PPC campaign. With only 90 characters to work with, writing good PPC ad copy is harder than you think.

What is the goal of each ad group?

Think about the goal of each ad group. Is it to sell products? Generate leads? What specifically are you offering and what do you want people to do when they get to the landing page? Your goal will help you craft ad copy that encourages users to do what you want them to do.
Read more: Ideas Are Not Strategy

Write the call to action first.

Few PPC pros write ads this way, but they should. Writing the call to action first forces you to craft ad copy around it. It also ensures enough space to say what you need to say! Some calls to action are long -“Download The White Paper Now,” for example – so you need to make sure you have enough space, or at least know you need to write a shorter call to action.
Read more: PPC Ad Copy Creation: Where To Start?

Research the competition.

You can use a tool like SEMrush or AdGooRoo, or you can just perform a few ad hoc searches on your keywords. Find out what your competitors are talking about and what they’re offering. If they all offer free shipping, you’ll need to think seriously about doing the same thing. Sometimes, researching the competition yields ideas on how to differentiate your business from all the others in the space. Are you the only company that allows purchases without a credit card? Say so! Do you ship faster than others? Put that in your ad copy.
Read more: 3 Sneaky Ways To Bid On Competitor Keywords

Determine your unique selling proposition (USP).

What’s unique about your company? Why should people buy from you? This is your unique selling proposition, the differentiator for your business. By the way, slogans such as “Just Do It” aren’t USPs. There’s a place for slogans, but not in ad copy. Save them for callout extensions and put a true USP in your ad copy.
Read more: Why PPC and SEO Engagements Fail

Include elements to encourage conversions.

In PPC, ad copy must do two things: stand out to encourage clicks, and make the offer clear to encourage conversions. Include elements such as numbers, keywords, and urgency statements (“Limited time offer!”) to encourage users not only to click, but to convert.
Read more: Pay-per-click: 5 Tips for Successful Ad Copy

Test, test, test.

Your job doesn’t end once you’ve written one ad. It’s just started. Write at least 3-4 ads for each ad group. You’re not going to put all 4 ads into market now, but you’ll need them for testing. Once one ad wins, pause the loser and rotate in another ad you’ve already written. One of the great things about PPC is the ability to test ad copy. Use it! Learn from it!
Read more: PPC Ad Copy Testing: 2015 Edition

The Ultimate PPC Ad Copy Cheat Sheet

PPC Ad Copy cheat sheet

Download the cheat sheet in Excel here: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For PPC Ad Copy

What are your ultimate PPC ad copy writing tips? Share in the comments!

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PPC Professionals: The Mechanics of Digital

Earlier this week, I took my car to the shop for an oil change and tire rotation. 30 minutes and $30 later, it was done. Easy.

When I was a kid, it was common for people to change their own oil. Cars were simpler then. My first car was a 1972 Ford Gran Torino. Yes, I’m dating myself. But I loved that car. It looked just like this one except it was powder blue. It was awesome. I wish I still had it.

Anyway, back then cars were simple. You could easily change the oil, the filter, the air filter (which I did myself many times, it was a 5 minute job), the spark plugs (which I also changed), and many other parts to keep it running. The mechanics of it were simple.

Fast forward to cars now. I now drive a 2011 GMC Acadia Denali. I love this car too. It’s big and bossy and has lots of fun toys, including satellite radio, OnStar, and a fancy nav display.

I can’t fix a single thing in this car.

The engine is crammed into a third of the space of the engine in my Gran Torino. Everything’s hooked up to computers. I’m afraid to even open the hood, much less try to tinker with anything under there.

Keeping PPC running well is a lot like keeping a car running well. When I started doing PPC in 2002, it was simple: keywords and ad copy. No Google Display network. No remarketing. No social PPC. No multi-device fancy stuff. Just keywords and ad copy. PPC was easy for a novice to do, and do well. I fell into it as a special project, and we made money the first day, even though I didn’t know what I was doing. I was, in essence, changing my own oil.

Nowadays, PPC is complicated, just like my Acadia. It’s easy to mess up royally and cost yourself thousands of dollars. There’s way more competition than there was in 2002, so CPCs are higher. There’s Bing and Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram…. the head spins just thinking about it.

PPC is not DIY. It hasn’t been for a long time. I know that if I try to mess around with anything under the hood of my Acadia, I’ll screw it up and it’ll be an expensive mistake. The same thing goes for amateur PPC managers. It’s cheaper and better in the long run to hire PPC professionals.

What do you think? Can PPC still be done DIY? Or do you need a pro to succeed? Share in the comments!

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Using Adwords Labels To Organize Your PPC Campaigns

Ah, the new year. Time for New Year’s resolutions. Yesterday, the gym was packed with people, many of whom sadly will not last past Groundhog Day. Losing weight is the #1 New Year’s resolution.

