How PPC Managers Can Work With Other Departments

Posted by on Oct 17, 2017 in Agency, Reporting
How PPC Managers Can Work With Other Departments

Step one to getting anyone to believe and trust what you’re saying is to prove your credibility. The same rules apply when PPC managers reach out to other departments to sync up on how to best work together. Depending on your organization, justifying your expertise may be a challenge. Compile some of your best case studies to share at the initial meeting, so your colleagues have a clear understanding of how you’re impacting the company’s success.

You may also want to pull a few relevant and recent articles about the power of PPC to give some context to how other companies (especially competitors) are using PPC to their advantage. From there, building alignment with sales, email marketing, product marketing, creative, and other teams should feel like a natural partnership for everyone.

Find a Common Language

CPA, CPC, CPM, CTR. Even the term “PPC” might intimidate teams who don’t play in this world. You know the ins, outs, and industry acronyms of what you do every day, but for those who don’t, a barrage of unfamiliar lingo can be a frustrating turn-off. Use terms everyone can understand, or offer a simple explanation for more complicated but necessary terms or concepts. Include helpful term definitions when sharing PPC reports via email to make sure the recipient fully understands the data and doesn’t have to go looking for help elsewhere.

In any language, visuals speak volumes. PPC reporting tools can help distill intricate information into digestible data. A complicated cross-channel campaign summary of PPC metrics becomes a clear bar graph everyone can understand.

adstage report cross network spend bar chart

Understand Shared KPIs and Show Overlaps

In a healthy, streamlined company, colleagues work side by side toward the same goals, performing different tasks and carrying out various projects, depending on their job function. But some companies suffer from siloing, when departments work independently, rarely sharing information or resources with other teams.

At this year’s Advertising Week, Google’s Americas president, Allan Thygesen, encouraged marketers to push for a single KPI across all their teams. While maybe overly ambitious for some organizations, his point is that every department in the business should be on the same page, and actively working together to hit shared numbers.

Where goals overlap, PPC managers and leads in other departments should work together on strategies and ideas to help each other be successful. One area where PPC teams can be especially effective and helpful is quick and cheap testing. For example, if the email team is debating a few subject lines, PPCers could throw the lines into a simple AdWords campaign and report back on which performed best.

ppc ads

Where goals overlap, PPC managers and leads in other departments should work together on strategies and ideas to help each other be successful.

Deliver Helpful and Useful Information

It’s one thing to share information with other teams; it’s another to offer suggestions on how to apply it. Let’s say a campaign revealed that ads mentioning a certain product attribute outperformed any other messaging. Instead of sharing a report that shows Ad #3 yielded the lowest CPC, call out to each team the qualitative findings and how they might be applied to that team’s work.

Because PPC reporting tools make drafting reports quick and easy, consider tailoring reports and conversations to various teams so they can best understand how PPC efforts and results can help their own work. For example, when working with the copywriting and search teams, pull a report that shows keyword results specifically. PPC can help deliver useful info on what’s working and what’s not, much faster than wider SEO site changes.

Accept and Utilize Other Teams’ Data

Don’t reinvent the wheel when someone else has done the work! Just as you’re sharing your findings with other teams, no doubt they have vital data to share as well. PPC managers should listen to what other teams have already discovered and see how they can incorporate it into their own work whether as a way to bypass double work or to help refine and excel what’s already been accomplished. Not only does information sharing save time, it gives PPC managers and other department heads the opportunity to have equal conversations where both sides are as invested and involved as the other. Which leads us to…

how ppc managers should work with other departments

Communicate Constantly

Put a (non-annoying) bug in everyone’s ear so they’re aware of what you’re up and can better identify opportunities to partner up. Hold casual lunch and learns to keep everyone up to speed on what you and your team are working on. As we know, the PPC world is changing quickly, and there’s always an interesting topic or trend to bring to the table that is relevant to everyone in the organization.

Again, simple info sharing like what’s available through Adstage’s Report capabilities make it easy to deliver relevant information in little bites. Send out a brief weekly/bi-weekly/monthly recap and schedule short recaps with the teams you think could most benefit from the information in the reports.

PPC is awesome. We all know that, and by showing your colleagues how powerful this form of advertising can be, hopefully, they’ll soon share the same feelings.

An Agency Director’s Guide to Preventing Team Burnout

Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 in Agency
An Agency Director’s Guide to Preventing Team Burnout

The national unemployment rate is down 50% since 2012, yet employees are still overworked and stressed. How can that be if there are more people to share the workload and how can management and leadership help combat the inevitable burnout? And as an agency director, or manager of any kind, is it possible to manage, grow, and retain talent when there’s the hovering possibility of work-halting dissatisfaction?

To find solutions, you have to know the cause. Reasons people feel burned out can range from anything to feeling over-worked, undervalued, isolated, not challenged, uninspired, and more.

Ashley Dennison, a former agency director who has led multiple teams over her 10-year communications career and now runs her own consulting business, PR Pinch Hitter, says it shouldn’t be hard for observant managers to spot someone who’s burning out.

“If a normally cheerful and talkative team member stops greeting his or her cube mates when she arrives in the morning or stops stepping out to grab lunch with colleagues — she may be quietly burning out. Or if a normally productivity and results-focused employee is spotted slumped in his chair, texting or playing games on his iPhone — that’s an indicator that something is amiss and worth checking up on.”

With so many sources for burnout, for an agency director, or anyone responsible for teams, it can sound like your full-time job is making sure everyone is happy and productive. But it’s much simpler than that to help build a workplace employees like coming to.

Take a Look at Your Organization

As companies work quickly to grow and hit goals, they can often fall into bad habits that affect the entire staff. Turnover, unhappy employees, and slowed productivity are all warning signs that changes need to be made. Eric Garton, coauthor of Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power said in his Harvard Business Review article that when he and his research team studied companies with high burnout rates, the three common culprits were excessive collaboration, weak time management disciplines, and a tendency to overload the most capable with too much work.

Knowing this, take a look at the impact you can have in your organization or what you can do to improve the everyday for your team. If you’re able to smooth out the basics for your employees, the other suggestions in this article should be bonuses.

Provide Enrichment Opportunities

No, it doesn’t mean blowing a bunch of the department’s money on goof around offsite excursions. Though outside of the office trips can do wonders for morale, there’s a lot you can do within the office that can provide a bump for spirits and keep employees engaged.

