10 Resources for New PPC Pros

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve had the pleasure of writing a series of articles for Web Marketing Today on PPC Basics.  If you haven’t been over to the WMT site lately, give it a read – there are a lot of articles and video interviews with pretty much all the thought leaders in search.

Anyway, the PPC Basics series is a culmination of 10 years in the search biz, all distilled for your reading pleasure!  So if you’re new to PPC, or are in the midst of training a new hire, take a look and let me know what you think.

How Paid Search Fits into Your Marketing Mix

Keyword Research

Account and Campaign Settings

Keyword Match Types

Ad Copy Development and Testing

Bid Management

Quality Score

Evaluating Data



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How Not to Use DKI, Part 2

Dynamic keyword insertion is one of the great features of PPC.  Dynamic keyword insertion, or DKI, allows the advertiser to automatically insert the bidded phrase into ad copy.  This can provide a huge boost to ad relevance and CTR, but it can be easily misused and over-used.

I’ve written before on how not to use DKI, and you’ve probably seen some pretty crazy examples of it yourself.

There’s another common misuse of DKI that I’ve seen during PPC account audits that bears discussion.  It’s not egregious like the common DKI fails, but rather, an honest mistake that can have a negative impact on PPC ROI.

Don’t hide your USP in DKI.

I’ve frequently seen unsuspecting advertisers hiding their USP, or unique selling proposition, in DKI.  For example, let’s say you’re a retailer promoting a big, limited-time sale.  You’d rightly want to include “Limited Time Only” in your ad copy – after all, it creates a sense of urgency and should increase your CTR.

Unfortunately, though, it’s not uncommon for these advertisers to hide that feature behind DKI!  The ads look something like this:

{KeyWord:LimitedTime Only}
Huge Sale on Red Widgets at Joe’s
Shop Online Today & Save!

On the surface, the ad looks great – after all, one of the key points is in the headline, right?


Remember, DKI inserts the bidded keyword, and only uses the default text (the part after the KeyWord: command) when the keyword is too long to fit.

Let’s say this advertiser is bidding on the branded term “joes store” and the non-branded term “buy red widgets.”  The actual ads would then be:

Joes Store
Huge Sale on Red Widgets at Joe’s
Shop Online Today & Save!


Buy Red Widgets
Huge Sale on Red Widgets at Joe’s
Shop Online Today & Save!

In both instances, the “limited time only” call to action is gone!  DKI has effectively watered down the offer.

How can we make these ads better and still use DKI? It’s pretty simple.  And this is how DKI was really intended to be used.  Remember, keywords can be inserted anywhere in the ad copy, including display URLs.  It’s not limited to the headline.

So in our example, instead of this:

{KeyWord:LimitedTime Only}
Huge Sale on Red Widgets at Joe’s
Shop Online Today & Save!

We’d do this for brand terms:

Limited Time Only
Huge Sale on Red Widgets: {KeyWord:at Joe’s}
Shop Online Today & Save!

And we’d do this for non-branded terms:

Limited Time Only
Huge Sale! {KeyWord:Red Widgets} at Joe’s
Shop Online Today & Save!

As you can see, good account structure is critical for this approach to work.  If you have branded and non-branded terms in the same ad group, it’s nearly impossible to write DKI ads that make sense.  But if you’ve taken the time to create small, tightly-themed ad groups, incorporating DKI is a breeze.

When used properly, DKI is a useful tool that can really make your ads stand out.  Just don’t hide your USP in it!

Have you used DKI in a unique and successful way?  Share in the comments!

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Why Musicians are Good at PPC

Ready for yet another ranty post?  Too bad!  After the past couple weeks of craziness in the PPC world, I need to cleanse the palate.  Thus, a post about one of the other loves in my life:  music.

Many of you know that I’ve been a musician most of my life.  I sang in church when I was tiny, then moved on to the recorder and a brief and relatively unsuccessful stint at the piano before settling on the clarinet in 6th grade.  I continued with music in college as a proud member of the Spartan Marching Band, playing the alto sax.  I still play in both the MSU Alumni Band and local community bands.  I can’t begin to enumerate the joy and opportunities that music has given me.

