#SMX East 2013 Interview Series: PPC Tools & Tips with Elizabeth Marsten

The countdown to SMX East 2013 continues. The excitement is palpable at BCI — just three days until search marketing madness descends upon New York City. As part of our SMX East 2013 Interview Series, we’ve been talking with speakers about hot topics on the SMX agenda. Today, the party continues with Elizabeth Marsten.

What’s in My SEM Toolbox will feature Marsten, Andrew Goodman and Frederick Vallaeys. This Tools Track session will explore:

  • Tips on running, organizing and tracking paid search campaigns
  • Why tools are a necessity, especially when working with thousands of keywords
  • The tools favorited by these distinguished speakers

Q & A with Elizabeth Marsten

Elizabeth Marsten is the Senior Director of Search Marketing at Portent, Inc. She’s been in the SEM game for more than seven years, and she’s authored numerous books and articles on PPC and search marketing. She shared with us her insights on SEM tools, her latest ebook, common SEM mistakes and more.

KK: What are your favorite SEM tools for keyword research? For bidding estimation and strategy?

emElizabeth Marsten: AdWords Traffic Estimator, R.I.P. The Keyword Planner is the go-to now (besides SEMrush) for bidding estimation. But for strategy, I like to go to search query reports for both search and PLAs, Google Search Suggest, Ubersuggest and customer reviews/forums. The last one you don’t find specific keywords on, but you might find new niches, uses or who knows what to build new audiences from. People sometimes do weird stuff with products that they weren’t originally intended for.

KK: In your opinion, what are the most underutilized/underrated tools or reports?

EM: Underutilized would be taking larger chunks of data (over time) and layering common metrics to pick out long term trends or patterns around site behavior. Another would be remembering to look outside the PPC “sphere” to influencing factors from SEO, direct or even the news. The launch of a new smartphone, technology or world event could very well affect your PPC traffic negatively or positively. Platform specific, Bing Ads has come out with some cool new reports like the change history graph and keyword distribution graph.

KK: You just wrote a book: “Write Ad Copy that Inspires Greatness.” Can you share a takeaway readers will get from this book?

EM: How to be totally awesome at writing ads. Seriously. The book aims to provide best practice examples for ad copy testing, new ideas (hopefully) and even goes to some extremes to get readers to think “outside the box” when it comes to writing ad copy. Ad copy is literally your first impression (get it?!) so you need to make a good one and once in a while, take a risk. At the very least, you should chuckle in a couple of spots, which makes the laugh count higher than a Pauly Shore movie. (It’s unfortunately not cheaper than a VHS Pauly Shore movie. Probably the same price as a DVD though.)

KK: Is there a common mistake SEMs make that you think could be reduced by an educational push?

EM: I’d say the most common mistake by SEMs are in how they communicate what it is they do to higher ups and clients. Providing spreadsheets of reports with 10 tabs and data in a myriad of colors is not communicating results or even what is going on. Charts don’t provide data analysis. People do. Make sure you’ve got a notes or insight box that gives the data a voice and shows how awesome you are. We have a narrative piece on a separate tab in our reports to make sure that the narrative doesn’t get separated from the data tables.

KK: What drew you to paid search marketing and what do you think are characteristics common to successful PPC specialists?

EM: What drew me to paid search was that I needed a job close to my house. What keeps me in paid search is that the control freak in me gets to run free, the detective in me gets to solve problems, the marketer in me gets to come up with cool ideas, the writer in me gets to write and the nerd in me has found a home. As far as common characteristics I can say that it’s definitely: attention to detail, intellectual curiosity, ability to focus and tune out a bit, digging through data is fun, not easily discouraged, always willing to retool and retry, and Excel is considered a friend.

Check out other posts from the SMX East 2013 Interview Series:

Live from New York, It’s SMX

Virginia Nussey and Chelsea Adams will be on the ground at SMX East 2013, liveblogging sessions as they happen Oct. 1-3. The liveblog schedule will be released on Friday.

SMX East admission is nearly full, but you can still get a free Expo+ pass and register for Bruce’s one-day SEO workshop, on Sept. 30. Save ten percent on registration with this discount code: WS-BC10.

Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

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

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