  • Hold lunch and learns where team members can present activities they’re experts in, like how to write in calligraphy, how to always be at inbox zero, or how to win at poker. Though not always directly related to day-to-day business, these types of meetups get employees talking and interacting in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily do in a work day.
  • Invite external experts in for interactive talks and presentations. This approach is more likely to support the company’s daily activities, but provides a nice breakout opportunity for employees to extend their knowledge and get away from their desks for awhile.

Get Out of the Routine

Work should never feel monotonous. But it will if the team is coming in and performing the same tasks day in and day out. What better way to kill motivation than to simply be going through the motions 8+ hours per day.

  • Where possible, mix up teams after a big project concludes. It’ll give everyone an opportunity to work with different personalities and hear new ideas and techniques.
  • Consider taking on a pro-bono project and let team members play outside their normal roles. Let the social media manager design some of the work, let your accounts lead try his hand at copywriting.
  • As Eric Garton mentions, instead of stretching your star team members across multiple projects, put them all together on a particularly tricky project.

encourage people to be creative outside of work [how to prevent team burnout]

Encourage Side Projects

No matter who you are and how much you say you love your job, it’s impossible to come to the office five days a week and do nothing but perform the exact functions of your role. Humans need creative, extracurricular stimulation. Allowing staff to participate in a passion project for part of their day or week will go so far in amping up dedication and productivity when it comes to getting back to “real work.”

  • Though some say Google’s 20% time policy, which allowed employees to spend that amount of time on side projects, is dead, the original idea remains. Encourage employees to form their own teams to work on what interests them.
  • Some companies dedicate a whole sprint week to these efforts, culminating in presentations to the rest of the company.
  • Surface some of the company’s challenges at a starting point to keep employees thinking about ways they can flex their creative muscle but still impact the organization. Maybe it’s testing out a new technology that could later be applied to help a client’s business.
  • You never know when an inspired employee could come up with the next product iteration. Crew, a freelance-for-hire marketplace credits side projects with helping them save their business when they inadvertently created a stock photo site while building their main business’s home page.

Make the Office Fun and Flexible

Before you start building a gourmet cafeteria and mapping out where to put the indoor fire pit a la Google, keep in mind Bagel Tuesdays can offer a big boost in morale and not sink the company’s budget.

  • Consider allowing occasional work from home days to give employees more flexibility while maintaining productivity. A 2016 survey cited in this Forbes article found American workers felt they’re more productive, more satisfied with their jobs, and happier overall when working remotely. You don’t have to allow employees to work from home every day to get the benefit. Mostly, employees just want to feel they have some flexibility and say in how their schedule looks Monday to Friday.
  • Plan simple surprises. Get fresh baked cookies delivered on a Thursday afternoon and invite everyone to take a milk and cookies break.
  • Sync up with a charity and invite employees to take a break during the day to participate. Girls Love Mail facilitates hand-written letters to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

Make Everyone’s Lives Easier

There’s the manager who makes every day hard, and then there’s the manager who understands (and cares about) supporting and encouraging his or her team to do the best work. Be the latter! All of the below are great ways to show staff you value and appreciate them and their time.

  • Whether it’s introducing a new tool to make pulling PPC reports a breeze, or finding the budget to hire a new job function to take that task off everyone’s plates, a great manager is always looking for ways to increase productivity while lightening workloads.
  • Think of little ways you can improve touch situations, like getting lunch or dinner catered when the team is heads down on a big project.
  • Work with HR to find partners to provide discounted laundry/cleaning services, entertainment, tickets, etc.

an performance agency director's guide to preventing team burnout

Check in and Listen

Sometimes (actually, oftentimes), employees just want to be heard. A little attention from senior management can go a long way in making employees feel valued and engaged. When meeting with staff, do your best to make them feel comfortable so they can open up about their satisfaction and needs. Let them know this is the right time to flag if their workload is too much, too little, too beginner, they don’t have access to the right tools, etc.

  • Schedule one-on-ones with the appropriate staff members, letting them know what the time is for. The last thing you want is people running around nervous they’re getting called to the boss’s office.
  • Ashley Dennison, the communications professional, says, “In the past, I’ve made off-campus vent sessions mandatory for my teams. After many days or weeks of nonstop production and activity, team members need to let their hair down in a safe space. Setting a “meeting” to take off at 4:00 p.m. for margaritas, chips, and guac with a small group of like-minded team members can work wonders to hit the refresh button.”
  • On a collective level, poll employees to see what perks or benefits they might enjoy. While you might be thinking they’ll ask for the moon, maybe what they’d love is to be able to knock off an hour early for Summer Fridays.

Give Feedback Often

Feedback may have a negative connotation, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. If someone doesn’t know what’s expected of them or is unclear on what they should be doing for their position, it can quickly lead to burnout. Opening up a direct line of communication is a great way to build employee engagement both when times are great, and when they become more challenging.

  • Employees want to hear when they’re doing a good job, but they also want to hear how they can get better (at least the ones worth keeping around do!). The Balance has some great tips on giving feedback to help employees improve.
  • When appropriate, call out great work in a public forum. It’s great to feel like an asset to the company, but it’s awesome to be able to show your colleagues your impact without bragging on your own.
  • The Office of Personnel Management mentions specificity, timeliness, and manner as the most important elements of effective feedback. If you’re already meeting with staff members on a regular basis as suggested above, you’re in a great position to knock out at least ⅔ of those.

Wrap Up

It’s easy to fall into the overworked, non-unified rut that leads to burnout, but it can be just as easy to right the ship, too. Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to make every change listed above. Start with what feels like it matters most and adjust from there. You can even enlist the help of employees to carry out some of the above. No doubt there’s someone on the team who would love to facilitate guest speakers or make sure there are fresh bagels on the cafeteria table every Tuesday morning.

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An Agency Director’s Guide to Surviving the Digital Data Jungle

Posted by on Sep 26, 2017 in Agency
An Agency Director’s Guide to Surviving the Digital Data Jungle

What’s giving agency directors headaches these days? Rising CPC costs and slimmer margins? Grim outlook for global ad spending? Ad tech startups aggressively chasing the direct-to-advertiser relationship? Perhaps, all of the above?

