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4 Pillars of Paid Media Growth



Paid media is straightforward. “Growth,” however, is very dependent upon the role you play in paid media, so let’s start by defining who these four pillars are intended for and what I mean by “growth.” 

My paid media experience is 100% agency-based. Naturally, my experience shapes my viewpoint and definition of growth. From the agency perspective, growth equals managing more marketing budget. It’s no secret, the easiest way to acquire more marketing budget is to produce incremental revenue for your client so your client puts more money towards marketing efforts. It’s a simple cycle, but there are a lot of factors that go into achieving better results. Companies don’t hire agencies to maintain the revenue/ROI they already have; they invest more money into marketing resources, like an agency, to produce more leads, purchases, market share, etc. My point? It’s essential for digital marketers to understand what key factors YOU can control

I also recognize PPC Hero readers include marketers who manage an agency relationship or in-house marketers who are part of an internal marketing team. If you fall into either of those categories, why keep reading? Well, if you have any level of paid media responsibility, especially if you present digital marketing results to a stakeholder, the following points will apply to you too. 

Pillar #1: Product Knowledge

Many believe mastering top platforms (Google Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) is the most important component of managing paid media, but it doesn’t matter how much platform expertise you have if you don’t first master the product/service you are attempting to market. I also think this is one of the biggest gaps agencies have when it comes to managing paid media. This is why the relationship with the client is so important and why “client obsessions” was part of my PPC training (#2 and #4 will cover this in more depth). 

In-house marketer, if your agency doesn’t understand your product, how can they advise budget allocation, funnel approach, target audiences, which platforms to run on, etc.? I’m not suggesting the outside entity (agency) needs to know just as much as the client contact, but you do need to understand the product if you are going to provide quality recommendations. 

I’ll give you an example. I work with a website security firm. This is a very complex industry; one that both myself and even my main client contact are often perplexed by. However, we both understand the basic differences between the products, thus allowing us to craft a strategy and execute campaigns that produce tangible results. Working together with their team to understand their product has given me the opportunity to ask for budget increases when it makes sense for their business. I share this brief example because I’m not an “expert” in their products, but I know enough to do my job. I also know when I need to leverage other people in their organization to translate paid media results to what they see on their backend. 

Pillar #2: Stakeholder Trust

Whether the stakeholder is your boss, a client contact, or the CMO, earning trust is paramount to paid media growth. 

6 key ways to earn trust:

Go above and beyond

Scenario: your client asks you to pull numbers for a presentation they have to deliver to the CMO. Don’t just pull the numbers. Format the numbers in a slide and call out key insights. You can’t do this every time, but pick key opportunities to deliver greater value than what may have been expected of you and you will instantly become a go-to person for your client.

Teach your stakeholders

Teaching has to be curated for each individual, but if you can grow your stakeholder’s marketing knowledge, they will see a new side of value to your relationship and see as more than someone who manages their paid media. 

Stand by your recommendations when you receive pushback 

When I first started managing my own accounts, lacking confidence was perhaps my biggest weakness. Lacking confidence doesn’t look good in any area of life, so stick to your recommendations and explain your reasoning. This will earn you more respect and trust.

Own up to your mistakes AND provide solutions 

Mistakes happen. I’ve overspent budgets, forgotten to pause promo ads, made ad copy typos, etc. However, have integrity and own up to the mistake, even if the client will never find out. If you handle the situation with poise and confidence, you will earn trust, not lose it. I also can’t stress how important it is to communicate the mistake along with the solution(s). If there are financial implications, do whatever it takes to make it right for the sake of integrity and a long-term relationship. 

Personal connections

Personal connections can really speed up the process of earning trust. Find something in common and lead your meetings in a way that aligns with your stakeholder’s personality. You don’t have to become BFFs, but you do want to show your client you are human and don’t see your relationship purely as a way to make more money.

