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Among PPC professionals, it’s become increasingly common to clarify perplexing and bewildering aspects of PPC to clients. Host Julie F Bacchini sought insights from experts regarding the topics they find themselves explaining to clients more frequently, as well as which ad platforms they find most challenging or perplexing to explain.

Q1: Do you feel like there are more, less or the same amount of things you have to explain to clients and stakeholders about PPC today than in the past? And are the things you have to explain more complex, confusing and/or confounding?

I definitely feel like there is a lot more to explain lately because so much is changing and changing quickly.The changes are also quite seismic and challenge the foundation of things we have told clients/how we have explained things in the past. So that makes it harder to explain in ways that clients both get and fully accept. @NeptuneMoon

It feels like ground hog day for 15 years when it comes to certain things, like attribution for example with other questions the explanations are more challenging because a lot of people think they know a lot about Google Ads vs in the olden days.  Today we are constantly busting myths.  Nothing like someone who did their own ADWORDS 10 years ago telling you how to do it. @runnerkik

I think there’s a lot, but I don’t know if it’s more than before. The subject matter is a lot more on how Google is different now and not what they may expect, rather than why does my ‘ctr matter’, and ‘how do you set up conversion tracking’ @JuliaVyse

So much more!!! I think the “teaching the client” % of our job has jumped from about 25% to at least 75%!!! It’s so much more and the difficulty is how quickly do you get in with the teaching. Because it takes a while for US to get it ourselves, but you also want to avoid the client panicking so you need to get in there quite quickly. @TheMarketingAnu

I feel like there’s a lot more to explain and there aren’t as good explanations — it’s a lot more “trust the AI” versus a concrete formula you can explain. @revaminkoff

I feel like it’s the same but different. Today’s PPC conversations are much more tied to real value (as they should be), as well as understanding customer personas so we can do our best to make buckets of prospects to go with looser targeting (keywords and audiences) @navahf

Same but different? Feels like it’s less about the “how to” tactical stuff and more about change and how it applies to them.@BorisBeceric

Since keyword-less campaigns are like mysterious black boxes for information, we need to explain more about how advertising works. And now, with GA4 in the picture, discussing attribution and events takes more effort than it used to. @ArijitDutta

The same but different t-shirts shipping soon! wear them with our ‘it depends’ hats. @JuliaVyse

To be fair… a lot of the “how” is now behind the AI/ML curtain. And that in and of itself is a giant change. Clients who have been advertising for some time are used to getting more concrete answers than we can provide now. Getting them comfortable-ish with that is a big task. @NeptuneMoon

More today. Expectations from clients who aren’t aware about it are simple – run the ads, spend money, get revenue. And you have to explain a lot more about importance of structures, pixels, data collection, audience lists, landing page optimization, objective of spending, messaging, etc. The most uncomfortable place to be in where we are telling the clients to fix the page first repeatedly and all they want is to run the ads and spend money.I had to go through a decent-sized account and they were running on firing a pixel on thank you page (without values) – that’s it, that was all the tracking in place since last 2-3 years and we have to scale 10x from here. @alimehdimukadam

“behind the AI/ML curtain” So true.  Makes it difficult to discuss metrics, strategy, and the levers we pull with clients. @Realicity

I think there are fewer total topics, but the level of nuance, complexity and misunderstanding about those topics is far, far more. @DigitalSamIAm

My husband gave me a sanity check when I explained how the algorithm worked for Facebook.”I don’t care – the monkey screaming as it punches banana muffins in my head is more interesting”How is only interesting to those who have to do. Why is where the $$$ focus is for decision-makers. @navahf

There’s a lot of new stuff that keeps changing. @revaminkoff

Ego not withstanding. @navahf

I was talking to a prospective client last night who seemed pretty knowledgable about Google Ads and was asking about Search Ads and I mentioned PMax and he was like “wait, what? What’s that?” @revaminkoff

@DigitalSamIAm great point.  It’s been a difficult shift for some clients (mostly used to run their own AdWords) to lean into Automation and AI Bidding.  The days of “I only want to spend $X.XX CPC and show up here” are gone. @Realicity

Part of the confusion is the fact that evolution is happening inside of legacy structures. It’s easier to explain (IMO) PMAX + Demand Gen, and it’s far more difficult to explain (and foster understanding) of how things that used to mean one thing, now mean something else. @DigitalSamIAm

