PPC AMA: Paid Search Ask Me Anything — An Hour of Q&A with David Szetela

PPC AMA with David Szetela

Last Thursday on Reddit, David Szetela offered an AMA to the r/PPC community. An AMA, or “Ask Me Anything,” is just that — an anything goes Q&A with someone of some interest, whether a celebrity, an expert, or someone with a unique role or experience set. David, our VP of Search Marketing Operations and the director of our PPC services, kept it short and sweet, opening the floor to questions for an hour.

Then he and I talked about highlights in part 2 of our podcast SEM Synergy this week, titled “Life After the Removal of Right-Side Ads.”

Though the audio is no longer available to listen to, we have included a transcript-recap combo here. As David described, it was a conversation marked by diverse PPC topics. Jump to the question and answers with the links below.

Google’s Removal of Right-Side Ads

Seokingindia: David, what will be impact of removing sidebar ads in Google search?

David: Unfortunately, there are winners and losers already. The winners are the companies that can afford to some extent buy their way to the top of the page. But, even more pertinent, they’re using all of the ad extensions and maximizing the amount of real estate that their ads occupy on the search results page so that they can sometimes push their competitors down further on the page.

As we know, more real estate equals better click-through rate. Better click-through rate equals better Quality Score. Better Quality Score leads to lower CPCs which is directly related to profitability. So, it’s important to be up there with all of your ad extensions.

The losers are those advertisers who are in very competitive markets. This is frequently a local business — a law firm or financial firm, even plumbing and HVAC — where there’s a lot of competition locally and for that reason the keywords and the CPCs for those keywords are very expensive.

Before this change, it was possible for an advertiser in this situation to get some clicks and conversions despite the fact that their ad appeared low on the page or even at the bottom of the page. They’re being priced out of the market. I think there’s going to be some fallout for advertisers in those industries.

I’ve also read recently that the first-page bid amount (Google lets advertisers know how much they would need to pay to show up on the first page) is going up and that’s because there are fewer ads on the page.

I heard from Frederick Vallaeys when I interviewed him on my show PPC Rockstars this week, that when he was with Google they did experiments that led to this action and they found that the ads at the bottom of the page outperformed the ads at the side of the page. So, they talked internally about trying to convince advertisers to shoot for the bottom of the page even though their ads were not high on the page. Google concluded that was counter-intuitive and people wouldn’t believe it. Meanwhile, here we are.

See more on how SEO is affected by the removal of right-side ads.

AdWords Reporting for Assisted Conversions and Tracking Store Visits

Petpiranha: Hi David, what’s the most common mistake you see regarding assisted conversions and/or what’s your take on AdWords tracking store visits?

David: The data that AdWords reports on assisted conversions is interesting but not actionable. There isn’t a lot you can do with the information you have at hand. Google Analytics multi-channel funnel reports give you a lot more information about the number of steps that someone takes before they actually convert, and that’s actionable because you can break it down by campaign, ad group, and keyword.

AdWords Tracking Store Visits, I haven’t tried yet. We haven’t had any clients that are brick and mortar places, so I’ve read about them and they seem like they would work, but I can’t say from experience.

SEO & PPC Synergy and Collaboration

ginnymarvin: Hi David, Thanks for doing this. Now that you’re heading up PPC at Bruce Clay, I’m wondering how/if the agency’s deep roots in SEO has influenced your approach to paid search at all. Are there any synergies or differences in the way teams or clients look at PPC in as it relates to the overall marketing strategies?

David: I suspect it’s different than other agencies because communication between departments even in small companies is frequently less frequent or deep than it should be. Especially recently, the SEO team and the PPC team have started to meet regularly, share reports regularly, and it’s already helped immensely.

We pull up channel reports when we are reporting on monthly performance, and we show the client not just the number of conversions and the average order value, etc., from PPC, we show those data points for organic, direct, any channel that is pushing traffic to the site. So, frequently, we’re able to say, for example, all the other channels suffered but PPC saved the day. Or, all of the channels suffered so maybe there’s something wrong with the site or maybe its seasonality.

Virginia: Or, maybe we stopped a PPC campaign and organic also suffered, so maybe there’s a synergy with the branding.

Lessons from Szetela’s Personal Approach to PPC

SamOwenPPC: What have been the biggest changes in your personal approach to PPC over the past 15 years?

David: My answer pertained to client satisfaction. I’ve learned an immense amount about how and when and what kind of information we need to share with clients and especially how to resolve issues with a variety of client personalities

Another thing I think has changed a lot is the mantra up to two or three years ago was: the more keywords the better. I remember when I was very proud to have built my first million keyword account. We had covered every possible long tail keyword, and quickly found that dealing with a million keywords imposed a huge overhead on managing the account, trying to pull it into AdWords Editor, trying to find things in the native interface. So we actually started to pursue a different approach called “keyword lite,” where we would start a new account advertising with the very obvious and very important core terms, and then we would wait to see which were the ad groups that gained the most traction with conversions and conversion rates. And then we would start to build those out with more long-tail terms.

