Must-Read Posts On PPC And Other Topics

I’ve been bookmarking great PPC posts like a madwoman the past few days, and some of the posts are too good not to share. Here are my must-read posts on PPC, and on a couple other topics that PPC managers will find useful.

Excellent Bidding in PPC by Lauryan Feijen. This long but worth-the-read post covers how to effectively bid on keywords for best results. If you’re looking to meet your PPC goals, check this one out.

Multi-Ad Group Testing by AdAlysis. This video is intended for users of Brad Geddes’s AdAlysis tool, but it’s worth a watch for anyone looking to streamline ad copy testing across large accounts. You could apply the principles outlined in the video to a pivot table and gain similar insights with a few calculations, although it would take significantly more time than it takes in AdAlysis.

Incidentally, I’m a huge fan of AdAlysis. If you manage multiple accounts or have a large account with multiple ad tests, this tool is a must for saving time on test analysis.

Google AdWords Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSA): The Ultimate Guide by Lisa Raehsler. An oldie but a goodie, this Search Engine Watch post is a must-read primer for anyone looking to take advantage of the power of remarketing lists for search ads.

The next 2 posts are on giving great presentations. Even if you don’t speak at search conferences, you probably have to give presentations to clients, or to co-workers if you work in-house. I bookmarked these 2 posts because they’re loaded with tips that I can use right away to make my presentations better.

Making Great Presentations by Ian Lurie. A true lesson in the “less is more” philosophy, Ian’s Slideshare deck will have you fine-tuning your PowerPoint decks in no time.

Free Resources For Great Presentations by my friend Aaron Levy. Aaron gave this presentation at his alma mater, Villanova University – but the lessons in this post apply to far more than just college students. Everyone can benefit from the resources he offers up in this killer post. (Disclosure: Aaron credits me with providing ideas for his presentation, and I did send him a few tips – but this post has given me way more than I gave it!)

Give these great posts a read or view – you won’t be disappointed. Got any great PPC articles to share? Post in the comments!

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SES Atlanta 2014 Takeaways

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of speaking at SES Atlanta, a one-day return of the classic SES conference. It had a very different feel from the bigger shows, and it was great to meet a lot of attendees and speakers who aren’t part of the larger-show circuit.

The content was very good, with high-quality speakers. Here are a few of the takeaways from the keynotes and paid search track at SES Atlanta.

The morning opened with a keynote by Duane Forrester from Bing. Duane has been around since the early days of search, and his keynote was very forward-thinking. I love that about Microsoft & Bing speakers – they really do seem to have their fingers on the pulse of what’s coming. Duane talked about all the ways that mobile is changing the world of search, in a good way. Did you know that the Tesla car has a 20 inch screen powered by search data? And did you know that my home state of Michigan is one of only 4 states that has approved the use of Google’s self-driving cars? I didn’t either.

I got one of the best ad copy writing tips I’ve heard in a long time from my friend Lisa Raehsler of Big Click Co. For inspiration, watch QVC or infomercials and take notes! Note the calls to action, benefits, and other language they use. It’s very persuasive and can be tested in PPC.

Tracking microconversions was a theme throughout several of the presentations. Kevin Lee talked a lot about tracking microconversions such as newsletter signups or contact form fills, especially in the B2B environment, where actual sales can be few and far between. Omri Levin and Ken Williams of Search Discovery demonstrated how to set up remarketing segments based on microconversions.

The last keynote of the day was by none other than Marty Weintraub of aimClear. It was vintage Marty, with 150 slides for a 30-minute presentation. As always, he got through all of them.

I presented a B2B paid social case study. I had a ton of fun and met a lot of great people. You can check out my presentation below.

Did you attend SES Atlanta? What did you think of the show? Share in the comments!

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When Bad PPC Advice Is Good Advice

A couple months ago, I wrote a post called 6 Ways to Spot Bad PPC Advice, on the heels of a couple of PPC posts that I felt were misguided.

I stand by what I said, but have come to realize that I might have been a bit harsh in my delivery. As with all things PPC, what works for one advertiser (or campaign, even) may not work for another. In fact, what works one week might not work the next in the same campaign!

