If you are in the paid search industry, chances are that you’ve heard of world renowned paid search guru, Brad Geddes. Along with being an author, speaker, and marketing consultant, Brad recently launched a new ad testing platform called AdAlysis. Brad was gracious enough to allow PPC Hero an interview.
How did you get into paid search and why have you stuck with it?
Brad Geddes: That’s a very long story; so I’ll try to give the brief version. I use to work in the MH/MR (mental health / mental retardation) industry; and spent some time transitioning individuals from institutions into community living facilities and helping them to become productive members of society.
While it’s a very rewarding job, it is also a burnout one. After six years, I just quit with no idea what I was going to do. I already knew website design as it was a bit of a hobby and came across this notion of affiliate marketing. It sounded easy (and in the 1990s it was) and just started making sites and trying to make some money from them. Everything sort of grew up from there.
One of the reasons I’ve really stayed with it is the ongoing challenge. Internet marketing has evolved a tremendous amount over the years, and it keeps changing, so the constant change means you have to regularly face new challenges, so I never get bored with its redundancy since there’s always something new and interesting that you can experiment with to see its effects on your marketing.
What are your thoughts on how paid search has evolved over the last ten to fifteen years?
Geddes: Sophisticated and suits are probably the two most appropriate words to use. When I started years ago, it was OK, and to some degree expected, for an internet marketer to walk into a CEOs office wearing jeans and an old t-shirt. That’s no longer the case, as the channel has been adopted across the board, and there is tremendous amount of money flowing around PPC efforts, the industry has grown up, put on suits, shed the ‘rogue’ internet marketing label, and is now treated as a ‘real’ grown-up channel.
The overall premise of paid search has not changed since Bill Gross’s initial vision back in the 1990s: connect users with advertising based upon what they are trying to learn via a search channel.
What has changed is the sophistication of the analytics. As we have access to more data, especially segmented data, the implementation of PPC strategies and features from the engines have grown tremendously based upon that information.
As analytics gets better, so will paid search features and techniques.
What do you believe to be the next big thing in paid search?
Geddes: The next thing needs to be actionable attribution modeling data.
For instance, right now I can see data that tells me the average person clicked on 1.25 PPC ads, 0.8 organic listings, read 0.37 emails, and had 0.15 social interactions before they converted.
I can use this data to set budgets by channel, direct resources by channel, and consider cross-channel integration efforts based upon the data.
However, what it can’t tell me is that of those 1.25 PPC clicks, 0.25 are branded words, 0.3 are product terms, etc; so that I can use that data for bid modeling or automated email responses based upon time lags. It can’t tell me that the important part of an email is the subsection 2 concerning new products, and that email section matters more than the sales section, etc.
This can also extend to include cross-device information. For instance, if I could further segment the data to see that when a conversion occurs, the email was viewed on a phone, the product PPC ad was viewed on a tablet, and the brand term that received the actual conversion occurred on a desktop. Once I have that information, then I can truly work with optimizing assisted clicks/impressions, cross-device interaction, and multi-channel marketing efforts.
So the next evolution step should be actionable attribution modeling information. Now, this initial step will have so much data that it will take a stats genius to determine what really matters; so this information is only going to become truly actionable to most marketers when the recommendations can become automated.
This will let a computer crunch the numbers and find the patterns, and then allow the creative human brain to use this information to create fantastic marketing campaigns.
I’m sure there will be smaller evolutions before this occurs; however, that’s what the main focus should be on in the coming few years.
What is something in the paid search industry that receives a lot of hype, but you believe to be overrated?
Geddes: Quality Score is both overrated and underrated. When your quality score is good; you should stop fretting over it as the time it takes to go from a 7 to an 8 would be better spent testing ads or landing pages. However, if you have low quality scores; then it is very important.
Marketers seem to be under the assumption it is either always important or not important; when in fact, its conditional, based upon your information, how important it is.
What are the top three most important lessons you have learned in your fifteen plus years of online marketing?
Geddes: That’s a tough one; I could talk for days about this question.