There’s also the gurus + “day-trading” PPC mentality that is largely dead, except where it isn’t. @DigitalSamIAm

@DigitalSamIAm that’s my experience too. The folks just now getting their minds around search are very open to new products vs changes to old ones. @JuliaVyse

@Realicity add to that digital ad platforms are mature advertising ecosystems and it gets even hairier! You can’t do the things you could 10 years ago. It literally does not work the way it did then. Lots of conversions/sales from cheap clicks is nostalgia. @NeptuneMoon

The digital ad industry has always had a rapid pace of change (especially compared to other industries), so client education has always been part of it. Part of my frustration is that platforms intentionally obfuscate information, so whereas I could use data to explain things in the past, more and more I have to explain things without that concrete data. @robert_brady

@DigitalSamIAm just go to r/PPC where they will ask about what is working in ad arbitrage. @BorisBeceric

I think folks get stuck in the habit of how to think/describe the thing. It’s not that the data is harder to explain, it just requires a new way of thinking (like @DigitalSamIAm said) @navahf

The data and explanations are a lot squishier now though @navahf – you can’t see or access the level of data you historically could and that can be hard for clients to accept. That piece is a big challenge to get through. @NeptuneMoon

The problem is that the ad arbitrage bros (sorry not sorry) are so focused on the arbitrage “trees” that they miss evolution of the forrest. The reality is that the relative value of arbitrage is declining. That’s what platform evolutions – fundamentally – does. It makes the market ever-more-efficient. @DigitalSamIAm

Clients, generally, are not up to their eyeballs in all that is happening and changing. Their understanding and thinking is tied to what they know. We have to keep that knowledge up to date so that their mindset is in line with how it all works today. @NeptuneMoon

And in some places the data simply isn’t available any more, or if it is, the formula for how it was put together isn’t available. See: reduced SQRs, prominence, etc. @revaminkoff

Only if you force hard number conversations, @NeptuneMoon  That’s the biggest shift we have to be prepared to make – telling clients we can’t give them hard numbers. @navahf

@navahf Totally! Getting them out of that mindset can be very hard…@NeptuneMoon

I feel like the hard numbers were never real – it was always probabilistic; we’re now having to make that explicit. It’s a back-tracking of sorts that needs to happen. @DigitalSamIAm

@navahf  right, but a lot of their CEOs and Boards need and expect hard numbers, or they think they’re being BSed/it’s not valid. @revaminkoff

I was about to write something long about attribution and all that and how we always told clients something that was never real. @BorisBeceric

@DigitalSamIAm But it was sold as being very real. And the number one reason to put dollars into digital ads was the huge data it generated and you could see and use. That is what we are now having to unwind. @NeptuneMoon

YES! it’s the big argument about taking TV budgets and putting them online. you can measure it! @JuliaVyse

It’s our job to unsell them on it. Especially from a compliance/cost perspective. @navahf

I’m not disagreeing about how it was sold @NeptuneMoon – Iit’s spilt milk under the bridge at this point. The reality is we have to unwind it and help clients understand that digital marketing, at it’s core, is still marketing. The same principles apply to digital, and there are clear advantages in terms of data, but nothing happens in a vacuum. @DigitalSamIAm

Most brands would rather percentage lift reports than a huge fine for breaking privacy regulations. @navahf

I think we’re finally getting to the point where the on-the-ground technical reality of aMMMs has caught up with the digital marketing hype. Which is kinda cool @DigitalSamIAm

Late to the party but I think that there is still a lot of explaining to do. The main one is: How long do you estimate that we get results? Unfortunately, this depends a lot on daily budget and niche (home services vs. SaaS for example). How do you explain to your clients how long until we hit results or break even? @JuandeGracia

I have had to throw the 1-month timeframe a lot lately with accounts at $3K. But it is a tough question to answer due to different budgets, niches, CPCs, etc. @JuandeGracia

Q2: What are you explaining most frequently these days?

