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This episode focusses on PPC and features Irina Holliday, Head of Paid Media at The Digital Maze and is hosted by Rob Twells.
Rob: Let’s talk a bit about you Irina, how did you get into the world of PPC?
Irina: So that was a total accident. Back in 2007 I moved to Moscow from my hometown Novosibirsk and I applied for a technical support job in a hosting company. Their response was that they didn’t unfortunately have this position available anymore, but they did tell me that they have a junior PPC vacancy and asked if I’d be interested.
I had no idea what PPC was at the time, but it sounded interesting and I applied for it and got the job. I liked it and happened to be good at it (or so I want to believe!) and have been sticking to it for nearly 16 years now.
Rob: So when we talk about PPC, what exactly are we talking about? Just Google ads, or much more than that?
Irina: PPC is essentially meaning – PAY PER CLICK, so people tend to think Google when we’re talking about PPC, understandably so, but it is of course a lot more than that. If there is a platform where you can launch ads and pay for clicks – that’s essentially it.
Rob: Obviously we’re currently head on into a cost of living crisis, how will marketers need to change their PPC strategy to compensate for this?
Irina: It’s a good question and there’s no simple answer to that, at least not the one that would work for everyone, because, as with many things in PPC and digital marketing – it will depend on a bunch of things.
My assumption is that people’s buying habits will certainly change. We did see a big change back in 2020 when we all went into lockdown as everyone suddenly started shopping online. Most of the clients I managed back then had their best months in 2020 and 2021 so already in 2022 when we are comparing the performance, we can see the reduction, which, in my opinion may be further down, at least for certain industries. I assume it will take longer for people to complete this process from consideration to purchase, as impulse buying won’t be quite as common as it was.
And again I’d like to reiterate and repeat my favourite phrase – IT DEPENDS. Because when you think about it, people will always need certain things: food, toiletries, etc. for their basic needs, however when we are talking about, let’s say, high end furniture or booking holidays – this may take a lot longer to consider before they complete the purchase / booking / etc.
Rob: And does PPC have trends, or does it stay relatively fixed?
Irina: Oh absolutely. PPC is the industry that is changing all the time, and in all 15 years that I’ve been doing it I still feel that I don’t know so many things because it changes so fast.
What I have seen over the years is Google taking away a certain level of control and prioritising Google AI over manual work.
To give you a few examples: match type updates and exact no longer being exact as we know it. Responsive search ads taking over. Smart bidding is something that’s being used a lot more and works a lot better than a few years back. Performance Max campaigns replacing smart shopping. Auto-applied recommendations, you name it!
All of this has been pushed by Google for as long as I can remember, and I’m sure a lot of fellow PPC’ers would agree with me that not every change from Google is something we welcome with open arms, however this doesn’t change the fact that this is where we are going. Many things are already being automated and some will be automated in the near (or not so near) future. I hear many people say it will take our jobs away, but I can’t really agree with that, as, like I already said, PPC has always been changing and our jobs are changing with it.
Rob: So, what trends should PPC marketers be aware of when they’re strategising for 2023?
Irina: I’ve been talking about the automation etc by Google, however in the last couple of years everyone’s reality suddenly shifted for more than one reason and it continues to do so. Whether we want it or not, world events influence whatever is happening in PPC, in one way or the other. There was Brexit, there was pandemic and lockdowns, now there’s a cost of living crisis and other very worrying events taking place in the world. And even though it doesn’t seem to be directly related to PPC specifically, it sure affects the consumer behaviour and as a consequence, it affects businesses too.
I would suggest keeping in mind the fact that the customer may take longer to make a decision to purchase a certain product or service and if you’re an agency make sure your client is aware of that too.
Rob: And if marketers are following those trends, what advice would you give them to maximise their ROI?
Irina: Change the conversion window to longer than 30 days. Check the assisted conversions and make sure your attribution model is set to capture those too. Make use of Performance Max campaigns. Do not be scared of automations – embrace it!
Rob: So it’s time for everyone’s favourite, the quick fire round where we’ve been sent in some questions to ask from listeners. First up: theoretically if the metaverse gains any real traction – how would PPC need to adapt to be relevant in that space?
Irina: Oh wow that’s a good question. The answer is – I have no idea! But if I was to make an assumption (or a few) – my guess would be that Google search doesn’t go anywhere any time soon. Of course, I mentioned that PPC is a lot more than just Google search and I’m sure there will be some announcements about ads in Metaverse at some point soon, however… Let me give you my favourite example. You’ve locked your keys in your car. What do you do? Do you go on metaverse or do you frantically Google the local emergency locksmiths to retrieve your keys? Obviously, it may change in the future, but I don’t see it happening in the immediate or near future.
What I would say however, is potentially making the PPC ads less text and more image-like. Google has been trialling that with image extensions and maybe this is something we will see more of.
Rob: Next up we’ve got more of a technical one, do you expect Google’s coming move to manifest V3 in chrome to have a noticeable effect on the industry?
Irina: Very good question. I personally can see this going in a couple of different scenarios (and even though I’m an expert, it’s still very much a guess work for me). Just everyone knows what we are talking about – the biggest thing about it is Google removing the ad blockers. Also discontinuing the 3rd party cookies, but I can see them postponing it yet again (which it already has been several times by now)
However, this is all a guess work until this will actually happen as we can forecast pretty much anything, but I don’t think any of us will know for sure.
Rob: Lastly we’ve got a really great question, how do you guide a client that panics when they don’t see immediate ROI?
Irina: That is a good question! And my answer is IT DEPENDS (joking). Firstly, it’s absolutely normal for both things to happen: not to see immediate ROI and to panic. Truth is – more often than not campaigns tend to start at a very slow pace, especially when you launch something in a brand new Google ad account which has zero conversion history. In that case, whilst Google bidding is taking its time (and money) to learn how to optimise your campaigns best, us (as in advertisers) are sitting in front of our screen pressing F5 over and over again hoping to see the conversions/ transactions / ROI.
Whenever I’m launching the new campaign (especially if it’s in the new account) I’m making sure to let the client know that it may be a slow start while Google bidding is in the learning phase which can take 4-6 weeks for some campaigns.
But the key is, in my opinion, to be transparent and honest with the client about the expectations and early results. Be there to answer their questions and help them understand that this is not out of the ordinary. It may seem frustrating having to explain this over and over, but if you imagine yourself in their shoes, it is, after all, their money that is being spent in Google, and they surely deserve some peace of mind.
Rob: Thank you for joining us today Irina, it’s been great talking to you!
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