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PPC Ponderings Podcast: Listen to Aaron Levy's Bonus Episode

PPC Ponderings Podcast: Listen to Aaron Levy's Bonus Episode

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Post Summary

Our bonus episode of the PPC Ponderings Podcast is now live!

Come listen to Aaron and Kirk chat about his take on the keyword’s past, present, and future. In this episode, Aaron challenges many preconceptions about the role of the keyword as Google changes things in the PPC world (ready or not), and whether you agree or disagree vehemently with Aaron, you won't help but be challenged to think more about the changing nature of the PPC Keyword.

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If you haven't already, make sure to catch the first full length episode here: Episode 1 - The PPC Keyword, Past, Present, & Future

In this podcast, we are getting away from an interview approach, and come from more of an investigative journalism format. Enjoy!

Aaron Levy is the Head of Paid Search at Tinuiti. He has developed strategies for clients ranging from F500 beasts & internationally recognized retailers, fast-growth Series A startups, a few local plumbers, & regional adoption agencies here and there. Over his career he has overseen a few billion in media spend (yes, with a B). He's spent time in just about every channel online, from media buying and email campaigns to affiliate and beyond, but found his "home" in SEM (when he's not in his physical home of Philadelphia).

Episode Transcript

Aaron Levy (00:03):

Keywords are gone in their traditional sense, match typesare gone in their traditional sense. They have a massive branding problembecause they don't even remotely do what their names say they do anymore.

Kirk Williams (00:17):

Respecting the learning period as just a vital part of aworld of machine learning, I think is just, it just has to be a crucial part ofdoing PPC at this point.

Aaron Levy (00:30):

Well, these keywords aren't even relevant. I'm like, okaybut did you know if the person searching the keyword was relevant before or wasit a 12 year old on their mom's phone with no money? And so it's just adifferent view of relevance and...

Chris Reeves (00:45):

Welcome to the ZATOWorks PPC Ponderings Podcast, where wediscuss the philosophy of PPC and ponder everything related to digitalmarketing. Today's show is a bonus episode of our full interview with the headof Paid Search at Tinuity, Aaron Levy. Aaron Was one of our key interviewees inour first episode on the keyword. If you haven't heard that yet, go give it alisten. Otherwise, enjoy our behind the scenes conversation with Aaron.

Kirk Williams (01:13):

Let's start by just talking through the keyword itself.What do you like about the keyword? What are some of the strengths? And thenwe'll have a follow up question about limitations. Are there things the keywordcannot do? Talk about the keyword.

Aaron Levy (01:31):

That's a tough question. So look, I mean, I think you andyou and I, Kirk we've talked a good deal about the keyword and it's diminishingrole, diminishing importance, questionable as to how important it was in thebeginning. For the longest time, the keyword was the only lever that we had. Itwas search, so it was words. We bid on words, we based on words, words were ouronly proxy to what we had for what a person was looking for. The thing that Ireally don't like about them and where my thinking is evolved and why I thinkthat you put me on the show is because that it's not the only lever that wehave anymore. It's one of dozens, if not hundreds of different levers that wecan pull. So the keyword, historically, of course, we had our purebred match types,broad phrase, exact.

Aaron Levy (02:14):

We knew exactly what they did, they were very precise. Sowe made our decisions based on them under the illusion that we could controland do exactly what it was, what we wanted to do. But I think the directionthat Google and Microsoft are going is indicative of the fact that maybe weweren't doing it right. Maybe we weren't exploring everything. We weren'texploring every facet of language, it's the old adage of, if you do a persona,are you or if you're doing a marketing strategy, are you marketing to thecustomer or are you for yourself and what you think the customer is? And Ithink we fell into a lot of that with keywords. That we suppose that people'slanguage and what they were using for search was literal.

Aaron Levy (02:56):

There's a lot more to it than that. And so where I thinkthat our discussion will go is that there's a lot more proxies to figure outwhat people want within search. And so us using the keyword as a start point, Iunderstand why it happens because that's what search has always historicallybeen about. But I don't know why we're looking backwards to look forwards. Ithink what we really have to do is look at all the features that are availableand figure out how we can use them to the best of our ability, knowing thatyes, keywords are a lever. There's a lot of other buttons and little twistyknobs and dials that we could use to try and figure out how to get the rightperson using the right language.