As with many of my blog posts, you’re probably wondering what the heck this has to do with PPC.  In my 10 years in the industry, I’ve discovered that many of you are fellow musicians.  Some of you are really darn good at it.  Some of you have even made a living at it for a while.

To me, that’s awesome and fun.  Beyond that, though, I recently read an article that explains why so many of us are into music.  Scientific studies have shown that musicians use both sides of their brains more frequently than average people.

The article states that “Instrumental musicians often integrate different melodic lines with both hands into a single musical piece, and they have to be very good at simultaneously reading the musical symbols, which are like left-hemisphere-based language, and integrating the written music with their own interpretation, which has been linked to the right hemisphere.”

The researchers in the article also found that “the musicians gave more correct responses than non-musicians on the word association test, which the researchers believe may be attributed to enhanced verbal ability among musicians.”

Sound familiar?

Music is basically one big dichotomy.  It’s full of mathematical concepts:  from the time signature to counting rhythms to even the musical scales themselves – all of these have mathematical theory at the core.

But listening to music played mathematically is awful.  Think about a song that’s plunked out on a computerized synthesizer:  the notes all sound the same, and there are no changes to the volume or rhythm.  Booooo-ring, right?

In order for it to be meaningful, music needs feeling.  The interpretation of the tune is what makes it pleasing to hear – whether it’s a classical piece played by an orchestra, or a hard-driving rock and roll song.  If the musicians didn’t play with feeling, nobody would care.  It takes both the left-brained meter and math and the right-brained creativity to make the song appealing and effective.

The same thing goes for PPC.  The reason not everyone succeeds at PPC is often due to the lack of either left-brained or right-brained activity.  I’ve seen people who are great at math and analysis struggle with writing good ad copy.  And I’ve seen super-creative people, many of them artists in their own right, struggle with the data overload that’s native to PPC.

It takes ability in both hard data and creativity to really knock PPC out of the park.  I think this is why so many of us are musicians, too.  We’ve learned to, or have an innate ability to, combine math & statistics with a creative streak and make magic out of it – and that draws us to PPC, where these abilities are strengths.

Of course I know that not every good PPC’er is a musician.  And certainly not every great musician would make a great PPC’er (or would even want to try it!).  Somehow, I can’t picture Eddie Van Halen sitting down at a computer and writing PPC ads.  But I bet Neil Peart would be great at it.

What do you think?  Are you a musician-turned-PPC’er? Or vice versa?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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PPC Isn’t Dead, But I Wish Google Were

OK, maybe that’s a little harsh.  If Google were dead, a lot of us would be out of jobs, myself included.  But the last two changes they made to Adwords have me mad enough to spit nails.

I already wrote about the near match fail that was announced last week.  Apparently the hue and cry over that announcement wasn’t loud enough for Google, because this week they announced near rotate.

The outpouring of hatred for this announcement was unbelievably loud and clear.  No one asked for this, and no one wants the change!

There’s been so much coverage that I won’t go into any more detail here.  The purpose of this post is a call to arms.  If you’re as teed off as I am about this change, please sign the petition protesting the change.  As of this writing, there are nearly 350 signatures from PPC’ers all over the world.

Join us in telling Google just how badly we think this will kill our PPC test results.  Sign the petition today!

PS, credit for the idea for this post title goes to Dr Pete for tweeting a similar post title idea. Thanks for the inspiration!

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My Top 3 PPC Posts of 2012

The first quarter of 2012 is in the books (already?!?!?), and a lot has happened already in the PPC world. Here are the top 3 posts on this blog for the year to date.

3 Unfulfilled PPC Wishes from 2007

This was a fun post to write, and it got the attention of PPC pros on Twitter and beyond. What’s funny about this post is that I wasn’t even going to write it because when I had the idea, I didn’t think there were any unfulfilled wishes from 5 years ago. I was wrong.

A 12-Step Program to Improve Your CTR

This SEW rerun accomplishes something that not every blog post can: timeless tips that can help all PPC’ers. Just when I think “oh, everyone already knows that,” a post like this reminds me that we can all use a refresher course from time to time.

The top post for 2012 so far, by a landslide, was this one:

PPC Is Alive and Well, Thank You

There’s nothing like a good controversy to get the attention of the entire PPC community. This post was spurred by an idiotic post from a so-called social media expert who claimed that PPC was dead. Judging by the reaction I got to my post, she was, well, kinda wrong.