Less changes = deliberate.
Importance of work outside the ad platforms. And the big one: Control the inputs – structure, consolidation, tracking, 1-party data, feeds, audiences. @BorisBeceric

I feel like everything I do is a special case. I just had to explain to a new client contact last week that Google won’t help you with your SEO. Luckily I can! @JuliaVyse

How smart bidding works + what you need to do to make it work. @DigitalSamIAm

My most common conversations are around learning periods, bid to budget ratio, and the need for more visual content. @navahf

Alright, the time has come and the kids ask for dinner – I’m out. You All have a great day! @BorisBeceric

Also: why so many things people have read on Neil Patel + r/PPC and what people “think” they know is wrong/misguided / incomplete. There’s also the transition from activity = results. Change logs are no longer a true indicator of how effective something is. Day trading PPC doesn’t work, but teaching clients that batched changes + strategic guidance > OMG MANUAL KW MANAGEMENT is difficult. @DigitalSamIAm

I say “this is how that works now” a lot…Particularly for advertisers who have been advertising for years now. But if I had to pick a theme it would be less visibility of data. Followed by how to best feed the machines to get where you want to go. Because that’s different from how we used to seed the platform. @NeptuneMoon

How smart bidding works + what you need to do to make it work. Just as @DigitalSamIAm said. @Realicity

Facts > guru snake oil. @navahf

I am talking a lot about the post ad click experience now too. Always been important, but matters even more now with machines leveling out the pre-click side of the equation. @NeptuneMoon

It’s only been a week is a big one, 2. A winning PPC strategy won’t sell a product no one wants. 2. 2500 is too low for saas 3. @runnerkik

1.Biggest levers to pull are outside the ad platform. 2. Synchronise and pass back as much data as possible. @alimehdimukadam

Variability of learning periods based on conversion volume & daily budgets. How to adjust things without tripping large resets. The importance of 1st party data and why we need to feed it back into Google Ads/Facebook to improve campaign performance. Related to that, how to do it, and what data we need access to to do it. @timmhalloran

 @NeptuneMoon just stealing that for my next team meeting. @JuliaVyse

100% @NeptuneMoon — most brands don’t want to hear that their $100k+ website was designed for a HIPPO not a customer. @DigitalSamIAm

I am continually astonished at how many organizations really don’t want to take an honest look at their website itself and also how it comes off versus their competitors. @NeptuneMoon

Q3: Which ad platforms are the most confusing or confounding to have to explain to clients or stakeholders lately? What has been the most confusing or confounding element you’ve had to explain recently?

All/Most Platforms – Automated Bidding and Audiences/Keywords/Privacy Issues. @Realicity

I think Google has caused the most confusion, as a result of them continually re-engineering inside their legacy structure.GA4 is like Beef Tartare: if it’s prepared properly, it’s delicious (though not intended for everyone). If it’s not made right, enjoy your time in a hospital. @DigitalSamIAm

Meta….Google is easy. They may not like that we can’t be as exact but the core is the same (slips of the tongue notwithstanding). Microsoft has been pretty great too. @navahf

@navahf great perspective.   Even tho we don’t have as much data and transparency, Google & Microsoft have some good things going. @Realicity

Snap. their account builder is weird and confusing. and explaining the need for a different account for auction vs managed buy in TikTok is weird. but mostly Google and how to mindread it. @JuliaVyse

I primarily work in Google Ads these days, so my perspective is biased for them and GA4.I wish they would hire me to help with comms though to stop some of the confusion that they unnecessarily create! The emails that everyone on the accounts get would be a fantastic place to start. @NeptuneMoon

Facebook’s been giving me a run for my money. I’ll have a LLA stack working wonders and then the very next month, lookalikes will stop working and then Advantage+ takes off and starts working, then it’ll shift again and interest stacks will work and Advantage+ stops working. It’s like wack-a-mole but for paid social strategy. I haven’t cracked the code yet, I think that partially has to do with FB changing things up in real time. In their defense, I think they’re doing what they can to make their ad product better and more competitive, but it definitely makes my job harder. @timmhalloran

I feel like Meta has always been sem-opaque, so clients are more understanding of that. @DigitalSamIAm

Google got their start being wildly transparent (search terms, EM, ETAs, etc.). When they changed that, it creates a new distribution of understanding + comfortability. @DigitalSamIAm

When Meta works, it does work wonders! @alimehdimukadam

Meta is experiencing the mature advertising ecosystem problem I was talking about earlier. You can’t jump in and find quick success. Competition is much higher. And they are continually changing how it works. Which all platforms evolve how they work, but it has seemed extra painful over there! @NeptuneMoon