Kirk Williams (03:34):

So the keyword has historically been so loved because asyou said, it's language, it's someone communicating this is what I'm interestedin. So what you're suggesting is it's more complicated than that, that languageis, it's more difficult to say, here are these words stuck together andtherefore that always inherently has this meaning as opposed to having multiplemeanings. Is that fair, is that what you're saying?

Aaron Levy (04:01):

Yeah. I mean, if you have seen me speak before, they'veprobably seen me wax poetic about golf clubs, Aaron searching for used golfclubs means something different than Kirk searching for used golf clubs. We arelooking for different reasons. We are looking for different things.

Kirk Williams (04:17):

I'm trying to sell mine.

Aaron Levy (04:20):

Come on, you got to get out of a room every so often.

Kirk Williams (04:23):

I know, I got to get back to it anyways continue.

Aaron Levy (04:26):

But that sort of thing, yeah, it's pretty liberal. Bothpeople are looking for used golf clubs but the reasons why and what theyactually want and how expensive they want them and whether they want to sell orbuy and whether they're buying for themselves or not, none of that comes out inlanguage. All that it comes out is, I am looking for this thing. But the reasonwhy and the context, which is frankly, the most important thing in marketing,is the context for why someone wants something or why they should wantsomething. Sometimes it's indicated in language, in which case, yeah, we canuse just keywords but very often it's not. And so when we talk to our clientsor our friends or our partners or in house folks are saying, "We can'tscale a non-brand." One non-brand doesn't even really mean anything.Number two, again, it's because you're looking at just language and there aredifferent ways to figure out what people want and a different way to answertheir question because they might not be asking it directly.

Kirk Williams (05:19):

Yeah. Now one of the things that I know just as we've donethis over the years, is it does seem like over time as you're bidding, let'ssay in a specific keyword phrase, you get enough data and you are at least ableto identify, hey, the majority of people typing in used golf clubs have Xamount of purchase intent. And that brings into Y amount of profitability thatwe can expect. Therefore that's what we're willing to bid on. So I think that'sone of those things where you get enough data and you can at least stillprobably have some directional intent based marker with words.

Kirk Williams (06:00):

But I think part of what Google is pushing into, which Ican respect is, well sure but what about those 20% or 30% of the people whoaren't actually that target, we'd like to start using all of those differentthings. Their browsing history, their past visits, all of that stuff to thenmake it even more accurate than just simply, what are the majority of peoplewanting when they type in this word and not being okay with just accepting thata bunch of them are not necessarily going to be that intent as we have in thepast.

Aaron Levy (06:37):

Right. I mean, we don't need to beat around the Bush. Imean, Google is a company, their goal is to make more money. They want to grow,they want us to grow. And when our businesses grow, our spends grow and Googlegrows. So I can't blame them for trying to find different avenues, especiallythose of us that have been a little constricted with the way that we buildsearch campaigns. But I think you can look it this way too, just as there'spositive levers, we have more negative levers too.

Aaron Levy (07:04):

IF you have someone like me, who maybe has a little bit ofa problem with golf and has too many golf clubs and like shopping for them, youknow full well that you could bid the crap out of me because I'm a customerthat you want loyal. Whereas if you have someone like Kirk, like you just said,someone who might want to try this just because he has to, okay yeah, you'regoing to get a conversion but that conversion isn't necessarily worth as much.And so you have these positive and negative levers that you didn't necessarilyhave before, which present opportunities for growth and opportunities forfinding better customers.

Kirk Williams (07:39):

Yeah. Okay. So let's see the keyword, the keyword andwhere it's going. There's been a lot of discussion about match types, obviouslycontinually being erased and potentially an era where we're looking ahead to,let's just say a singular match type. You give Google the keyword phrase,perhaps even the future would be here's your website, almost more of DSA typething. But the idea being you give Google the phrase and then it finds that. Doyou see any concerns with eliminating all match types, moving towards let's saymaybe a Google based broad.

