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Continuous SEO: Can You “Complete” SEO?

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Continuous SEO: Can You "Complete" SEO?

Once you achieve your SEO goals and have a sustainable stream of organic traffic, is it time to refocus budgets to other channels? Can you really “complete” SEO, or should it be continuous?

In this guide, we’ll answer just that and share some top tips for implementing a continuous SEO strategy.

The answer, in short, is almost always no.

SEO, in nature, is a continuous strategy. You can’t just turn it on and off like a tap in the same way you can with PPC, for example.

SEO results are continuous, while PPC results can be turned on and off

But of course, like all things in SEO, it’s much more nuanced than a simple yes or no.

With that in mind, here are the most common reasons as to why you should continue to invest in SEO as an ongoing strategy.

The algorithm doesn’t stand still

In 2022 alone, there were over 10 algorithm updates confirmed by Google. In reality, there were likely many more updates that weren’t publicly announced by Google too.

These many updates and tweaks to the algorithm provide new ways to impress Google. Most of these updates focus on rewarding quality content within the search rankings.

For example, Google recently updated its quality rater guidelines by adding an extra “E” into E-A-T, making it E-E-A-T. Besides making the acronym a bit more confusing to pronounce, it provides some extra opportunities to showcase quality.

The additional “E” stands for experience, meaning Google is now taking into account whether the page is written by someone with personal experience on the respective topic.

Showcasing the difference between experience and expertise

Google hasn’t directly told us that it uses this as a ranking signal. Instead, its quality raters look for examples of this in sites that rank as a means to measure the performance of its own ranking algorithm.

That said, we absolutely know that Google is now taking “experience” more seriously and that its raters are looking for examples of it in content that is ranking well. So with that in mind, it’s a fair assumption that Google is looking to reward sites that showcase E-E-A-T in its rankings.

Another example is Core Web Vitals. In May 2021, Google introduced Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal. Core Web Vitals are a set of technical page experience metrics measured via CrUX (Chrome User Experience Report) using real user data.

Google's Page Experience signals include https, no intrusive interstitials, mobile-friendliness, and Core Web Vitals

Following this, Google has recently announced that it will update its CrUX ranking signals. From March 2024, Google will no longer be using FID (First Input Delay) as a ranking signal, replacing it with INP (Interaction to Next Paint).

This provides new technical challenges that you’ll need to stay on top of.

While Core Web Vitals are widely regarded as a minor ranking signal, you’ll certainly want to stay on top of these metrics. It could well be the difference between a page #1 and page #2 ranking for some of your most competitive keywords. 

With the algorithm being volatile at times and constantly evolving, SEO is not just about getting it right once. A page #1 ranking today could be a page #2 ranking overnight.

There’s always opportunity to improve

Often enough, there’s almost always room to improve and gain more traffic via search terms that are super relevant to your website. After all, it’s pretty much impossible to rank #1 for every keyword you are targeting, even if you are Wikipedia. So there’s always room for growth.

Even at Ahrefs, for example. The team is doing an incredible job at ranking in the top positions for relevant keywords. That said, even within the top traffic-driving keywords, there are always opportunities to improve.

Keywords with strong rankings but also some opportunities to rank higher, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Often, these super important “money” keywords are your most competitive keywords, so keeping your content up to date and optimized is essential to maintaining and further improving on strong rankings.

Beyond ranking in the top positions for your commercial keywords, there’s often so much opportunity to create and scale informational content.

Earlier on, I mentioned the importance of showcasing E-E-A-T. Producing and scaling useful, relevant, and high-quality content is a great way to demonstrate experience, expertise, authority, and trust. You’d also be building up strong associations and topical authority to your niche in the eyes of Google. 

While this may seem complex, in principle, it’s simple.

Let’s say you operate in the toy sector. You can show Google that your business is all about toys by providing useful guides to support your existing e-commerce landing pages. 

There is a wide range of content opportunities here; this could range from tips for cleaning your kid’s toys to reviewing the best storage solutions. Not only does this build relevant associations and topical authority within your niche in the eyes of Google, but you’ll also be putting your brand in front of potential future customers too.