Way back when I made a deck talking about how all the ad networks are the Chris’s  of the super hero movies: Chris Hemsworth = Google
Chris Evens = Microsoft
Chris Pine = Visual media (display/YouTube)
Chris Pratt = Facebook stand by all of them (especially Pratt) @navahf

Everyone loves a Hemsworth. @DigitalSamIAm

And Evens is a fellow altruistic nerd. @navahf

@navahf you are a treasure. I just cackled at that. @NeptuneMoon

Pine is mapped correctly. @JuliaVyse

But the reason I bring this up is because I feel like part of our job as practitioners is to help our clients personify the channels so they set realistic expectations and react accordingly when they make announcements.  @navahf

 Google’s thing with Ad Strength only became a thing because we’re so used to taking what they say seriously @navahf

2024 is the year of expectation resetting in PPC FOR SURE. @NeptuneMoon

 @navahf I think the testimony in the anti-trust trial has left a stink on Google Ads too. Particularly when it comes to what they say. @NeptuneMoon

I follow Dara Denney on Youtube (she makes great FB Ads content, recommend) and she was mentioning how LLAs stopped working and she focuses her effort on Adv+ and broad targeting now, and the largest changes she makes on a weekly/monthly basis are filtering in new creative consistently. Which is good advice. But then because I was curious I uploaded a value-based customer list LLA and started testing that with a promo code for one of my clients and it’s currently averaging a 79 ROAS this month. Caveat that this is an anomaly — I have another client who has had LLAs work great in the past and right now we can’t break a 2.3 ROAS (which is basically losing money). So it’s incredibly variable and difficult to pinpoint when it’ll work and when it won’t. @timmhalloran


@NeptuneMoon Yep.  Used to consider them on this side of really wanting to help advertisers through the use of AdWords.  Not so much anymore. @Realicity

@timmhalloran– I think the Broad + Adv+ advice is….incomplete. @DigitalSamIAm

Aren’t we all going to be running broad everything everywhere soon enough anyway? That is where all the platforms are headed. @NeptuneMoon

And first-party data is still being pushed hard, but I expect that to come under privacy fire too. Not as quickly, but it will. @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon – I don’t think it is that simple — and the “broad” discourse needs to fundamentally change. There’s so much nuance in everything from data to audiences to targeting that we need to re-think the vocabulary used. @DigitalSamIAm

@NeptuneMoon I hope not. Broad severely lacks nuance and context for many markets. @Realicity

The privacy thing is a real issue. not all clients can or should upload data. and the natural next question is, doesn’t google know all this stuff already? They’re the data folks. @JuliaVyse

I have feelings about how much human bias influences results we talk about regarding broad and exact (as well as PMax) @navahf

Google is certainly floating the idea of “tell us your goals and URL and let AI do the rest” in their GML preview. @NeptuneMoon

The issue to focus on is that AI requires data and privacy puts a chokehold on data. @navahf

I feel like I could just put AI in all my GML bingo card squares this year and be done with it. Don’t worry – I will not do that! @NeptuneMoon

Consent mode is choking GA4 data too. That is a storm brewing. @NeptuneMoon

I am working on a guest to come talk to us about consent mode! @NeptuneMoon

@DigitalSamIAm – Re: broad +advantage+ agreed, yes, there’s more to it. Context for reference. We have success with interests, broad, lla, a+, rt dpa, prospecting dpa, etc. But we also have plenty of failures with those same strategies. Biggest variability is brand strength and creative imp. @timmhalloran

But broad isn’t inherently bad – it does a job (just like DSA and PMax can do that job). It’s for us to decide who’s qualified and put protection in place. @navahf

So then, if they have all the data, and know our stated goals, conversion metrics, and audience performance previously tied to those, why can’t Broad reach our targets for some markets in the way that I know they can/should? I have a few current clients who can’t use Broad because it can’t get to the audience that converts for them without wasting a ton of $$$ @Realicity

Sorry, a bit of a rant there.  The Google Broad Koolaid isn’t always sweet and tasty @Realicity

Broad requires conversion thresholds to perform (just like pmax does) @navahf

Broad favors the non budget sensitive advertisers because it does not currently use broad to cast a wide net and then zero in on the right audience(s). It keeps on casting broad. And for some advertisers that is fine they are willing to spend to find out. Lots are not though. That is the big divide here. @NeptuneMoon

