Paid Search Past And Present

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) celebrates 5 years of PPCChat with another great question set titled “Paid Search Past And Present.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: Over the last 5 years, what do you believe has been the major evolution in paid search? Why?

  • Audience targeting. Was mentioned in the 1st chat as “the future” and it’s happening now. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • A move away from predominantly being about Keywords. – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
  • The increase in targeting capabilities, from remarketing, to keyword selection, etc. – Mike Crimmins (@mikecrimmins)
  • Aside from the fact that the interface doesn’t suck anymore, probably advances in targeting (Customer Match, RLSA, etc). – Leo Sussan (@lsussan)
  • The increase in providing as much info as possible for users before they click. – Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
  • That the industry has become much more legitimized. I still remember when companies didn’t think paid search was necessary. – Matt Umbro
  • Complexity. Targeting options. Channels. The multiple layers you can apply to one keyword bid. Everything has gotten complex. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Context control. Reduced reliance on keywords as the only intent signal. Simplified emphasis of geo, device, time, and audience. – Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
  • The number of options/places to advertise and ways to target people. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • It’s the speed at which things are evolving and moving. Extensions. DSA. PLAs. Audiences & Targeting capabilities. And on the negative flip side… enhanced campaigns and the move away from mobile specific targeting/campaigns. – Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
  • Has to be conversion tracking and optimization around related metrics. The game has forever changed thanks to them. – Andrew McCarthy (@AmccartPPC)
  • The increasing amount of real estate for top positions. And, more targeting, less reliance on keywords. – Brooke Townsend (@btownsend13)
  • Just more options overall. Video, Targeting, remarketing, extensions, enhancements, etc. Moves so fast. – Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
  • The Mobile Revolution. It’s changed how users interact with ads, ad formats, targeting, landing pages. – James Svoboda
  • Employers’ valuation of talent skilled in PPC…which I guess speaks to employers’ valuation of PPC as a viable business funnel. – Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
  • I think the biggest evolution is moving Search toward more audience based objectives. – JD Prater (@jdprater)
  • Evolution of ad format options, from 3 lines to all the extensions. – Alberto Merola (@AlbertoMerola)
  • PLAs Shopping campaigns….a whole different type of paid search and market type. – Lance Dobson (@LanceDobson)
  • Google Shopping – how it went from free to paid and how effective it is for ecommerce. – Rohan Ayyar (@searchrook)
  • I’ll echo – the sheer amount of attention it gets and budget it commands, both client-side and Google’s developers. – Nate Knox (@nateknox)
  • I think it’s the speed at which more channels, pin-point targeting & customizations become available. So much faster now! – Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
  • So many things have changed. I think it’s almost easier for all biz types to use PPC b/c of the new tools/targets/channels, etc. – Michelle Morgan
  • Shopping campaigns – of course! Don’t know why I forgot about them! – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
  • Audience targeting for sure. It elevates the power of keyword intent and allows us to better understand & serve to searchers. – Maddie Cary (@MaddieMarketer)

Q2: How has our industry grown for the better over the last 5 years?

  • Shared knowledge. Whether PPCChat, blogs, or conferences, so many more folks are talking about PPC in more advanced. – Michelle Morgan
  • By growing beyond search engines – Paid social, remarketing platforms, video, display networks, etc. It’s more Paid Digital. – Mark Kennedy
  • The industry has become more technical. It’s about data and sharing knowledge. There’s a great community out there! – Jeremy Krantz (@JeremyKrantz)
  • Expanding towards cross-channel expertise. SEM will always be my first love but I love how PPC also assumes social & dispaly now. – Chris Haleua
  • Circling back to my previous answer, paid search is more legitimate than it used to be and companies recognize its importance. – Matt Umbro
  • More “Best Practices” and less “PPC Voodo”. PPCChat has been great as well as HeroConf. More of a community than individual vagabonds. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • More businesses doing PPC, bigger budgets, more employment opportunities, better analytics. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • More legitimacy as a necessary channel in the minds of clients & management. – Kirk Williams
  • Increased recognition & legitimacy as a full-fledged discipline & place to put marketing resources for biz of all sizes. – Julie Bacchini
  • More importance has been given to copy, landing page optimization, and overall purchase experience. – Rohan Ayyar
  • First and foremost a close knit community that shares knowledge and helps each other! – Christi Olson
  • While many changes seem like pure money grab. It does force advertisers to be more relevant. Boost quality with better LPs, etc. – Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
  • Second: Across both experts and businesses a better understanding & adoption of technology for ad formats and measurement. – Christi Olson
  • The way PPC knowledge is shared, seems a lot more like a community rather than competition. – Brooke Townsend
  • PPC has matured! With that comes better tools, data, insights,sharing. But also brings challenge of how to keep doing it better. – Maddie Cary
  • Gone from just generation traffic for client’s websites to generating leads/revenue with detailed analytics/stats. – Mike Crimmins
  • Companies understand that PPC isn’t a blackbox of magic revenue. Realistic expectations for PPC(for the most part). – Lance Dobson
  • Improved ROI accountability, light years ahead of where social investments currently sit for example. – Peter Thistle (@PeterThistle)
  • It’s improved in the sense that clients are growing out of the “free traffic” mindset. Apart from that, it’s still amateur hour. – Steve Gibson