I think from an agency/consultant standpoint, the biggest lesson is pricing. Too many people undervalue or overvalue their time. Getting product and consulting pricing correct is a very difficult endeavor and should not be thought about in terms of how the PPC analysts operate. Your sales techniques, workflow, product definition, etc can affect pricing and should be taken into account when you determine how you price for your products or services; and how those prices affect close rates.
The Big & Little Pictures
Thinking about the big picture first, and then narrowing down to specifics. You often have high level thinkers who can see how the forest is laid out and see its pathways, but what they can’t do is tell you how planting a single tree will affect the trees around it. Then you have those who can tell you how you can manipulate the trees in a specific area to create new paths, but they can’t see the beginning and the end of the forest.
By taking a look at how PPC (or any channel) fits into the scheme of the company, and then seeing how each of these channels can interact and help each other, you can make better decisions for the company as a whole as opposed to making a single channel decision that is great for the channel, but isn’t in the best interest in the entire scope of marketing efforts.
Product Definition & Project Management
When I first started marketing, I didn’t understand defining and managing a product amongst multiple people. I also didn’t think about marketing as a product that can be bundled and sold (as opposed to marketing being a ‘service’; which is often how it’s handled).
Learning how to define and manage projects (among many other time saving organization strategies) has allowed me to accomplish a lot in a limited amount of time. I think everyone should have a basic understanding of product management, time management, and workflow optimization. By streaming lining processes (and automating where possible) it’s amazing how much you can get done on a daily basis, let alone monthly or yearly, without sacrificing quality or creativity.
These lessons also go for defining what your products are and how the products work and can be managed. By defining your marketing products, exactly how they work, the processes, systems, and workflows involved, then you can take that information, turn it into projects (or ongoing projects) so that you are accomplishing the important items on time, towards the product specs, so that your clients are happy and the marketing efforts product positive results.
What advice would you give someone just starting in the paid search industry?
Geddes: Understand the basics of all digital marketing channels, even if you only specialize in one. A good PPC person can know just PPC and do well; however, what they can’t do is set digital strategy.
By knowing the basics of SEO, social, analytics, email, display, and conversion optimization, you can see how PPC can help other channels or how other channels can help your PPC efforts.
Someone who knows PPC; can be paid as a PPC analyst. Someone who understands the basics of all channels can become a director or VP of marketing and set strategy; either for clients or in-house.
Having this basic knowledge of all channels allows you to have intelligent conversions in high-level meetings so that people view your capabilities differently (so promotions should come your way), it also opens up the ability to have lateral movement, and makes you a very valuable team member (and helps ensure job security).
PPC is just a channel. It’s a great channel, but it is still just a single channel. By seeing the big picture and also being able to change that picture, makes you an indispensable resource.
You speak at many conferences. What do you personally get out of participating in these conferences?
Geddes: I get a lot out of conferences. First off, I don’t just speak at a conference, I also attend sessions. I think that any ‘expert’ who thinks they are too good to attend a session will not be an expert for long. Everyone must continue improving in this industry. Things change fast, and you need to listen to other ideas outside of your regular circle of influence. While I might not always agree with other speakers (and I often agree as well), I’ll always listen to hear various viewpoints, hear tips I might not have thought of, etc.
From a speaking standpoint, I get great visibility. Now, this visibility translates into:
- Consulting opportunities
- Paid speaking opportunities
- More workshop attendees (I do full day workshops with SMX for almost every event in the US, Europe, and Australia)
- More AdAlysis subscribes
- More Certified Knowledge subscribers
- Increase in Market Motive visibility
- Increased book sales
- Networking opportunities which can be used for this entire list all over again
- And a free conference ticket
Now, for anyone who has not been a speaker before; writing a book, blogging, being active on social media, or speaking at a conference, does not directly translate into revenue. It translates into visibility for your message, yourself, and your company. You can then use those messages to make money when appropriate.
I think this fact is lost on a lot of speakers and those seeking visibility. Speaking (or any visibility enhancing event, be it a message on Twitter or keynoting a conference) in and of itself does not make money (unless you are paid to speak, of course), you must have a marketing plan in place for your visibility event (even a blog post) so that you know what you want it to accomplish in either the short or long term, and then can measure and refine how you approached that event and its outcomes.
