Mind your business: Our top local search columns of 2017

Local SEO practitioners have an increasingly important role to play in the digital marketing mix as searches with local intent continue to grow at a fast pace — particularly on mobile devices. Google has responded to this shift in consumer behavior accordingly, releasing several updates in 2017 that have allowed business owners to enhance their local listings.

This year, our readers seemed especially interested in learning more about new Google My Business features, particularly Google Posts, Questions and Answers and the new website builder. This interest may reflect increased competition for a limited number of spots in the local pack: When all of your local competitors have the basics down, utilizing new and advanced features is a great way to make your business listing stand out.

Although articles about Google dominated the top local search columns this year, there was one notable exception, by Local Search Association’s Wesley Young, that focused on how Facebook is solidifying its place in the local search ecosystem. Young’s column provided a compelling case for expanding your local marketing efforts beyond Google’s local pack.

Top honors this year go to Joy Hawkins’s excellent and thorough coverage of Google’s “Hawk” algorithm update, which impacted how local listings are filtered based on their proximity to similar businesses.

Wondering what else local search marketers were excited about this year? Check out our top 10 most popular Local Search columns for 2017:

    August 22, 2017: The day the “Hawk” Google local algorithm update swooped in by Joy Hawkins, published on 9/8/2017.Local SEO in 2017: 5 simple ways to dominate local search by Sherry Bonelli, published on 2/9/2017.5 ways you can improve your new business’s visibility on Google Maps by Wesley Young, published on 2/27/2017.7 unannounced updates to Google My Business we’ve seen in 2017 by Joy Hawkins, published on 5/18/2017.Hyperlocal marketing will soar in 2017: 5 tips to stay on top by Jim Yu, published on 2/21/2017.Google My Business website builder SEO review by Tony Edward, published on 6/27/2017.3 local SEO tips that deliver business results by Ryan Shelley, published on 2/7/2017.Do Google Posts impact ranking? A case study by Joy Hawkins, published on 11/2/2017.7 changes by Facebook that make it a real local search player by Wesley Young, published on 6/19/2017.6 business types that reap the most reward from local SEO by Pratik Dholakiya, published on 2/20/2017.

Using AdWords API to export to third-party ad networks will remain OK as Google keeps terms it adopted in FTC settlement

Though the part of Google’s antitrust settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that had them allow exports of AdWords data through its API expires tomorrow, Matthew Sucherman, Google’s VP and deputy general counsel, announced today that Google will keep the AdWords API terms and conditions as they are currently.

That means Google will continue to allow software that interfaces with its API to export AdWords campaign and ad data, so users will be able to continue mixing that data with other information and integrating it into other ad networks, such as Bing Ads.

“We believe that these policies provide continued flexibility for developers and websites, and we will be continuing our current practices regarding the AdWords API Terms and Conditions and the domain-by-domain opt-out following the expiration of the voluntary commitments,” Sucherman said.

Google explained that this requirement expires tomorrow, December 27, 2017, but they have decided internally to keep the terms and conditions as is.

Additionally, Google will continue to allow websites to keep their crawled content from appearing on Google.com-linked pages for Google Flights, Google Hotels, Google Shopping and in results returned for certain local queries. The provision enables a competing site to allow its pages to be included in web search results while keeping them from appearing on more directly competitive Google offerings — though opting out from the local results would apply globally.

Google wrote:

In 2012, Google made voluntary commitments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that are set to expire on December 27th, 2017. At that time, we agreed to remove certain clauses from our AdWords API Terms and Conditions. We also agreed to provide a mechanism for websites to opt out of the display of their crawled content on certain Google web pages linked to google.com in the United States on a domain-by-domain basis.

We believe that these policies provide continued flexibility for developers and websites, and we will be continuing our current practices regarding the AdWords API Terms and Conditions and the domain-by-domain opt-out following the expiration of the voluntary commitments.