Sometimes, what is generally considered to be bad PPC advice might be good advice, in the right situation. Here are 6 instances where bad PPC advice might turn out to be good advice.

Sometimes you should spend more on PPC.

I railed against the suggestion to spend more on PPC because it’s usually Google’s first “optimization” suggestion, and all it optimizes is Google’s bottom line. But there are times when it makes a lot of sense to spend more on PPC. Have you ever had a campaign that was converting like crazy, but the client (or your boss) wouldn’t increase the budget? Frustrating, isn’t it?

While increasing the budget isn’t the first thing you should do to optimize a campaign, spending more is good advice for high-performing campaigns that are budget-limited.

Sometimes you should expand your geotargeting.

We had a client whose product appealed mainly to government organizations. They wanted to limit targeting to Washington, DC to reach federal employees. So we tried it for a while.

We found that volume, and conversions, were very low with this approach. When we expanded the campaign to other locations that also had high concentrations of federal workers, performance (and conversions) increased dramatically.

While I stand by my recommendation against targeting the whole world, getting too granular with geotargeting isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes expanding geotargeting is the right thing to do.

Sometimes broad match is necessary.

Ever tried running PPC for an esoteric brand that’s not well-known? Ever tried bidding on keywords that are relevant but low-volume? Ever gotten too long-tail and had that “Low search volume” warning in Google?

In these instances, broad match is a good idea. I’m still a fan of starting out with phrase or exact match and expanding from there, but if you run your entire keyword list through a keyword tool and the volume for every term is 0, you’ll want to try broad match.

Of course, you’ll want to carefully monitor your search query reports and aggressively add negatives. And modified broad match is a safer strategy than expanded broad match. But sometimes broad match is necessary.

Sometimes high-volume keywords will boost conversions.

I actually laid out how to go about adding high-volume terms in my post. It can and often should be done. Using my previous example of “low search volume” keywords, sometimes you have to go a few steps up the funnel to higher-volume terms. With careful monitoring, bidding, and budgeting, along with extensive negative keywords, high-volume terms can boost conversions. We’ve even seen instances where a single-word keyword, usually a no-no in PPC, converts like crazy at a good cost. It’s possible.

Sometimes you need short-tail keywords.

See above. It actually seems as though Google is discouraging very long-tail keywords with the “low search volume” penalty, in fact. I’ve had highly relevant, 5 and 6 word phrases not only get slapped with “low search volume,” but get hit with low quality scores as well. We could debate whether Google is right or wrong here, but the fact is that at this point, it’s their sandbox and we have to play in it or leave.

You should definitely test including appealing promotions.

I actually acknowledged this as a good tactic in my original post, with a caution: Don’t rely too heavily on deep discounts and “all promotions, all the time.” But if you have a deal or special, it’s definitely good advice to promote it via PPC.

What do you think? Are there times when you need to turn PPC best practices on their head and do things you wouldn’t normally do? Do you ever use any of the tactics in this post? Share in the comments!

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Top 3 Takeaways from SMX Advanced 2013

This year was my 7th trip to SMX Advanced in Seattle. As always, it felt like homecoming for SEMs – I saw so many friends, it’s hard to keep track! I especially enjoyed hanging out with fellow members of PPC Chat, sharing knowledge and thoughts about the conference.

A search conference is no good without takeaways that you can apply to your day to day work. Here are my top 3 takeaways from this year’s SMX Advanced.

Enhanced campaigns are a nightmare.

As expected, there was an entire session dedicated to Enhanced Campaigns. Each and every presenter on the panel was pessimistic about what they’ve seen so far. The consensus was that it’s nearly impossible to control and isolate mobile traffic to optimize for ROI. This is a huge issue that I’ve written about before, and so far Google has made no moves to fix it. We’re stuck with convoluted workarounds and complicated bid modifiers that complicate campaign structure and management, rather than simplify it as Google claims is the intent of Enhanced Campaigns.

Furthermore, Enhanced Campaigns don’t play well with some Adwords features, namely Conversion Optimizer. If you’re using Conversion Optimizer, be aware that you can’t use bid modifiers with it. Crazy.

