Interview with Matt Van Wagner: Slugs, PPC Tools, and Small Business Strategies
Today we are delighted to present an interview with Matt Van Wagner, the President and Founder of Find Me Faster. Matt will be presenting “Small, but Mighty! Winning Strategies, Tips and Tricks for PPC on Small Budgets” at Hero Conf on April 16-17, 2012 in Indianapolis, IN. Matt will also be moderating a panel on Advanced Mobile Marketing.
The early bird deadline has been extended until March 23, so there are only two days left to register with the discounted pricing! For more information, check out our awesome speakers list, our justify your trip document, or the agenda!
You can listen to the interview by clicking on the link below, or read the following transcription.
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Laura: Well Matt, thank you for joining us today for this interview. I really appreciate you taking the time for this.
Matt: It’s my pleasure.
Laura: So shall we just start things off then?
Laura: Alright, well to begin with, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got your start in PPC?
Matt: Oh sure, sure. Well I guess I got my start in the business world when I was 12. I read an article in the Trenton paper that Princeton University was going to pay $25 per pound for your typical garden-variety slug. They needed it for a brain research. So my first job was harvesting slugs for brain research at Princeton University. Yeah, it didn’t turn out all that well actually. I thought it might be real easy, you know, you put a little tin out there with a little beer and put it in the backyard… wait and they’d all crawl in.
Well, I captured a bunch of them on my first night, and I thought “Oh man, this is great,” and I got them all. I put them in a container, and put aluminum foil on top, punched some holes in, you know, what you’re supposed to do, put some dirt and grass in, and I don’t know what you’re supposed to do, but that seemed reasonable for the night. And I went to bed with dreams of great riches, you know, to await me as I gave Princeton pounds after pounds of garden slugs.
Well, the next morning I got up, and uh, unfortunately I’d put these things in my mom’s fridge down in the basement and turned it off, and I didn’t realize these things were invertebrates and so they were able to slide out of my container. I couldn’t find them anywhere so they’d slunk into every dark recess of the refrigerator. So my business closed since my inventory just went away, and the refrigerator went away two weeks later when it began to stink to high heaven. So I figured I had no way to go but up with my business career.
Laura: Wow, what a story!
Matt: Yeah, well we didn’t have PPC back then, but I went from business to business and specialized in small businesses and sort of guerilla marketing techniques and small business techniques to help companies compete. Once I found out about the engine called GoTo which then became Overture, or rather Inktomi which then became Overture which then became Yahoo! which then became whatever it is now. I started working with PPC and immediately our small company of six people began to outcompete competitors that we had which were five to ten times our size, and it was really terrific. And this is back in 2002, 2003.
Laura: Wow, that is a really interesting story. So why do you enjoy working in the paid search industry so much? It seems like you’ve had a bit of experience since starting that out then.
Matt: Oh yeah, you know, well one of the great things I like about the paid search industry is that it’s really kind of grown up so quickly, and the people who got in it were all people who were very motivated, people who really wanted to get things done quickly, who were highly intelligent, and who were wiling to share. This is a remarkable collegial industry and it’s been a rising tide, you know, the industry, paid search, it’s just continuing to grow since it first started. And so the nice part is that it is a very invigorating environment to be in intellectually, the people that we come in contact with, our colleagues, the various agencies, are all just terrific people that again are highly motivated, highly entrepreneurial, and highly collaborative. They just love to share their best tips and tricks.
Laura: That is really great, I agree. And it’s still changing a lot, with all these new technologies and mobile and everything else coming out. It must be pretty exciting for you to see how it’s changed and grown over where it started back in 2002 when you were working then to where it is today.
Matt: Oh yeah, there are days when I just wish we … Google puts out more new products… Google and Microsoft both put out more new product announcements every week than I’m able to, you know, finish reading. It’s like, wow, can you guys just go on a vacation somewhere on a deserted, un-internet enlightened island somewhere.
Laura: Except they’d probably think of so many great ideas they’d come back with even more.