SearchCap: Santa tracker, Google API terms & SEO metrics

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

From Search Engine Land:

Using AdWords API to export to third-party ad networks will remain OK as Google keeps terms it adopted in FTC settlement
Dec 26, 2017 by Barry Schwartz

Google is keeping its domain opt-out and AdWords API tools policies as is, says their VP & deputy general counsel.

Mind your business: Our top local search columns of 2017
Dec 26, 2017 by Jessica Thompson

Search Engine Land’s most widely read local search columns from 2017 covered a wide range of topics, from algorithm updates and new Google My Business features to Facebook’s local search capabilities.

Unique international trends require a unique marketing approach
Dec 26, 2017 by Brendan McGonigle

Trends and interests change from one market to another, so why do so many advertisers apply the same approach across markets? Columnist Brendan McGonigle shares Yandex’s top search trends of 2017.

Embrace a product manager mindset to improve 2018 SEO KPIs
Dec 26, 2017 by Adam Dorfman

How can you improve your performance in the new year? Columnist Adam Dorfman recommends thinking more like a product manager, focusing on activities that provide measurable impact to your company’s most important goals.

December global festivities Google doodle marks day 2 of Google’s holiday doodle series
Dec 25, 2017 by Amy Gesenhues

Today’s doodle shows Google’s animated penguins celebrating the holidays with their warm weather friends.

Google & NORAD Santa Trackers show St. Nick already in flight for his 2017 trip around the world
Dec 24, 2017 by Amy Gesenhues

The two sites will be tracking Santa’s whereabouts for the next 24 hours.

Search Engine Land’s Community Corner: Local SEO survey results, a new book on influencer marketing & SEO Christmas jumpers
Dec 22, 2017 by Michelle Robbins

As we head into the slow holiday stretch, the news likewise takes a breather. Of course Google did surprise the search community this week by confirming some algo updates, starting a new webmaster video series, and moving Eric Schmidt into a non-Executive Chairman of the Board position. Elsewhere we had these announcements and events happening […]

Search News From Around The Web:

At Google, Eric Schmidt Wrote the Book on Adult Supervision, WiredEnd of the Era: Yandex.Catalog is being shut down, Russian Search TipsGoogle continues poaching Apple engineers as it ramps up work on in-house chip development, 9to5GoogleGoogle proposes big Sunnyvale project, Mercury NewsJohn Mueller Helping Webmasters On Christmas Eve Again, Search Engine RoundtableGoogle GMB Strategy & The Role of SMB Outreach, Mike BlumenthalGoogle Says You Don’t Know If Unnatural Links Work Or Not, Search Engine RoundtableI gave my parents a Google Home for Christmas and watched them lose their minds, VentureBeatThe Biggest False Expectations Clients Have When Hire An SEO Agency, SEM Rush

Embrace a product manager mindset to improve 2018 SEO KPIs

For the first half of my 20-year career, I focused primarily on technical, enterprise SEO for brands with dozens of domains and millions of pages. For the second half, I’ve been on the product side of a software-as-a-service platform designed to help large multilocation brands achieve digital success.

Living and breathing product development has been helpful in reshaping how I prioritize and execute in all areas of my life, SEO consulting included. To that end, I believe it would be helpful for SEO professionals to think more like good product managers.

Product managers and SEO experts actually have quite a lot in common. They both:

operate on the front lines of a company’s brand.create measurable outcomes.manage multiple variables: product managers need to decide what features and product updates to prioritize, and SEO experts need to prioritize hundreds of ranking factors.sometimes struggle to measure and communicate their impact to their internal clients.

All of the above issues are interrelated. Because product managers and SEO professionals operate on the front lines, they are under the microscope, needing to prove their value constantly. The good news is that both create measurable outcomes. The bad news is that because they manage several variables, product managers and SEO professionals sometimes get lost in the weeds, placing too much importance on metrics that provide little value to their business.