Another benefit to upper-funnel content is that you can raise brand awareness among potential customers. While they may not be looking to make a direct purchase straight away, you’ll be increasing the chances of them making that purchase with you in the future.

In my previous article on fitting SEO into your marketing strategy, I used a kayak store as an example. 

A user searching “how to store a kayak” may consider purchasing a kayak in the future. If they find the guide to be useful and informative, this increases the chances of said user making that purchase through your store.

Target keywords across the marketing funnel (stages include awareness, research, service or product, and brand)

SEO is super competitive

In SEO, it’s easy to forget that it’s not just you going for growth via Google rankings. It’s highly likely that your competitors won’t be standing still.

Complacency is a big danger. While you’ve slowed down, your competitors could be more active by:

  • Updating existing content.
  • Rolling out fresh content to target rising keywords.
  • Building on their existing backlink profiles.

By just standing still, you could soon see your performance “fall backward” in what is a relatively volatile and often competitive channel.

Let’s look at the position history for the keyword “life insurance” via Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer as an example.

Just over a period of 30 days, we’ve seen the top ranking change hands frequently across three competitors.

Three different sites ranking in #1 for "life insurance" at some stage during a 30-day period

Furthermore, we can see how volatile search rankings can be just by following the green line (newyorklife.com). This domain peaked in #1 before temporarily dropping to #7 within a couple of weeks.

Ranking history showing New York Life's ranking volatility

It may be time to conquer new markets

Depending on the needs and capabilities of your business, it may be time to optimize for new markets.

Or if you already have an international SEO strategy, perhaps it’s time to double down on those secondary markets that may have been previously neglected.

Given that international SEO is one of the most complex areas of SEO, it’s unsurprising that many websites struggle to rank in the top positions for their targeted keywords globally.

You can quickly see how you and your competitors are performing globally by entering the respective domains into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Notice that your main competitor is receiving a lot more traffic from a certain country than you? This is likely worth a deeper investigation.

Table showcasing traffic distribution by country, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

It quite often turns out that your top SEO opportunity countries aren’t the ones that your business is prioritizing. If that is the case, this data is incredibly powerful and could form the business case to reprioritize and focus on new markets with SEO potential.

Five tips for implementing a continuous SEO strategy

We’ve established that you can’t just start and stop SEO and that a continuous SEO strategy is the way forward.

A continuous SEO strategy can range from updating your old content to regularly updating your SOPs to form a more efficient and effective SEO process.

Here are my top five tips for rolling out a continuous SEO strategy.

1. Continuously monitor the technical health of your site

Technical SEO is the crucial foundation of any SEO campaign. Given how big an impact one technical hitch could have on your rankings, adopting a proactive approach is essential.

Sure, conducting a technical audit at the start of an SEO campaign is incredibly useful. However, I find the approach of only doing a technical audit once every six to 12 months as insufficient.

In that interim period, one negative technical change may result in you scrambling to work out what caused a loss in rankings. 

With Ahrefs’ Site Audit, you can set your crawls to run on an automated schedule—be it a daily, weekly, or monthly audit.

You can also schedule the exact time for the audit to run, meaning you’ll have the results from the audit ready at a time that suits you best.

Ahrefs' Site Audit setup screen, with option to schedule regular audits

You’ll be able to compare your results against previous crawls too. So if you notice the number of errors is slightly higher than in recent audits, you’ll know a technical issue has crept in.

I personally like to run these audits at least weekly with regular manual checks in between. This supports a proactive approach to SEO. It also means technical issues are captured as and when they happen, as opposed to several months down the line in a technical audit.

2. Automate repetitive tasks

A continuous SEO strategy doesn’t just require you to “do more SEO,” but also to “do SEO” more effectively.

We just touched on how you can automate your technical auditing by scheduling that on Site Audit. This is a great start for making your SEO workflow more efficient, but we don’t have to stop there.

Since ChatGPT was born into the world, I’m sure we’ve all been presented with the “top five ChatGPT prompts to automate your workflow.”

