PPC Hero Interviews Search Engine Land Author, Ginny Marvin

By Matt Umbro | @Matt_Umbro | Senior Account Manager, Community
Image of Ginny Marvin
Ginny Marvin

If you are reading about PPC updates on Search Engine Land or Marketing Land, chances are the author is Ginny Marvin. Ginny is the paid media reporter for Third Door Media and breaks all the latest paid search news. She has been in marketing for more than 15 years and has held in-house and agency positions. Ginny is one of our top industry heroes and has graciously agreed to an interview. You can also follow Ginny on Twitter @GinnyMarvin.


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


Ginny Marvin: I got into paid search after working in magazine publishing for a number of years in ad sales marketing. It’s a long story involving a move to Maine, a Boston office that moved to NYC and a failed magazine launch, but by late 2004, I was ready for something new and set my sights on getting into some area of digital marketing where it wouldn’t really matter where I lived. I started researching and learning about this thing called SEO and decided that was where I wanted to steer my career.


I knew taking a step down the ladder – OK, I nearly jumped off the ladder – would somehow pay off in the long run. So, I went from being a marketing director to basically an entry-level SEO contractor at a start-up agency in 2005. But, as with any start-up, I quickly began taking on other roles, PPC among them. PPC versus SEO, for me, was like discovering the difference between magazine and book publishing cycles. Speed! The pace and instant-feedback of PPC had me hooked. I also felt at home with the testing-and-iteration foundation of PPC; the principles are similar to direct mail testing, just a lot faster.


“The pace and instant-feedback of PPC had me hooked.”


I’ve since branched out into other digital marketing disciplines, but always with PPC at the center. Why? Because results. Because it’s constantly evolving. And because it provides a great blend of creative and analytical thinking.


How did you come to write for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land?


Marvin: My colleague at Third Door Media, Monica Wright, and I have ended up acting as sponsors in one another’s careers for nearly a decade now. She suggested me when Third Door was looking for a paid search writer. I started writing for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land on a part-time basis and continued consulting. I joined full-time a few months later. I don’t interact with clients day-to-day anymore, but still do a bit of consulting and project work on the side that allows me to stay current with the tools and practices.


How do you find the latest news to post?


Marvin: It’s a mix. Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) somehow manages to monitor for stories while running a business and writing like 10 blog posts a day. Sometimes we get advanced notice from companies about news that’s coming up. Users often let us know when they spot new tests or funky things going on in search results. Twitter is almost always up on my screen, and I read a lot of industry news, columns and blogs and try to stay connected to the community through various channels like #PPCchat to hear what people are thinking about.


What is it like participating in the Third Door Media conferences (ie: SMX)?


Marvin: I went to my first SES in 2006 (Danny Sullivan’s keynote discussion was with Barry Diller!) and it was transformative for me. There was this entire community of people that already had so much experience in this industry that I had barely knew existed just over a year prior, and there were hundreds of others like me excited to learn and meet people doing the same thing.


Every Search Marketing Expo (SMX) now is still like that for me. There is always something to learn, or re-prioritize or go back and re-analyze. The difference now is that I get to discuss session ideas, work with speakers, and I know a lot more people when I get there.


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


Marvin: In the same day I can learn, talk and write about new in-the-weeds changes in AdWords or Bing Ads, the latest industry reports, how the industry is reacting to shifts like viewability, native advertising, video and other issues affecting the broader digital landscape. There are typically short bursts of activity when something new comes out that intersperse periods when I can dive deeper into a topic.


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


Marvin: Mobile. And before your roll your eyes, I know that sounds either like I’m years behind or being flip, hear me out. Mobile is at the heart of whatever the next big thing in search actually ends up being: a push toward better attribution (better cross-device, cross-browser, cross-app-web measurement), new formats that are suited for multiple screen sizes and enable users to take action within the Google interface (it’s why Google is looking at mobile-heavy verticals and creating ads specifically tailored to those industries and why more ads are being built on structured data), continuing to move away from keywords as the singular intent signal (where you are, what device you’re using, what you’ve already done on an advertisers’ site and other signals are now in the mix. And, it’s looking like Google will open up AdWords to allow first-party data for ad targeting in the near future).


“Mobile is at the heart of whatever the next big thing in search actually ends up being”


Enhanced campaigns felt like a rough first step in retooling the platform for the shift Google was seeing in mobile search habits. This year feels like step two, and I wouldn’t be surprised if step three involves some reworking of step one. (No, I don’t think we’re getting tablet bidding back. Bing Ads gave as big a concession as we’re going to get, I believe.)


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


Marvin: I have trouble wrapping my head around “unicorn” ad copy in PPC – those ads that are going to crush everything that’s come before them and increase CTR by some X percent without actually using any keywords in the ad group. Larry Kim had an example in his SMX West 2014 presentation of a provocative ad with the headline “Who is your husband with?”. It uses classic emotional triggers and is a great ad, but my experience has been that in PPC, those kinds of ads often get toasted on keyword relevancy or flame out quickly. Unlike other channels, PPC systems tends to reward bland relevancy over quirky ingenuity. Not that I don’t think there is some room for creativity and some great examples of it working. You should get creative with ad copy and take some moonshots here and there, but I do think there’s more than just laziness behind the fact that most PPC ads look alike.


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


Marvin: Be a sponge, read, ask questions, reach out to others in the industry outside your own office. Be sure you have checks and balances in your processes, but also know that you’re going to make mistakes. The scary thing about PPC is you’re playing with real money, and your mistakes usually cost someone money. But, oh man, every single one of us has made head-hanging mistakes. Having good processes will ensure your mistakes get caught sooner, though! Learn and move on. Get to a conference or a workshop like Brad Geddes’ AdWords training days. Stay curious and test your assumptions rather than resting on them. I know that sounds like a lame platitude, but I’ve been caught back on my heels many times “assuming” that a best practice or something that worked once would work again.


What is a fun fact about you?


Marvin: I’m a sailor, and raced all through college up and down the east coast. I am not racing as much as I’d like these days, but am going to be teaching a women’s sailing class this summer.