Greg Gifford underscored the challenge for SEOs in a recent Search Engine Land column when he wrote about the problem of marketers creating SEO reports that don’t measure valuable outcomes. Too often, monthly reports get mired in reporting SEO data that means a lot to an SEO practitioner but nothing to anyone in charge of creating customers and building a brand. The creation of irrelevant reports mirrors a misguided obsession with measuring every single ranking factor, regardless of how influential each ranking factor really is to a business.

Tasks like adding H3 tags, updating meta descriptions because they were nine characters over the recommended length or refining your fully indexed site’s sitemap.xml file might provide some incremental value to your SEO. But just because you can, should you really place a high priority on that action, especially if your resources and budget are limited?

As an antidote to obsessing over details that have little impact, I suggest embracing the ways that product managers such as Shopify Director of Product Brandon Chu approach their roles. Not long ago, Chu discussed the role of the “MVPM,” or minimum viable product manager. He cited a few points that really stand out.

First, the job of a product manager is not to deliver a perfect outcome. Obsession with perfection is distracting. An obsession with perfection mires a product manager in details that provide, at best, an incremental value relative to the effort required to manage them.

Second, product managers need to focus on the activities that provide measurable impact to a company’s most important goals. He wrote:

When your team is debating the highest leverage thing you could build next, it’s important that you can develop a model of how the product will move the dial on those metrics.

An SEO who applies Chu’s thinking might ask:

What are your business’s most important objectives for 2018?Of all the things you could do on a given day to improve your site’s SEO, which ones are going support those objectives most efficiently?Which activities are least effective relative to the effort required to manage them?

Once you’ve used the above questions to vet your most essential SEO actions, then:

Gain consensus with your stakeholders that you’ll place a higher priority on those activities.Stay disciplined and avoid getting distracted by managing outcomes that have diminished value.Focus your ROI reporting on the high-impact outcomes you agreed upon with your stakeholders.

By focusing on the most important outcomes and reporting them, you will become more valuable to your organization and improve the value of SEO as a profession. Here’s to a successful 2018!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

December global festivities Google doodle marks day 2 of Google's holiday doodle series

Today’s Christmas holiday marks day two of Google’s 2017 holiday doodle series. After posting the first of the series on December 18, Google has added two new images to the slide show for today’s doodle.

“Our favorite penguins couldn’t be more excited to reunite with their loved ones. Happy to be together for the season of cheer, this colorfully feathered family can’t wait to sink their beaks into a delicious feast,” writes Google on the Google Doodle blog.

While the December 18 doodle included an image of the penguins making plans over the phone with their bird friends, today’s doodle has replaced that image with the following artwork of the penguins and birds together:

The doodle has also added the following image of all the friends sharing a dinner surrounded by lighted palm trees:

Same as the first doodle, today’s image leads to a search for “December global festivities.” Going off the last image in the slide show that lists the holiday doodle series dates, there are two more holiday doodles to be posted, one for New Year’s Eve and one for New Year’s Day:

Google & NORAD Santa Trackers show St. Nick already in flight for his 2017 trip around the world

It’s Christmas Eve in North America, but on the other side of the globe, Santa has already started his 2017 Christmas trip around the world to deliver gifts.

According to both Google’s Santa Tracker and NORAD’s Santa Tracker, Santa is approximately 14 hours from making his away to North America and has already delivered more than a million gifts.

NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) has been tracking Santa’s whereabouts since 1955 when a Sear’s department store ad mistakenly printed the phone number to NORAD’s headquarters as a hotline to find Santa. The military organization took up the call, and has been following through on the tradition ever since.

Google launched its first Santa Tracker in 2004 using Google Earth. In 2007, Google partnered with NORAD to track Santa, but then in 2012, Google went back to tracking Santa on its own and NORAD partnered with Microsoft.

(You can find out more about Google’s history tracking Santa in this Marketing Land story from 2014: How Google Became A Santa Tracker Tradition To Rival NORAD.)

