When not speaking at a search conference, blogging at Beyond The Paid, having a #ppcchat discussion on Twitter, or cheering on MSU, Melissa Mackey is in front of a computer managing paid search. A veteran paid search advertiser with more than a decade of experience, Melissa works at gyro, the largest independent B2B agency in the world.
We recently had the privilege of interviewing Melissa on her experiences in the industry, recent AdWords changes, and the future of B2B search advertising.
You’ve been at gyro for a number of years now. What do you enjoy most about B2B paid search?
B2B search gives me the opportunity to try different strategies and tactics than those used on B2C campaigns. Working with long lead cycles adds a layer of complexity that continually challenges us in a good way.
You’ve worked on a number of paid search accounts. What do you think B2B search accounts consistently lack?
Two things: Landing page/website optimization, and an understanding of mobile. B2B websites tend to be about 5-8 years behind B2C sites in terms of optimization. It’s not unusual to have B2B accounts whose websites lack calls to action and analytics tracking. That’s usually the first challenge we tackle on new engagements. And the mobile experience is often totally ignored in B2B, even though prospects are definitely using mobile. We’ve dedicated ourselves to making mobile a priority this year and pushing our clients to get on board.
In April Google announced App Ads, a new ad format for driving app downloads. Do you think this will pave the way for other, non-link ads, similar to what Twitter has done with Cards?
I think any ads that can drive actions without leaving the platform (Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc.) are going to become more and more prevalent. This is true especially in social media, where people spend a lot of time. The challenge with social ads, historically, has been that people don’t want to leave the party that is Facebook and Twitter to go to external sites. By making it easy for prospects and offering “one-click conversion” actions, these platforms are solving that problem in a meaningful way. It’s good for both the platform and the advertiser – the less form-filling we can ask prospects to do, the better. That said, it brings new challenges with lead scrubbing, since there isn’t a way to qualify leads on the front end. It frequently creates additional work on the part of advertisers to scrub leads after the fact.
A couple of months ago you wrote about the “dumbing down of PPC” and how it negatively affects professional paid search managers. Do you think we’ve hit bottom in how much it will be watered down?
Unfortunately, no. Bing’s recent announcement on device targeting is only the most recent example of PPC engines taking control away from advertisers in favor of statistical averages. Engines are leaning toward the uneducated segment of PPC advertisers as opposed to the sophisticated segment, leaving those of us who want to create specific campaigns with detailed targeting settings in the awkward position of inventing clever workarounds. While I don’t like it, it appears this trend is going to stick around for a while.
In addition to paid search, you’re an expert in paid social and content marketing. Are you seeing PPC budgets shift across channels and ad networks in 2014? How so?
Absolutely. Savvy B2B advertisers are realizing that they need to move away from boring landing pages with forms to fill out. To get prospects in the door, they must offer something of value: content. Those who can develop and promote relevant content are leaps and bounds ahead of those who haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet. As a result, advertisers are investing in content development first, before sinking big budgets into paid channels. The other area we’re seeing a big shift is in budgets moving to paid social. While paid search is still the bread and butter, it’s becoming difficult for B2B advertisers to reach the right people. The search space is crowded and CPCs are rising, especially in B2B. And frequently, searches are ambiguous, which means advertisers are paying to send irrelevant visitors to their websites. Paid social offers laser-focused targeting via interests, job titles, and custom audiences: features that are very attractive to B2B advertisers. We’re allocating more and more funds to paid social these days as a result.