10 Years of Beyond The Paid

10 years ago this month, I tried a little experiment. Blogging about search was becoming all the rage. Industry movers and shakers were all starting up their own blogs. So I decided to set one up for myself as an experiment.

Back then, there was no WordPress. There were a few paid blog platforms (Movable Type, anyone?), but really the only free game out there was Blogger. So that’s where I started.

I came up with Beyond the Paid as a play on Jim Gaffigan’s Beyond the Pale comedy album, which had just come out. He’s hilarious, by the way – go check him out if you’ve never heard his standup. Anyway, I thought it’d be a fun name for a PPC blog. Little did I know that a few years later, I’d end up creating an LLC for myself with the same name!

I took a look back over the last 10 years’ worth of posts. Here are some momentous occasions from the past 10 years in search, or at least in my life in search.


It’s amazing to think that in 2006, I’d already been doing PPC for 4 years. Looking back on my posts from that year, you’d hardly recognize we’re talking about the same job. Topics included MSN, which exists now as Bing; click fraud, which still happens, but isn’t the big to-do it was back in 2006; and Danny Sullivan leaving Search Engine Watch. How many PPC pros today even know that Danny started SEW? This was HUGE news at the time, with everyone wondering what would happen to SES and the SEW site.


The pay per click version of Adwords had been around for 5 years in 2007, and nefarious advertisers figured out that they could make a lot of money gaming the system. Garbitrage, the practice of creating crappy Adsense domains and then running Adwords to send traffic to them and make money, was rampant. I wrote about garbitrage in May of 2007. Note in that post that I also mention the beta of Google’s placement report. It’s hard to imagine search without that now, but it was new and exciting in 2007.

2007 was a momentous year for me personally, too. My twins turned 10, I won a trip to the very first SMX Advanced, and in October, I left the in-house world to work for an agency. 9 years later, I still miss my MagazineLine colleagues (many of whom are still there), but I’ve been thankful for the opportunities the agency world has given me.


The huge news of 2008 was the Microsoft-Yahoo deal. Prior to 2008, PPC pros had 3 major search engines to deal with: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Adwords was then, as it is today, the market leader; Yahoo was second, and Microsoft was a distant third. But Yahoo’s search platform, Panama, was awful. It lacked an offline editor, was slow, and just painful to use. MSN adCenter, as it was called at the time, wasn’t much better, but Microsoft was actively innovating, much like they still are today.

I was happy when the deal was announced. I found it interesting in 2014 when Yahoo decided to re-enter the fray with Gemini – but not interesting enough to actually try it.


The search engine Bing officially launched in 2009. It was announced at Microsoft’s Search Summit, a sort of predecessor to Bing Ads Next. I was lucky to be in attendance, and the Bing hype was real.

Not to be outdone, Adwords continued its frenetic pace of change. In 2009, they updated their policy to no longer permit multiple display URLs in a single ad group. This wasn’t something I’d done on a large scale, so it didn’t affect me, but I know plenty of advertisers had a lot of restructuring to do.

2009 also marked my very first speaking engagement, at SES Chicago. I’d been attending SES since 2003, and blogging since 2006, and yet somehow had it in my head that no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I owe a debt of gratitude to Kevin Newman, then my editor at Search Engine Watch, for pushing me to pitch to speak. Speaking at search conferences is one of the best parts of my job – I love sharing and teaching others about PPC.


2010 marked the official demise of Yahoo Search Marketing, which had been brewing since 2008. While there were aspects of YSM I missed, it made it easier to deal with only 2 PPC engines rather than 3.

Modified broad match made its debut in 2010 – can you believe it’s been 6 years? Finally, we had our “old” broad match back – MBM works the way broad match used to in the early days of Adwords, before close variants ever became a thing. It’s hard to imagine life without MBM now.

Adwords also launched Segments in 2010. Data that used to require running a report, or data that wasn’t available at all, became visible right in the UI. Segments is a feature I use regularly to diagnose trends and issues in accounts.