Google’s 2017 Santa Tracker

Google is continuing its tradition of following Santa and his reindeer around the world this year, offering a number of ways to track where he is at any given moment.

There is the desktop tracker that shows Santa’s path via Google Maps. You can also download the Chrome extension for Google’s Santa Tracker, or the Android app.

In addition to tracking Santa’s whereabouts, Google displays approximately how long before he makes his way to your stop, and provides a “Live Feed” with animated updates from Santa and his elves.

NORAD’s 2017 Santa Tracker

NORAD’s Santa Tracker appears to be using both Bing Maps and Cesium mapping technology that lets viewers follow Santa’s journey in either 2D or 3D mapping images. There are photos of locations Santa has already visited along the bottom of the map that link to Wikipedia pages for each of the locales.

NORAD has also created quick videos of Santa’s stops so far, a list most likely to grow as Santa gains more ground.

NORAD will also send you Santa’s location if you email noradtrackssanta@outlook.com. Here’s an automatic response I received after sending an email with a subject line “where’s Santa” earlier today:

Also, much to my surprise, NORAD’s hotline number — (877) 446-6723 — has a live operator who will tell you exactly where Santa is at the time of your call, and where he’s headed next.

Whether or not you’re following Santa’s trek around the world tonight, Search Engine Land hopes you and your family are enjoying your holidays and wishes you a happy New Year in the week to come!

Search in Pics: Google's Velociraptor, playroom & frosty lawn

In this week’s Search In Pictures, here are the latest images culled from the web, showing what people eat at the search engine companies, how they play, who they meet, where they speak, what toys they have and more.

Did you know Google has a child-like playroom?:

Source: Twitter

Google also has a Velociraptor:

Source: Instagram

Frosty Google grass:

Source: Instagram

Google gantt chart:

Source: Instagram

Google, I dream of a world where…

Source: Instagram

The enterprise business of SEO: Communicating to the C-suite

Today, I want to focus on and provide insights into a common SEO challenge that is vitally important to personal and professional success: how SEOs can communicate the performance of the organic channel more effectively across their organization and in the boardroom. As competition for digital marketing budgets intensifies in 2018, it is essential that success and performance is recognized and rewarded.

As a CEO with a background in organic search, I am often asked questions like:

“What key metrics matter to the CEO?”“How best do I talk to my CMO and other members of the C-suite?”“When and how should I communicate SEO performance across the organization?”“What do I need to do to accelerate and develop my career?”

Here, I hope to share some insights and tips that will help you do just that.

SEO in the boardroom: Challenges and opportunities

Conversations at the C-level often center around the transformation of the business. Companies of every size across every industry face the constant challenges of innovating for the future and meeting the demands of tomorrow’s customers. Understanding the needs of the customer is vital for the long-term success of every business.

The organic channel is perfect for staying ahead of market trends, determining competitive pressures, identifying market opportunities and gleaning an overall better understanding of the customer.

C-suite conversations are also highly focused on performance. However, it is not about driving performance at all costs; instead, it is about driving performance in the most efficient way possible with the best gross margin possible.

When it comes to the organic channel and SEO, C-level executives appreciate the ROI of the organic channel. Organic search drives over 51 percent of traffic to websites — a percentage which has held constant for nearly four years, according to our data. This is a great starting point when building conversations with C-level executives.

The challenge that many SEOs have is twofold: getting visibility and getting buy-in through clear reporting and attribution. And you cannot get one without having the other.

Understanding the C-suite and key business metrics the matter

It is important to remember that in any organization, and across most C-suites, not every person has the same level of digital marketing acumen. Some are more technically proficient, while others may have a bias toward other disciplines that span across new business, customer success, PR, HR or recruiting. However, all C-suite members work toward common boardroom goals: results, business performance and organizational impact.