So while I get a lot out of speaking (and the increased ideas, networking, and viewpoints often by themselves make attending events worthwhile); the real reason I get so much out of speaking is because I treat it as a marketing channel with messages, analytics, and goals.
Can you tell us about AdAlysis and how it came to be?
Geddes: Of course, it’s a fun story of product development and evolution. I had written and spoken a lot about recommendation outcomes and actionable data analysis for several years. From this visibility, I get a fair amount of JV inquiries; however, most don’t turn into anything interesting.
I was speaking in Munich, and one person from London reached out to me about a JV inquiry. He was well spoken, a developer, and really seemed to want to build something and would be highly involved with his own ideas. Plus, he showed that he was truly serious by hopping on a plane to meet me in person in Munich.
So Emmanuel and I sat down and talked a lot about what was missing in the market. Initially, we were planning on building a ‘recommendation engine’ that would span a lot of various data points in an account. However, we kept coming back to the fact that a lot of the recommendations have to do with ad testing, ad group organization, quality score optimization, etc and that the biggest problem for marketers was repetitive data crunching that often ended with little insight and a lot of wasted time.
We realized that the biggest number crunching headache; and a place where no software existed was in automated ad testing. I was a bit blown away that in 2012 (when we first met) that someone had not built a great ad testing platform. So after research and finding that the only thing out there was BoostCTR (of which I’m a board member), and Boost focused on writing ads plus testing, that there was a huge need for automated ad testing and insights for those who were writing their own ads or using their own copywriters.
Our goal was full automation except when it came to creativity or override system settings (but this should be optional). We wanted to make it so that you didn’t have to define a test or do redundant manual work.
We wanted ad testing to be as simple as: you import campaigns and then you see results.
It seemed a waste of time to force time-strapped marketers to do the middle work. This required us to build custom algos where you can test data without a control, parse data by device, and automatically determine where you’re testing by effective device, and so on.
This was so much data importing, analysis, and number crunching that the system took over two years to build.
The product has changed quite a bit from its initial vision; but each step we took always had the mantra: computers for data crunching and analysis, human brains only for creativity. By focusing on those two items, each decision about how the product worked always came back to: if a computer can do it, then a human shouldn’t have to. This focus allowed us to have a vision while still developing a final product.
We just launched a few weeks ago, and the response have been very positive. I think we’ve managed to change the landscape for ad testing across all AdWords accounts; and I’m very excited for both AdAlysis and the industry as a whole when it comes to ad testing and its possibilities.
What is it like to write a book? What have you learned from this experience?
Geddes: It’s a very difficult proposition in a field that is constantly evolving. You need to have a mixture of timeless principles so the book is a good read a year or two after being published, yet you also need to tell people how to do something, which might change soon after the book is published.
For me, I like to think that Advanced AdWords teaches you to think as much as it does about what button to press. If the location of that button changes, a book that just tells you what button to press is outdated. If the book teaches you to think, then you can find where the button moved or work with its replacement.
My background in teaching (I had been teaching seminars with Google for a few years) multi-day AdWords courses really lead me to how the book was structured. The structure is so difficult to get correct in a book like this as you can’t talk about a concept until it’s introduced and understood by the reader. So you need to really think about when something can be introduced while still maintaining chapter focus.
Once you layout the structure; and I don’t mean just chapters, but subsections within the chapters, what they will cover and so forth; then you have an outline that makes writing the book a much easier experience since you know where all the pieces are going to be placed.
While the actual words are highly important; the key to writing a good book is the is initial organization and then treat the writing, deadlines, edits, proofing, etc just like you would a project with milestones, due dates, and so forth so that the book flows well and everything is produced on time.
What is a fun fact about you?
Geddes: I got married in an Irish Castle. We rented Glin Castle for just our friends and family for an entire week and used it as our home base for everyone to enjoy a wedding week of exploring Ireland; and then relaxing in-style within the castle.