I have no doubt we can all agree that the social media craze for ChatGPT prompts has diluted the conversation somewhat. 

To save you from the torture of reading these dreaded Twitter threads, Ahrefs’ Si Quan Ong has reviewed and shared some of the best ChatGPT prompts for SEOs and the ones you should avoid (no matter how many Twitter threads they appear in). 

One of my favorite ChatGPT prompts is to generate outlines for content. 

Content outline generated via ChatGPT

Ultimately, my final outline will always look nothing like the initial ChatGPT response. That said, I find this helps get those important “creative juices” flowing while I’m in that ideation phase. This leads to much more efficient production of content outlines.

Keen to learn more about SEO automation? Check out Fraser McCulloch’s automation tips for these nine common SEO tasks.

3. Review and update existing content

Content can naturally become outdated over time. And users can usually tell when an article feels old.

If you wait too long to update your content, your competitors could have: 

  • Information that’s more up to date.
  • Statistics and analysis from more recent datasets.
  • Case studies that are more relevant to today’s questions.
Traffic graph showing sustained increase in traffic following a content refresh

Ultimately, it’s Google’s job to ensure users have a good experience when they click through to content via the search results. So if your competitors are doing a good job at keeping their content up to date and you are not, you’ll likely lose out in the rankings.

Google uses a ranking factor called Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) to determine how fresh a piece of content should be in order to rank for a particular search term.

This ranking signal is pretty much what it says on the tin. If Google determines that users are looking for fresh content in their searches, it will look to prioritize fresh content in the rankings.

Google leans on news sites, blog posts, and search requests to determine when users are looking for fresh content in their searches. In 2007, Amit Singhal (former VP at Google) talked about this in an article for The New York Times:

The QDF solution revolves around determining whether a topic is “hot.” If news sites or blog posts are actively writing about a topic, the model figures that it is one for which users are more likely to want current information.

We shouldn’t interpret QDF as just applying to news items. What could seem like an “evergreen” keyword could soon need fresh content—should there be a strong rise in related news posts and skyrocketing search demand.

To learn more, Ahrefs’ Josh Hardwick has a guide on implementing an SEO content republishing strategy.

4. Continue to look for new content opportunities

As the demands from users change over time, this is reflected in the queries they search for online. In turn, this means that new content opportunities will arise every now and then.

You can stay on top of new content opportunities by:

  • Regularly conducting keyword research.
  • Regularly checking for keyword/content gaps between you and your competitors.

Ahrefs’ new Competitive Analysis tool is great for seeing what keywords your competitors rank for that you don’t.

Start off by entering your domain as the target and then the domains of your competitors.

Entering target and competitor domains to set up competitive analysis, via Ahrefs' Competitive Analysis tool

In just a few clicks, you’ll be presented with a list of keywords that your competitors rank for (within the top 10 positions by default) where you don’t rank at all. 

Keyword gaps, via Ahrefs' Competitive Analysis tool

I personally like to go one step further and set the “Target position” filter to “No position or custom” with a minimum ranking of 11. 

Applying filters in Ahrefs' Competitive Analysis tool

This means we’ll now be presented with a list of keywords that our competitors rank in the top 10 positions where we rank from page #2 or worse.

Keyword gaps (based on top 10 rankings), via Ahrefs Competitive Analysis tool

This is super useful for staying on top of what content your competitors are rolling out and what keyword gaps you may need to jump on.

5. Monitor and review your performance frequently

Most SEOs would agree that effective monitoring and reporting are essential. That said, I believe it’s an area that can be done more effectively by many.

One example is that many SEOs rely solely on Search Console to see how they are ranking for their top keywords.

There’s no doubt Search Console is an incredibly useful source for reporting and should be included in reports. That said, I don’t see it as the most effective tool to measure ranking performance. Here’s why:

  • Average ranking data is often heavily skewed by irrelevant searches (e.g., irrelevant locations). 
  • Data lag means you can’t see how you are ranking for a keyword today.
  • You can’t compare the share of voice and rankings against competitors.