And finally, Enhanced Campaigns are killing ROI. Jeff Allen from PPC Hero presented a case study showing that CPAs went way up with Enhanced Campaigns – specifically, mobile CPAs increased by 40%. Mobile spend also increased dramatically, due to the lack of control.

We can only hope that Google fixes these issues before the forced migration in July.

Bing is doing some cool stuff.

I had the huge honor of visiting the Bing Ads offices in Bellevue with my good friend Ping Jen. I met with several of their development teams, including the Desktop team, the keyword relevance team, and the Ad Intelligence team. While I can’t share specifics about our conversations, what I can say is that there are some very interesting and useful tools and improvements on the near horizon that will really take your Bing Ads campaigns to the next level. Bing is dedicated to succeeding in the search space, and they’re allotting significant brain power to making things work.

And really, if ever there was a good time for this, it’s now. Bing has a window of opportunity to eclipse Google in several areas, including innovation, control, relevance, and customer service. Google really ticked off the SEM community with Enhanced Campaigns, and we’re looking for alternatives. Bing is poised to be a viable alternative, folks.

Wednesday’s keynote speaker at SMX Advanced was Gurdeep Singh Pall from Bing. I normally take keynotes with a grain of salt – they’re usually very high-level and theoretical with few takeaways. But this keynote really got me thinking. Gurdeep talked a lot about the future of search and the way Xbox has changed the landscape. Voice search and even search with gestures is the wave of the future – and people don’t talk the way they type.

The implications for PPC’ers are huge. Not only will we have to rethink our keyword and ad copy strategy in view of voice search, we’ll have to figure out how to target searches by gesture. It’s almost mind-boggling, but the bottom line is, in 5 years our jobs will look very different than they do now. Star Trek is here, folks.

star trek

Opt-Out geotargeting works better.

The very last presentation of the conference in the PPC track was by Marta Turek of Mediative. She presented a geotargeting case study that changed the way I think about geotargeting.

In a nutshell, she and her team noticed that geotargeted campaigns didn’t seem to perform as well as they should. CPCs were significantly higher on their geo campaigns than on their national campaigns, and over time, they saw attrition of search volume & traffic.

So they tried an experiment. They’d been targeting Denver, CO. They replicated the campaign and instead of targeting the Denver DMA, they targeted the entire state of Colorado – and excluded every DMA except Denver.

The result? Significantly higher volume, and CPCs that were about 30% lower than on the geotargeted campaign – and, of course, way better ROI.

Just to make sure this wasn’t a fluke, they tried the same tactic on another campaign targeting a couple of DMAs in North Carolina. They saw the same results – more volume and better ROI. Marta called the tactic “opt-out geotargeting.”

She admitted that these weren’t perfect tests. Both tests were sequential, rather than simultaneous – they ran an opt-in campaign first, and then recreated it as an opt-out campaign. There were seasonal factors at play, in addition to campaign optimizations such as ad copy testing that could have skewed the results. Still, it was surprising enough to be worth sharing.

As I looked around the room during this session, I could see people furiously taking notes. You could almost hear the wheels turning in the collective heads in the room.

At the end of the session, moderator Matt Van Wagner made a promise to the room: If anyone else tested this technique side by side and got valid results, Matt would write it up for Search Engine Land and guarantee them a speaking slot at next year’s SMX Advanced. Wow.

All in all, it was yet another great SMX Advanced. Did you attend the conference? What did you think? Didn’t attend and have questions? Share in the comments!

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Search Marketing Conferences: Do Women Speakers Get The Shaft?

girlpowerAh, the battle of the sexes. It’s been raging since the dawn of time, and will continue long after we’re all gone from this earth. Most of the time, I don’t pay much attention to all the flap. Over the past few weeks, however, there have been a couple of well-researched and well-thought-out posts about why search marketing conferences don’t have more women speakers, and they got my attention.

I covered the first one in an earlier post. Marty Weintraub from aimClear did a great job interviewing female conference speakers, myself included. Go back and read the post if you didn’t already.

Today, Hannah Miller from State of Search published a follow-up post on the topic – and the points she made completely changed the way I’d thought about the dearth of female speakers at search marketing conferences.

Women are more compliant than men.

Hannah posits that women get lower speaker ratings because they’re more compliant than men.