Aaron Levy (08:21):

I don't necessarily think that we'll ever get there or atleast not in the near future. Look, I'll say that again. I'll say the quietpart out loud, keywords are gone in their traditional sense, match types aregone in their traditional sense. They have a massive branding problem becausethey don't even remotely do what their names say they do right anymore. Butwhat I do think will happen is as you mentioned with DSAs, I think there willbe a lot more feed based stuff in the future. Meaning you'll be feeding akin toshopping but it might be inventory in different formats. So it might be howmany appointments can you take at your company today? How many pest controlguys can you send out? How many lawns can you mow? I suspect there will be alot more feed based stuff coming through, which will diminish the importance ofthe keyword as we view it. But I mean, in terms of match types, as I say, wedon't have exact anymore.

Aaron Levy (09:21):

I have thoughts about it. Frankly, my thoughts don'tmatter because I don't think it's coming back. It's gone. And by the same tokenphrase, isn't phrase BMM isn't BMM anymore, broad frankly, in my opinion is thebest match type now because it looks at different signals that other thingsdon't. So again, I'm going to be speaking at SMX next about this and hopefully moreplaces in the future saying, look, take the names out of play both of keywordand of match types. Pretend the names don't exist, give them their own names,call them whatever you want, could be super match, ugly match and smiley matchI don't care. But look at what the machines actually do and look at what thematch types do. So for example, broad match right now is a little bit looserwith the keyword matching than it goes to and a little bit tighter with theaudience matching.

Aaron Levy (10:11):

So it cares less about the keywords that you're lookingat. Although we found that they're pretty good. I mean they take more andnegative cleaning than they would normally take, but it uses more of thosesignals. Phrase is kind of old BMM but kind not, it kind of mixes wordstogether but it certainly doesn't use a phrase. Candidly, we haven't seen asmuch success of that as we expected. Exact match is approximate match. I don'tanticipate those match types changing too much more beyond that in the near tomid future. I mean, certainly Google would probably have visions of, Hey, giveus our credit card and tell us a goal and we'll take it.

Aaron Levy (10:53):

But I mean, it's the old adage of, have you ever tried tohave a conversation with your Google home of the Alexa? It's like talking to afour year old and I wouldn't want my four year old, I don't have a four yearold, I wouldn't want a four year old running millions and millions of dollars.So it's a long-winded answer of saying keywords are gone but they're not.Keywords are never coming back but they never left. So it's effectively justreestablishing what it means and understanding that the old terminology yeah,it still exists but that's not what they are anymore.

Kirk Williams (11:29):

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. The idea ofbroadening, let's just say broad and exact. I think at the very least atsomeday, we'll get to that point maybe. I see phrase and broad basically coincidingif they're not almost already, very, very soon at least.

Aaron Levy (11:49):

Yeah. I mean the move from BMM to phrase felt a little bitlike they were just placating us, like, yeah, you didn't use BMM the way wewanted you to use it in the beginning and this isn't what we want you to doeither but fine, you can have it. It almost feels like it was neutered a littlebit.

Kirk Williams (12:07):

Yeah. Get getting everyone used to for the next thing,which in some ways that's the way it is, that's the game they play. What I wasthinking through is, okay, let's say at the very least we had two types, youhad a prospecting type and more of a bottom funnel restrictive type, let's callit. So rather than saying how closely we're going to stick to this, it's morefocused on that. And one of the reasons is because that's what I find so muchof the value they'll present things for let's say broad as in, hey, a third ofall searches every day or whatever the current stat is, is new right? You can'tpossibly know what those are, that's fine. You couldn't possibly keep up withentering those all into your Google ads as keywords.

Kirk Williams (12:57):

And so that's part of what broad and DSA and that's for, Irespect that. The flip side is that as business goals and objectives work intothings, it starts to get complicated fast because sure there are a trilliondifferent keywords that we could go out there and sure, at some level we'regiving Google some like, here's the audience, here's the goal I want you totarget. But even then it's going to be limited in how much it can target all ofthose things. Especially bottom funnel, different targets that you may have andtop funnel exploratory prospecting. And so I am hopeful that they'll maintainthis. I still see quite a bit of opportunity for a human advertiser still ofidentifying here are the general, however we want to call it, the phrases, theintent, whatever that we've pulled out and we can see.

