As a primarily organic marketer, working for an ad tech brand has been one of the most amazing phases of my career.
When I joined Optmyzr a little over two years ago, I had no idea I would learn so much about PPC advertising in so little time.
Between our customers, my colleagues, and the paid search community that’s welcomed me with open arms, I’ve been more involved with PPC during these last two years than the rest of my career put together.
Like any smart marketer, I’ve been listening attentively and taking notes.
Between that and managing campaigns of my own, I’ve accumulated a relative wealth of PPC knowledge.
These are the five most important lessons from my time leading marketing for a bootstrapped PPC ad tech brand.
1. Treat Your Ad Budget Like Your Investment Budget
Walled gardens, monopolies, platforms – whatever you call them, the different places businesses can advertise aren’t known for playing well together.
Between low data visibility and shifting controls, true omnichannel advertising is not really a viable approach.
But, just because each platform’s campaigns are fenced in doesn’t make it a good idea to rely totally or excessively on a single ad platform:
- New features (such as Google’s Performance Max and keyword match type changes) can throw off your entire advertising program.
- You miss out on potential customers who either block/ignore ads on your platform or don’t use it in the first place.
- Outside influences like market economics and regulatory changes can do anything from drive up costs to render a whole platform moot.
Between platform-side automation and increasingly demanding online audiences, it’s important to diversify your PPC mix if you haven’t already.
2. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
In the quest to spread your budget across multiple channels, don’t rush to the other extreme of investing in too many different ones.
Not only will you end up with campaigns that don’t have enough money behind them, but you may run the risk of pushing your team too hard.
Since I joined Optmyzr as the first marketing hire, we’ve grown our team at a rate that’s healthy for our revenue run rate.
No one on the team is expected to put in 60-hour weeks, own 10 different channels, or otherwise push themselves beyond their physical and mental limits.
Accordingly, we’ve approached advertising (and marketing in general) with the understanding that we don’t have the same muscle as a heavily funded organization.
For example, if your entire marketing team is three people, it’s not wise to advertise on half a dozen channels.
You’ll compromise your testing and campaign efforts, with the additional cost of other needs in marketing being neglected.
In-house teams should begin by testing everything, then switch to a 1-2-1 approach:
- 1 primary platform that gives you the best results and demands the bulk of your budget (e.g. Google Ads across multiple inventory types).
- 2 secondary platforms for niche audiences or objectives (e.g. YouTube to grow your video audience and Twitter to grow your mailing list).
- 1 experimental platform to test out new ideas (e.g. running stories ads on Instagram).
Then, as you grow your team, pad out each tier from the top down.
3. Brand Matters, Even In PPC
I know a lot of PPC specialists feel otherwise, but I’ve always been a fan of branded search terms for a few reasons:
- Already some level of intent towards your product.
- Claim space that your competitors now can’t.
- Room to test out different offers and messages.
Branded search traffic is cheap, easy to win, and lets you capitalize on a range of business opportunities.
I’ve used branded terms to leverage traffic surges after high-publicity events, tailor offers to specific queries (like ones including “reviews” or “pricing”), and lower customer acquisition cost by shortening the time between discovery and conversion.
4. Focus On Offer, Targeting, And Creative In That Order
I earned my marketing stripes as a creative (specifically a copywriter with an art director partner), so I’ve always placed significant value on having well-crafted ads.
But the more I’ve worked as a strategist, the more I’ve come to realize that the offer takes priority.
Offers include aspects of both messaging and positioning, and most often manifest as copywriting – be it a headline, dialogue, or voiceover.
This is what allows you to occupy a specific place in your ideal customers’ minds, and play to your unique strengths rather than your competitors’ weaknesses.
As for the creatives themselves, the longer I work in marketing, the less I expect ads to follow brand guidelines or even look like ads.
Customers get defensive the moment they feel like they’re being sold to, so pattern interrupts can be positively disarming.
I’ve seen unconventional ad formats like customer testimonial videos win battles that perfectly “on-brand” stills couldn’t.
Without a solid offer and accurate targeting, even the most gorgeous creatives will struggle to convert.
In my experience, getting these three things right is easier said than done, but essential to PPC success.
Great offers can still succeed with average creatives, complicated account structures, and less-than-perfect targeting.
It rarely goes that way for weak offers presented as attractive ads in well-built accounts and campaigns.
5. There’s More To Advertising Than Google And Meta
Both platforms offer a level of reach and variety that most advertisers have a tough time ignoring.
Google’s inventory spans search, email, YouTube, and more of the internet’s most visited properties; Meta’s network includes some of the world’s most popular apps on Facebook and Instagram.
But there’s a whole world of advertising options beyond these two networks:
- Microsoft Ads offers a lot of the visibility and control that advertisers miss about Google.
- Amazon is a marketplace you can’t just ignore if you retail a physical product.
- TikTok and Snapchat are great ways to reach younger audiences.
- Spotify lets you play with audio in a way few other digital channels allow.
- Sponsoring a newsletter or community offers consistently higher user intent even if they aren’t strictly PPC advertising.
Several years ago, I was on a team that advertised on one channel to a limited market.
Once we exhausted the audience available on that platform, all future leads were people who had either converted in the past or been marked as closed-lost.
Moving to a second channel meant starting the work over from scratch and learning the nuances of a completely new ad platform, while delivering a quantity and quality of leads far below expectations.
The Single Most Valuable Trait In PPC And Marketing
Sometimes I remember what digital marketing and PPC advertising looked like in 2010 when I started my career, and I realize that not a single person at the time could have predicted what it looks like today.
Nearly every best practice – many of them focused on meeting targets and nothing else – has given way to ones more focused on automation, user experience, and accessibility.
If you told 2012 me that gating a blog would one day be frowned upon, he would have laughed.
With how quickly our industry changes, adaptability is the single most important trait to cultivate.
Being bonded to a single ad platform, format, technique, strategy, or mindset can stagnate your progression as a marketer without you even realizing it.
Then one day, you realize everything around you has changed and everyone but you has turned the playing field in their favor.
Across all my conversations with PPC strategists and account managers – agency and in-house – this may be the single piece of advice I hear consistently and repeatedly: Adapt or be replaced.
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