Face to face meetings [bonus]

Yes, this is 2020 and I’m well aware COVID-19 has made face to face virtually [im]possible (see what I did there), but don’t underestimate the impact face to face interactions have on a business relationship, especially when you are attempting to scale paid media budgets. Do a quick Google search and you will find plenty of evidence. According to, “84% of people still say they prefer in-person meetings.” Because this research was conducted pre-global pandemic, I will be fascinated to see how the lack of in-person meetings in 2020 effects business relationships moving forward. 

Pillar #3: Strategy & Platform Adaptability  

You don’t have to be an expert in every technical area of every digital advertising platform, but you need to know how to employ each platform (search, social, programmatic) to achieve your marketing goals. You also need to be able to adapt when priorities shift and your current platforms aren’t achieving your goals. This pillar is truly a separate article so let me leave you with a two questions to ask yourself:

  • Where are the gaps in my strategy? Look at your funnel – do you have high ROAS but 1% net new customers year over year? Look at your competitors – are they successfully bidding on your branded keywords while you have no counterpunch? It’s imperative that your strategic approach is changing as new business needs arise or KPIs flatline. This leads us to the next question to ask yourself.
  • When was the last time I tested something new? If you or your client have only run search ads for 10 years, why haven’t display, social, video been tested? If you have run display via GDN for years without any return or minimal brand awareness results, test out native or YouTube ads. If you continually hear, “Andrew, I would love to test, but I get pushback every time I propose a test,” you need to have an honest conversation with your client/internal team to understand why there is resistance. It might be the case that you aren’t explaining the reasoning for the test or providing a framework for expected results.  

If you are just getting started in the industry, PPC Hero has thousands of resources for you to develop your skills. 

Pillar #4: Communication 

What you communicate is clearly important, but how you deliver the information is arguably just as important. I’ve already covered this to some degree, but let’s expand into a few specifics:

  • Deliver insights, not numbers. It’s very easy to get caught up in different KPIs, especially if your stakeholders are adept in paid media. Rather than listing out week over week or month over month performance, callout what your client needs to know and why CPA increased by 50%. 
  • Learn how to spot wins and opportunities for growth. This comes with experience, but when you get the opportunity to pitch growth, there is one practical step I’ve found to be a game changer — projections. 

It’s not difficult to pitch budget expansion and with platform tools available today, it’s also not difficult to project primary KPIs (impressions, clicks, conversions, CPA). Rather than telling your client we should increase search budget by x% and social budget by y%, use platform tools, historical data or industry benchmarks to project what impact the budget increase will have. This will also make it much easier to speak to your rationale. If your client has the budget to spend, it’s almost guaranteed they will say yes. If their marketing budget is strapped, that’s out of your control. 

  • Don’t shy away from communicating poor performance. As marketers, we can’t promise results, we can only put forth the best strategies and tactics. If your client is coming to you questioning why a campaign x performance has declined the last three months and you haven’t brought it up once, you’ve put yourself in a much more difficult spot. In other words, be proactive and focus on what has the highest impact on your account(s).   
  • Learn how to spot outside factors influencing performance you aren’t responsible for. I learned early on that managing paid media is often like being a politician — oftentimes, we get too much blame when things are going wrong and too much credit when performance is declining. So learn how to spot tracking discrepancies, poor landing pages, pricing changes, etc. and then communicate those issues and use the resources at your disposal to help resolve any issues. 

I don’t think anything I penned is revolutionary, and this list is by no means exhaustive, but I firmly believe if you can master these four pillars, which are mostly within your control, growth will follow.


(Re)Introducing your favorite Optimizely products!



(Re)Introducing your favorite Optimizely products!

It’s important to us that you, our valued customers and partners, can identify with the tools you use daily.  

In that pursuit, Optimizely set out to simplify the way we talk about our product suite. That starts, first and foremost, with the words we use to refer to the technology.  

So, we’ve taken a hard look at everything in our portfolio, and are thrilled to introduce new names we believe are more practical, more consistent, and better representative of the technology we all know and love.  

You may have seen some of these names initially at Opticon 2022 as well as on our website. In the spirit of transparency, the team here at Optimizely wanted to make sure you had full visibility into the complete list of new names, as well as understand the context (and rationale) behind the changes. 

So, without further ado… 

Which names changed?  

