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Interview with Mason Garrity, Sr. Director of Strategy at 3Q Digital

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Today’s interview is with Mason Garrity, Sr. Director of Strategy at renowned independent digital marketing agency 3Q Digital, which has offices in San Francisco, San Diego, the Silicon Valley, downtown Chicago, and Burlington, VT. You can follow Mason and his colleagues on the 3Q Digital blog, which provides daily digital marketing expertise.

NDD: What should marketers, in general, be aware of regarding Google Shopping Ads? 

Mason: The first thing that marketers need to be aware of is the rising importance of these ads. After Google switched to a strictly PPC model in October ’12, there was a large influx of advertising dollars to these ads in 2013; now they are showing up on more often on product-related searches and with better engagement than text ads. During the holiday shopping season, these trends are even more sharply exaggerated. So first and foremost, marketers should understand that they will only continue to be more important. From a tactical standpoint, the optimization of your product feed is going to determine the queries that you match to. So rather than focusing on keywords, you need to focus on your product titles and descriptions to make sure you are showing for relevant terms.

NDD: What is the value of Google+ in AdWords? 

Mason: I’d say the biggest value is taking up more right-rail real estate on brand searches. A secondary benefit is setting up Social Extensions so that you get the “Company has 1,000 followers on Google+,” which adds a nice trust symbol on the actual ad unit. It’s a nice addition, but really the biggest value is coming from how much above-the-fold real estate you can now take up on the SERP by having your Google+ page setup. 

NDD: What should PPC marketers be focused on in 2014? 

Mason: I think two things PPC marketers should be focused on in 2014 are context and audiences. Search’s greatest strength as a channel has always been intent based on what people are searching for. Now, that’s not enough. Marketers need to be thinking about the context of the search. What device are they on? Where are they? Who are they? Mobile obviously can’t be ignored anymore, but marketers need to realize that mobile searches have a different context than desktop, people are looking for a different interaction, so the same query on mobile and desktop will have a different intent and expectation behind it. The who is also important, and Google is bringing more audience data into search. RLSAs are letting you use first-party data in search, and you can now geo-target by HHI. I think that more demographic data will get pulled into search in the future. So in 2014 PPC marketers should be focusing on the context of the search as well as who is searching. 

NDD: What are your most useful tips for successful ad copy?

Mason: To write successful ad copy, you need to first look at how you are structuring your ad groups. At 3Q we use the Alpha-Beta process (whitepaper available here), which helps isolate and optimize our top-performing queries. For these, we like to use one keyword per ad group in exact match – this allows for ultimate customization around specific queries. Beyond that, keywords need to be tightly grouped around themes so that the ad copy can reflect this. Moving beyond using keywords in ad copy, a good practice is to try and write copy around these four emotions: fear, greed, vanity, and exclusivity. At the end of the day, though, ad copy success comes down to testing, so writing what looks like solid copy on paper is going to be a lot less important than having a continuous testing plan where you’re iterating on and modifying winning variations.

NDD: Automatic versus manual bidding – what are the pros and cons of each? 

Mason: There’s definitely a place for both depending on the circumstance, and there are some different options when you get into automated bidding. Let’s start with manual. The main benefit here is that you are going to have instant control of the bids. If you’re looking at your high volume keywords and your position position/CPC look out of whack compared to metrics, you can jump right in and re-align the bid to where you think it should be. The problem with manual bidding is that it can be time-consuming, error-prone, tough to scale…and you’re working off of fewer inputs. On the other side, automated bidding is very scalable, not very time-consuming, and less prone to errors. It really excels when you’re taking a portfolio approach and optimizing for maximizing revenue with a margin constraint across keyword sets. Automated bidding does have some drawbacks. It is not completely hands-off; you still need to be monitoring performance and pull on the levers available appropriately. The proper setup can take a bit of time to crack, and this setup period can result in a deviation from the performance you were previously seeing. Automated bidding also doesn’t react well to big changes. The algorithms take time to learn, so if you have to make aggressive changes to targets, this can throw them off, and you’ll likely see volatile performance. Personally there is usually a small high-volume keyword set that I like to bid manually; then I’ll test different automated options on the rest. 

NDD: When should a business consider using an agency for PPC? 

Mason: I think that it comes down to resources and capabilities. I think that when either is lacking (and definitely if both), a business should consider using an agency. A lot of companies have in-house SEM teams and still use agencies. If your team doesn’t have the time to get to everything they want, looking for outside help to augment your staff is probably the right call. Lack of resources is a lot less important in my opinion, and not necessarily where an agency’s value is; the true value in an agency is the capabilities side. The biggest value is the knowledge processes that agencies have that you simply cannot get working in-house. When you’re hiring an agency, you aren’t just getting your account team, but you’re also tapping into the collective knowledge and experience of the whole agency. The space is moves very quickly, so the ability to draw from many people across many different types of accounts is extremely valuable. Chances are someone has experience that can help you, whereas in-house you’re really limited on how many people you can collaborate with and what types of accounts you’re working on. So even businesses with strong SEM capabilities can get that much more out of their efforts by using an agency. 

NDD: What are the most frequent misconceptions businesses have about PPC? 

Mason: My favorite has always been “do people even click on those ads? I don’t.” Last time I checked Google is doing all right, and 90% of their revenue comes from advertising, so someone is clicking. I think the biggest misconception is that PPC is spammy. There are definitely some bad apples that can give PPC advertising a bad name, but at its core it is an intent-driven channel where the better the UX you can provide, the more you will get out of it. Advertisers are optimizing their messaging and conversion funnels to match the intent of the queries they are purchasing, so in aggregate PPC ads offer a more relevant and streamlined experience for the searcher. Irrelevance and a poor UX isn’t economically sustainable, and those advertisers drop out of the auctions. So to tie into the first misconception, some people should get over their ad-phobia; chances are it’ll get you to what you’re looking for faster.  

About 3Q:

3Q Digital believe clients deserve three things from digital marketing agency: passionate service and complete transparency (EQ); channel-specific intelligence and knowledge (IQ) to develop new strategies as digital marketing evolves; and rock-solid execution (XQ) to ensure optimization of every campaign.
We developed these beliefs as PPC Associates (2008-2013), where we made our mark as the most pioneering, results-oriented SEMs around. But we’ve expanded to offer our clients new ways to grow, covering every part of the funnel — all with the same ROI-focused, intent-governed fundamentals that have helped drive growth for some of today’s fastest growing brands.

About Mason Garrity:

Mason Garrity has been in digital marketing for 7+ years, originally getting hooked on the field and startups in general while doing SEM at Kayak.com in college. Currently Mason serves as an Account Director at 3Q Digital in San Francisco, where he loves working with the Bay Area’s most innovative companies on growth strategies leveraging digital marketing.
Prior to joining 3Q, Mason started a search engine marketing agency in New York working with seed stage startups and local businesses. Having developed digital strategy for everything from Staten Island plumbers to the world’s largest social network, he’s gained perspective on what makes a successful campaign tick at any scale.
Originally from Connecticut, Mason also got hooked on California and the West Coast by making the cross-country journey for college, attending Pomona College and receiving a degree in Economics.
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