Kirk Williams (13:50):

And then Google here are our specific budgetary as well astargeting goals for that. So we really want to make sure that you hit a fiverow as on those because they're bottom funnel terms and we've already marketedprobably quite a bit to those people and that's okay. But we don't want themall mushed into this one keyword type with just a basic budget and that we wantto make sure that we are getting them a certain target and we're communicatingthat to you, Google. And then for us prospecting, we're okay hitting a one anda half or a two.

Kirk Williams (14:23):

And that's what you can go after and here's a prospectingbudget for you as well as your ROAS target just for prospecting. And now goahead and go crazy with your broad match keywords, however you want. So that's,I think still where I see the business data and even the funnel working intothat a little bit and some of these other, the goals in that as still makingsense to have a little bit more of a restrictive as well as a broader matchtype and not just simply handing Google the keys and saying, "Here's abudget, I guess do the best you can."

Aaron Levy (15:00):

I mean, I agree. I don't think that I will shock anyone bysaying very clearly, Google wants to go their direction of give us a creditcard and go but to your point, I think it's a very long ways away. I mean, it'sakin to going to the stock market and putting all of your money in a singleindex fund, it'll probably do okay but someone who's more sophisticated wouldprobably do better. So I mean, the guidance that we're giving our team is look,don't, I don't want to say, don't listen to Google but take what Google saysand then interpret it for yourself. We've banned the phrase best practices.You're not allowed to say it anymore. You have to use recommendations within arule. So I think the future, I mean, if there's maybe a sound bite to take outof this it's, rather than fearing the machines, they're deploying them asbinary, either machine on or off, learn what it's doing, learn what it'slooking at, learn how it makes decisions.

Aaron Levy (16:01):

I mean, smart bidding's complicated but simple. It justlooks at expected conversion rate. And then it bids based on it, the end. Butso learning how to build guardrails about that, correct to your point aboutmaybe having customers you don't have, customers you want to maintain andextend and customers that you lost and you want to win back. Having thosestrategies will still be possible, I don't want to say forever but probably fora good long while but to do it and to compete with smart bidding and with thesenew match types, you got to devote a lot of time in to understand standing howthey make decisions, so then you can build guardrails around it.

Aaron Levy (16:37):

I've used this metaphor a million times and a lot ofpeople have probably heard it but it still works and I still like it. It'strying to maintain the old adage of exact match types and manual bidding withinsmart. It's like buying a Roomba and pushing it around the floor. You have thiscool tool that's designed to do stuff but you're not letting it do stuff.Whereas the other way of trying to have this Roomba do everything as I thinkfrankly, all advertising platforms really want but are a long ways away, it'sbuying a Roomba and telling it to wash windows.

Aaron Levy (17:14):

It could try, I don't think it's going to be verysuccessful. So, we're trying to figure out is again, how does little Roombamake decisions? How do we maximize what it does by protecting against what itshouldn't do? So learning how to build guardrails around that, that aren't tootight so it can still learn, it'll still make some mistakes but it will learnand be good at what it's good at.

Kirk Williams (17:35):

I'm laughing because we got a Roomba a couple years ago.And what I learned was that we had to completely rethink how we thought ofvacuuming. And that meant the act of vacuuming itself we no longer had to dobut now we needed to invest time in developing all of these guardrails. And itis really funny and I've heard that analogy before, to the PPC bidding and thatwith the Roomba but it really does fit well. Because we had to do literalguardrails. We had to literally say, we want you in this area and we'd have toput chairs up off the table otherwise it would get stuck in there.

Aaron Levy (18:14):

Put a gap between the table leg to make sure the littleguy could drive through.

Kirk Williams (18:18):

Yeah, yeah otherwise it would just spend an hour and ahalf back and forth trying to navigate the little table legs, all that stuff.And it was because there was a level where like, yeah, that is nice. And thenthere's a level like, no, we had to completely rethink how we set up everythingabout the room and the situation in order to then let it go and do the job thatit could do.

Aaron Levy (18:45):

Well and that's such a good segue because that's effectivelywhat a good search marketer has to do. If you have a structure that's 10 yearsold, if you're still using scags in a modern era, why? I don't understand. Imean, sure it's comfortable and yeah, it used to work. There's this quote thatI've paired it a few times from Paul Graham that says, when an expert is wrong,it's not because their information is bad. It's because they're an expert onthe world 10 years ago. And so it's taking that experience and saying,"Hey, here's what used to work perfect. World's different now let's takethe parts of that, that still apply and change the shape of them."