Let’s face it – people love a good brawl. Long-time search conference attendees will remember some of the legendary shouting matches and black-hat vs. white-hat panels that never failed to entertain. How many women were on those panels? Very few, and those that dared participate were given labels such as “SEO Bitch.” Nice.

But most of us women won’t stick our necks out like that. We follow the guidelines that are given to us by conference organizers. We stick to the time allotted. We turn in our presentations on time. We don’t pitch from the podium. We give carefully measured answers during the Q&A.

As I think back on all the conferences I’ve attended recently, there were speakers who ran way over their allotted time. There were speakers who were obviously unprepared, or worse, recycled a presentation from another conference, complete with the other conference’s logo! And there were speakers who pitched from the podium and asked for business cards.

Every last one of them was a man.

Women are too hard on themselves.

Because we are compliant, we’re not as “memorable,” maybe. Playing by the rules isn’t interesting. So we don’t get stellar speaker ratings. When we get lower speaker ratings, we tend not to pitch again.

This sure rang true for me. While low ratings haven’t kept me from pitching (because I love speaking too much to quit!), I still get discouraged by them. A few years ago, one of the comments on my session was that I “didn’t seem confident about the topic.” I was speaking about small-budget search, which was the majority of my day-to-day job at the time! I was totally confident about this!

Even in my most recent speaking gig, the ratings I got didn’t match my perception: both in terms of preparation and the vibe in the room. My first panel was one I had pitched and prepared for. I’d practiced my presentation thoroughly. Throughout the presentation, I got head-nods and smiles from the room. People asked good questions. And I got lackluster ratings.

The second presentation was one I hadn’t prepared for at all. I was subbing for a speaker who’d fallen ill at the last minute and couldn’t make it. I was totally going off-the-cuff. And I got 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The point is, we’re our own worst critics anyway. If we get bad ratings, we blame ourselves. If men get bad ratings, they blame the environment.

Girl Power

I’m by no means saying that all women are wimps and all men are self-absorbed jerks. Nor am I saying that conference organizers are totally biased. Most speakers follow the rules, regardless of gender. And we all get bad ratings at times.

What I am saying is that the facts are clear: women are under-represented as speakers at search marketing conferences. And it’s time we changed that.

If you’re a woman in search and have thought about speaking, now is the time! Got any speaking tips, man or woman? Share in the comments!

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SES Chicago: Winning PPC Tactics

I’ve just returned from SES Chicago, one of my favorite search marketing conferences. It’s a favorite because I’ve been attending this conference since 2003.  And this year did not disappoint.  Not only was there a plethora of great PPC content, there were sessions on integrated marketing, content marketing, and even email. As always, I learned a lot.

This year, I had the honor of speaking at SES. In fact, I ended up speaking on 2 panels – one of them as a last-minute fill-in for my good friend Joe Kerschbaum, who was sick as a dog and couldn’t make it. It was great fun and I met a lot of smart people.

With that, here is my presentation from my planned session, Winning PPC Tactics, on What’s New in PPC. Let me know what you think!

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Why I Love PPC Conferences

This week’s PPC Chat topic was PPC Conferences. As usual, it was a great conversation about a fun topic. Take a look at the streamcap if you missed it.

The discussion got me thinking about conferences in general. In fact, I’ve been waxing nostalgic.

In another lifetime, before Google existed, I did traditional marketing.   As part of that job, I had to go to several conferences and trade shows.

I hated it.

Even when I traveled to trade shows with coworkers (which helped somewhat), the whole process was a huge chore.  All the strangers, all the small talk with people, all the “being on” all the time, all the “networking” just plain wore me out.  Believe it or not, I’m an introvert, and that much contact with people I didn’t know literally exhausted me. I dreaded going to these shows.

But once I started doing search, it all changed.

I still vividly remember my first PPC conference, which was SES – in Boston in 2003 (yes, this was before SES moved to the Big Apple).  I had been doing search for about a year, and had been participating in a lot of the forums, which were kind of the predecessor to social media and PPC Chat.  I had gotten to know (online, at least) several key players in the marketplace at that time; in fact, we had hired one or two of them as consultants, and I had read every e-book I could get my hands on in my thirst for knowledge.