Q3: How has our industry grown for the worst over the last 5 years?

  • Commodification of skills on the low end but no corresponding increasing depth to develop into. We are all like children. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
  • Honestly, sometimes I think we panic when a change is made, that might not have that much impact. Some exceptions of course. – Mark Kennedy
  • Enhanced Campaigns. No real Mobile only option. – James Svoboda
  • Bing Ads is still far behind from a capabilities standpoint… Still no Mac editor for it either! – Jeremy Krantz
  • While general knowledge & community is strong, skill has increased, so strategy is more important now than actual tactical ability. – Nate Knox
  • Increased competition has forced higher costs in both ad placement & agency fees making SMB entry more difficult. – Kirk Williams
  • It’s far harder to stand out unless you’re ingrained with Google. Betas & special ad formats only available w/ higher spend. – Leo Sussan
  • Loss of control for advertisers. We have lost many levers we used to be able to pull. – Melissa Mackey
  • I feel we aren’t keeping pace with explaining new features to our stakeholders. Not that keeping up with platforms is easy. – Glenn Schmelzle (@heyglenns)
  • The natural growth of the industry has led to a lot of businesses adding PPC as a service that have no business doing PPC. – Joe Martinez
  • We’re all good at our job, which makes improved performance harder. We all say the same New Biz stuff (generally). – Nate Knox
  • Less of an idealized free market now, more of a plutocracy. – Leo Sussan
  • Not a fan of the removal of a tablet bid modifier option. – Greg Young (@PPCJedi)
  • Some SEOs, who got blown out the water by panda/penguin, decided to call themselves “PPC managers”. Helped, of course, by. – Steve Gibson
  • Opposite of consolidation across the industry. PPC is still siloed instead of being better integrated across digital channels. – Christi Olson
  • Still too much separation between advertising and analytics teams. Not enough accountability after the click. Need more hybrids. – Chris Haleua
  • Sometimes there’s a client expectation that you “magically” appear above Google search results and if they aren’t 1 they panic. – Caleb Rule (@CRuleSportsGuy)
  • Inflated %*#$ CPCs! (expecially on brand terms). – Lance Dobson
  • With all the options for targeting or viewing exploding, truly accurate attribution is still woefully behind. – Julie Bacchini
  • Yeah, Google still sends credit coupons & sets up SMB with campaigns that burn money and make jaded SMBs. – Matt Graves (@gravymatt)
  • Attribution still kicks our butts. Tho, we are “more” aware than previously of the difficulty of tracking cross-channel well. – Kirk Williams
  • Enhanced Campaigns -> I can target age, gender etc but not the device they use? – Alberto Merola
  • Agree, the industry still doesn’t have standardization for training and certs. – Christi Olson
  • CPCs & cost growth (more people want slice of the pie). Optimizing & tracking cross-channel and/or offline convs still a biotch. – Maddie Cary
  • “Enhanced” campaigns not allowing strategy/tactical for different devices types. Prevents adverts from maximizing opportunity. – Matt Vaillancourt

Q4: How have your views changed over the last 5 years (if they have at all) about running successful paid search campaigns?