When it comes to organic search, measures of one campaign’s success do not always translate directly into what members of the C-suite view as success. To bridge this gap in communication, you should begin by establishing the importance of SEO to others in your organization. You can achieve this by identifying direct sales and revenue attributed to SEO, or you could show how organic is powering and promoting other digital marketing channels.

Your goal here is to establish that:

good SEO drives revenue.SEO is good for brand awareness and visibility.SEO helps marketers understand marketing opportunities and customer demands — search is the voice of the online customer.SEO drives the content that fuels other marketing channels and does so more efficiently.SEO can help develop messaging, define personas, map customer journeys and drive deeper engagements with your audience across all digital channels.

We know that SEO is all about targeting personas. So, when communicating with the C-suite, it’s good to understand their personas, too. This is something that many SEOs forget, but it is the most important thing they can do when looking to improve C-suite communications.

Every organization has different hierarchical structures and titles. For illustrative purposes, below are a few examples based on a generic enterprise C-level structure.

CEO

The CEO is always interested in overall performance. He or she wants to understand the contribution SEO is making to the top line of the business and whether the contributions are done in an efficient way. The CEO can make only a limited number of investments to grow the business, and they need to know that their investment in SEO will pay off. The CEO wants to see the sales numbers and see how the company stacks up against their competition.

Metrics that matter: ROI, sales, market share and Share of Voice

CMO

The CMO is interested in the overall demand generation portfolio. Organic search is particularly interesting because of its sheer size. Every CMO wants to grow traffic and revenue from organic search — and they want to know how well it converts and the role it plays (assists) alongside other marketing channels such as demand generation, event strategy, industry influencers, social and PR.

Metrics that matter: conversion rates, acquisition costs, ROI compared to other channels

CFO

The CFO, like the CEO, is interested in overall performance. However, the CFO will also be interested in budgeting and forecasting; he or she will want to determine where new investments can be made and where best to allocate SEO budgets and technology spend for the coming year.

Metrics that matter: operational costs and budget efficiency, sale forecasts and ROI

COO

The Chief Operating Officer will be interested in how SEO contributes to other aspects of the business such as recruitment, branding, sales, retention and upsells. In some businesses, the COO may also be interested in associated costs across the business (such as design) and how SEO structures, people and processes are integrated across the organization.

Metrics that matter: operational costs, compliance, contribution to cross-functional goals and objectives

Collectively, the C-suite wants to know:

the size of the competition.the value of the market.their Share of Voice in the market.the maximum possible return vs. the actual return.

Mastering communication

To evangelize and elevate the work you do in SEO, remember who you are talking to, and remember to speak their language. For example, a CMO is less interested in hearing about rank but far more interested in revenue. That may bother those of us that have worked in the SEO field for a long time, but it is not a negative — it’s an opportunity to tie your hard work to specific metrics that matter most to your boss.

CEOs are less interested in seeing keyword ranking changes and more interested in seeing share of voice, revenue from organic campaigns and your success within the competitive landscape. This offers you the chance to elevate SEO and the importance of your own role. Language is key to communication.

If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.

David Ogilvy

Framing what you say and what it means to the C-suite

SEO LanguageC-suite LanguageSEOThe organic channelAlgorithm updateMarket trends and risk analysisKeywordsTopics that customers are searching forRank and rank changeWhere content is performingOptimizingAttracting and converting customers onlineSERP CTRShare of Voice for an online search query

In addition, use reports and visuals that easily and clearly communicate your progress and the direct benefit to the company.

Elevate SEO by emulating Sales

SEOs have a history of making SEO esoteric and exotic, implying that there is a bit of dark magic involved. That serves neither the SEO nor the executive audience.

Take the opposite approach and emulate what Sales does:

    Build a forecast and commit to a plan. Yes, this will put more pressure on the SEO team, but it will also engage the executives, most of whom pay little attention to programs not formatted as a plan tracked with a number. Welcome quota and accountability for the plan.Increase transparency on progress. SEO usually takes longer than paid channels or even sales to bring in results, but include progress reporting at least monthly in the standard management report vehicles. Use numbers and graphs, just like Sales does.Focus on the big rocks. Sales would not share the tactical minutiae of every deal with management — and SEOs should not, either. They identify repeatable patterns and tell the executives how they will scale it out to other reps and deals.