Well, I couldn’t wait to go to SES. It was a total 180 from the feeling I had before the other conferences I had gone to in my career.  I knew that the movers and shakers were speaking, and I was hoping to meet some of them. I was nearly giddy with excitement.

Needless to say, after that conference, I was hooked.  Back then there was no SMX or HeroConf; and Pubcon was just a small informal gathering of SEOs.  SES, programmed at that time by Danny Sullivan, was the only game in town.  Following that first show, I started making annual SES pilgrimages.

In the early days when I was still learning, I’d be the first one to raise my hand during the Q&A in each session I attended.  I figured this was the cheapest way to get advice from the biggest experts in the field, and I was right. I always came back with takeaways that ended up boosting our profits substantially.  I also swarmed the podium at the end of each session to try to meet the people I’d chatted with in the forums live and in person.  I would never have done either of these things at any of the conferences I’d attended in the past.  I probably annoyed the heck out of the other attendees (and some of the speakers too!), but I didn’t care.

Little did I know that one day, the roles would be reversed and I’d be the one on the speaker podium.  I’ve found that I actually love speaking about search – it’s become a passion of mine. People always ask how I get past my nerves, and my honest answer is that I really don’t get nervous.  I’m just so excited to talk about the career that I love so much.

So how did I go from someone who dreaded conferences to one who can’t wait for the next one?

I believe that when you finally find out what you were put on this earth to do, you’ll discover that your job doesn’t feel like work.  That’s how it’s been for me.  It was really my passion for the craft and the industry that spurred me to ask all those questions and stalk all those speakers back in the day.  My thirst for knowledge far outweighed any shyness or nerves.

Do I still get exhausted with all that meeting and greeting?  I do, but not until I get back home.  While I’m actually at a conference, I’m loving every minute of it, even meeting all the strangers!

And do you know what the best part is?  It’s the fact that it’s come full circle.  I’m now able to help others learn about search, just like I learned from some of the best when I was new.  There is nothing more rewarding than the look on someone’s face when they “get it” for the first time.  There’s nothing like getting emails or tweets from people who enjoyed one of my sessions.  And there’s nothing like going to a conference like HeroConf and feeling like I’ve gone to a class reunion, even though I haven’t met most of the attendees in real life.  We all know each other already.

Can you name a single industry that’s this cool?  I can’t!

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HeroConf – The Class Reunion of PPC

On Monday, about 100 PPC pros converged in Indianapolis for the first annual HeroConf, put on by the great folks at PPC Hero. Being the first conference, none of us knew exactly what to expect, but there was a sense of anticipation and excitement in the air in the PPC community during the days leading up to the show. Everyone was looking forward to a conference focused solely on PPC.

HeroConf didn’t disappoint. It was a day jam-packed with PPC goodness, covering everything from account structure to mobile to remarketing and tons more. The sessions were insightful, and the speakers were a who’s who of paid search.

Yes, I spoke 3 times and moderated a lunchtime roundtable, but this isn’t meant to be a brag. I am humbled to have been included in such stellar company. As I sat on the Q&A panel at the end of the day, I honestly couldn’t believe I was up there with 2 of the people from whom I learned PPC back in 2002 – Brad Geddes and Andrew Goodman. The days of me harassing them with questions on the search forums are behind me, and they’ve both become good friends. Still, it was an awe-inspiring experience.

Because of the small size, the best part of the conference for me was the networking. I think I got to personally speak with nearly everyone in attendance, which is unheard of at the major shows. At the meet and greet Sunday night, I met old friends for the first time – people I’ve hung out with every Tuesday at noon EST for PPC Chat. It was a total blast, and I stayed up too late both Sunday and Monday, but it was worth every second of lost sleep!

After last year’s SMX Advanced, I wrote a post saying the show was like homecoming. Well, if SMX Advanced is homecoming, HeroConf was a class reunion – the group you were always closest with and knew the best. The camaraderie and knowledge-sharing was unmatched – I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relaxed at a show, especially one where I was speaking so many times! Usually that’s a recipe for all-day nerves, but I felt totally comfortable because I knew I was among friends.

It would take me all day to list all the amazing PPC people I met at HeroConf, but I do want to give a special shout-out to a few who made the conference especially meaningful to me.