Aaron Levy (19:27):

The same goes for search campaigns. We have people on ourteam that have been doing this for longer than I have. People of 15, 20 yearsexperience back in the day when you had to mail your bids into Yahoo and it'staking some reeducation, it's taking some breaking of habits but once youreestablish and you're just looking at your old experiences with a new lightand you're applying what you learn and what you learn doesn't work to a newworld and looking at the tools that you have available and being like,"Okay, here's how I can build a house better than I used to buildit."

Kirk Williams (19:57):

You had said before keywords are gone in the traditionalsense, can you define what you would see as this is the traditional sense, thisis how people would see it and then how do you think that's gone?

Aaron Levy (20:11):

I mean, I think the sense is using the word as a base. Soa keyword would be like, I want to bid on used golf clubs, we'll stick withthat. In the past it'll be like, okay, we are going to look at these threewords. If it's exact match, we're only going to use these three words. If it'sphrase match, we're only going to use these three words with stuff around them.If it's broad match, we're only going to use these three words then maybe acouple other things sprinkled in. Whereas now the modern view is you use thekeyword as a thematic start point. So broad match, current broad match, usedgolf clubs, we are looking for people who are interested in buying golf stuff,probably equipment. And they'll probably search for clubs, brands, maybecourses, maybe vacations, which you'll have to clean up with match types orwith negatives like that.

Aaron Levy (21:07):

But it's not looking at those three words. It is lookingat what you put in there to build a theme of what you want to go get. Phrasematch looks at those three words but again, with a lot more synonyms and samewith exact is that rather than looking at the words themselves, it looks at thewords as a theme. And so it's a bit akin to the early days of the GDN GDA oflooking at topic targeting, interest targeting. I would equate phrase and exactto some degree to topic targeting. And I would say that broad match is a littlebit closer or to in market nowadays where you're looking for people who have aninterest in this topic, maybe they're searching for the topic or somethingclose to it.

Kirk Williams (21:59):

Interesting. Yeah, that's good. Okay. And then obviouslyclose variants is a key part of that. Maybe talk a little bit about closevariants, like what that is.

Aaron Levy (22:09):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean close variants in my view a couple yearsago, they were the litmus test for where we are now. It felt a little bit morelike an experiment of Google seeing how well a thematic expansion of keywordswould work. And now that we're there, yeah. Close variants still exist. Youstill get the little tag in your C search query report. But since we discussedthat the traditional sense of keyword is a little bit gone and in my opinion,close variants, aren't... They're a thing without being a thing, they're morecost of doing business.

Aaron Levy (22:46):

And again, since we're looking at it more thematically,that's one of the weapons that we have to steer our little Roomba, to setguardrails is negatives because again, close variants yeah, they still exist.We don't really have to build out plurals in every single variation of stuffbut it's not that, that's a special behavior, that's more just how everythingworks. Close variants are effectively just a part of how the match types workand some of the close variants aren't very close but speaking to the brandingproblem within match types, that's because they're not meant to be anymore.They're not meant to be super close linguistically to what you search, they'remeant to be thematically close.

Kirk Williams (23:27):

Yeah. Which is definitely the move that close variantstook. Plurals and misspellings and then continued on its way in until it'sgetting to more of thematically close Variants.

Aaron Levy (23:38):

Yeah. And I mean certainly the machine makes somequestionable decisions when it comes to close variants. I want deny that. Thatyeah, they're still, you got to play a little defense against when it stretchesout and makes some decisions or starts serving ads for golf clubs in Frenchwhen I don't have a French website, there's some of that. But what we found allmachine learning is that it learns. So when you block those, when you have astrong negative strategy for a broad match type strategy, it tends to learnpretty quick and keywords get better over time because you tell it what'sterrible and the machine learns what's terrible. Now you don't think I have totalk too long to you about how much we hate paying Google tuition. But yeahgiving it a little education and having a little tolerance for the learningperiod, even though of course Google says there is no learning period any more,there is. But having a little tolerance for that and having little teachingtime under your own belt, it learns, it works better over time.

