The Search Agency recently announced the winners of our Stars of Search award at the DMA 2013 Conference in Chicago. Over the course of the next week, we will explore the winners’ backgrounds and learn more about their involvement in the search marketing industry. Up first is David Pedersen from White Pages.
Can you give us a little back-story on how you ended up in search?
My involvement in search goes back to the 1990’s, when I began programming. I was a self-taught programmer working as a Webmaster for a company that wasn’t doing any online advertising. So, I started a pay per click advertising campaign for them, spending a little bit of money every month, and eventually helping to quadruple the business of the company. I also did a stint of programming for Amazon for six months, where they wanted him to stay on, but I didn’t want to continue with programming full time.
So, I moved on to do online marketing at a company that allowed me to increase the budget I was used to working with from $250 to $450,000 a month. With that amount of spend, I was able to help drive down CPCs by 30% and, ultimately, save the company a lot of money. Ever since then I’ve been managing paid search campaigns, and I’ve been with WhitePages for almost five years now.
What are your primary responsibilities at WhitePages?
My main priorities are to optimize and maximize existing paid search campaigns, while also finding new avenues. Since I came on board, I have significantly increased spend, at least triple. For the first couple years I was the only one doing it, but then a few years ago we brought someone one to help with mobile. With our growing mobile traffic, our team includes a full time mobile specialist who also works on our app, and I currently handle the majority of desktop traffic.
All of our paid search campaigns are managed in-house, except we use an external bid management tool called Optimine. As far as campaign management, we target over 20 million first and last name combinations, which is how my programming skills have come in handy. I use programming to process millions of keywords to put them into ad groups and campaigns.
What are the biggest challenges have you encountered so far?
The biggest challenge has primarily been the loss of organic hits with Google trying to hide organic search term volume. We’re currently trying to work around Google’s hidden data, hoping they relent. However, I don’t directly manage WhitePage’s SEO efforts, but I work with the SEO team to improve profitability. We are always in communication to keep the paid side consistent, even when the SEOs are testing in organic.
Is there a particular campaign or tactic you are most proud of?
I’m pretty proud that I have been able to use programming to drive analysis and build out campaigns; it’s the biggest thing that has helped me. There aren’t too many opportunities where you get to join a company and have such a large impact on their paid marketing success.
Are there any brands or people in search marketing that you admire or are impressed by?
I’m impressed by lot of larger online retailers that have a high volume of SKUs or images to deal with. For example, Getty Images is a global company that has a lot of data, lots of info to sort through. A paid search campaign that digs into all their properties, or even a company like Amazon, would be very interesting to see how they manually build it out.
What industry changes have impacted your day-to-day?
Enhanced Campaigns has really thrown WhitePages for a loop. Now that mobile and desktop traffic are all rolled together, we can’t really target who and where we target as well as we could before. It’s harder to monetize and harder to drive business to mobile apps, which have more of a lifetime value for us. The new update has made it tough to get conversions to feed back into bid management tools. We’ve had a lot of trouble with Google identifying app conversions, which are a large number for us. What we really need is to have mobile downloads feed into traffic conversions in order to see a holistic view. It’s been hard to optimize as a whole, so we’ve put the breaks on driving mobile traffic due to the difficulty in capturing it.
What are your personal best practices, and guiding principles?
Ultimately, I think it’s important to max out character limits for ad copy. Work on making display ads as eye catching as possible, because display ads aren’t tied to a specific search.
When I am creating campaigns, I try to build them in such a way that Google has less work to do when they are trying to match my ads to keywords. You don’t want to build out long tail keywords that only get a few searches a year. Try to figure out how to condense keywords down to smaller counts, ad groups, and campaigns.
In the same vein of taking the load of Google, fix account settings. Choose accelerated delivery method over standard, to spend as much as possible in the quickest amount of time. Because Google doesn’t have to check if campaigns are running out of budget, it’s less processor time on Google’s end. Other ways to make it more efficient are to not rotate ads, and perform less targeting. If you create less work for Google, you will be rewarded with lower CPCs.
What is your advice to people out of college looking to get into search?
Learn to program. If you’re going to touch a computer at all, learning to program is your best skill. It allows you to do more work without doing things manually. It will make your job more efficient to have the skills to build out campaigns with programming tools rather than manually by Excel. It will give you more flexibility in the workforce, and provides value to your employer, who won’t need to hire an additional programmer.