To Melissa Ferrigan, who was a friend before I was even doing PPC, I’m so glad you were there to share it with me.

To Matt Umbro, it was totally awesome to share the stage with you at the Account Structure and Q&A panels, and to geek out on PPC over drinks.

To James Svoboda, I really enjoyed hanging out at IND. Thank you for turning the usually-mind-numbing time waiting for my flight into a fun chat!

And finally, to Michelle Morgan, my PPC little sis, I had an absolute blast swapping stories and rants with you. I knew we’d hit it off, because we already had on Twitter, but I felt like we became true BFFs at the show.

And to everyone else I met, know that I feel blessed to have chatted with you. I can’t wait for next year’s show!

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PPC Networking – The Fun Begins

Welcome to March! The long, cold winter is nearly over, and we anxiously await the longer days and melted snow…. Oh, wait – we’ve barely had any snow, at least here in Michigan. But who doesn’t get excited about the coming of spring?

I get excited about spring because it means search conference season! Actually, every season is search conference season nowadays, unlike 5-10 years ago when there was really just SES. But in the spring, it’s easier to travel, and it just “feels” more like conference season to me.

As I write this, SMX West is wrapping up. I didn’t attend that show – the west coast is a long trip for me, especially in February when the weather can be iffy (although, as mentioned earlier, it ended up not being so iffy). But a lot of people clearly did, as evidenced by the Twitter fail whale caused by the volume of tweets from the conference. By all accounts, SMX West was full of good content for PPC pros.

On the heels of SMX West, SEMs will head to the East Coast for SES New York, happening March 19-23. Although I won’t be attending this year’s SESNY, the conference has a special place in my heart – it was the first SES I ever attended, way back in 2003 when it was still held in Boston. In a way, that’s where it all began for me. SES is always a good show, and this one promises to be no different.

And then in April, the good folks over at PPC Hero and Hanapin Marketing are holding the inaugural Heroconf on April 16 & 17. I’m super excited about this conference, because it’s the first-ever conference focused solely on PPC. The PPC Hero team has assembled a superstar lineup of PPC speakers, including some of my “idols” like Andrew Goodman and Matt Van Wagner.

I am honored to have been invited to speak at this conference – I’ll be speaking twice on Monday: Account Structure at 10:30 am, and Managing Large Budgets at 2:30 pm. I’ll also be on the Q&A panel at 6:15 pm. Whew! It promises to be a great couple days of PPC networking and knowledge. If you’re a PPC pro and haven’t registered for HeroConf yet, what are you waiting for? Do it now!

Following HeroConf, the summer SEM conference season kicks off with SMX Advanced in Seattle in June. This is one of my favorite conferences – it’s smaller than the big SES and SMX shows, and the content is all advanced – no beginner topics allowed! Seattle is a great city, and the conference is super fun.

I know it can be tough to break away from the daily PPC grind to attend a conference, and they’re not always cheap. But just like any profession, PPC is constantly changing and evolving, and its practitioners need to stay up to date on the latest tools and techniques. I can’t think of a more open and sharing industry to be in, and I have conference networking to thank for my last couple jobs in SEM. It’s really worth it to attend!

What conferences are you excited about in 2012?

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Intro to PPC: SES Chicago Presentation

SES Chicago was last week, and as usual it was a great show with record attendance. This is one of my favorite search marketing conferences: it’s close to home for me (a mere 4 hour Amtrak ride), it has a Midwest feel, and attracts search newbies. I’ve always enjoyed teaching others – I come from a long line of teachers in my family.

This year, I was honored to do a solo presentation on Intro to Paid Search. This session is an SES mainstay, with a storied history of search industry luminaries as presenters: Dana Todd, who was one of the speakers I heard at my first SES back in 2003; Matt Van Wagner, a dear friend and one of my favorite speakers of all time; and Brad Geddes, another good friend and great teacher of PPC goodness. Honestly, I feel pretty out of my league following these superstars, but anyway…

I thoroughly enjoyed giving this presentation – like I said, I love to teach people about PPC, and the session attendees were engaged and asked great questions.

So with that, here is the presentation for your viewing enjoyment! I’d love to hear your feedback: share in the comments!

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