Searchfest 2009 Interview: Joanna Lord

Joanna will be speaking about “PPC” at Searchfest 2009 which will be held March 10th in Portland, Oregon. Get your tickets now.

1) Please give me your background and tell us what you do for a living (w/ links).

I am the Co-Founder & CMO of TheOnlineBeat.com, a comparative job search engine that empowers job searchers with knowledge on the newest online applications, networks and communities. I am in charge of all paid search marketing, organic traffic generation, media partnerships and content development.

My background is in PPC campaign management and site optimization. I also have a journalism background, and two Online Media degrees, which lends well to writing for the web and viral marketing. In addition my experience in the more traditional marketing channels and public relations realm has always assisted me when trying to brand and appropriately monetize a site for it’s best performance.

2) What would be the top 3 piece of advice that you would give people launching their first paid search campaign.

Actually there really are three things I try to do when launching PPC campaigns for a new client. So your question lends itself well to my initial concerns, which are—goal, involvement level and budget (I go into some detail below). Once you get those three hashed out, things are far more efficient and the likelihood for campaign success increases exponentially.

So, the first thing is always “What are you looking to gain from running PPC?” You can word it a million ways—“what do you guys consider a conversion?,” or “what ROI are you looking for?” but it all goes back to making sure every client has a very clear picture as to WHAT they expect to get from buying a visitor. How I approach a campaign completely depends on whether a client is looking for high volume for credential purposes, or converting traffic by user, or by 1000 users, or if they are simply looking for exposure as a brand. Some may even simply want to outrank a competitor, or others want visibility for terms they can’t rank for organically. Once you have clearly established your goal for your PPC campaigns, we can move forward.

Secondly, I usually determine how much time they have to give PPC. Some clients are looking for a low-maintenance campaign to supplement their other marketing efforts, other clients are looking to hire people full-time once set-up is over, and this really determines the order in which you carry through a PPC campaign. It also determines how big the campaigns can be—if they are looking to automate the entire process to lessen their burden, I need to make sure things are scalable from the get-go, but if they are willing to take a more hands-on approach, then we have some options as to how best to manage and build-out the campaigns.

The last of the three would be identifying a budget. It may seem like something that would already have been established, but I am always amazed at how large the disconnect usually is between a company/client’s goals and what they are willing to spend. There are almost two ways to spend on paid campaigns—to rank and to convert. The goal of a client may lean you one way but their pockets may not support this. Once we figure out the maximum they can spend, we can start devising a timeline and benchmarks to hit. This is when things move from organizational to the creative process.

3) How important is landing page optimization to a paid search campaign?

At the risk of sounding like a complete dork I have to say I love chatting with other PPC marketers and finding out what they consider to be the “golden variable.” The great thing about PPC is that it is still developing and although theories evolve—none of us really know the algorithm yet, so we are all trying to figure out what the most “important part” of a PPC campaign is. For me—hands down—it’s going to be the landing page. For me I think Google cares most about where we are leading their users.

In a simpler analogy—it’s like promising a kid this amazing field trip, leading them around by the hand all day, through fun activities, and giving them lots of treats. They might have the best day ever but at the end, if you drop them off in the middle of nowhere—no one is going to be happy. The whole day is a wash, and everyone is left pretty ticked off. Sounds a bit harsh huh? Well have you seen some of the landing pages out there? When a campaign isn’t working, it’s the first place an optimizer is going to look, and it is usually the easiest to diagnose, but clients don’t give them the time they deserve. Optimizing a landing page is crucial in a campaigns success. You need to establish relevancy, have a clear navigation, a call to action, and you need to catch their attention without overloading them. In my opinion, you should start with optimizing a site’s landing page and then you can start worrying about the user’s trip there.

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Todd Mintz knows PPC...knows Social Media...knows SEO...knows Blogging...knows Domaining...and knows them all real well. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association. He is a Senior Account Manager for PPC Associates and is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association, and he can be found here on Google+.
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