A rank tracking tool like Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker is essential for daily ranking updates for your domain and your competitors. You’ll also benefit from useful metrics like share of voice and estimated traffic.

To get started with Rank Tracker, simply set your location, enter your keywords from your own keyword lists, and hit “continue.” Don’t forget to include your competitors on the next step too.

Entering keyword list into Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

In no time, you’ll start to see ranking data pull through for your keyword list, such as the respective ranking positions and ranking URLs.

Ahrefs' Rank Tracker displaying ranking data, such as position and URL, for tracked keywords

Don’t forget to connect Ahrefs up to your custom SEO dashboards, whether that’s Looker Studio or through API calls.

Final thoughts

SEO, as an ongoing and continuous strategy, should be non-negotiable.

As tempting as it may be to refocus budgets to other channels or rest on your laurels, complacency is a huge risk to organic performance.

Implement a continuous SEO strategy by:

  • Regularly monitoring the technical health of your site.
  • Automating repetitive tasks.
  • Reviewing and updating existing content.
  • Looking for new content opportunities.
  • Reviewing your performance frequently.

Have any questions? Ping me on Twitter and let me know.



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Google’s AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

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Google's AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

Google’s rollout of AI-generated overviews in US search results is taking a disastrous turn, with mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, BBC, and CNBC reporting on numerous inaccuracies and bizarre responses.

On social media, users are sharing endless examples of the feature’s nonsensical and sometimes dangerous output.

From recommending non-toxic glue on pizza to suggesting that eating rocks provides nutritional benefits, the blunders would be amusing if they weren’t so alarming.

Mainstream Media Coverage

As reported by The New York Times, Google’s AI overviews struggle with basic facts, claiming that Barack Obama was the first Muslim president of the United States and stating that Andrew Jackson graduated from college in 2005.

These errors undermine trust in Google’s search engine, which more than two billion people rely on for authoritative information worldwide.

Manual Removal & System Refinements

As reported by The Verge, Google is now scrambling to remove the bizarre AI-generated responses and improve its systems manually.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company is taking “swift action” to remove problematic responses and using the examples to refine its AI overview feature.

Google’s Rush To AI Integration

The flawed rollout of AI overviews isn’t an isolated incident for Google.

As CNBC notes in its report, Google made several missteps in a rush to integrate AI into its products.

In February, Google was forced to pause its Gemini chatbot after it generated inaccurate images of historical figures and refused to depict white people in most instances.

Before that, the company’s Bard chatbot faced ridicule for sharing incorrect information about outer space, leading to a $100 billion drop in Google’s market value.

Despite these setbacks, industry experts cited by The New York Times suggest that Google has little choice but to continue advancing AI integration to remain competitive.

However, the challenges of taming large language models, which ingest false information and satirical posts, are now more apparent.

The Debate Over AI In Search

The controversy surrounding AI overviews adds fuel to the debate over the risks and limitations of AI.

While the technology holds potential, these missteps remind everyone that more testing is needed before unleashing it on the public.

The BBC notes that Google’s rivals face similar backlash over their attempts to cram more AI tools into their consumer-facing products.

The UK’s data watchdog is investigating Microsoft after it announced a feature that would take continuous screenshots of users’ online activity.

At the same time, actress Scarlett Johansson criticized OpenAI for using a voice likened to her own without permission.

What This Means For Websites & SEO Professionals

Mainstream media coverage of Google’s erroneous AI overviews brings the issue of declining search quality to public attention.

As the company works to address inaccuracies, the incident serves as a cautionary tale for the entire industry.

Important takeaway: Prioritize responsible use of AI technology to ensure the benefits outweigh its risks.



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New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

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New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

A keynote at Google’s Marketing Live event showed a new AI-powered visual search results that feature advertisements that engage users within the context of an AI-Assisted search, blurring the line between AI-generated search results and advertisements.

Google Lens is a truly helpful app but it becomes unconventional where it blurs the line between an assistant helping users and being led to a shopping cart. This new way of engaging potential customers with AI is so far out there that the presenter doesn’t even call it advertising, he doesn’t even use the word.

