How to Become a PPC Expert

How does one become a PPC expert? You don’t need a formal degree to run ads. In fact, many of today’s brightest paid search marketers say they “just landed into it.” Some transitioned to PPC from copywriting, like Susan Wenograd, Partner at Five Mill; others applied their natural analytical prowess and learned by trial and error on local SMBs, like AdStage’s Mike McEuen.

I sat down with AdStage’s PPC experts, Michael and JD, and asked them what it takes to become a PPC pro. Turns out, it’s not about getting that Bing certification or passing the Facebook Blueprint exam.

Here are the seven things you need to do to become a PPC expert.

1. Build a Deep Expertise in One Area

PPC experts know the ins and outs of Google AdWords, Bing Ads, or Facebook Ads – but rarely all the networks at once. Why go niche? It’s the only way to go from good to remarkable. Most PPC skills are transferable, but a niche strategy makes easier to stay on top of the latest changes.

2. Think Beyond Metrics

Clicks and conversions vary across networks, and most PPC specialists know how to track metrics in each. But only a few experts can report on these metrics in a way that makes sense to the board, business owners, and senior-level executives. The best marketers don’t stop at CTRs, CPAs, leads, and conversions. These rare professionals tie campaign results to revenue and customer lifetime value. They are not afraid to bid higher – and will confidently ask for a bigger budget if they think it’s best for the business.

3. Get Some Agency Experience

Many PPC experts started on the agency side. In-house marketers often get a firmer grip on the strategy wheel and develop a broader range of marketing skills, but agency folks learn certain technical skills a lot faster. Externally-driven deadlines taught them to structure their time for maximum productivity and output.

4. Become an Excel Ninja

From charting to pivot tables, Excel skills are critical for any marketer working with large datasets. The ability to wrangle Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets with ease and confidence speeds up and improves business decisions. PPC pros use Excel to create dynamic URLs in bulk, slice data, or animate a scatterplot chart for an ad hoc report.

5. Fail Faster

The risk of failing when you test a different approach gets in the way of finding new original solutions. It’s common (and not wrong) to do what worked well in the past, but the best learnings come out of mistakes and failures. (Check out JD’s post on the mistakes he made while testing Quora Ads). PPC experts try new things and stop the campaign if it falls off track.

6. Understand the Guts of Tracking

Whether they inherit an account or start a new one from scratch, great PPC marketers understand the critical steps of setting up Google Analytics. These experts will get the right code in place to collect all the necessary insights. Chances are, they’ve dabbled in some code and understand the limitations and hidden opportunities of Google Analytics tracking.

7. Be a “Doer” And Never Stop Learning

Even the best PPC experts can quickly go back to being newbies if they don’t work on their craft. Many former individual contributors find it hard to sustain their expertise when they start to manage large teams: “dual-track” (manager + individual contributor) is a tricky career path.


Bringing it all together

Yes, all the 25 PPC experts on the PPC Hero list this year speak at conferences and often have thousands of social media followers, but building a reputation as an industry specialist starts with the basics. The best PPC experts go niche, love data, take risks, and keep learning.

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AdStage Team