Conclusion

Every day, I am inspired by the great work that the SEO community is doing. Keep elevating your success by building appropriate dashboards and presentations that tie SEO strategy and tactics to business objectives. This will directly help you position and promote your success. Continually engage with C-level executives, and help them understand the value of SEO and the role it is playing in company growth.

Use data, AI and deep learning to share powerful insights, tell content-rich stories and develop new skill sets that help you understand and adapt to the wider digital and marketing technology landscape.

I would highly recommend that, in 2018, you invest time in cultivating valuable meeting room traits, including confident speaking skills and effective storytelling abilities. This will allow you to engage with the leaders of your organization and help them understand the value of what you and the organic search channels must offer.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Measure the impact of digital marketing on in-store sales

With more than half of internet use now occurring on mobile devices, brands are focused on bridging the gap between their digital presence and in-store sales. Today’s consumers research products on the go, using their smartphones to find and choose at which nearby business to make a purchase or eat a meal. Most visit the store they select on the same day.

Yet most marketers can’t — or don’t — measure the impact of their digital campaigns on in-store sales.

This white paper from MomentFeed explores online/offline connections across multiple digital channels and discusses best practices to drive foot traffic, as well as key metrics to measure the impact of digital search marketing, organic search, social media and ad campaigns on top-line growth.

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download “Mobile Marketing vs. In-Store Sales: Help! What’s the Correlation?”

6 ways ad agencies can thrive in an AI-first world

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have long been part of PPC — so why are AI and machine learning all of a sudden such hot topics? It is, in part, because exponential advances have now brought technology to the point where it can legitimately compete with the performance and precision of human account managers.

I recently covered the new roles humans should play in PPC as automation takes over. In this post, I’ll offer some ideas for what online marketing agencies should consider doing to remain successful in a world of AI-driven PPC management.

Be a master of process

According to the authors of the book “The Second Machine Age,” chess master Garry Kasparov offered an interesting insight into how humans and computers should work together after he became the first chess champion to be defeated by a computer in 1997. In matches after his loss to Deep Blue, he noticed a few things:

    A human player aided by a machine could beat a computer.When two human players were both assisted by a computer, the weaker human player with a good process could beat the stronger player with an inferior process.

The first point is covered in my previous post, and it is the foundation for why smart PPC managers will learn to collaborate with AI rather than compete against it.

The second point got me thinking about some other scenarios where the winners aren’t necessarily the most skilled. Does the world’s most successful coffee chain have the best baristas? Do the most successful hotels employ staff who innately know how to make guests happy?

No. In almost any scenario where humans are a big part of the experience, success is achieved by having a clear mission that is supported by a really strong process and tools to achieve the mission.

Hence, I believe that in the world of PPC agencies, a primary focus should be on building an amazing process and equipping the team with tools that make that process easy to follow. So as AI takes over some of the tasks in your agency, make sure your staff knows and follows the process for leveraging the technology to deliver results.

Accept that your old value proposition is toast

Consider how you convinced your existing clients to sign up with your agency. If your pitch included that you produce amazing results because you’re really good at bid management (something machines are getting really good at), you may need to tweak your positioning. You don’t want to make your main value proposition something that can be put on autopilot by anyone — and will hence become very difficult to price at a level that makes you successful.

That’s not to say that you should stop thinking about something like bid management altogether. Instead, you should offer skills that are complementary to the AI system rather than skills that compete against it.

Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, gives the career advice to “become an indispensable complement to something that’s getting cheap and plentiful.” For example, become a data scientist because we’ll need more people to make sense of the data and to figure out how to turn new insights we get from more sophisticated AI into new strategies.