And there you have it – the top 3 posts of 2012 so far. What are some of your favorite PPC posts from around the web?

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Breaking: Sitelink Conversion Data Now Available!

A few of us on PPC Chat noticed today that conversion data is now available in the Adwords interface for sitelinks and ad extensions! Data can be segmented in all the normal ways, including by time, top vs. side, click type, and network.

This is a huge leap forward for Adwords in terms of giving PPCers the data they need to optimize not only ads & keywords, but sitelinks as well.

For more info and up to date findings, follow the #ppcchat hashtag on Twitter.

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How to Avoid PPC Campaign Strikeouts

Just as even the best home run hitters in baseball strikeout on occasion, you too could be three pitches away from being the victim of a PPC campaign strikeout. Good decision-making is the key to avoiding and preventing some common PPC pitfalls. Here are three curve balls to watch out for.

Strike 1, High and Outside: Bidding on Overly Broad Terms

Baseball pitchers love to throw a fastball that’s high and outside (outside being outside the strike zone). A good pitcher can fool a batter into swinging at this pitch, when really it’s too far out of reach.

Novice PPC advertisers often swing at this fastball too, by bidding on overly broad terms that are out of reach when it comes to getting good ROI.

For instance, an office furniture store might try to bid on terms like “desk chairs” or “computer desks.” At first glance, it makes sense: that’s what they’re selling, after all.

What they don’t realize, though, is that broad terms like this aren’t only too broad, they’re too competitive. They’re just too difficult to hit, like a high outside fastball.

In PPC, you’re much better off looking for targeted terms such as “Aeron desk chairs” (including a brand name as part of the search) or “clear glass computer desks” (more specific). More detailed phrases give you a better chance of getting on base and getting good conversion rates.

Strike 2, Always Swinging on the First Pitch: Not Testing Ad Copy

When I learned to play softball as an 8-year-old, one of the first things my little league coach taught me is never to swing at the first pitch. As a batter, it’s important to get the feel of a pitcher’s style: pitching motion, ball speed, and other tendencies.

Beginning pitchers don’t have a lot in their technical arsenal: their motion & speed tends to be consistent, so it’s a good idea to get a little information first, and see what you have coming to you before you swing away. On the second pitch, you’ll know what to expect.

PPC is no different. At the beginning of a campaign, you don’t really know what type of ad message is going to resonate with your search audience. Yet I see so many beginning advertisers using only one ad variation – in essence, hoping and assuming that first pitch will be a good one and swinging for the bleachers.

One of the biggest benefits of PPC is the ability to test multiple variations of ad copy. Each ad group, especially a new ad group, should include a minimum of two ad variations.

Let both ads run for a while, and measure the results. This way, you’ll get a handle on which ad message might turn out to be a home run, and you’ll know what you’re swinging at.

Strike 3, Switch-Hitting for the Heck of It: Using Advanced Settings Without Data

A switch hitter is someone who bats both left and right handed. Switch-hitting throws off both the pitcher and the fielders: a batter who batted right-handed in their first time at bat, but steps up to the plate as a lefty the second time, requires quick adjustments by the defense.

Thing is, it’s really hard to hit effectively from both sides of the plate. Therefore, it’s not a good idea for a right-handed batter to step up and bat left-handed unless he or she is pretty confident about their ability to hit the ball.

Advanced PPC options like dayparting, the Display Network, Enhanced CPC, and other features are a lot like switch-hitting. When used correctly and in the right situation, these tools can absolutely hit a home run for your PPC campaign. Unfortunately, a lot of advertisers don’t use them correctly, or they make assumptions instead of informed decisions based on data.

Let’s look at an example. I’ve spoken with more than one B to B advertiser who uses dayparting to restrict their PPC ads to weekdays only. When I ask if they did so because they were getting poor results on the weekends, they’d say no, they never tried weekends – they just dayparted right out the gate, assuming performance would be poor.

While there is a good chance weekend advertising won’t perform for a B2B advertiser, this isn’t always the case. We’ve had B2B clients who get great conversion rates on the weekends, simply because their competitors have all dayparted on weekdays only, leaving our client as the only weekend advertiser!