Some, but not all. For your ongoing reference, below is a complete list of Optimizely products, with previous terminology you may be familiar with in the first column, and (if applicable) the new name in the second column.  

Used to be… 

Is now (or is still)… 



Optimizely Digital Experience Platform 

A fully-composable solution designed to support the orchestration, monetization, and experimentation of any type of digital experience — all from a single, open and extensible platform. 

Content Cloud 

Optimizely Content Management System 

A best-in-class system for building dynamic websites and helping digital teams deliver rich, secure and personalized experiences. 


Optimizely Content Marketing Platform 

An industry-leading and user-friendly platform helping marketing teams plan campaigns, collaborate on tasks, and author content. 


Optimizely Digital Asset Management 

A modern storage tool helping teams of any size manage, track, and repurpose marketing and brand assets (with support for all file types). 

Content Recs 

Optimizely Content Recommendations 

AI-powered and real-time recommendations to serve the unique interests of each visitor and personalize every experience. 

B2B Commerce 

Optimizely Configured Commerce 

A templatized and easy-to-deploy platform designed to help manufacturers and distributors drive efficiency, increase revenue and create easy buying experiences that retain customers. 

Commerce Cloud 

Optimizely Customized Commerce 

A complete platform for digital commerce and content management to build dynamic experiences that accelerate revenue and keep customers coming back for more. 


Optimizely Product Information Management 

A dedicated tool to help you set up your product inventory and manage catalogs of any size or scale. 

Product Recs 

Optimizely Product Recommendations 

Machine-learning algorithms optimized for commerce to deliver personalized product recommendations in real-time. 


Optimizely Web Experimentation 

An industry-leading experimentation tool allowing you to run A/B and multi-variant tests on any channel or device with an internet connection. 

Full Stack 

Optimizely Feature Experimentation 

A comprehensive experimentation platform allowing you to manage features, deploy safer tests, and roll out new releases – all in one place. 


Optimizely Personalization 

An add-on to core experimentation products, allowing teams to create/segment audiences based on past behavior and deliver more relevant experiences. 

Program Management 

Optimizely Program Management 

An add-on to core experimentation products, allowing teams to manage the end-to-end lifecycle of an experiment. 


Optimizely Data Platform 

A centralized hub to harmonize data across your digital experience tools, providing one-click integrations, AI-assisted guidance for campaigns, and unified customer profiles. 


So, why the change?  

 It boils down to three guiding principles:  

  1. Uniformity: Create a naming convention that can be applied across the board, for all products, to drive consistency 
  2. Simplicity: Use terms that are both practical and concise, ensuring the names are something that everyone can understand and identify with  
  3. Completeness: Develop a framework that showcases the full and complimentary nature of all the products and solutions within the Optimizely suite 

 As the Optimizely portfolio comes together as a complete, unified platform, it’s important that our names reflect this, as well as support our 3 key solutions (i.e. orchestrate amazing content experiences, monetize every digital experience, and experiment across all touchpoints).  

Other questions? We’ve got you covered. 

Q: Why have you made these product name changes? 

    • We wanted to simplify how we talk about our portfolio. The renaming applies a naming convention that is both practical and concise.  


Q: Do the new product name changes affect the products I own? 

    • No, there is no impact to product functionality or capabilities.  


Q: Do the new product name changes affect who is my Customer Success Manager or Account Manager?  

    • No, there are no changes to your Customer Success Manager or Account Manager. 


Q: Do the new product name changes affect the ownership of the company?  

    • No, ownership of the company has not changed. We have only made changes to the Product Names. 


Q: Have any contact details changed that I need to be aware of?  

    • Only contact details for former Welcome customers has changed. These are the new contact details you should be aware of: Optimizely, Inc.| 119 5th Ave | 7th Floor | New York, NY 10003 USA. Phone: +1 603 594 0249 | 


Q: Where can I send any follow up questions I might have?  

    • If you have any questions about the Product Names, please contact your Customer Success Manager or Account Manager.  

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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts



Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts

Every year, we see new trends entering the world of email marketing.

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers



5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.


“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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