In the context of an ad agency, this makes a lot of sense. You want to be able to say you have great data scientists who can make sense of what the automated systems are doing and make solid recommendations for the next thing to test.

Determine your new value proposition

Do you know California’s largest agricultural export? I guessed wine, but the correct answer is almonds. How did this come to be? It turns out that almonds are easy to harvest mechanically; you basically have a machine that violently shakes the tree so the nuts fall down to be harvested. So farmers figured they could be more productive by using automation, and all of a sudden tomato fields across the state were turned into almond orchards.

But people want more than just almonds on their plates, so despite how automation moved an entire state’s economy in a certain direction, it also created opportunities for farmers who didn’t automate.

We can apply this analogy to paid search agencies. Thanks to advances in AI, it is a given that they will do a good job of managing bids, and it’s also assumed that this service will be cheap because technology has commoditized it.

Agencies, like farmers, can supplement their highly automatable service offerings with something that commands a higher fee. So figure out what will be your niche in things that are harder to automate. And think about why a client would want to hire you if you’re just as good as the next agency at managing bids. Figure out what additional services you are really good at that are harder to automate (for now) and can be used to win new business.

Be the best at testing because testing leads to innovation

Innovative agencies win awards, which makes it easier for them to land new clients and grow their business. But how can an agency be innovative in a world where a lot of the work is done by a handful of automated systems that produce similar results?

I believe economist Martin Weitzman’s recombinant view of innovation offers a possibility. Recombinant Innovation describes innovation as a process through which new ideas emerge as the combination of existing ideas. Thanks to better prediction systems using machine learning, it is now possible for agencies to test new ideas faster and to iterate faster. Hence, an agency that leverages machine learning for testing and has a really strong process will be able to out-innovate its competitors.

Innovation in an agency is to recombine ideas into valuable new ones. The problem with testing new ideas is that it used to take a lot of time. But thanks to technology, you can test more things more quickly, and the winning agencies will be those that are the fastest at finding new winners. And they can achieve this by prioritizing the most likely winners into the fastest process, with the best testing technology.

You need to monitor the tradeoffs between labor and technology

Business is a big optimization problem. As an agency owner, you balance labor (headcount), and capital investment (technology) to achieve outcomes with a target level of speed, quality and cost. As technology takes hold in more aspects of PPC management, knowing how to optimize the equation becomes critical.

What some advertisers fail to see is that there is no perfect technology (just as there is no perfect human employee), but if a technology gets you close enough to the desired result while freeing up your staff’s time to work on other things, that is a win.

We all hire people for our companies, even when we know that ALL humans make mistakes. But we hire the best we can because it gets us closer to our goals, even if not 100 percent of the way. So why should it be any different when we think about capital investments?

A former colleague of mine who is still at Google shared examples where advertisers told him that they would not use broad match because it resulted in some impressions for their ads on irrelevant queries. But when prodded further, they were unable to quantify the impact this had. In many cases, the additional clicks were negligible, while the time they could have saved by letting Google’s AI handle query exploration was significant.

In my view, this is a poor optimization of that account manager’s time. In exchange for a small sacrifice in targeting precision, they could have freed up billable hours worth hundreds of dollars.

Hire one extraordinary (wo)man

American philosopher Elbert Hubbard said that “one machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” And he was on to something. In engineering, a great engineer can do the work of 10 good engineers.

So, as more of an agency’s work gets done by machines and you need fewer humans to do repetitive work, having the smartest possible person to work on the tasks that remain will be more important than ever.

Conclusion

There’s never a boring day when working on PPC, mostly because Google pushes so many changes every year. But this year, AI is going to stir the pot and create some challenges unlike the ones we’ve been used to dealing with. Hopefully, some of the thoughts shared here will get you thinking about strategies for keeping your agency successful in a world of AI-first PPC.

Stay tuned for my next post in this series, where I’ll cover how the technology got us here and what we can automate today.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.