Visual Search Traffic Opportunity?

Google’s Group Product Manager Sylvanus Bent, begins the presentation with an overview of the next version of Google Lens visual search that will be useful for surfacing information and for help finding where to buy them.

Sylvanus explained how it will be an opportunity for websites to receive traffic from this new way to search.

“…whether you’re snapping a photo with lens or circling to search something on your social feed, visual search unlocks new ways to explore whatever catches your eye, and we recently announced a newly redesigned results page for Visual search.

Soon, instead of just visual matches, you’ll see a wide range of results, from images to video, web links, and facts about the knowledge graph. It gets people the helpful information they need and creates new opportunities for sites to be discovered.”

It’s hard to say whether or not this will bring search traffic to websites and what the quality of that traffic will be. Will they stick around to read an article? Will they engage with a product review?

Visual Search Results

Sylvanus shares a hypothetical example of someone at an airport baggage claim who falls in like with someone else’s bag. He explains that all the person needs to do is snap a photo of the luggage bag and Google Lens will take them directly to shopping options.

He explains:

“No words, no problem. Just open Lens, take a quick picture and immediately you’ll see options to purchase.

And for the first time, shopping ads will appear at the very top of the results on linked searches, where a business can offer what a consumer is looking for.

This will help them easily purchase something that catches their eye.”

These are image-heavy shopping ads at the top of the search results and as annoying as that may be it’s nowhere near the “next level” advertising that is coming to Google’s search ads where Google presents a paid promotion within the context of an AI Assistant.

Interactive Search Shopping

Sylvanus next describes an AI-powered form advertising that happens directly within search. But he doesn’t call it advertising. He doesn’t even use the word advertising. He suggests this new form of AI search experience is more than offer, saying that, “it’s an experience.”

He’s right to not use the word advertisement because what he describes goes far beyond advertising and blurs the boundaries between search and advertising within the context of AI-powered suggestions, paid suggestions.

Sylvanus explains how this new form of shopping experience works:

“And next, imagine a world where every search ad is more than an offer. It’s an experience. It’s a new way for you to engage more directly with your customers. And we’re exploring search ads with AI powered recommendations across different verticals. So I want to show you an example that’s going live soon and you’ll see even more when we get to shopping.”

He uses the example of someone who needs to store their furniture for a few months and who turns to Google to find short term storage. What he describes is a query for local short term storage that turns into a “dynamic ad experience” that leads the searcher into throwing packing supplies into their shopping cart.

He narrated how it works:

“You search for short term storage and you see an ad for extra space storage. Now you can click into a new dynamic ad experience.

You can select and upload photos of the different rooms in your house, showing how much furniture you have, and then extra space storage with help from Google, AI generates a description of all your belongings for you to verify. You get a recommendation for the right size and type of storage unit and even how much packing supplies you need to get the job done. Then you just go to the website to complete the transaction.

And this is taking the definition of a helpful ad to the next level. It does everything but physically pick up your stuff and move it, and that is cool.”

Step 1: Search For Short Term Storage

1716722762 15 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows an advertisement that when clicked takes the user to what looks like an AI-assisted search but is really an interactive advertisement.

Step 2: Upload Photos For “AI Assistance”

1716722762 242 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above image is a screenshot of an advertisement that is presented in the context of AI-assisted search.  Masking an advertisement within a different context is the same principal behind an advertorial where an advertisement is hidden in the form of an article. The phrases “Let AI do the heavy lifting” and “AI-powered recommendations” create the context of AI-search that masks the true context of an advertisement.

Step 3: Images Chosen For Uploading

1716722762 187 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows how a user uploads an image to the AI-powered advertisement within the context of an AI-powered search app.

The Word “App” Masks That This Is An Ad

Screenshot of interactive advertisement for that identifies itself as an app with the words

Above is a screenshot of how a user uploads a photo to the AI-powered interactive advertisement within the context of a visual search engine, using the word “app” to further the illusion that the user is interacting with an app and not an advertisement.