Matt: Oh gosh yeah, they’d completely change everything. No, it is… one of the real challenges though, it is, there are so many new things that come in, when Bing really started to, they had some reasonable technical competition, platform competition, that emerged, you saw the pace and innovation of Google really accelerate. And so, that’s both good and bad, because I feel that a lot of the things Google put out over the last few years were not fully engineered. You know, things like site links that worked at one level of the account hierarchy and what have you. Google puts out tremendous stuff, they put out wonderful things all the time, but I felt like they might have rushed a few things to market, maybe in terms of to outflank Microsoft, perhaps.
But yeah, so one of the biggest challenges is keeping up, and that’s one of the reasons why I think this PPC Hero conference actually should be really, really cool. I’m really looking forward to it, and the reason is that you guys have always been sort of on a vanguard of connecting PPC people with each other, just you know, only PPC, we don’t have to explain anything else. We don’t have to talk links, we don’t have to talk SEO, we just go in there, and you do a great job on that Hero blog.
Laura: Thank you! We try, we definitely enjoy this industry and it’s great to be able to just connect different ideas with each other and just continue to keep learning. So do you feel that there are any upcoming trends in PPC that you feel will be important for paid search professionals such as those reading the blog and attending Hero Conf to keep on their radar, with all the changes with Google and everything you mentioned?
Matt: Yeah, I think… yeah, everything is, it’s hard to pinpoint just one. I think that the continuing advancements in automating various parts in the process. The types of things for bidding, testing for optimization, you know. Microsoft and Google both have done a lot of work here to take time out, slice time out of it, the process. You know like (8:01 ish)… they just seem to take a lot of time. So I think if there are any trends to be aware of, one of them would be to keep pace with all the good automation tools that are coming out. Don’t keep doing things the way you did them in 2002.
Laura: What are some of those tools that you would recommend or have found to be especially useful?
Matt: Well, the adCenter desktop is fabulous, the adWords editor is fabulous, these are two of the primary tools help make the account management a lot easier and a lot quicker to create and modify campaigns, a lot more quickly now than you could before, and those tools continue to get better. There are a lot of tools that will help you get a better idea of the competitive space. When you’re trying to estimate who, you know to a new client, clicks that may be available and the cost to get those clicks. They’re providing more and more, better tools that actually give you some seasonality and also some demography. So they just continue to put out good tools. The idea is use the tools that work well, and ignore the ones you don’t think are doing it for you.
Laura: (laughs) I’m definitely looking forward to the next tools that Google and adCenter puts out. So switching gears a little bit, at Hero Conf you’ll be presenting a session titled “Small, but Mighty! Winning Strategies, Tips and Tricks for PPC on Small Budgets.” What are some of the common misconceptions that you hear about small budget PPC?
Matt: Well, I think that one of the biggest misconceptions is that you can’t effectively compete, and that really is at the core of the problem for small businesses. Now, for really, really microscopically small business, often the choice for doing paid search stuff, is a choice to either do that or sweep the floor or wipe the kitchen down, or whatever your small business might be. So time is certainly a big constraint for small businesses, but the beauty of being a small business is that you can really create a campaign that focuses in on your core strengths.
This is one of the things we’re going to be talking about at Hero Conf. We’re going to show you that when you are limited by your budget, you actually could get a real advantage over your competitors because you have to think very clearly and in a very focused fashion as to what you’re going to do in order to make your online marketing work for you. So for example, just a dumb example, I had a client across the street who was a patisserie, they made cookies, they made muffins, they made beautiful wedding cakes, and I never should’ve spent as much time there as I did, but they were all delicious.
Laura: That sounds good!
Matt: So they wanted to know “what can we do, as a Main Street type of a business?” and they were literally on Main Street, “to use the Internet to leverage, you know, to bring in clients, we want more business.” So we talked about this, and one of the things is, nobody’s going to go searching for a cup of coffee. Maybe if they’re new to town they might on their mobile, you know “Where can I get a cup of cappuccino,” that’s fine, but that’s not so interesting. You make two or three dollars and by the time you’re done paying for a click you’re not going to get much benefit out of it.