The truth is, things are never going to get easier for an agency marketer. But as our performance advertising industry grows more complex, agencies can find more opportunities to add value to clients. The one caveat: this will require going a lot deeper with client data.

Dustin Engel of PMG says that now is the perfect time for agencies to fill key technology gaps for brands. Engel, who heads up analytics at PMG, a digital marketing agency serving brands such as Sephora and J.Crew, recently told eMarketer that “bringing a technical acumen” will be a key point of differentiation for agencies.

CMOs and agency directors, take heed: To win in the digital performance agency world, you now don’t just offer a lower cost per lead and higher conversion; you meet your clients’ needs in automation, data blending, and cross-network audience activation.

Agencies >> DSPs: Data Integration Needs a Trusted Partner

Why should agencies suddenly become the new analytics technology providers? What about DSPs? Existing tools, Engel argues, may offer solutions, but they lack the knowledge of the market and all the nuances of media buying.

Data by itself has little meaning. What matters is the ability to formulate the right questions and knowing where and how to extract the right answers. If agencies can solve that for their clients, a competitor’s promise of a lower CPL will never steal their business.

Integration: the Final Piece in the MarTech Jigsaw Puzzle

Top CMOs across industries see technology as the savior to key marketing challenges such as transparency and accurate attribution. Michelle Engle, VP of product marketing and management at MaxPoint, recently said to SmartBrief:

“There’s a lot of untapped possibility that, with the right focus and investment in developing powerful technology, we can unlock as an industry in 2017”

But marketers at small and large companies already have impressive technology stacks. The 2017 Marketing Technology Landscape features 5000 vendors. Obviously, adding more technology isn’t going to solve the problem. What’s next?

marketing technology landscape. data integration -- the final piece of the martech puzzle.

Marketing Technology Landscape 2017. Source: ChiefMartech

The Next Frontier: Tailoring Tech to Client’s Unique Needs

“Traditional marketing and advertising technology will typically cover roughly 70% of a brand’s needs, but 30% of those are unique to the company,” Engel said. “Agencies can fill a lot of those gaps, especially in areas such as data automation, data blending, and audience activation.”

Big data has turned into a big problem for marketers who are trying to connect multiple sources: site analytics data, cross-network user acquisition data, sales, and customer scoring. One-size-fits-all solutions can’t handle the complexity of each client’s unique needs.

This is a great business opportunity for agencies, Engel argues, because no product and engineering team understands the context of media better than agency media strategists.

Agencies Can Tackle Data Tasks Better than Ad Tech Players

Agencies understand all the nuances of user acquisition and customer lifecycle. If they take on the task of activating all data sources and helping clients survive and thrive in the data jungle, they’ll get customers for life.

Going from clicks and conversions to deeper, more meaningful metrics can be daunting, but you don’t have to go it alone. It’s been our mission at AdStage to connect marketers to the data they need to understand holistic campaign performance and take action at scale. Our Universal Data API allows to send all paid search, paid social, web analytics, and custom business data from a single pipeline, unlocking actionable insights that could transform your client’s business.

If your advertising agency doesn’t already have a data integration strategy, now might be the time to start exploring one.

advertising data integration

Should You Hire an Agency or In-House PPC Expert?

Posted by on Sep 25, 2017 in Agency
Should You Hire an Agency or In-House PPC Expert?

Whether you have a large or small PPC budget, you need to have someone who knows how to manage your campaigns for maximum performance. Most companies follow two schools of thoughts:

  1. They hire an in-house PPC specialist.
  2. They hire a PPC agency.

In either case, you delegate your PPC management to someone else, saving time in the process. But before you decide which route to take, it’s important to consider all options.

In this article, you’ll learn whether you should hire an in-house PPC specialist or outsource the work to an agency.

Hiring a PPC Specialist In-House

An in-house PPC specialist gives a company two attributes: focused expertise and attention to detail. When you have an expert who knows her craft and focuses it on your business alone, you can expect nothing but great results.

What’s more, an in-house PPC specialist knows all the intricacies of your company, which helps create campaigns that target your audience more precisely and effectively.

An in-house PPC expert focuses all the time and knowledge in your business, which makes her flexible to react to sudden changes. Imagine it’s Christmas season, the most important holiday season for your company, and one of your competitors increases their bids on December, 21st. You can’t let this situation get out of your hands. If you don’t fix it fast, you can lose all your traffic and see a sharp decrease in revenue.

In such situation, with little to no bureaucracy or waiting times, an in-house PPC specialist can quickly change your PPC campaigns bidding strategy — or even rebuild your whole campaign from scratch. Thanks to their commitment and flexibility, they can save the situation where an agency wouldn’t have been able to deliver.

Having more than one specialist working in your marketing team (i.e., you have one for SEO, another one for email marketing, and so on), you can capture value from collaboration among different experts. Someone who focuses exclusively on PPC can learn a lot from other members of your marketing team. For example, a content strategist can help improve the targeting of the copy, while an SEO specialist can help optimize the keyword bidding to reduce the cannibalization and optimize the cost effectiveness of your campaigns.

One commonly overlooked aspect of hiring someone is all the cost associated with it. According to the MIT, the costs of hiring an employee are 25% to 40% higher than the base salary range. That means, if you want to hire a PPC specialist at a $50k yearly salary, the final costs will be around $62k to $70k, which include:

  • Life insurance
  • Health coverage
  • Long-term disability insurance
  • Dental plans
  • Dependent care assistance
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Retirement plans.

Hiring is a skill in itself; it takes more than an ability to know the skills or credentials of a potential candidate. Even if you are experienced in hiring or have an HR person in your company, you must be careful.

To start, you must take into consideration the cultural fit of the candidate. Your organization has a culture; if you hire someone who doesn’t fit in, you may end up creating problems down the road.

A study done by the University of Iowa found that when an employee fit in an organization, both coworkers and supervisors reported greater job satisfaction, were more likely to remain with their organization, and showed superior job performance. Another study from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found poor culture fit can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary due to the increase in employee turnover.

Finally, you must know what you want from a PPC specialist. That may seem obvious, but if you want someone who’s in charge of “managing your PPC” without knowing what exactly you want—like how many leads or traffic you expect to get—you may not be able to successfully manage that person.

