Our special guest for episode 365 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast was guest Julie F. Bacchini, President of Neptune Moon. Host Erin Sparks spoke with Julie about how PPC has changed over the years, along with changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as what makes for successful online advertising and sharing some PPC pro-tips! Here’s what we learned:
Julie F. Bacchini: Her Background and Experience
Julie F. Bacchini, President of Neptune Moon, has been in the PPC game since the days of LookSmart and Overture, she has truly seen it all. She and her blog have been on many top influencer lists over the past few years, including the PPC Hero Top 25 Most Influential PPC Experts. She has presented on PPC topics locally and at industry events such as Hero Conference and SMX East. We deep-dived into the changes over the years when it comes to paid advertising management. Tune in to episode 365 to get some helpful tips from the pro herself!
When Julie started her digital work upwards of 21 years ago, she first got into web development, then moved into SEO (this was before there was such a thing as paid search advertising). When PPC finally came along, she fell in love with it—the amount of data you have to work with and the quick results you can get. She has continued focusing on PPC, and especially on conversion optimization. This is critical because you can bring all the traffic in the world, but if what they come to is terrible, then nothing is going to happen. And then there are managing client expectations and having quality communication with clients to take in their perspective on the quality of leads being brought in through the PPC efforts. This communication with the client is also critical because it’s what allows the PPC professional to refine what they’re doing to get better leads that are more “on the mark.” And sometimes clients don’t even really understand who their best type of customer is. You have to establish a solid partnership with clients in order to reach a mutual understanding of the target audience and ideal customer.
Historical Perspective on PPC Changes
It goes without saying that everyone feels like the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 global pandemic has caused gigantic disruption to many aspects of digital marketing, including PPC. But is it really all that different from some of the other big disruptions that have happened, such as the bursting of the dot-com bubble right around the turn of the millennium?
It’s somewhat difficult to make a direct assessment because paid search was really just coalescing at that time. The offerings were minor and not at all sophisticated. You could actually see what your competitors were bidding! The internet and finding things on the web was just coming into its own and becoming widely adopted, so the downturn caused a big contraction in what little paid search was happening, mirroring a general pull-back in all marketing.
The Great Recession that hit in 2008 had a much bigger disruptive impact on paid search because the field was so much more mature by then. So of course in spite of these kinds of big disruptions, paid search has bounced back quickly and has continued to grow exponentially, keeping in mind that it’s not very many years back when a lot of companies still didn’t even have websites! And when you think of the ways the technologies have rapidly developed—to have something like WordPress that makes it so easy to quickly build top-notch websites—it’s no wonder that PPC has continued to grow rapidly. The kind of websites you can quickly build with WordPress today would have been custom solutions costing tens of thousands of dollars just fifteen years ago!
The immediate panic and contraction that people have experienced when the pandemic hit feels very similar to the size and scope of the disruption caused by the 2008 Great Recession. Julie notes, however, something she learned by going through the 2008 crisis, which is that economic crises don’t impact every industry the same way or to the same extent. In fact, some industries can actually do really well and experience a huge boom when everyone else is going bust. If you’re a PPE company or a Zoom, you can barely keep up with the demand for your products.
In terms of having longevity and making it through these types of crises, a key factor is your willingness and ability to be flexible. If you try to maintain rigidity in what you do, how you do it, and who you do it for, you’re going to have a much harder time weathering a crisis. In fact, you might not survive this kind of crisis.
Another important skill to bring into this kind of current crisis is listening. You should always be tuning in and listening to what’s keeping clients up at night, but even more so during a time of crisis. If you can help them address those sorts of things, you should. And that flexibility on the part of client companies equally applies to the PPC agency or consultant as well. If you have clients with products not in as much demand during the pandemic, you might need to shift your focus away from paid search and more toward something like brand awareness for the client or expanding more into social if that hasn’t been a big focus. And your focus is shifting to a longer play since the shorter play options simply may not get the results you’re used to during the pandemic.
Advice for PPC in a Time of Crisis
You have to be extra careful with ad content during a crisis when people are fraught and more emotionally charged. Anything that feels like you’re trying to take advantage of the crisis can come off as totally tone-deaf and could even create a backlash against a company. In some cases, the best option might be to put things on pause while the worst of the storm is breaking. During that pause is when you take the time to pay attention to people as people and to think like a fellow human being so you get your head in the right place before re-engaging. Figure out what’s appropriate and what feels okay. Meet the moment in a positive way and avoid anything that could put you in the tone-deaf zone.
First and foremost, try to stop the inevitable wave of panic you feel that makes you or your clients want to just stop everything. If clients are panicking, do what you can to calm them down, realizing that they may still just pull back hard. But it would also be foolish from a business perspective to not point out that there are in fact opportunities to accomplish things, in part because others have pulled back. The cost of paid search or CPC has been much lower than the pandemic, so it makes sense to take advantage of that in the right way. What was previously too expensive might not be too expensive right now. It’s worth exploring.
This is also a time to back off of the typical focus (or obsession) on immediate short-term results and take stock of longer-term efforts such as how do you solidify relationships with people who are already clients/customers, and also how can reach out to people who could become clients/customers and to do so respectfully and responsibly, such as through look-alike audiences, which is one of the absolute best things Facebook is really good at, finding people who match your ideal customer. And the cost of doing that is usually less than straight-up prospecting.
PPC Pro-Tip: If you’re experienced in the industry, trust your instincts. If you’re new to the industry, work on honing your instincts. Listen to clients, be flexible and adaptable to change.
Check Out PPC Chat!
Julie hosts a weekly Twitter chat on the #ppcchat hashtag every Tuesday at 12:00 PM EST. There is also a web site where you can check out recaps of past chats, and PPC mentoring program is also in the works! Check it out at https://www.officialppcchat.com. The #ppcchat hashtag is also active all the time and people are always willing to weigh in on the questions and issues PPCers post there. That level of camaraderie isn’t always the case in other areas of digital marketing, so it’s a great channel that’s friendly for folks who want to get into the PPC field.
Connect with Julie Bacchini and Neptune Moon
Twitter: @NeptuneMoon (https://twitter.com/neptunemoon)
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