I only have one milestone for 2011, and it’s a huge one: Google’s SSL change, aka the beginning of Not Provided. While this change didn’t have a big impact on PPC, it changed the whole game for SEO. I’m still not a fan.


In January 2012, I started at my current company, gyro. I can’t believe I’ve been here 4 years! I’m eternally grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had in my career.

I also finally moved my blog to WordPress in September of 2012. After 6 years on Blogger and being frustrated with its lack of flexibility, I took the plunge and have never looked back. If you’re thinking about starting a blog, WordPress is the way to go.

Finally, in 2012 I wrote one of the most popular posts on the blog, about Adwords DIY. The post was in response to a New York Times article about a guy who was trying to run PPC on his own for his business, and failing at it. The post generated a lot of discussion, with the conclusion being that PPC had really gotten too complicated for most small business owners. Funny to think that I started in PPC as a sort of DIY side project!


2013 was all about Google. The biggest news of the year by far was Enhanced Campaigns. We’ve all gotten used to Enhanced Campaigns by now, but there are still little things that frustrate me to this day. Maybe the upcoming Adwords redesign will solve some of the issues. I’m not holding my breath.

I also noticed a big decline in service levels from Google around 2013. Long gone were the days of the Google Fridge and lava lamps, but we’d still had a semi-regular Adwords rep – until 2013 when they moved to the quarterly model. I’m still bitter about the poor Adwords support, by the way.


I got lucky in 2014, writing 2 of the most popular posts on this blog. The first was 26 Free Tools for PPC, which also ran on Search Engine Watch. This was a crowdsourced post from PPCChat, and I’m ever grateful for my friends there who are always a source of ideas and inspiration.

I also wrote a post on how not to do remarketing – which ended up being the most-commented post ever on my blog. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of different opinions on how to properly remarket to people.


Ah, 2015. The year of the infamous Call Only Ads. A year later, we’re still getting terrible performance from call only ads. I hate when Google takes a good thing and turns it into a bad thing.

Google created yet more fun with the launch of the new Adwords Editor. I’ve gotten used to it, but I still don’t love it. Alas, Bing Ads is working on a new Editor that mirrors Google’s, so I guess I’m stuck with it.

On a personal note, my twins graduated high school in 2015. They were starting kindergarten when I started doing Adwords. It’s crazy how fast time has flown by, especially when I’m doing a job I love. Now if time could slow down with the kids just a bit…


We’re not even halfway through the year, and I can’t even imagine what’s in store these next few months in PPC. Already we’ve lost right hand side ads and have seen “wider” search results. We know Google is revamping Adwords. Bing continues to innovate and is rolling out with Bing Ads Editor for Mac later this year. It’ll be fun to see what happens next!

So, here’s to the next 10 years on this blog. If they’re anything like the first 10, I’m in for a wild ride.

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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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Beyond The Paid 2014 Reader Poll

Well, it’s December. Time for holiday cheer and ecommerce madness; time for 2015 predictions and 2014 year-in-review posts.

I’m not going to do any of those. Instead, I want to hear from all of you. What do you want me to blog about? What topics are on your mind? What were your favorite posts this year?

I set up last year’s poll as an experiment, and the responses were eye-opening. You all inspired me to write about things I hadn’t really thought of.

So let’s do it again! Here is the second annual Beyond The Paid reader poll. It’s 2 questions, so please answer both! I can’t wait to hear from you!


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The History of PPC

Once in a while, it’s good to look back on where we came from. I didn’t start out in PPC – in fact it didn’t exist when I started working. My PPC career began in 2002 when Google announced the CPC version of Adwords.

But the history of PPC, surprisingly, doesn’t start with Google. It started with GoTo back in the late 1990s. GoTo turned into Overture, and then Yahoo bought them in 2003.

Recently, some of us on PPCchat started a new hashtag, #ppctbt. It’s an homage to Throwback Thursday, but specifically related to the history of PPC. It’s been fun to reminisce about all the retro PPC engines that aren’t around anymore: FindWhat, LookSmart, Kanoodle, Enhance, and many more.