Outsourcing to a PPC Agency

You probably have heard the phrase “two brains think better than one.” If you work with a PPC agency, you won’t work with just one expert; you would have a large team of experts helping you manage your PPC campaigns.

The benefits of working with an agency are plenty:

  • Save time by outsourcing the majority of the day-to-day management.
  • Reduce the complexity of managing your marketing team.
  • Get professional help from a group of experts.
  • Save money by avoiding all the labor costs previously mentioned.

Working with an agency comes with certain challenges. To start, you need to be clear on exactly what you need from an agency. If you have a marketing team with a few generalists but no dedicated PPC specialist, will the agency fill that space for you? Or will they complement your existing team?

It takes time for an agency to understand your company, your products or services, and the goals of your campaigns. How fast do you want to see the desired results? If you are in a hurry because there’s an upcoming holiday season, you may want to make sure you take these delays into consideration.

In contrast with working with an in-house specialist, communicating with an agency takes more time. You may need to set aside time for regular check-ins and phone calls, get every stakeholder involved, and make sure everyone understands what’s being discussed.

Most PPC agencies tend to work with companies with monthly budgets above the five-figure range, leaving most companies outside the minimum working threshold. If you want to work with an agency, you need to know what’s the investment you need to make above your PPC budget as well as what you get from your investment, which includes:

  • How many hours they will dedicate to your account;
  • Who will be working with your account;
  • What the deliverables are;
  • What the communication channels will be.

Before you commit to working with an agency, make sure you have a clear idea of the results you expect to get from the agency and what they can actually provide. Talk to your CFO to make sure the numbers make sense to you.

Finally, don’t let any agency tell you the industry is growing too fast for you to keep up. With the help of tools like AdStage, even a non-expert can manage a PPC campaign with a good level of success. Gone are the days where agencies had custom-made tools no one else had; software has democratized the way companies and agencies work.

Which Option You Should Choose

When it comes to choosing whether to hire in-house or work with a PPC agency, there’s no easy answer. As it always happens, it depends on your situation. Let’s see the two most common cases: a company with a small budget and one with a large budget.

If You Have a Small Budget

If you have a small monthly budget (i.e., below $10,000), you won’t likely benefit from working with an agency. Even if the agency is honest and upfront about the work they will deliver and results you can expect, they won’t likely be able to provide the time needed to deliver the results you need.

According to Payscale, the yearly salary for a PPC manager is $48,233—or $4,019 per month. With less than half the cost of an agency, you can get a full-time PPC expert working for your company.

PPC agency vs in-house : median salary and cost

Source: Payscale

If you have a small budget because you haven’t found the traction necessary to grow your business with PPC, you may also want to wait until you hire a specialist. An online marketing generalist may be able to hit your goals.

Once you know PPC is working well for you (i.e., it’s one of the main acquisition channels) and your budget grows, you can consider hiring a PPC specialist full-time or work directly with an agency.

If You Have a Large Budget

Businesses with large budgets have more options available; they can either hire a full-time PPC specialist or work with an agency. If your company already has someone who manages your PPC in-house but has too much work, an agency may help them lower their workload. Alternatively, with the help of the right PPC automation tools, in-house marketers may optimize their time better and deliver the same results.

Whether you hire a full-time member or an agency, make sure to ask around for referrals and testimonials. You want to make sure both the specialist and the agency are up for the task and will bring the desired ROI.

If you end up working with an agency, it doesn’t mean the specialist who used to be in charge of your PPC won’t manage the channel anymore. With an agency, the only difference is that the specialist doesn’t need to do all the work. Rather, she just manages it with the agency. Don’t make the mistake of thinking think that working with an agency is a hands-off process. On the contrary, you must consider their work to be part of your own organization.

Conclusion

If you have the options of hiring a full-time PPC specialist or working with an agency, you need to stop and think about what would work best for your company.

With tools like AdStage, it’s easier than ever to automate your PPC campaigns. But sometimes, there’s too much work an executive or one marketing generalist can possibly manage. As you make the decision to outsource your PPC management, consider the pros and cons for your specific case. If your PPC campaigns are starting to drive growth,  choose one option and get started today.

 

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Is SEM An Effective Growth Channel For Startups?

Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Agency, Search
Is SEM An Effective Growth Channel For Startups?

SEM is undoubtedly one of the most effective digital marketing channels that exist. When the right elements come together – a great product with good unit economics, relatively few competitors, and high search volumes – paid search scales very nicely.

But startups rarely have all these elements working in their favor at once, and they usually face a set of unique challenges when trying to build out SEM as a scalable channel. As a digital marketing agency that has worked with more than 100 startups of all shapes and sizes on SEM, we have seen and navigated these issues and want to share some insights about how to overcome them.

The Challenges

Startups have a set of unique challenges above and beyond the typical challenges faced by companies advertising on paid search channels like Google AdWords and Bing Ads.

The first big challenge is that many startups have unknown or unproven customer LTVs (lifetime values). Knowing your LTVs is the most important first step when considering doing any kind of paid advertising. If you don’t know how much money you’re making from a customer over their lifetime, you won’t know how much you can afford to spend to acquire them.

But for startups with relatively little operating history and low customer volumes, it becomes very difficult to accurately project LTV. A lack of LTV data is a bit of a chicken and an egg problem, since LTV can only be established once you have acquired customers. You have to expend some combination of time, effort, and money to acquire customers from any channel.

This is very important to understand – SEM can be used to help validate or establish LTVs, but if this is your goal then make sure you are clear on what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes a startup thinks they are trying to see if SEM is scalable for their business, but they realize they don’t have the right LTV data to assess the efficiency of the channel in the first place. It’s an important distinction that will change the approach and the resources needed to manage your SEM accounts.

One way to get around this catch-22 is to get industry comparisons by talking to VCs or people at similar companies who can augment any customer data you have. While customer LTVs for other companies will likely differ from yours, it’s a relatively good measure that can at minimum help you establish a benchmark for developing a target CPA.

How much you can afford to spend to acquire a customer (called a target CPA) is directly related to how much scale you can achieve from SEM. The higher your target CPA, the more scale you can achieve.The reason for this is diminishing returns. As you start increasing your SEM spend, CPAs also increase as you saturate the low-hanging, high-intent keywords that typically convert well and you reach for new keyword opportunities. Eventually your actual CPA will start bumping up against your CPA target and you will be forced to stop scaling spend until either you determine you can afford to pay a higher CPA or you are able to achieve lower CPAs with optimization.