When we do audits now, one of the things we do is calculate the number of keywords that have never converted and the number of keywords that has never accrued any impressions. Frequently we see accounts where there might be 22,000 keywords and only 100 of them have ever converted. That usually means the account has spent a lot on clicks that didn’t convert. So, we also calculate the amount of money lost to clicks that didn’t convert. That’s usually an indicator of things that need to be tackled first.

15-Minute PPC Audit

Virginia: What are the high-level areas of a quick, 15-minute audit?

We have a very detailed process. It’s a 4 page document with many different check points that we look at, trying to find mistakes and missed opportunities. We look at the ads, the ad copy, and the messaging, and then provide feedback based on those things.

One of the most frequent mistakes I see is that advertisers are running too many ads per ad group. They think that’s a good idea because they think they’re testing those ads against each other. The fact is that almost always they let that test go very wrong and as a result they might be running five loser ads against one clear winner. The easy quick win is just shut off the ads that are not performing as well as the winner.

We look at ads, we look at keywords, we look at keyword match types. Another tip is that we’ve settled on using only broad match modified and exact match keywords. We’re no longer using phrase match because for some reason the cost of phrase match clicks has risen over the past year especially, and the search terms are pretty much covered by the broad match modified keywords.

We look at all the ad extensions. I would say that 80% of the audits reveal that ads are being served outside of the geographic target that the advertiser has chosen. So we look at that and calculate exactly how much has been spent on ads shown outside of the geographic location. We frequently find thousands, tens of thousands of dollars that the client wasn’t even aware of.

Why would an ad be served outside of the location an advertiser has set? The fact is that by default, there’s an advanced geographic setting that, paraphrased, says something like, show my ads to people in my location AND to people outside my location that might be interested in my products or services. That sounds innocuous but what it does is gives google carte blanche to spray the ads all over the world. It’s easily fixed, but you’ve got to know what you’re looking for. It’s in the dimensions tab.

Targeting on the Google Display Network

David, what are your preferred targeting methods on Google’s Display Network. Keyword, topics, placement, interest?

On Reddit, David wrote: I love custom affinity audiences — they provide the best possible precision. Second: remarketing lists. Third: Placement. Keyword and Topic are the least-precise targeting, but they’re great if you want wide reach.

mynameistaken: What do you mean by “best possible precision” here?

David: The ability to hyper-target ads to people in your target audience or even a subset. For example, I can target CFOs of companies in the food processing industry.

In the podcast, David expanded: Regarding custom affinity audiences, I haven’t seen a lot of resources by third parties. I’ve seen a handful of articles, one I’ve written myself. I’d say the best resource is the set of help pages right in AdWords. They still don’t go as far as they should in supplying examples; they might provide one example but it doesn’t leave the person educated about their situation.

PPC Certifications Worth Having

Dirtymonkey: How do you feel about digital marketing certifications? Any value to these? If so what which ones would you recommend?

On Reddit, David wrote: I’m a big fan. They’re great for bringing new employees up to speed. I recommend everybody pass at least the two Search exams, the Display one, and the Google Analytics one. The video, mobile and shopping ones could be optional depending on whether you intend to offer or specialize in those areas.

On the podcast, David expanded: I love the AdWords and Bing Ads certifications. Bing Ads only has one, but AdWords offers 7 if you include Google Analytics. They are difficult enough that they require study. We’ve found them to be a great way to bring new hires up to speed quickly. Even with senior people that we’ve hired, I’ve never seen somebody with a complete set of certifications on all the topics that Google offers, including myself. I’m going to pass the Shopping certification this week.

Let's talk about PPC services

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (6)
Filed under: PPC/Pay-Per-Click — Tags:
Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent PPC/Pay-Per-Click posts is better than the last!

6 Replies to “PPC AMA: Paid Search Ask Me Anything — An Hour of Q&A with David Szetela”

keep posting some good info like this, and i have cleared my adwords and google analytics certification.

Thank goodness someone is promoting quality content. I often struggle with myself: do I post something on my blog to post something, or wait to post something worth saying.I appreciate your effort.


such an informative post, keep posting some good info like this, and i have cleared my adwords and google analytics certification.

I tried for google analytics certificate and got 74% just nearby to crack that. It is not a tough exam, it only requires proper study.

Thanks for the question, Jeannie.

Please drop me an email at dszetela@bruceclay.com and I’ll send you a slide deck that should explain a bit better.

Thanks for this well-written article.

I totally concur with your statement: “the SEO team and the PPC team have started to meet regularly, share reports regularly, and it’s already helped immensely”. It is so important to tightly weave all efforts, especially when using a profit-driven model.

I have wondered about the default / advanced geographic setting. For some reason, when using the dimensions tab, I end up with very limited results. Could you explain further why you prefer this method over other geo-targeting options in AdWords?


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Serving North America based in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area
Bruce Clay, Inc. | PO Box 1338 | Moorpark CA, 93020
Voice: 1-805-517-1900 | Toll Free: 1-866-517-1900 | Fax: 1-805-517-1919