@navahf Sure.  But years of existing date and Years of uploaded Offline Conversion Data haven’t helped reduce the waste. @Realicity

A big issue I’m facing in one of my SaaS accounts is not having enough conversion volume to get my EMEA locations out of learning, not matter how I slice/dice or consolidate. The client uses a 3rd party content mgmt / GDPR compliant software and I think it’s doing something to any and all tracking in those locations. Client says leads are still coming in even if Google Ads isn’t registering them, but that doesn’t solve the problem of learning period limbo. That whole side of thing gives me a headache. I think there’s a way to fix it but it’ll require inter-agency & inter-departmental convos, strategy sessions to solve, so I’m working on pinpointing the issue myself before I rope the extended team in. @NeptuneMoon – I love the idea of having a consent mgmt guest speaker! @timmhalloran

What I find interesting about broad – even with the improvements, it failed to overpower exact. That tells me that part of the issue is us and how we’re setting it up to succeed or fail. @navahf

So @Realicity this goes back to my analogy of hiring a data gatherer. Broad may not serve as well as DSA or PMax @navahf

My main frustration is that we’re all so used to it being bad that we build in the bias in looking at results/structuring (not sequestering it well, giving it a budget to hang itself, etc) @navahf

@navahf Yep.  Again I’m just ranting about a specific few clients. @Realicity

@navahf I think part of it also is that all of the other match types are much more broad in their performance. So what used to be the role of broadcast that wide net and see what happens to find new pathways to potential customers – is already happening in other match types. I think if G Ads were really smart, they would actually rename the keyword-matching types. Start from scratch. @NeptuneMoon

@bigalittlea came up with a great naming scheme for it: audience match. The match types don’t behave the way they used to, and structuring campaigns for how they used to work is the surest way to fail. @navahf

Broad and I are sort of frenemies. Like, we met at a party and some of my friends thought they were interesting but I found them shallow and cocky and had no interest getting to know them better. Then, recently, I kept hearing from my friends how they’ve changed and the longer you hang out with them the more you’ll see their value. So I’ve been going on coffee dates with them here and there. And I’m not totally convinced yet but I have started to open up more and I’ve seen their value because of it. Still not sold but at least we’re not on completely opposite sides anymore. And to top it off my exact and phrase match crew have changed. They’re not the same friends I grew up with. I still rely on them and we have a lot of history but I can sense us growing apart. Who knows what the future hold. @timmhalloran

I feel I need to clarify though: I’m not defending the silly matches that waste money (I find they tend to be really bad around core updates).My take is that we should complain with purpose – for example, I would love the ability to tell Google they got it wrong. @navahf

@navahf Aren’t negative keywords the way we tell Google or Microsoft they got it wrong? I feel like they already have the data, but aren’t learning from it. @robert_brady

Not really – there’s more to broad match than semantic matching. Part of it is landing page signals (i.e. a bad landing page could give the wrong signals). Also, audiences play a role too. @navahf

I have been asking for a “bad match feedback tool” for at least 10 years. If we have to let the machines do so much, at least let us help teach them better! @NeptuneMoon

So being able to say “crossfit gym” and “personal trainer gym” are different is more than a wording choice – there are $$$ differences to membership + how intense the gym is. But if the advertiser is coming up for both, it might be a sign the landing page copy needs to be reworked as those leaps typically are grounded in landing page experience. @navahf

Exact and phrase are “taught” with negatives though @navahf

I also think that Google’s tech does not differentiate enough. It really thinks CrossFit gym and personal trainer gym are synonymous. At least that is what it feels like when you look at data in a lot of accounts. Even accounts that have a ton of historical performance data. So you’d think the machines would know if what performed as cross-training or personal trainer already? I have shared this before – I had a client in education that had an airport code in their school name. NOTHING on that site referenced travel, aviation, flights. And yet we had a ridiculous number of queries about that airport code + clearly travel-related terms. This went on FOR MONTHS. This is the kind of thing that needs to improve in the machines if platforms want advertisers to feel more comfortable with running with broad. @NeptuneMoon

I’m actually doing an experiment with this + schema. I think Google pulls a lot of matches from the page’s structured data. @DigitalSamIAm

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