The secret of "being advanced" is…well…it's sort of like "Being John Malkovich." You have to put in your 10,000 hours. Or, as Geoffrey Colvin deftly explains in "Talent Is Overrated," the greats in any field achieve most of it through "deliberate practice." Lots of it.
To risk an embarrassingly exaggerated chess analogy, seeing many situations does help you improve in the paid search game, provided the right progressive environment is in place for continuous improvement.
I do my best, at advanced seminars like SES Search and Social Accelerator, to provide as many cutting-edge tips as possible, but there's no shortcut that can substitute for putting in the time. As a relaxing hobby, I also like to observe the ways that advanced paid search marketers handle situations. You can spot one if you are one. Five of their hallmarks are as follows:
They double-check data. Newcomers like to be told a rule for when to "turn something on or off." They tend to look at a single date range to interpret results. Experienced and curious managers love to look at performance over long date ranges as well as recent performance. Year-over-year comparisons are also eye-opening. They sometimes question if data is real, or if data has been corrupted in some manner. They'll contemplate explanations for data variations. The bottom line is: the numbers don't always just lie there to be used in a set way. They are raw clay.
They won't take no for an answer. What if the client says they'll share analytics in a single report every week or two? What if someone in the department of business prevention refuses a request? What if there is some incomplete installation of goal tracking? Incomplete data is the bane of the advanced SEM. This is more common than you think. Overcoming corporate roadblocks is a must in some situations. But if your "normal" is to sit back patiently (forever) while the data collection regime festers, you're not so advanced.
They understand searcher intent from past experience. And they want to learn more about it. Tentative account managers sometimes leave clues in the form of bids that cluster within a tight range, regardless of the value of the keyword. A cocky, advanced account manager will often have some scarily high bids and some really low ones sprinkled into the mix. Why? Putting aside the obvious – managing keyword bids to CPA – many businesses have sharper divergences in the quality of search traffic than the overt numbers might indicate. There may be bulk orders, good quality vs. bad quality leads, and, of course, different performance on different segments and match types. You can wait a long time for all the data to come in and show you this. And even then, do you forget to adjust for "best customer" and "big order" type conversions? The advanced SEM starts in with better-educated guesses, sniffing out high-quality intent with less overt data. Do you know if the singular or the plural form of that phrase is likely to convert better? You should.
The advanced turn up the volume to 11. The safe play at all times is to set a highly profitable, allowable CPA, and then keep volume low to meet that goal. Congratulations – you've created a tiny, insignificant business. To be sure, no one kept their job blowing past their allowable CPA indefinitely. But once CPA ranges have been achieved, muscling out more growth, month after month, is the real challenge. Advanced folks rise to that challenge by digging for more, and by steadily improving efficiency as opposed to just keeping bids in a range. Beyond that, they may even construct more elaborate attribution models.
They've got connections. The longer you've been in the business, the more likely it is you can leverage knowledgeable people – at Google, or somewhere else – to get an interpretation on some feature, a question answered, a tip, or a bit of insight into something in the rough and tumble of competition.
Note: most of the above suggestions relate to actionable, frequent account management and iteration toward more efficient outcomes as part of a coherent plan.
Goodman is founder and President of Toronto-based Page Zero Media, a full-service marketing agency founded in 2000. Page Zero focuses on paid search campaigns as well as a variety of custom digital marketing programs. Clients include Direct Energy, Canon, MIT, BLR, and a host of others. He is also co-founder of Traffick.com, an award-winning industry commentary site; author of Winning Results with Google AdWords (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed., 2008); and frequently quoted in the business press. In recent years he has acted as program chair for the SES Toronto conference and all told, has spoken or moderated at countless SES events since 2002. His spare time eccentricities include rollerblading without kneepads and naming his Japanese maples. Also in his spare time, he co-founded HomeStars, a consumer review site with aspirations to become "the TripAdvisor for home improvement." He lives in Toronto with his wife Carolyn.