Kirk Williams (24:36):

Yeah. That might be one of the struggles that advertisers,especially business owners, respecting the learning period as just a vital partof a world of machine learning, I think is just, it just has to be a crucialpart of doing PPC at this point.

Aaron Levy (24:55):

Well, right. And it's one of those things where Icertainly see a struggle for smaller businesses, smaller advertisers. I meanour book of business tends to skew upper mid-market enterprise big stuff. Butwhat we see with a lot of our franchise clients that have 600, 700 locations isyou got to hold onto the Roomba for a little bit and minimize the cost oflearning.

Kirk Williams (25:21):

Yeah. So, if we were going to talk about audiences andkeywords, it almost sounds from what saying like you're seeing keywords moreand more acting like audience. I mean, even referring to them as topic basedand almost like in market audience, is that how you view audiences and keywordsat this point?

Aaron Levy (25:42):

I mean, I view everything as pointing towards theaudiences at this point, we're going to be putting up a blog post on our sitein a couple months, depending on when this is released, it's going to talkabout fragment intent driven approach. That basically what we're trying to findwhen we do any kind of marketing is we're trying to find someone who wants yourstuff and has money. Whether you make them want your stuff, whether it'straditional search marketing, where they ask you, "Hey, do you havestuff?" And you're like, "Yep, here's how much it costs." But Iview it all as synonymous. They're all proxies to what a person wants. And so,I mean, we have this, we actually, we won a US search award this week, yay, forone of our clients. And what the team did is they took their entire, it was asmall business and personal loans company.

Aaron Levy (26:31):

So people want to pay off credit card debt, that sort ofstuff. They had a giant mailing list. They had a ton of first party data. Andso what we would do is we would take all this first party data, people thatinteracted with the brand before and people that had seen an offline ad, peoplethat had gotten a mailer, put that audience in with a super broad keywordstrategy. And like, "Hey, these people who have interacted with our brandbefore, I don't care what they search, as long as it's even remotely close towhat we're buying." It was great converted better in brand terms.

Aaron Levy (26:58):

And so if you get those people with the right intent, theright interest, the right time, it's all, deal with marketing adage with theright person, the right place, the right time, the right message. If you getthe right message, the right time, the right person together, the right placedoesn't matter as much. And so when you think about keywords, that'seffectively what you're doing is you're trying to find the right place.Certainly it's a proxy to the other three but we have more ways to do it. Solong-winded way of saying that I view keywords as audience but I vieweverything as an audience because that's, we're trying to find people.

Kirk Williams (27:38):

So this has really changed probably overall, you all.Would you say in the last few years, in the last year, in the last three years,five, you at Tinuity specifically, have you all really started changing up,here's how we organize our accounts in terms of campaign structure. And it wasspecifically in the search realm because of all this, has that been somewhatrecent, are you still in the process of that?

Aaron Levy (28:03):

We're in the process. I think the real paradigm shiftprobably started probably towards the end of 20, mid, mid 2019 is when westarted to change. I mean, again, I've waxed poetic about using audiencesignals for years but over the past, let's say three or four, it got a lot moretowards critical mass and a lot less towards a novelty or it's historicallylike go, hey, we might do something fun with remarketing and layer it over somekeywords and broad and here we go. But nowadays that we have so many moreaudience signals, we have the ability to upload our first party data. We haveretargeting in much more creative ways.

Aaron Levy (28:43):

We have automated bidding. We have broad match that looksat audience signals now. That stuff has just started to reach critical mass. SoI think we probably started experimenting with structure a lot in towards theend of 2019, not to use too much of a buzzword but big data, we're trying tolearn the value of making data big and how big to make it and so I'd say overthe last, I think this year is when we really released match types in a way, inthe sense of like, look segmenting exact and broad by campaign doesn't, youdon't need to do it anymore.

Aaron Levy (29:26):

I mean, especially with the new match type changes, wherethey'll prioritize the more precise match type, we can put everything in thesame bucket. And we can say, "Hey, bid more for this bid less for this,bid less for this." We don't need to have really, really strict runways,which I mean, you know I've preached that five years ago about hypersegmentation, put things everywhere so you can control everything, don't needto anymore.