If your data tells you that weekends are no good, then by all means daypart. But just stepping up to the plate left-handed because you’re facing a right-handed pitcher doesn’t make sense unless you know you can hit the ball left-handed! Try it first, measure the results, and then make decisions from there.

Final Score

By making smart decisions in setting up and managing your PPC campaigns, you’ll give yourself a good chance of avoiding that strikeout.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on May 17, 2011.

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Google Adwords Training Resources

I’ve often talked about the fact that while PPC seems easy, it’s really not – it may be easy to set up a campaign, but to really get good results and optimize, it takes a lot of practice and learning. Of course, nothing beats the experience of actually setting up and managing your own campaign, ideally in a low-risk situation or under the tutelage of an Adwords professional.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great online learning opportunities out there for would-be Adwords managers who want to start learning even before they’re actively managing a campaign.

Adwords Exam Learning Center

I recommend starting by studying for the Adwords Exam using the Learning Center. If you can pass the exam, you’re definitely ready to manage campaigns on your own.

PPC and SEM Industry Blogs

When I was first starting out in PPC, I read everything I could get my hands on about the craft. The industry was still new (this was 2002, after all), but there were people out there who had done it for longer than I had, and I was anxious to learn from them. Most bloggers in the PPC and SEM industry are very open and willing to share information, and even answer individual questions from their readers. Where else can you get free personalized, one-on-one industry consulting?

Here are some of the blogs I read regularly and recommend:

Search Engine Watch (disclosure: I write a monthly column for Search Engine Watch)
Search Engine Land
Search Engine Roundtable
Inside Adwords
SEER Interactive


I’ve written about getting PPC news from Twitter and about PPC people to follow on Twitter. If you’re not currently using Twitter, I highly suggest you start. You don’t have to actually tweet – just use it like you would an RSS feed! Read tweets from PPC people, and you’ll learn a lot and keep up with the latest. And if you choose to interact, you’ll learn even more, and have a great resource for questions and help with even your most challenging PPC questions.

Adwords Training Videos

The Adwords Learning Center is full of informative videos on everything from the “getting started” basics to use of more advanced features. Our Adwords rep recently sent me some links to how-to videos for several important and effective features, and they’re too good not to share.

Adding Sitelinks
Adding Location Extensions
Using the Search Terms Report
Creating a Mobile Campaign
Setting up Conversion Tracking

He’s adding new videos all the time, so be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel so you won’t miss the latest!

There you have it – these resources should get you started and keep you learning for a long time to come. Do you have any favorite or top-secret PPC training resources to share?

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10 PPC Experts to Follow on Twitter

The PPC crowdsourcing company Trada recently published a blog post listing their top 10 PPC experts to follow. While I agree with the majority of the names on the list, a few were puzzling: Danny Sullivan, a PPC expert?

Don’t get me wrong – Danny is a huge name in the SEM industry, and a personal friend. But he’s not a PPC guy. However, Search Engine Land, which Danny started, is a great PPC resource, and I highly recommend it.

Following a great discussion on Twitter about Trada’s list, along with an offline conversation I had with one of the Trada management team, I decided to create a list of the top 10 PPC experts to follow on Twitter. This list is in no particular order.

David Szetela

David is the founder of Clix Marketing and a veteran of the search marketing conference circuit. He’s also the author of PPC An Hour a Day, which is an invaluable resource for PPC managers. His Twitter stream is a great source of PPC info. David’s semi-retired now, but he still shares lots of PPC know-how.

Andrew Goodman

Andrew was one of the first PPC experts I paid attention to way back in 2002 when I was getting started with PPC. He already had an e-book published on Adwords at that time. Since then, we’ve gotten to know each other personally, and I’m honored to call him a friend. Andrew blogs at Traffick and tweets PPC brilliance.

Brad Geddes

Brad is another long-time PPC pro and author of Advanced Google Adwords. Brad also hosts the podcast Marketing Nirvana on webmasterradio.fm. He’s a prolific writer for SEM news sites, and his Certified Knowledge training is top-notch. Follow Brad to get the latest PPC news.

Robert Brady

I “met” Robert on Twitter and we’ve swapped tips ever since. Robert’s blog is also a must-read for PPC suggestions & tips.

