An Interview With Beyond The Paid's Melissa Mackey

By Matt Umbro | @Matt_Umbro | Senior Account Manager, Community
Image of Melissa Mackey
Melissa Mackey

Melissa Mackey is one of the most well-known thought leaders in the PPC industry. Her blog, Beyond The Paid, showcases her views and opinions from over 10+ years in the industry. She guest blogs for top industry sites and is a regular speaker at search marketing conferences. She was also recently named 14th on our annual Top 25 Most Influential PPC Experts list. You can  follow Melissa on Twitter @Mel66.


How did you get into paid search and why have you stuck with it?


Melissa Mackey: I got into it almost by accident! Back in 2002, I was working in-house doing traditional direct marketing. We were looking to drive more sales from our website, and my boss gave me the “special project” of testing Google Adwords, which was brand new. Her rationale? In a previous job, I’d worked for the local newspaper doing classified ads. She said, “well, PPC ads are a lot like classifieds – categorized by keywords with short ad copy.” The rest is history. I love the immediacy that comes with PPC – in that test back in 2002, we saw that we were making money the first day out the gate. I also love testing and learning, which is the backbone of PPC. And the community is full of smart, innovative people. I love learning from others at conferences and on PPCChat.


“I also love testing and learning, which is the backbone of PPC”


How did you get the nickname “PPC Moses?”


Mackey: Ha! I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was during a PPCChat when we were discussing the history of PPC, and I was talking about what we did “back in the day.” Someone called me “PPC Moses,” and the name has stuck.


Your blog, Beyond The Paid, is one of the top PPC blogs in the industry. What draws you to blogging?


Mackey: I’d love to say I started blogging out of a burning desire to share PPC knowledge, but it really started as an experiment. I launched Beyond the Paid in 2006 on Blogger because it was a free platform, and blogging was just starting to take off. I was active on forums at that time (this was before Twitter), but wanted a place where I could share my ideas and own the content. And I’ve always loved to write. Blogging gives me a way to comment on what’s happening in the industry and share stories, and it also helps me be a better teacher of PPC to new hires at gyro. If you can’t explain something in a blog, you’ll never be able to teach it to someone else. Oh, and I moved the blog to WordPress a couple years ago.


What do you enjoy most about the day-to-day aspect of your job?


Mackey: Every day is different! I’ve had jobs that were repetitive, and PPC is anything but. I enjoy solving problems and getting to the bottom of why something is or isn’t working. I also love teaching clients and coworkers about PPC. And getting great results for clients isn’t bad either.


What do you believe to be the next big thing in paid search?


Mackey: Well, mobile really needs to be the next big thing. It’s surprising to me how many businesses still don’t consider mobile when planning their websites or marketing campaigns. Beyond that, for better or worse I think PPC is moving toward targeting by audience and intent rather than strictly keywords. Keywords are part of the intent landscape – they’re not going away any time soon. But layering audiences over keywords is what’s really going to take performance to the next level. And voice search is already changing keyword research. Google’s recent news about the increase in “near me” searches is just one indication of that. We see search queries every day that are obviously voice searches: “give me the number of the pizza place on the corner of first and main,” for instance. In a way, users are giving us signals that are clearer than ever before on what their intentions are; now it’s our job to fulfill their needs.


“And voice search is already changing keyword research. Google’s recent news about the increase in ‘near me’ searches is just one indication of that.”


What is something in the paid search industry that receives a lot of hype, but you believe to be overrated?


Mackey: Gimmicks like using emojis in ad copy is one. I’m a firm believer that good marketing practices will trump gimmicks in the long run. I also think the importance of quality score is overblown. It’s one of many factors that we need to pay attention to, for sure, but it’s not the unicorn that will lead to the holy grail of great results all on its own. If you have keywords that are converting well, but have a quality score of 2, who cares? Are you going to pause them because the quality score is low? Of course not.


What advice would you give someone just starting in the paid search industry?


Mackey: Get in and get your hands dirty as soon as you can. The people who really succeed at PPC are the ones who aren’t afraid to test and tinker. I always say there is little that can’t be undone in PPC, so don’t be afraid to play around. Also, read industry news like you’re going to be taking a final on it. Learn who the key players are and follow them on social media. Participate in PPCChat. Ask questions. This is a very friendly industry – we have few if any trade secrets, which is great! Ask and learn! If you are lucky enough to go to a search conference, ask as many questions as you can. Approach the speakers and ask questions about their presentation. Pose a challenge to them and ask their advice. I’m always shocked at the number of people who go to conferences and then spend the entire time multitasking on a phone or laptop, and never ask questions. That’s why the speakers are there! Take advantage of it.


What is a fun fact about you?


Mackey: I’m a band geek! I play the clarinet and alto saxophone, and was in the MSU Spartan Marching Band in college. I got to perform in 3 bowl games including the Rose Bowl. I still play both instruments and love it. Both of my children are band geeks too, and my son just got accepted to be in the Spartan Marching Band in the fall. One of my bucket list items is to learn to play every wind instrument. It may take till I’m 90 but I’ll do it.