  • Used to think bidding was the most important lever. Now I see it takes a backseat to personalized creative & smart targeting. – Chris Haleua
  • True profitability analysis is WAY more complicated than simple Last Click model I used to use & love. – Kirk Williams
  • A bit. Doing it right requires more work, IMO. With more tools for analysis comes the need for more actual analysis. – Michelle Morgan
  • I’ve become less hardline about brand bidding on PPC. I’m happy to not do it in the right situ & see what’s best for the biz. – Arianne Donoghue (@AriannaDonoghue)
  • Focus more on the long game. Lifetime Value, Customer Value as opposed to one-off transactions. – Lance Dobson
  • Less time spent on keywords. More time improving marketing message, landing page experience, CRO, user connection, etc. – Joe Martinez
  • Basic philosophy hasn’t changed, what I do to achieve the desired results has changed a lot. – Julie Bacchini
  • It’s less about the keywords and clicks, and more about the visitors and how they respond. – James Svoboda
  • Proper client-side sale-closing aspects (CRO, Phones, Sales reps, etc) are just as essential as my responsibilities. – Kirk Williams
  • Spending more time optimizing for ad relevance and user experience (after the click) rather than just keyword bidding. – Brooke Townsend
  • Seems like a lot of answers are about making connection with the audience rather than mechanics of PPC. Interesting. I agree. – Michelle Morgan
  • Less “Did that keyword drive a conv?!?” more “Does this audience searching with this intent drive profitable results” thinking. – Maddie Cary
  • PPC still requires attention to detail and a well thought through strategy to reach specific goals & how they will be measured. – Christi Olson
  • I’d also have to say that I’m more focused on overall business benefit & integration – which didn’t exist like this 5 yrs ago. – Arianna Donoghue
  • From a holistic level, I have a better understanding from the beginning of what will and won’t work. But that is mostly due to experience. – Matt Umbro
  • Tactics have changed, but strategy hasn’t. PPC is still just a delivery mechanism for direct marketing strategy. – Steve Gibson
  • It’s not just about PPC (keywords/audiences). It’s about the customer journey and user experience. PPC is part of the picture. – Christi Olson
  • I spend WAY less energy building out massive keyword lists & use that to efficiently focus on most important account elements. – Kirk Williams
  • Bid management does matter, but is grossly overrated. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • I now meet w/clients to talk digital in addition to running ops. So on the sales side: Remember the basics. Easier to explain. – Caleb Rule
  • I think less has become more with a lot of the changes. The granularity that used to be so effective, isn’t now. – Arianna Donoghue
  • Personally, I’ve learned how to significantly reduce time spent on certain mgmt aspects. Also, why I’m not paid hourly. – Kirk Williams
  • BIGGER focus on the whole picture! LP UX, attribution & lifetime value are more on my mind. The purchase process is complex. – Erika Schmidt
  • Tactic: I care about optimizing for Quality Score much more now than I used to. – Amy Hebdon (@amyppc)

Q5: How has training shifted for entry level candidates over the last 5 years?

  • There are a ton more resources. Training has become a **far** shorter process. – Leo Sussan
  • Though I’m not entry-level I’m still relatively new to the field of search. Gonna read these answers with interest! – Caleb Rule
  • Lots more online courses, help articles and blog posts to point NewBs to. Helps with alt perspectives. – James Svoboda
  • There’s more training by 3rd parties. More 3rd party tools. As agency head, I still teach team my own Quality guidelines. – Glenn Schmelzle
  • We used to focus mainly on analytical skills but now its a lot about understanding what the consumer wants and the big picture. – Vamsi Ponada (@Vapo1126)
  • Plus back in the day, it was enough to be great at maths. Now you need to be creative & strategic. – Arianne Donoghue
  • Sheer number of available resources to both keep current & learn from scratch. – Julie Bacchini
  • Training now has more to do with client relations and how paid search aligns with other channels. – Matt Umbro
  • No more Google “study guides.” More hands on experience being better marketers and transitioning a good message to ads & LPs. – Joe Martinez
  • Rookies fortunate to build foundation on analytics, & x-channel ad stacks instead of painted in a corner with a single specialty. – Chris Haleua
  • As field has matured, the jobs within it are also more stratified. Entry level technician type up through high level strategy. – Julie Bacchini
  • I challenge trainees to read & come up w/ a strategy on something first, then I discuss w/ them. Makes for good strategy chat. – Michelle Morgan
  • So many more aspects to learn now. Search, DSA, GDN, Remrkting, RLSA, Video, Shopping, RDSA, Ad Exts, etc… & that’s just Google! – Kirk Williams
  • It’s now internal + external training resources, still much is learned on the job, on the fly. – Christi Olson
  • More focus on how to understand the customer and data testing as opposed to simply studying “best practice”. – Lance Dobson
  • Theory: The need to understand competition has gone way up, since more are engaged in SEM? – Caleb Rule
  • Also keeps me & strategies I implement on my toes. Always learning, especially when there’s a ton to learn. – Michelle Morgan
  • Less about excel and kwd lists and more about cust. service, data analysis and campaign strategy. – Alberto Merola
  • The analytics stuff people get pretty quick but I found its important to train to think about the client’s and consumers pov. – Vamsi Ponada
  • Tactical training is a lot more rigorous around camp/adgr/kwd architecture. Candidate vetting process is much more picky. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Even w/ training, ramp up from entry still challenging. Constant change, million acronyms, lots of features. It’s intimidating! – Maddie Cary
  • Tempted as an old fart to complain about whippersnapper hipsters more fluent in smallbatch, handcrafted, artisan, glutenfree ads. – Chris Haleua
  • I’ve only been in the PPC world for a 1.5 years & honestly, the best resource is having dynamic discussions, like on. – Erika Schmidt