Another challenge for startups using paid search is heavy competition from established companies. Because these incumbents know their LTVs and also typically have much larger budgets to work with, they can afford to be more aggressive with their bids on SEM and this can squeeze out startups trying to break in. In addition, sometimes these companies ensure they show up in a certain position – regardless of how inefficient it may be. This can make it very difficult for scrappy, unit-economics-driven startups to compete. This can be exacerbated for high-funnel keywords that are already very expensive and have relatively low conversions rates.

For an eCommerce startup selling subscription clothing boxes, a generic high-funnel keyword like “mens jackets” is unlikely to back out to a target CPA that’s based on their average customer LTV. However, when searching for this term you’ll notice Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom, and Michael Kors bidding aggressively:

mens jackets search example

Even for these companies, it’s unlikely that the CPA from these keywords backs out for them directly, but they continue to spend millions of dollars per year to show up in the top positions for these keywords. Such companies may be bidding on the belief that the brand exposure they receive from showing up for generic keywords makes up for CPA inefficiency, or they may be bidding on these keywords purely due to a fear of missing out since their competitors are bidding on them. Regardless, this is not a battle that a startup is going to win unless their LTV, and thus target CPA, allows them to compete.

The best way to get around this is to bid on a variety of long-tail keywords, which will have lower competition and likely higher intent, but will also be cheaper. The more extensive your list of long-tail generic keywords, the more traffic you can drive without relying on competitive, generic keywords. Google’s Keyword Planner and third-party tools like SpyFu can help you find long-tail keywords with low competition that are relevant to your business.

Another common obstacle for startups looking to leverage paid search is that they’re often operating in nascent or emerging markets, leading to low search interest. This can limit the amount of relevant search volume available, which is a critical aspect to scaling paid search.

People have to know something exists before they can search for it, or at least something closely related to it. If a startup is selling a whole new class of product or service, this poses a challenge. For example, in the early days of Uber and Lyft, no one knew what on-demand ride sharing was, so no one was searching for it. Only as the market matured did search interest start to skyrocket, as shown below:

Historical interest in “ride sharing” via Google Trends

Historical interest in “ride sharing” via Google Trends

How can you access search volume at scale when your industry is so new that people don’t even know it exists yet? This can be a daunting obstacle, and it takes some creativity to get past it.

Targeting competitor keywords and tangential products is one way to do this. For example, in the early days Uber could have bid on competitor keywords like “avis car rental” and “yellow cab taxi”, or tangential products like “quick transportation” and “call a taxi” to build awareness of its product and drive conversions via SEM.

However, the relevancy of a keyword to the product at hand will determine the conversion rate and so again it comes down to what CPA you can afford to pay for these keywords. Waiting for your market to develop is sometimes necessary in order to truly achieve scale from SEM while hitting your CPA target.

The Advantages

We’ve addressed the challenges in making paid search a profitable and scalable channel for startups, but what about the light at the end of the tunnel for those companies that are able to overcome those challenges?

The most obvious and most important advantage of paid search is the value of intent. Users are telling you exactly what they’re looking for when they type in a search term, which usually indicate higher levels of purchase intent than indirect signals like audience targeting that are available for other paid acquisition channels. As a result, no paid advertising channels come close to paid search conversion rates.

Intent-based search ads allow you to capture the low hanging fruit. Someone searching for “ride sharing app” is already generally aware of your product and is probably deep enough in the marketing funnel to download the app and use it. Search ads let you maximize demand capture.

But intent is also valuable for capturing higher-funnel interest. Someone searching for “quick transportation” is sending a direct signal that they’re looking for a fast way to get around, even if they’re not aware of the existence of ride sharing. This goes to show that you can find conversion volume from keywords that are not directly related to your product or service offering, assuming the unit-economics work out when comparing LTV to CPA.

Brand keyword coverage plays an important role in all SEM programs, but it’s especially critical for startups who should be capturing everyone searching for them. All the effort and resources expended driving awareness of a startup can be wasted if a potential customer searches for your brand on Google and gets poached by a competitor’s search ad. Branded search ads can help you protect your investment in other channels.

Given how valuable these earned branded search queries are, it should come as no surprise that bidding on competitors’ keywords can be a very effective way to reach potential customers at the bottom of the funnel who are ready to make a decision. This can be especially beneficial for startups who are in markets with well-known incumbents (i.e. lots of customers searching for their branded keywords).

While established companies may have larger budgets and more brand name recognition working in their favor, startups also have some things working in their favor.

For one, startups are able to move very fast and learn quickly due to their small size and lack of red tape, allowing for high-tempo testing and optimization, which is for scaling a paid search program. For another, startups can prioritize growth over profitability in pursuit of capturing a market, allowing them to better compete with established companies in ad auctions.

Finally, startups tend to have new and refined product offerings compared to their older competitors, creating the potential for higher conversion rates and customer LTVs. This can make it easier to compete with established competitors.

A Word to the Wise – Don’t Ignore Paid Search

Startups eventually have to acquire new customers efficiently and at scale in order to become mainstay businesses. In the early days that’s no easy task, as even defining efficiency goals based on LTV benchmarks can be arduous. Succeeding with SEM as a startup requires being nimble with testing and learning, and it sometimes necessitates sacrificing short-term efficiency in favor of long-term growth.

There will always be established competitors with much larger budgets trying to box out startups trying to break into their market, but there’s a huge opportunity for the startups that are able to successfully overcome the challenges associated with SEM. People expressing their intent through a search query is arguably the most powerful marketing signal that exists. And tapping into that signal using paid search engine marketing can be the source of a highly scalable customer acquisition channel.

 

Breaking Down Programmatic Advertising for PPC Managers

Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Advertising, Agency
Breaking Down Programmatic Advertising for PPC Managers

Programmatic has been one of the biggest buzzwords being thrown around the industry over the past couple of years. It is also an area of the industry that is growing rapidly, with 72% of all display ads expected to be bought programmatically this year.

But what do you understand about it? Do you know you know where to go to get started? How do I manage it? Why is it important?