But I’m not going to talk about that (although I could). I’m going to talk about the #2 resolution: getting organized.

We all have that one room in our house that’s disorganized. Stuff is everywhere, with no rhyme or reason. People often joke about tax records that are thrown into a shoe box. Ever tried to do your taxes that way? Ever tried to find a file on a computer with no subfolders? It can be done, but it’s time consuming.

The same thing goes for PPC accounts. Account organization is crucial for efficient PPC management, no matter the size of the account. For large accounts, it’s imperative.

Enter Adwords labels. Adwords labels help you organize your PPC account and quickly filter and view information in a number of different ways.

Campaign Organization

The traditional PPC account structure sometimes doesn’t go far enough to organize your account properly, especially for large accounts. You might have campaigns divided by network, country, language, product, and offer, for example. You can use campaign names for this: Search-US-English-WidgetA-FreeTrial, for instance. And this is exactly what I usually do. But what happens when you need to add even more dimensions to the mix? Super-long campaign names can get unwieldy. This is where labels come in. Add labels for the additional dimensions.

Results By Offer

Here’s another scenario. Let’s say that you’ve grouped campaigns by product line, and within each campaign you have multiple offers: purchase, trial, demo, and content download. And let’s say you want to see how each offer performs across the board. There are a number of ways to do this, of course, but one of the ways is to create a label for each offer. Then you can filter the data and view each offer’s stats individually.

Ad Test Groupings

One of my favorite ways to use Adwords labels is for ad copy tests across ad groups. If you’re running a pricing test across multiple products with different prices for each product, it’s nearly impossible to summarize that data in an Adwords report. But if you add labels to your ads, Price Point A, Price Point B, etc., summarizing the data is a cinch, especially if you throw it into a pivot table.

Remarketing List Organization

We all love remarketing. Large PPC accounts often have hundreds of remarketing lists. And Google doubles the number of lists by adding Similar Audiences – resulting in pages upon pages of lists to sort through. Adding labels to remarketing lists can help filter things down to a reasonable number. I label all Similar Audiences, just so I can filter them out when looking at my lists. I also create labels for lists specific to RLSA.

Other Uses

If you use any campaign automation, such as bid rules, you might want to label ad groups using them. Many advertisers use labels for locations, campaigns with bid adjustments, dayparting notations… the list is nearly endless.

Making use of Adwords labels will organize your account in a flash! Now, to get Bing to add them… How have you used Adwords labels to organize your PPC account? Share in the comments!

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Your Favorite Blog Posts Of 2015

Here we are, December 18. Christmas is a week from today, and PPC pros are either gearing up or winding down. Gearing up if you work in B2C ecommerce (in fact, you’ve been geared up for weeks), gearing down if you work in B2B like I do.

Last week I asked readers to vote on their favorite post of 2015. You didn’t disappoint! It’s always interesting to me what resonates with you – sometimes a post I think is great doesn’t get much reaction, while a post I dashed off in 15 minutes and thought wasn’t very good gets a lot of love and commentary.

With that, here are your 3 favorite blog posts of 2015:

Call-Only Ads Are Ruining Mobile Results – Based on the number of comments I got, this post struck a nerve with a lot of you. Call-only ads continue to be the bane of my existence, and I appreciate all of the feedback I’ve gotten from all of you on this topic, both here and on Twitter.

5 Challenges For PPC Lead Generation – Clearly I’m not the only one frustrated by the search engines’ focus on B2C and ecommerce, based on your votes. So many features and functions in PPC just don’t translate to B2B.

3 Sneaky Ways To Bid On Competitor Keywords – Who doesn’t love sticking it to the competition? Clearly you all love it! This post shared some of my favorite tactics, and a few of you shared some tips of your own.

I want to thank all of you for voting, and more importantly, for reading. Without you, I’d just be talking to myself. Which I do anyway :), but I appreciate all of your feedback and comments. You’ve helped me to be a better writer and a better PPC manager!

Updated! Here’s the replay of the Periscope I did earlier today talking about the top posts.

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Beyond The Paid 2015 Reader Poll

And just like that, it’s December. 2015 is coming to a close. What a year it was for me personally – my twins graduated from high school and enrolled at Michigan State, and I’m wrapping my 13th year in PPC. 13 years! Hard to believe.

Being December, it’s time for my third annual Beyond The Paid reader poll. I love getting feedback from my readers on hot PPC blog topics, as well as your favorite posts from this year. I’m always inspired to read your comments and feedback.

Without further ado, here is the Beyond the Paid 2015 Reader Poll!

PS: If you can’t see the poll, please leave a comment. I’ve had trouble with PollDaddy. 🙂

 



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