John Lee

John works for Clix Marketing and is a faithful member of PPC Chat. If you have a tough technical PPC question, John’s your guy. He’s a great mind and his Twitter stream is engaging & fun.

Joe Kerschbaum

Yet another Clix Marketing guru, Joe is one of the smartest and nicest guys in PPC. Joe embodies the rare mix of technical know-how and creative thinking (he’s a poet, for gosh sakes) and it’s served him well. He’s another true friend and I owe him a debt of gratitude for all I’ve learned from him.

Pamela Lund

Pamela runs the PPC department at BlueGlass, and she’s always ready to lend a helping hand on Twitter. She also writes for SEM blogs, and is super smart and fun to follow.

Alex Cohen

Alex is another brilliant PPC mind who’s wrapping up his stint at ClickEquations and moving on to HBloom next week. His SEM articles are some of the best I’ve ever read (Alex, you can do my research for me any time!), and he is an all-around nice and funny guy. Follow Alex on Twitter for PPC nuggets.

Matt Umbro

I “met” Matt on Twitter and feel that we instantly became fast friends. Matt has the honor of launching PPC Chat which has been one of the best things to happen to PPC networking in a long time. Matt is a great engager on Twitter, so do yourself a favor and give him a follow.

James Svoboda

Yet another PPC Chat friend, James is a pro at PPC and conversion optimization. If you’re struggling with landing page optimization or conversion rates, he’s your guy. I met James at SMX Advanced in June, and really enjoyed sharing PPC knowledge.

Bonus: Anyone From the #PPCchat Group

Go to Tweetdeck right now and create a column for #ppcchat – and start following the contributors. Participate by asking & answering questions. Chances are someone will be ready and willing to help.

So there you have it, my top 10 list. Who would you add? Share in the comments!

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PPC In-House or Agency: Decisions, Decisions – Part I

My Twitter bio says “In house or agency – I’ve done it all.” I got my PPC start doing in-house PPC at Magazineline from 2002-2007. I loved it – this was the heady early days of $0.10 clicks and a pure auction, and PPC practitioners were a small and tight-knit group. I’ve since moved on to Fluency Media, where I manage PPC campaigns for a wide variety of clients.

(Before I go any further, let me make it clear that this is my personal blog. As such, the opinions expressed in this and every post here are mine, and do not necessarily reflect those of past or present employers.)

Based on my background, I have a pretty good handle on both in-house and agency PPC. If you’re a business owner who’s thinking about getting into the PPC game, which way do you go?

The short answer, as usual, is “it depends.” What’s right for one business is probably totally wrong for another. Having seen both sides, I’d like to present the pros and cons of each approach. In this post, I’ll talk about in-house PPC management.

In House Pros:

  • Full-time attention on your PPC campaigns. Without multiple clients tugging at their time, in-house managers are able to devote 100% of their focus to squeezing maximum performance out of every ad group and keyword in your campaign.
  • Attention to detail. An in-house PPC manager’s performance review likely is based on account performance. As such, they’ll be keen on accuracy and account performance.
  • You’re the employer – they answer to you. And you’ll see them every day: in the halls, at staff meetings, and performance reviews. There’s nowhere to hide when you’re in-house.
  • Understanding of your business goals, company culture, and other quirks. If your CEO hates the word “cheap,” an in-house PPC manager knows this – and knows not to use it in a PPC ad.
  • Deep vertical focus. In-house managers are motivated to learn about your vertical and what works, not just in PPC but on your website as a whole. This enables them to develop a super-in-depth PPC account that covers every angle.

In House Cons:

  • Learning & training. It’s often hard for an in-house manager to even find out where learning opportunities exist, much less find the resources to take advantage of them.
  • May not be “plugged in” to SEM community. Although it’s a much larger club than it was in the early days, the SEM community is still out there, and it’s a huge competitive advantage – IF you can break in.
  • Longer learning curve. Your company is the manager’s only “client” – there’s no previous experience with other clients to go on and learn from.
  • Motivation. A less-than-conscientious in-house manager may not be motivated to make the program succeed – after all, it’s just a job, with a low risk of getting dumped for “someone else.”

In Part 2, I’ll cover the pros and cons of agency PPC management.

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