Kirk Williams (29:50):

Yeah. Which is interesting for me personally, sometimes thatstuff gets exhausting because that's exactly, you used to think a certain wayand then a paradigm begins shifting and you've got to completely relearneverything and you're like, "I already put all this time into learning. Ialready learned my stuff. I did my job I put in my time."

Aaron Levy (30:08):

Yeah. But I mean, if you think about it but back in theday we were just internet direct mailers. It was people would ask us aquestion, we would answer it, hopefully our answer was right. Now we're puttingthe M back in SEM. We're becoming honest to goodness, marketers and advertisersnow, we're worrying about message match. We're putting together Mad Libs forads, basically with RSAs filling in the blank and hope they resonate withpeople.

Kirk Williams (30:39):

Knowing that no one is reading the ads and never have.

Aaron Levy (30:44):

No. No, it's just making sure the right word is in the headlineor not. Oh, I hate the future in a lot of ways. But no, I mean, it's excitingto a degree because as you say, it's a big paradigm shift for what we learned.But at the same time, what we learned was or effectively an SAT math problem,it was two trains colliding, one's going 40, one's going 30. And now, insteadof just doing algebra all the time, we have to get creative and get psychologyinto it and get decision making skills and figure out longer purchase mazes orfunnels or whatever we want to call them. And so we have to get creative anduse that part of our brain, not to belittle some of our colleagues but I thinksome people that part might have gotten a little stale or never was there. Andso now that they're having the turn from mathematicians and direct mailers intoadvertisers and marketers, it's different.

Kirk Williams (31:40):

And it's different. It's not just simply, some people willhear you talking about that and say, "Oh, well, I try to be a goodmarketer. I figure out how to get benefits into my ad text." It's like,no, that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about an entire paradigmshift of, how are we rethinking how we're even building our campaignstructures, how we're bringing in audiences and how we're selecting thosekeywords that we have and all of those things and bringing them together withthe goals that the client has given us, in order to present that well. Sothat's why it's tough and it's changing a lot. And I think that's one of thereasons why we want to do this podcast was to look into some of this stuff.

Kirk Williams (32:24):

Because I almost see right now. Well, you interact withway more PBCers than I do just simply because Tinuity is so big but it almostseems to me and I'm curious to hear and feel free to correct me, this is ahypothesis, it does seem like there are, there's the old guard and I don't evenmean that in a degrading way. In some ways I look at that, I'm like, I guessI'm part of the old guard. Where it, like what you had said, there was a lot ofmath involved. There was a lot of really figuring it out and we would figure itout, I could go into an account, look at the structure and be like, I know thatI can immediately turn this around because I'd implement that crazy.

Kirk Williams (33:06):

I have different campaigns for different match types andall of a sudden we're targeting just the terms we want to target and blah,blah, blah, get rid of the broad match in there. You would do that and youwould see success. So you have this old guard and all of a sudden it's like theworld has literally in... I think you're right, for some reason 2019, maybe2019 in to 2020 seems to be for us too. When I started looking around and I wouldsay my initial emotion was fear. All of a sudden I'm like, everything haschanged and I honestly don't know what I'm doing. And it flipped and then italmost seems like PPCers who have, in the last couple years, have entered thenew, they're already on board with that and ready to roll and move andwhatever. And this is what they've learned about Google. It almost seems likethere's two different groups of PPCers right now. Yeah. I don't know. I don'tknow if that's fair.

Aaron Levy (34:03):

There really are. There really are two different groups ofPPCers. I see that as well. There's the folks who, I'm going to try to think ofa way to say this without offending all of our friends. There's the folks who,every time they see a change that Google makes, number one, "Google's eviland greedy. And they want to take all of our money and grow all of ourspend." We're like, "Yeah, that's how public companies work."And then there's the ones who look and say like, well, this is talking to wherewe started talking about keywords. "Well, these keywords aren't evenrelevant." I'm like, "Okay but did you know if the person searchingthe keyword was relevant before or was it a 12 year old on their mom's phonewith no money?" And so it's just a different view of relevance and yeah,there's the old guard. I mean, there's the folks who long for the good old daysand there are many of us and I'm an old soul in a lot of ways.