The customer mindset is changing and marketers are having to change their approach to how they reach their audience and create an experience that attracts, convinces and retains customers. The strategy of a single brand message, pushed to the masses via perceived viable channels, is no longer a viable option.

Brands need to be able to tailor their message to their various market segments at scale, and still nurture relationships to continue to move potential customers through the funnel. Programmatic technology allows advertisers to take everything that they know about their own customers, as well as potential customers and deliver a unique experience at every step of the customer journey.

The journey of a customer purchase has changed. Consumers conduct their online activities across multiple devices daily. From Mobile, to home Desktop, to work device, to potentially a tablet. No longer are consumers are choosing a single path to purchase to buy a product or utilize a service.

Advantages of Programmatic Advertising

Reach

The increased reach and diversity of inventory available in the programmatic eco system is second to none. Demand Side Platforms and other Programmatic Vendors provide a centralized location for advertisers to plan, launch and optimize their media buys. And while you may be moving your display buys away from AdWords display to a programmatic strategy, you will still be able to target the Google Display network via Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange (Adx).

Targeting

Both AdWords/GDN share much of the same targeting segments and optimization techniques such as Contexual targeting, day parting, remarketing etc. However, where programmatic really separates itself from the pack is the depth of advanced targeting options it provides.

  • 1st & 3rd Party Data Integration – Advertisers can take advantage of the their internal sales and CRM Data for their display campaigns, a feature currently unavailable in the GDN.There is also the added option of using 3rd party audiences created by DMPs such as Oracle, BlueKai or Exelate, who have collected user cookies and segmented them into behavioral categories
  • Programmatic Direct and Private MarketPlaces – Both the streamlining of processes and the increasing concern around brand safety are becoming more prominent topics in the industry right now. Private MarketPlaces and Programmatic Direct are the cross section of these ideas right now. Private MarketPlaces are premium auctions on major publishing networks that allow select brands access to premium inventory before it moves onto the open exchange. Programmatic direct is the modern evolution of the direct display buy. Brands can negotiate, plan and report immediate on their direct buys from the same platform as their direct response and RTB prospecting.

Not only can brands streamline their process by centralizing the coordination of their online media buys, but they can also be confident that their ads are showing up on brand safe inventory. (For the most part. Their are some exceptions to the rule)

cnn brand safety ads

Brand Safe Inventory

What to Look For in A Programmatic Vendor

Pricing: Are there minimums?, Flat CPMs or Dynamic CPM?, Hidden fees?

Transparency: How deep is the reporting? Can you see the true cost of your media vs your platform fees? Can you see when and where your ads are showing?

Targeting Options: Can you utilize certain CRM data? Is there a variety of targeting options (Device, Local Geos/Zip Code, Reputable inventory sources.)

Support Tiers: Full Service/Managed Options if preferred. Is the self serve support good? Do you get an Account Manager or a generic support email or phone number?

Tech: What is the vendor’s unique selling point? Is it unique algorithms, or proprietary data or advanced tech partnerships.

Tracking: How much data can you track. Can you pull in revenue data? How much attribution technology can the vendor provide.

How Do I Get Started?

As the industry evolves, PPC Managers are going to find ways to grow their accounts beyond the traditional channels like AdWords, Bing, and Paid Social. While programmatic seems like this scary unknown thing, it is actually pretty simple. It carries many of the same philosophies that we as PPC Managers do. You Plan, Launch, Test, Analyze, Optimize and Repeat.

While Programmatic has great targeting features and advanced technology, it still requires a full funnel approach and mindset.

Before you start any campaign, define what success looks like and define the KPIs that will move the needle for you or your client.

It is also important to remember that Display/Video is still prospecting first channel. On average, 98% of visitors will not convert on their first visit. Like I mentioned earlier, they need to be exposed to the brand, convinced to consider, and then nurtured to the point of conversion.

A simple way to plan your funnel could look like this:

Step 1. Awareness

Let users know you are here and send them to a generic landing pages such as a homepage of informational page.

Some potential tactics for this stage of the funnel include: Page Category targeting, Broader 3rd Party Audiences potentially associated with your brand, Programmatic Direct and/or a Private Market Places

Step 2. Consideration

This is where an increased reach for remarketing can be utilized at its best. Segment audiences who have viewed certain products, solutions or certain content of your site. Utilizing specific messaging based on these activities can help create the 1:1 relationship that modern consumers want. From a prospecting perspective, it can also be useful to use focused 3rd Party Audiences, such as those “In-market” for your product or service.

Step 3. Decision Stage

This is where the utilization of CRM data and the tracking of deep in the funnel customers such as “Add to Cart” can be added into your strategy. This audience would usually consist of users who have potentially downloaded a white paper on the B2B side, or from a B2C perspective, Add To Cart, or started a checkout but did not convert. These data sets allow for subtle, but specific reminder messaging for the customer to take the next step in the funnel.

Step 4. Nurturing

Because someone has become a customer from being a lead, or bought an item from your store, it does not mean that they should be forgotten. Staggered retargeting or “custom prospecting” can be a valuable way to cross sell customer on other products and services. Not only will this increase the customer’s attention of your brand, it will also add to the Lifetime Value of your customer.

How To Optimize Programmatic Campaigns

While Programmatic shares much of the same philosophies as PPC, such as, bidding, device performance, creative performance etc.  it is important to know that there are extra layers in the optimization process:

Sitelist Monitoring:

While we have access to placement reports in the GDN, with the greater reach offered in programmatic, comes greater risk of turning up on poor quality inventory. Monitor your placements regularly to ensure that you are showing up where you want to. These lists are also useful in the planning of potential Private Market Place or Programmatic Direct Deals with your top performing placements.

Exchange Reporting: 

Within AdWords, you only have the GDN to contend with. Within Programmatic, you have up to 90 different networks or “exchanges” can all share the same publishers and inventory. Each exchange bids and matches ads to inventory in different ways. Monitor which exchanges are providing the best performance for your primary KPI.

Analytics: 

Analytics is probably the most important tool that you can use, just like with your PPC campaigns. Campaign metrics can only give a snapshot of performance on the front-end. To ensure that you are reaching your goals and moving customers through the funnel efficiently, monitor your bounce rate, time on site, steps through the funnel and ultimately the conversion rate. If these metrics are performing poorly, you may be facing multiple issues, both campaign related and not, such as:

  • Poor Landing Page choice
  • Bad UX
  • Irrelevant Targeting

Armed with data and insights, you can adjust your funnel, UX and targeting to effectively optimize your campaign.