Upload Process Masks The Advertising Context

Screenshot of interactive advertisement that uses the context of an AI Assistant to mask that this is an advertisement

The phrase “Generative AI is experimental” contributes to the illusion that this is an AI-assisted search.

Step 4: Upload Confirmation

1716722762 395 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

In step 4 the “app” advertisement is for confirming that the AI correctly identified the furniture that needs to be put into storage.

Step 5: AI “Recommendations”

1716722762 588 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows “AI recommendations” that look like search results.

The Recommendations Are Ad Units

1716722762 751 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Those recommendations are actually ad units that when clicked takes the user to the “Extra Space Storage” shopping website.

Step 6: Searcher Visits Advertiser Website

1716722762 929 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Blurring The Boundaries

What the Google keynote speaker describes is the integration of paid product suggestions into an AI assisted search. This kind of advertising is so far out there that the Googler doesn’t even call it advertising and rightfully so because what this does is blur the line between AI assisted search and advertising. At what point does a helpful AI search become just a platform for using AI to offer paid suggestions?

Watch The Keynote At The 32 Minute Mark

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Ljupco Smokovski

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How Do I Get A Job With A PPC Agency

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Conversion Tracking In PPC Campaigns

This month’s “Ask A PPC” question is particularly significant because the job market has been quite volatile.

“How do I get a job with a PPC agency when I have only worked in-house. What experience would they want?” – Karl Toronto

It’s understandable that people want to know which skills employers seek when hiring for a PPC team. There can be a disparity between what people think they need and what the market actually demands.

We’ll delve into some data and commentary to explain why various traits are valued.

It’s crucial to understand that the ideal candidates will be versatile and have an aptitude for all aspects of digital marketing.

However, no one can excel at everything, so leveraging your strengths or preferences is beneficial.

Ensure that you’re securing the best role for yourself while the company hiring you finds the best fit for them.

Here Are The Essential Skills

  • Analytics.
  • Creativity.
  • Ad network knowledge.
  • Willingness to test/learn.
  • Culture fit.

Discrepancy Between Market Demands And Perceived Needs

I conducted a poll on my LinkedIn to gauge the skills desired by current employers and practitioners.

Screenshot from author, LinkedIn, April 2024

Analytical skills emerged as the most sought-after trait. Employers seek individuals who can interpret numbers and discern the story behind them.

However, relying solely on analytical prowess may overlook the importance of creativity.

Creative skills are vital in today’s ad networks, especially emphasizing visual content like videos and campaign types that force visual content (Performace Max/Demand Gen). Neglecting creativity can hinder a company’s branding efforts.

Unexpectedly, ad network skills and cultural fit were deemed far less critical than analytical skills. Brands should prioritize team cohesion for long-term success, yet this aspect is often undervalued.

The disparity between job descriptions and actual skill requirements contributes to the difficulty in the job market.

Agencies that hire for how PPC used to work will be left wanting. Practitioners who only focus on popular skills instead of needed ones will be made obsolete by the privacy-first era obscuring data and AI owning creative.

Analytical Skills

Analytical abilities involve knowing where to find relevant data sources and understanding how they contribute to success.

While PPC historically relied on measurable outcomes, the landscape is evolving, necessitating adaptability in data analysis. Technical proficiency and strategic acumen are crucial for navigating different data sources.

These include:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
  • Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
  • Ecommerce platforms.
  • Content management platforms (CMS).

Empathy for various ad channels improves your candidacy, and knowing how to work with post-click data will give you an edge over those who can only work with ad platform data.

While being highly technical isn’t required, having empathy for coding and scripts will give you a better chance to stay current with evolving data mechanics (especially as APIs become even more important for accessing data blocked by privacy-first regulations).

Here are some takes from PPC experts on why analytics is the most important:

A screenshot of a LinkedIn comment by Georgi Zayakov, who describes himself as analytical Screenshot from author, LinkedIn, April 2024
A LinkedIn post by Kathryn B., a paid media specialist at a PPC agencyScreenshot from LinkedIn, April 2024
Screenshot of a LinkedIn post by Nikolaos B., discussing how marketers must become data-savvyScreenshot from author, LinkedIn, April 2024

Creativity

Creativity is essential for crafting compelling ad content, yet many PPC agencies struggle in this area.

