Pulling PPC Gems from Best-selling Books

By Jeff Allen | @JeffAllenUT | President at Hanapin Marketing

A lot of the books on the market that relate to PPC are how-to’s. They attempt to explain how to do things versus overarching strategy. When I am itching for some strategic thinking I turn to general business books and attempt to translate their wisdom into success in PPC.

Here are three of my favorite books and some ways that you might be able to integrate them into your accounts. Please keep in mind that I’m merely pulling one or two concepts from the book and putting a spin on it. I highly recommend you pick up all three and read them page-by-page.


Predictably irrational and PPCPredictably Irrational – Dan Ariely

A life-changing concept from this book is that people create anchors, or have anchors created for them, that dictate how they respond to things such as the price of a book. Sometimes these are obvious, such as $40 for a business book sounds expensive because you’ve always paid $20, and other times its completely coincidental, such as you just paid $200 for a textbook, so a $40 business book seems like a steal. These anchors exist because we love to compare things. It gives our decisions and experiences context.

One way to incorporate this knowledge is to make sure you never show reports or talk about performance without creating the anchor you want. Imagine you are speaking with a client in an excited tone about your CPL of $100. The client stops you, smirks, and says that it should be $50.  You know that for this type of account $100 is great. But your client read an article today that used $50 as the CPL example. That anchor was implanted in your client without them knowing but it’s their new expectation. This could have been prevented if you started by stating what the goal is, and how similar accounts perform.

You could also use this concept by presenting your visitors a long form lead collector on the first page they see on your site. Then on subsequent pages, use a shorter form. It is possible that the anchor of 7 fields makes 4 fields look like a breeze and increase your conversion rates.

People will compare your price, product, service, and/or results. Being aware of these anchors will make you better at PPC. Proactively creating these anchors will make you great at PPC.


Outliers and PPCOutliers – Malcolm Gladwell

This is a book on what makes great people great. Unfortunately, it sheds light on the fact that time is an important role in their success. This is both in terms of timing, when you were born, and time spent, how long you dedicate yourself to a topic, sport, and/or action. One of his points to this is the extraordinary number of highly successful people who’ve spent over 10,000 hours mastering their craft.


In the book Gladwell quotes Daniel Levitin:

“In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”

For me, this means two things, I have to put in the time (luckily I got started with Internet marketing in 2001) but also I have to spend that time dutifully practicing what I want to master. My goal isn’t to be the best bid changer and keyword researcher. It’s not even necessarily to be the best PPC account manager. My goal is to be the best at finding the greatest opportunities to improve accounts/tasks/businesses and be the most efficient at taking action based on what I find.

So what I take from this books is that you first have to get really clear on what you want to master, and then all you have to do is dedicate yourself to that task for 10 years! Easy enough, right?


Sense of Urgency and How it Relates to PPCSense of Urgency – John P. Kotter

The below quote from the book is the one that resonates with me the most. It’s about not scurrying around doing things fast, but doing the right things right now. And sometimes that means you won’t be very busy. That’s because to be able to pick up and act on really important stuff really fast, your calendar can’t be full tasks that barely get the car started, let along make the needle move.

“True urgency is a gut-level determination to move and win, now.”

Keeping your schedule open facilitates being able to act with urgency.  If 7 times out of 10 you respond to, “hey, you got a minute?” with “no, let’s schedule something for later today,” you probably have your schedule filled with tasks, duties, meetings, etc. that take your time, but don’t reward you with volumes of results. Perhaps that’s different for you; maybe you are busy all day every day and are always working on the most important PPC tasks. But I know that when I am doing things that really make my account performance jump, it’s likely a few hours of intense concentration followed by a few minutes of patting myself on the back.

Another thing I learned from this is to focus on head terms and top spending campaigns. That’s because it is easier to focus on a few keywords and do whatever it takes to make them perform outstanding (such as custom landing pages for each keyword) than it is to focus on putting a dent in your account with a few thousand low search volume keywords. Of course there are times where the price of head terms is prohibitive, or you have to venture out to tail terms to increase traffic. But keep in mind that often you’ll get more juice from from a watermelon, than a dozen oranges.


These are a few of the gems I’ve put into action based on three of my favorite business books. What about you? Have you gain valuable PPC insight from an unlikely book or source?