Aaron Levy (35:00):

Google's not going to pull these things back. There're notgoing to unautomate. They're not going to be like, "Okay, you get your oldmatch types back." Not that we want to roll over and die. Something'struly terrible. But I see a lot of our peers, our colleagues, some that we'refriends with, some that we're not, a lot of blog posts come out about, this isthe worst change that Google's ever made. RSAs are going to kill everybody oryou're like, where was my exact match?

Aaron Levy (35:22):

And it's like, oh, number one, you haven't really had itfor a long time. Number two, the way you're using before, it didn't really makea whole lot of sense. So to be honest, I relish when we getting those accounts,I relish when we get an account that has single keyword ad groups becausepicking it apart to be a little mean is not that hard. Because you can show allthe ways that it's restricting and all the ways that it's maybe makingquestionable decisions, just trying to hold onto the past. And instead as yousaid, in 2019, I had a little bit of a panic myself being like, "So wedon't have to bid anymore because smart bidding's okay now, like neveragain." Okay.

Kirk Williams (36:06):

What do we do?

Aaron Levy (36:10):

It's honestly, it's something that I talk to my team a lotabout and like, "Look, if you're pushing the same button 25 times in aday, get one of those little Homer Simpson drinking bird things that can pushthe button for you." I hope Elizabeth Marsden listens to this becausethat's a great episode.

Kirk Williams (36:28):

I'm tracking.

Aaron Levy (36:28):

But those things that we used to do 10 times a day, youdon't have to do those anymore. Think about doing a giant analysis for anaccount. What if you had an anomaly detector that would give you all the dataand you could just look at it and you don't have to do all those changes orthinking about the old days of manual bidding. If conversion rate was high andCPA was low and impression share was low. Okay. Bid up, you'll get moreimpressions. You'll get more clicks and it'll be under your CPA goal.

Aaron Levy (36:59):

That's pretty easy math you don't have to do that. Someonecould do that for you. But again, it's about leaning in and leveraging that.And so what we tend to find is when we look at the old guard accounts, as yousaw, is that they're not very strategic. They fall into that direct mail formatof something worked or it did not. If it worked, do more of it, if it didn't,do less of it. Humans are more complicated than that, as we've talked about themaze versus the funnel. So instead it adds a lot of nuance to decision makingand it makes, as I say to make us better marketers.

Kirk Williams (37:33):

Yep. Good stuff. Alrighty. I think that's... Do you haveany final parting thoughts about what we've discussed?

Aaron Levy (37:43):

Embrace the future. You're not going to like all of it butit's coming. So when new stuff comes out, rather than figuring out how to applyit to your old way, figure out if you have to change your old way or not. Andthat's how you'll succeed. It'll be uncomfortable. Change always is, but it'snot going to stop changing.

Chris Reeves (38:00):

This has been a bonus episode of the PPC PonderingsPodcast. Keep checking back for more interviews and our next full episode, ifyou like what you hear, please consider sharing this with your network andleaving us a review on Apple Podcasts until next time may the auctions be everin your favor.


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Kirk Williams
@PPCKirk - Owner & Chief Pondering Officer

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search & Social PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing since 2009. His personal motto (perhaps unhealthily so), is "let's overthink this some more."  He even wrote a book recently on philosophical PPC musings that you can check out here: Ponderings of a PPC Professional.

He has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero 6 years in a row (2016-2021), has written articles for many industry publications (including Shopify, Moz, PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, and Microsoft), and is a frequent guest on digital marketing podcasts and webinars.

Kirk currently resides in Billings, MT with his wife, six children, books, Trek Bikes, Taylor guitar, and little sleep.

Kirk is an avid "discusser of marketing things" on Twitter, as well as an avid conference speaker, having traveled around the world to talk about Paid Search (especially Shopping Ads).  Kirk has booked speaking engagements in London, Dublin, Sydney, Milan, NYC, Dallas, OKC, Milwaukee, and more and has been recognized through reviews as one of the Top 10 conference presentations on more than one occasion.

You can connect with Kirk on Twitter or Linkedin.

In 2023, Kirk had the privilege of speaking at the TEDx Billings on one of his many passions, Stop the Scale: Redefining Business Success.

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