Dennis Yu: Hero Conf 2013 Interview
We had the opportunity to interview Dennis Yu, who will be speaking about Facebook and PPC at Hero Conf 2013.
Dennis Yu is CEO of BlitzMetrics. He has helped brands grow and measure their Facebook presence and is an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook marketing, having been featured on National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, AllFacebook, CBS Evening News, and KTLA-TV. He has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, Web 2.0, The American Marketing Association, PubCon, Conversational Commerce Conference, Pacific Conferences, HostingCon, Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Convention, UltraLight Startups, MIVA Merchant, and other venues. Yu has also counseled the Federal Trade Commission on privacy issues for social networks.
Dennis has held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines. His educational background is Finance and Economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, his blog, or on Facebook.
Want a chance to meet Dennis and other big names in the PPC industry yourself? Well, by attending Hero Conf 2013 you can! The design of the conference allows for a low speaker to attendee ratio, making your chances of meeting and learning from our top notch speakers in a one-on-one setting, very real! If you would like to hear more about Hero Conf, you can register or visit the Hero Conf website for more information.
PPC Hero: Tell us a little bit about yourself…
Dennis: I’m just a data geek seeking out the largest data sources on the planet to play with. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to work on Yahoo!’s analytics, American Airlines, and now Facebook data. I don’t work for Facebook, by the way, but we do have as much data as anyone on brand performance there.
PPC Hero: Why did you decide to become an SEM professional?
Dennis: I was shy as a child, plus I didn’t speak English. So math was a comfortable retreat. I found I was good at it, traveled to compete in math contests, and eventually found myself doing what I do now. Web log files, Facebook graph data, AdWords data– it’s all a fun math puzzle to solve. Yes, I actually attended math parties. What did we do there? Math problems, where we had prizes, of course!
PPC Hero: What has your experience in SEM taught you about Account Structure?
Dennis: There are folks with technical competency and then those with strategic depth. The technical detail folks obsess over massive keyword lists, bid management, algorithmic tweaks, and features. That leads to complex account structures that require API usage to manage them at scale. The strategically-minded folks are not necessarily non-technical. But they start from the goal (conversions by product, leads, building awareness, etc) and work back into the landing pages, then back to the ads, and finally to the keywords/interests. This results in a simpler, but often more powerful account structure. No matter how big the account or set of accounts, usually there are only a couple dozen keywords or ads that really matter. We optimized a campaign for a financial institution that was proud of their 4.5 million keywords spread over 53 accounts. We cut it down to a few hundred terms by eliminating junk. More importantly, performance improved. We believe in a small, nimble account structure for testing– allowing us to iterate quickly. Brute force only works in broad e-commerce, dating, and dictionary portfolios. This is also true on Facebook, though most PPC folks mistakenly treat interests like keywords. Interests on Facebook are not proxies for intent.
PPC Hero: Tell us a little about what you’ll be speaking on at Hero Conf 2013.
Dennis: I am excited to share all the mistakes we’ve made in Facebook ads over the last 5 years. That’s over 2,000 campaigns, trying out every single feature that’s available. Maybe we can simplify things a bit and save attendees a bunch of time. I’ll happily share our “secrets” on how to use sponsored stories in the right combination, a few tactics on sponsored results (Facebook search ads), and a few things you can do in Power Editor that aren’t available in the web interface. We have a 300 page guide, too– giving that out for free for those who really want to geek out. You can see some of my articles over at allfacebook.com/author/dennis, if you want to get a flavor ahead of time. Every tip we show is backed by real campaign data– not made up stuff.
PPC Hero: What features would you like to see Facebook come out with in the future?
Dennis: Better advertising comes through better analytics. Our global clients need to manage across dozens of countries, so the limitations on Facebook insights reporting hurt our ability to optimize and measure upon the ad campaigns. With Facebook, unlike Google, the impact of the ads is felt through other channels, not in direct conversions. At least Facebook, unlike twitter and Google, doesn’t charge for API access (though it is hard to get ads API access)– so we see more opportunity for testing on Facebook.
PPC Hero: If you could predict where SEM will be in 3 years, what would you say?
Dennis: There are only going to be more channels to advertise on, leading to an explosion of ad types, data sources to muck with, and tools to manage them. 7 years ago, you could manage your PPC manually and with some clever Excel magic. But now, because of conversion attribution, retargeting, and paid/owned/earned, the technical requirements are increasing. Just look at what LinkedIn has released with their ads API, not to mention the twenty types of Facebook ads you can run now. Most people can’t name more than 4-5 of them. How many people do you know who have run Facebook search ads to a tab which has a retargeting pixel on it? SEM is increasingly requiring cross-platform expertise– to go beyond brand term conversions and into true marketing strategy and branding. Of course, this is great for us as an analytics company.
PPC Hero: What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind when managing a PPC account?
Dennis: Make sure the client is super clear on the goals, which may be vastly different than what you want. With Facebook, clients will often request fan growth campaigns or engagement for the sake of engagement. This leads to suboptimal behavior, especially since the person in charge of social is usually not well-connected with the folks who manage email, web, TV, print, and other channels. It’s your responsibility to connect these dots, whether you’re the agency or the client– else you won’t be able to measure the impact of social. Worse, if the direct mail folks have a big drop or if the TV group runs a big campaign, you’ll see a spike in traffic in search and social channels. You can take only partial credit for this– and conversely, the in-store folks are probably not giving the social channel much credit.
PPC Hero: Outside of paid search and the Internet, what are your favorite ways to pass the time?
Dennis: I love chicken wings– I’ve eaten them all over the world, and I travel a LOT. I’m so fanatical that I’ll actually take a connecting flight over a direct flight to eat at my favorite place– the Illinois Bar and Grill inside the main concourse at Midway Airport. Yes, it’s in the food court at the airport– but don’t judge me, go try it. If you have a great place to eat wings, barbecue, or pho– take me there!
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