Back in the day, when I did in-house SEM and CPCs were a lot lower, I tested so many of these early engines. We tested FindWhat (so-so), LookSmart (decent), Kanoodle (not good), Enhance (pretty bad), Findology (not good, although shockingly, they still exist – which I didn’t realize until today!), and Quigo (which wasn’t bad, although time-consuming to manage).

It’s so funny to look at that list and realize that I was actually able to manage all of those engines and not lose my mind! Although, if you think about it, today isn’t that different. We just have Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn instead of Kanoodle and FindWhat.

In those early days of history, PPC was so new that there was only a small group of professionals doing it. We hung out on search forums like IHelpYou, Search Engine Watch, and High Rankings, sharing tips and asking questions. In those days, I learned so much from Danny Sullivan, Andrew Goodman, Jill Whalen, Brad Geddes, Kevin Lee – and many others who’ve since left the SEM field.

It’s interesting to look back and see how much the space has changed. We didn’t have Twitter in 2002; in fact, the Search Engine Watch forums didn’t exist in 2002, and SES had just started (I’m still getting used to calling it ClickZ Live, folks). Few blog posts on PPC strategy existed. We learned by trial and error. It was great!

Lest I sound too much like PPC Moses, I’ll just say that it’s fun to see the industry evolve. PPC is both easier and harder than it used to be: easier, because the engines have improved so much usability-wise; and harder, because the competition is so fierce. 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of paying more than $2-$3 per click; now, $20-$30 CPCs are common.

But I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s been a great ride so far!

What about you? What do you remember about the history of PPC? When did you get your start? Share in the comments, or on Twitter using #ppctbt – you don’t have to wait till Thursday to chime in!

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Reader Poll: PPC Topics for 2014

Thanksgiving was last week, and people are still thinking about what they’re thankful for. I’m thankful for a lot of things: my family, my awesome job, my Michigan State Spartans, and much more.

I’m also very thankful for you, my blog readers. Without you, I’d be, well, talking to myself. Many of you I’ve never met; many others I have met in real life and we’ve become friends. Whichever camp you fall into, thank you.

Now is your chance to tell me what PPC topics you’d like to hear more about in 2014. Answer the poll below and let me know!

Got something special you’re thankful for? Share in the comments!

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Better Blogging in Less Time

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, or if you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably aware that I saw Van Halen in concert in Detroit on Monday – in the front row! I’ve been a fan of theirs since the early days, and this was my first front row experience. It was amazing. My husband took this picture, along with about 100 other awesome photos, at the show.

The big deal about this tour is that it’s following the band’s first album with David Lee Roth in over 28 years. As part of their new foray into social media, the previously closed-mouthed band has published several video tidbits that are really cool and fun for the fans.

Some of my favorite tidbits are the interviews with the 3 founding band members. In one, the guys discuss how the process of making an album has changed over the years.

(What does this have to do with blogging? I’m getting there – stay with me!)

One thing that’s different now is that instead of cutting the vocal track by singing the entire song all the way through, the vocalist will sing one phrase at a time, over and over. Then the producer chooses the best take from the 20 or so takes of that phrase.

In the video clip, the guys make the observation that the first 3 takes are almost always the best. David Lee Roth says these takes are the most spontaneous, “before you think yourself past genius.”

That quote spoke to me. It’s the same with blogging. I’ve had a lot of people over the years say to me, “I don’t have time to blog. I can’t think of anything to write, and then it takes too long to write it.”

I tell them to sit down at their computer, think of a topic (any topic), set a timer for 15 minutes, and write. If you can’t get at least a draft of a post in that time, it’s not blog-worthy. Beyond 15 minutes, you’ve thought yourself past genius.

This goes for anything creative: blogging, photography, music, speaking at conferences, ad copy writing…. The list goes on. The first take is probably going to be your best one. So if you’ve always wanted to blog but thought you didn’t have time, start writing now – before you think yourself past genius.