But what are some of the higher value services you offer that are worth advertising? Well, wedding cakes! Anything that has the word “wedding” attached to it you can immediately add a zero to the price, so a cake that might normally be ten dollars is one hundred dollars as a wedding cake. I mean this is how crazy the wedding business is, but you know, this is sort of what the market will bear, so you know, what are some ways we can do that?
The other thing to look at was specialty cakes. I said “tell me a little bit more about your specialty cakes” and she said “Well you know, we’ll do some erotic ones, we’ll do some funny ones, we’ll do some ones for kids birthday parties, so whatever people want.,” and she said, “You know, one of the weird things we get are, we get a lot of requests for cakes over at the local college, which is Rivier College.” I said “Oh, well that’s interesting. So Mom is sending her kids over to college and they’ve got a birthday coming up in a few months, and Mom will go to no lengths to make them feel good. And so they’re going to buy some cakes that can be delivered.” So we took that as an opportunity, you know, birthday cakes at Rivier College, get some campaigns there. Then we did one other thing, which was corporate catering. So these are items that can go from one hundred dollars to five hundred dollars, and from five hundred dollars to one thousand dollars, depending.
So these are much more sensible to do online marketing for, so all you have to do is think through your business. Don’t worry about the fact you do all these other things, focus in on the couple of things you know will bring you money from PPC, back on your advertising budget.
Laura: It sounds like a really great session. I know I’m really looking forward to hearing it, it sounds like pretty much anyone who manages a small budget PPC account could really benefit from what you’re going to be speaking on.
Matt: Well, I sure hope so. I hope they don’t throw oranges and tomatoes at me.
Laura: (laughs) I’m sure they won’t! And speaking about Hero Conf, you mentioned that you’re really looking forward to the fact it’s a PPC-only conference, and are there any special sessions or speakers or anything else that you’re really looking forward to hearing or learning at Hero Conf?
Matt: Well, I don’t know how you’ve done it but you’ve managed to really attract an A-list of paid search experts out there. I’m not in particular looking forward to one particular topic, except for I’d like to kind of get up to speed a little bit more on all the changes that have just recently happened involving local targeting capabilities, I would like to some time in some of those sessions, but the fact that you’ve brought in so many A-listers is, for me, a real benefit because this is where you learn stuff.
Laura: Definitely, well we are so excited to have the list of speakers that we do and that includes you for sure, we’re thrilled that you’ll be able to speak and that we’ll be able to meet you at Hero Conf.
Matt: Well thanks, it’s an honor to be invited and I’m like a kid in a candy store once I get there.
Laura: Well that is really great. Thank you so much and for taking the time to do the interview today, this was really interesting information and we’re looking forward to hearing more at Hero Conf.
Matt: Well alright, thank you Laura, and you have a great day.
Laura: Thank you, you too!
An award-winning speaker whose presentations are usually as entertaining as they are informative, Matt is the president and founder of Find Me Faster, a paid search engine marketing agency in Nashua, NH. He is a member of SEMNE (Search Engine Marketing New England), SEMPO, ( Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization) and a regular Paid Search columnist on Search Engine Land. Matt has spoken at over 60 search marketing conferences, as a guest lecturer for undergraduate and graduate university classes, authored online courseware on advanced technical topics for the Search Marketing Professionals Institute (SEMPO) and for Microsoft. He has also served as technical editor on four of the top books on search engine marketing, including Advanced Google AdWords (Geddes, 2012 Wiley), Keyword Intelligence (Jones, Wiley 2011), Pay-Per-Click Search Marketing in an Hour a Day (Szetela, Kerschbaum, 2010 Wiley), Winning Results with Google AdWords, (Goodman, 2008 McGraw-Hill) and several other technical books and publications.
Matt is a graduate of St Lawrence University, Canton NY (BS Economics) with an M.B.A. from Rivier College, Nashua, NH.
Follow on Twitter @mvanwagner
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