Summary

PPC as we know it today may still be the King, however the competitive landscape and demands of customers has forced advertisers to think beyond AdWords. The advanced technology and targeting offers the opportunity for a better customer experience, which in turn increases revenue and ultimately brand loyalty.

Taking the jump from PPC to managing programmatic campaigns maybe scary. There is a lot to consider, there is a learning curve, but adaption is necessary, but can ultimately it can be an easy transition.

 

Living the Agency Life: Account Manager Tips For Managing Up and Down

Posted by on May 22, 2017 in Advertising, Agency
Living the Agency Life: Account Manager Tips For Managing Up and Down

As an account manager at Seer Interactive, my job is to manage success for my clients through PPC. While client success is at the forefront, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes besides the performance driven aspects of the account (analyzing, strategizing, and implementing).

Having strong internal management skills can make all the difference between meeting expectations and deadlines for production-level colleagues to making sure you are seen as a valued and growing member of the team by your boss.

While your company may be set up differently, the following tips are what I use to make sure internal management (up and down) doesn’t interfere with client management.

Do you know what your teammates’ primary motivating factor is or their career goals?

Maybe they are motivated by kudos or opportunities, or let’s just be frank, promotion and bonuses! Knowing what motivates your teammates can be key in what kind of work excites them, causes them dread, or may be needed to help advance them in their career.

When one of my support associates identified that creating new Excel processes was an area of stress for them, I made sure to spend a little extra time walking through methodology and writing more detailed work instructions for them. This helped save time in the long run from being asked frequent questions and helped them level up their skill.

What kind of workflow processes suit them best?

When managing colleagues, knowing what format and vehicle of feedback can make all the difference in getting things done in an efficient and delegated manner versus having constant interruptions that disrupt concentration and deep work.

For myself, in-person interruptions can cause me to lose my concentration on my own tasks so I usually reserve time at the start of a task for questions or set the expectation that follow-ups need to be typed out in an email or project management tool versus in-person.

talk to me

The same goes for managing up to your boss to be considerate of their time and tasks by working and communicating in a way that facilitates their workflow.

Do you hold regular 1:1’s to provide/receive feedback?

Setting up 1:1 time with the people you directly work with can add context to issues, realign priorities, and set goals. Having this scheduled on a regular cadence (I typically do once a week or every other) even as optional, opens the door for communication if the need arises.

This time should be used constructively, even when discussing areas of improvement. The same can be said with establishing 1:1’s with your boss in order to take the initiative for past mistakes and turning them into learnings that can benefit the company in the long run.

Goal setting can also be key in documenting and demonstrating growth. It is important to identify and set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based) to track results and provide follow up. Even if you have a goal that doesn’t exactly fit into the SMART model, what are the sub-goals that can be set to mark your progress?

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately your mileage may vary when it comes to executing the above tips (or maybe your Agency already trains and implements these for all managers!). Internal management skills may not be as glamorous as client management work, but can make a big difference in how effective you are at it.

Got any tips for how you manage up and manage down effectively? Hit me up on twitter @_GilHong

 


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Important Things to Know about YouTube Shopping Campaigns

Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Advertising, Agency
Important Things to Know about YouTube Shopping Campaigns

People are now watching an average of 1 billion hours a day on YouTube. Besides being an extremely effective branding channel, you can also work on getting direct revenue straight from YouTube. It’s all possible by creating TrueView shopping campaigns.

It’s hard to believe this campaign type is almost two years old, and in my opinion, underutilized. This post will show you some valuable tips to know about TrueView shopping campaigns before creating your first one.

Remember the Number 6

If you want to run TrueView shopping campaigns on YouTube’s six-second bumper ads, you’re going to be disappointed because it’s not an option. And I take Google’s side on this one. Think about it. Six seconds isn’t enough time for a user to engage with your video, connect with your message, and peruse your product line before the ad transitions to the hosting video.

youtube shopping cards

The other reason the number 6 is important is because that is the maximum amount of Shopping cards that can appear on your YouTube ads. Even though you can select more products to use in your campaigns, only six products can show so choose your filtering wisely (coming up next).

And when those shopping cards show up on YouTube, they eliminate the possibility of any other cards (like call-to-action overlays) appearing on your videos.

Product is Selected at the Campaign Level

In a Search Network shopping campaign, advertisers are used to creating ad groups first before having to select their product. With TrueView shopping campaigns, you have to select your products a step earlier at the campaign level.

This may change your strategy of how you structure your TrueView shopping campaigns if only certain products would make sense to show alongside certain videos.

trueview shopping product filter

You have three options when selecting your products:

  1. Choose all products available in your chosen feed
  2. Select specific products by searching for titles, URLs or product IDs
  3. Create custom filters (one example seen below)

trueview shopping custom filters

If you’re going to select specific products, it’s important to remember you only get to select a maximum of 10 products. If you want more than 10 products to show up for your campaign, try finding a custom filter that works or create a new feed to sync with your campaign.

Dynamic Remarketing Is Available for YouTube Shopping

What if your company has a great video to showcase, but the video content isn’t about any particular product line? What if you don’t have a big budget and only want to show products to previous visitors who are watching your videos? Dynamic remarketing is here for you.

adwords visitors

In your Video campaign settings, make sure your product filter is set to all products. Then when you get to the section to add additional targeting, select the proper remarketing audiences to add to your campaign.

Your TrueView shopping remarketing campaigns will use the same data as your dynamic remarketing for Display ads. So make sure your dynamic remarketing is set up properly.

Give TrueView for Shopping a Try

YouTube is a fantastic channel to show users the full spectrum of capabilities and features your products offer. Make users fall in love with your products with great visual content, then encourage them to buy it using TrueView shopping campaigns.

It might take some time to figure out the best targeting and campaign structure that works best for you. But once you find the sweet spot, you can be pulling in revenue from an unexpected channel.

 

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How to Recruit Social Influencers Without Spending a Fortune

Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Agency, Social
How to Recruit Social Influencers Without Spending a Fortune

Influencer marketing is hot right now. It should be because it works. It’s not just hot because people are talking about it – it’s because it’s a way to reach audiences who are traditionally tricky, and in markets where competition is strong.