And if you’re interested, here’s the whole VH interview clip; the genius quote is almost at the end, around 12:00.

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2012 – New Beginnings

Today marks the end of the first week in my new job at gyro, a top B2B agency with offices worldwide. I’m working exclusively on PPC, as part of the Search team based in Cincinnati, OH – working most of the time from home here in East Lansing, MI.

I had a great run at Fluency Media for the past 4 years, and am thankful for the opportunity to learn so much about integrated digital marketing from the team there.

As 2012 gets underway, I’m super excited about this new gig and the opportunities ahead. It’s going to be a great year, both professionally and personally.

Professionally, I’m looking forward to the 2012 SEM conference circuit, which for me begins with Hero Conf in Indianapolis in April. In its first year, this conference (put on by the great peeps at PPC Hero)is strictly focused on PPC and features a Who’s Who of industry expert speakers. It should be a great conference.

Following that, there will probably be SMX Advanced, SES Chicago, and possibly one or two other conferences, all with awesome learning & networking.

Personally, I’m beyond excited about the front row seats I snagged yesterday for the Van Halen concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills next month. This is a bucket list thing for me – I’ve been a VH fan since the beginning, but the best seats I’ve had so far have been 4th row. Needless to say, I’m wearing a VH shirt today in celebration. 🙂

I’m also training to walk my first half marathon in April, just 3 days before my 46th birthday. That’s another bucket list item and I’m excited about that as well.

What’s on tap for you in 2012?

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What I’m Thankful For – SEM Edition

I know it’s kind of hokey, writing a “thankful” post for Thanksgiving, but I’m doing it anyway. Over the past couple of months, there have been times that I’ve let the stress of everyday living overshadow all the blessings in my life, so it’s time to right things around.

A Great Job

I don’t say it often enough: I’m thankful for a great job at Fluency Media that allows me to learn and grow every single day. We’re not a huge company, so I get to be involved in almost everything we do – and that helps me learn. My co-workers are a diverse group of super-smart digital marketers, and that makes us all better at what we do.

Great Clients
I don’t talk about our clients a lot – I’m not usually a proponent of violating NDAs. That said, I’m thankful for our great Fluency Media clients, who challenge us with their toughest marketing problems. They are truly partners, and they make our jobs fun!

A Great Career

I’ve written about how I got started in SEM – it was almost a fluke, really. Yet I’m continually grateful to be a part of this ever-changing industry. It’s a true blessing to have a career that’s really fun – it makes work seem, well, more like fun than work.

Great Friends In The Industry

Back when I was getting started in SEM, I was an avid reader on many search engine forums, including the Search Engine Watch forums. I read every newsletter I could get my hands on, from experts like Jill Whalen and Andrew Goodman. I was shocked when these esteemed experts replied personally to the questions I asked on the forums! I was dumbfounded when they actually took the time to talk to me at search marketing conferences! It felt like hanging out with rock stars. Nowadays, I count many of those same experts among my closest friends in the industry. There are many more that I’ve met on Twitter and have yet to meet in real life – yet they fall into the same “great friends” category. I’m thankful to have such a great network of friends who really love to help each other out.

An Unbelievably Awesome Family

I don’t write about my family much either – I believe some things should be private. But I’m forever thankful most of all for them: my husband of 18 years, and my super-awesome 13 year old twins. Teenagers are challenging, yet my kids astound me every day with their insight and thoughtfulness. I am truly blessed this Thanksgiving.

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How Not To Do Online Marketing

Last Friday was a fun day on Twitter – it was #shittyadviceday. I’m not sure who started it – when I logged in to Twitter at around 8 a.m. EST, some of my European SEM friends were already having fun with the hashtag.

The basic concept is to tweet something SEM-related that’s bad advice. In other words, if you read the tweets, you should absolutely do the opposite of the #shittyadvice that was provided. Here are a few of my favorites:

If you want to see more, just search for #shittyadviceday on Twitter Search.

What #shittyadviceday tips can you add?

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