Q6: How will you ensure that you will remain relevant in this industry and work to be irreplaceable?

  • My motto is still the same = I can teach someone PPC. What I can’t always teach is things like problem mgmt, organization, comm. – Maddie Cary
  • Become an automated tool. – Kirk Williams
  • Reading…a…lot! Also conferences. – Vamsi Ponada
  • I’m always looking to expand my skills beyond paid search, ie: client relations, CRO, etc. Makes me more valuable! – Matt Umbro
  • Never be afraid to pivot. Keep learning & make the most of my considerable yrs of experience! – Julie Bacchini
  • You have to have the passion to stay up-to-date. This industry moves too fast to casually stay involved and be irreplaceable. – Joe Martinez
  • Reading and doing (and proving of course). – Alberto Merola
  • Keeping CPAs low & conversions high; all my learning’s driven by that. – Glenn Schmelzle
  • Overcome intertia of complacency around SEM vocab and become fluent in pre-roll & programmatic display ad ops like. – Chris Haleua
  • Willingness to be vulnerable and ask the questions that may sound “dumb”. – Lance Dobson
  • Evolve. PPC is more than just Search. Hacking Remarketing, DSA, Display, FB, LI, Twitter for a holistic strategy is the path. – James Svoboda
  • Understand what clients care about & how to calm their fears. Great way to stay relevant. – Amy Hebdon
  • By focusing on direct marketing. IMO, the “PPC people” are headed the way of the dinosaurs. – Steve Gibson
  • Often overlooked, but you should write more! Continuing to hone your writing skills helps in all walks of life. – Matt Umbro
  • Add value to what and how I contribute. Continue learning (all things digital.) Maintain a customer first frame of mind. – Christi Olson
  • Pay attention to what clients are saying, asking for and terrified of. Offer services to address & you’ll be fine! – Julie Bacchini
  • Making sure I stay on top of not just Adwords, but also social, programmatic, etc so I know how I can help the client the best. – Mike Crimmins
  • I think proper attribution is such a huge key to future of digital marketing. We’ve got to grow in that & holistic strategies. – Kirk Williams
  • After honing foundational PPC skills, team mgmt and integration w/other channels makes the job interesting. People not clicks. – Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
  • When new features or strategies come to light I always try to test them out for myself and add that to my bucket of experience. – Greg Young
  • Try to bad mouth everyone else to make myself look good. – Michelle Morgan
  • Getting more granular – staying up to date in your industry. Keep up on what your industry is doing/not. Often overlooked. When trying to stay up to date on general digital marketing, competitor focus is so easy to forget. – Brooke Townsend
  • Think holistically and how search fits into the media mix. – Christi Olson
  • Drive strong results, just like any employee in any business. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Er, maybe continue to learn everything I can & grow my skill set. Listen to smart people saying smart things & try to emulate. – Michelle Morgan

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More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Alberto Merola (@AlbertoMerola)
• Amy Hebdon (@amyppc)
• Arianne Donoghue (@AriannaDonoghue)
• Brooke Townsend (@btownsend13)
• Caleb Rule (@CRuleSportsGuy)
• Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
• Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
• Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
• Glenn Schmelzle (@heyglenns)
• Greg Young (@PPCJedi)
• JD Prater (@jdprater)
• Jeremy Krantz (@JeremyKrantz)
• Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Lance Dobson (@LanceDobson)
• Leo Sussan (@lsussan)
• Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
• Maddie Cary (@MaddieMarketer)
• Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
• Matt Graves (@gravymatt)
• Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
• Mike Crimmins (@mikecrimmins)
• Nate Knox (@nateknox)
• Peter Thistle (@PeterThistle)
• Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
• Rohan Ayyar (@searchrook)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
• Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
• Vamsi Ponada (@Vapo1126)

Still Streamcapping, 5 Years and Counting

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; works at WebRanking in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Connect with Paul @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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