Millennials (those allegedly elusive and ad-blocking folks reaching young adulthood in the early part of this century) being a prime example. Nearly a quarter of them view well-known vloggers (video bloggers) and content publishers as unbiased role models, and 44 per cent of internet users (53 per cent) of 16-24 year olds) watch vlogs each month.

Social influencers are creators of content on their own terms, and because of this they add ‘intimacy’ to a brand. Video platforms like YouTube allow viewers to feel closer to the personalities with whom they engage from the safety of their own mobile device or bedroom – making these platforms the largest, most trusted, easy to access, searchable resources for information around any given topic.

Potential Influencer Investment

Some of the upper echelons of internet celebrities can command six digit figures for showcasing brand products to their millions of followers. The ‘going rate’ depends on the number of committed viewers, and the following can act as a basic guide of what a company might conservatively expect to pay for endorsement.

For a single post on the likes of Instagram or Snapchat, for example, the digital pr agency I work for arranges deals with social influencers around the following:

3-20K followers: $65-$250

20-100K followers: $250-$500

100-250K followers: $500-$650

200-500K followers: $650-$850

500K+ followers: $1,000+

Find the Next Wave

The key to not paying a fortune here is to do the research and to hunt out the next wave of social influencers that are growing online followers relevant to the brand in the right territories (US, UK, etc.), and to recruit them from emerging social sites still in their infancy.

Within Instagram, Snapchat, Musical.ly and Periscope there is still a healthy supply of budding social influencers with large and growing followings. Contacting these people directly through their chosen platforms (especially if they’re at the stage where such offers from brands aren’t common and they haven’t yet secured the services of an agent) can be an easy way to get their rate card, discuss an offer and make first contact.

The Channels are Wising Up

Social networks are wising up to this. Snapchat now plans to pay content creators a guaranteed amount in advance for a licence for the content they produce, giving it exclusive rights to sell advertising against the content and retain any revenue generated.

Last year a Snapchat patent also hinted at a “revenue-sharing” model, where a brand could pay Snapchat content creators for their content. It specified: “A user image may be added to a gallery sponsored by Coca Cola and in return for contributing to Coca Cola’s gallery, a user may receive compensation on a flat-fee, per view or revenue share basis.”

While not part of the platform yet, this could well be the future. Let’s not forget that Instagram belongs to Facebook, which is proactive and passionate about a revenue-generating ad model to keep Mr. Zuckerberg in grey t-shirts and vegetarian ready meals.

It Pays To Be Quick

The message we can take from this is to strike while the iron is hot – looking at those that have the audience you are looking for and have a growing and dedicated crop of followers early on. Ask your target audience who is hot and who is not.

Klout for Business now provides functionality to segment, explore and deal with influencer lists. Influencer management tools like Trackr and performance monitoring tools like Buzzsumo are emerging that offer a strong first port of call, but there’s no substitute for water cooler discussions with the more web-savvy members of our team.

What You Can Do

Asking customers who they follow in focus groups and in polls can produce enlightening results, as well as offering insight into the topics of genuine interest to them. Reaching out to up-and-coming content creators can be surprisingly cost effective with genuine measurable ROI.

After all, those posts have longevity and will be part of their stream when their following grows further, and the very act of sponsoring them can be a boost to their presence. Listen to the millennials (or other target groups) in your company and invite them to brainstorming meetings – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what they have to contribute.

Have PPC expertise to share? Join us for a guest post!

Have PPC expertise to share? Join us for a guest post!

Write for The AdStage Blog

Have an opinion about Facebook’s newest feature release? Want to share your tips on managing Demand Gen teams in modern agencies? Think you have a game-changing hack for optimizing your AdWords campaigns? Then we’d love to have you write a guest post for our blog. We’re always looking for fresh perspectives from the sharpest minds in search and social digital advertising to provide our audience with actionable, in-depth content that helps them better plan, execute, optimize, and report on their PPC campaigns.

A few of our favorite guest posts to date include:

How to Write an AdStage Guest Post

  • Submit your contact information and your blog post idea in this Google Form. Please allow us 7 business days to get back to you.
  • Next, once we give the go-ahead, send us a full draft of the post in google doc format. Include images! Please allow us 7 business days to review and provide edits/feedback.
  • Include a bio (50 words max), include 150 x 150 high-res photo of yourself.
  • After final edits are made and the post is approved, we will queue it up in our content schedule.
  • Lastly, we will let you know the publish date and time so you can co-promote on the launch date.

Who are our ideal guest post authors?

We accept pitches from PPC marketers of all stripes. Whether you’re working in an in-house, agency, or consultant role, everyone brings unique perspectives that are valuable to our audience.

You should have at least a couple years of experience in the PPC world. Previous pieces in published on other high-authority blogs are a plus.

Which Topics Do We Cover?

Our audience consists of data-driven marketing directors, in-house PPC managers/specialists, and PPC agency marketers from around the world. The types of articles that do well with our readers include:

  • Anything to do with planning, organizing, or executing PPC campaigns or accounts.
  • Specific Ad Network features digital advertisers can take advantage of to get the most bang for their buck (top Ad Networks include Facebook, Instagram, AdWords, LinkedIn, Bing, and Twitter).
  • How-to guides for medium to advanced PPC professionals.
  • Bonus points for focusing on PPC reporting or automation!
  • Tips for PPC Reporting for Agencies, A/B testing, Conversion Rate Optimization, Automation, B2B Lead Generation, PPC Landing Pages, Ad Creative, Re-Targeting–if it’s PPC, are all great topics!

Guest Post Requirements

  • Your post must be at least 1,000 words.
  • You must propose a target keyword.
  • We request that you use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to come up with your headline, and submit one with a score of at least 65.
  • Your post must be original content.
  • If your post is published, we’ll ask that you respond to all comments for the first seven days after it’s posted.

What’s in it for you?

  • Exposure to our ever-growing audience of PPC experts
  • A potential feature in our weekly newsletter
  • Shoutouts from AdStage social media accounts
  • A chance to share your expertise and build your reputation as a PPC thought leader

We look forward to hearing from you!

Have PPC expertise to share? Join us for a guest post! via blog.adstage.io