Clients are often tasked with providing creative materials due to cost or complexity constraints.

You’ll get a competitive edge if you have these skills:

  • Video Editing: With the rise of PMax, as well as many ad networks leaning heavily into connected TV, having video editing chops will be a huge asset for any team. If you’re not comfortable using conventional editing tools, AI tools like Descript are a great way to take on those tasks.
  • Graphic Design: No matter the ad network your potential employer is hiring for, you will need some ability to design static images. Whether you use stock photos or AI-generated images or come up with the creative yourself, the days of purely text ads are over. Tools like Canva can help bridge the gap for less technical designers, but don’t discount ad network AI.
  • Content Creation: While the first two categories leaned toward visual content, written content is still important (i.e., most ad formats include some text). Having the ability to understand how diverse audiences prefer to be addressed while respecting the specific requirements of each format is a great skill to hone.

While some roles may prioritize analytics or ad network knowledge, emphasizing creative abilities can distinguish you during the hiring process.

Here are some experts who value creativity:

A screenshot of a LinkedIn post by Erik PetersonScreenshot from author, LinkedIn, April 2024
A screenshot of a Linkedin post by Amy HebdonScreenshot from author, LinkedIn, April 2024

Ad Network Knowledge

Ad network expertise is valuable, but adaptability is paramount as platforms evolve rapidly.

Some agencies will have specialists, while others hire folks they expect to be passable at every network they service. It’s important to understand what workflow will enable you to succeed.

If you’re happy working with all platforms, then don’t shy away from it. However, if you do better in focusing on one aspect of PPC, that’s totally valid. Just know it might limit your ability to get hired into smaller “familyesque” agencies.

Understanding auction dynamics and bidding strategies is crucial.

Many of us who entered the industry when manual bidding was more popular have an unfair advantage over those who came in during the Smart Bidding era (i.e., anything from 2020).

This is because manual bidding requires you to think about the mechanics of each ad platform’s auction and how you could use those mechanics to your advantage in building account structure.

Knowing what to track and allocating appropriate budgets are key considerations.

Understanding that some networks require more conversions than others to run (e.g., Meta Ads’ 50 in a 7-day period vs. Google Ads’ 15 in a 30-day period) should influence what you choose to track, as well as how you report the data.

Additionally, if you are under or over budget, you’ll set yourself up to fail. Knowing which channels require a big investment upfront and what the breaking point for each network is (either on underspending or spending too much) is critical.

Awareness of potential pitfalls, such as false positives or negatives, enhances campaign effectiveness. For example, it’s important to know how to check if automatically applying recommendations is on and what tasks it’s on for.

It’s worth noting that none of the experts who chimed in on the poll made a clear case for ad network knowledge specifically.

Willingness To Test

Success in PPC requires openness to experimentation and a willingness to adapt. While this wasn’t one of the criteria in the poll, it was one of the most popular traits experts look for in hiring.

Perfectionism can hinder progress in a fast-changing environment. Testing new ideas and embracing failure as an opportunity for growth are essential.

While analytical skills aid in test design, empathy and creativity are equally vital for devising effective experiments.

Here is an expert who favors a willingness to test:

Screenshot of a social media post by Mike RhodesScreenshot from author, LinkedIn, April 2024

Cultural Fit

Cultural alignment with an agency fosters productivity and job satisfaction. However, you can only achieve that by being honest with yourself about what you want and the mechanics of how you work.

Agencies demand intense effort and collaboration, making compatibility with colleagues crucial.

Anyone looking to make the shift from in-house to agency needs to be prepared for a much faster pace of work and a lot more agency.

Open communication with leadership regarding preferred management and learning styles will ensure a positive working relationship.

Respect for peers and a supportive atmosphere contribute to a fulfilling work environment.

Here are a few thoughts on cultural fit from polled experts:

The image shows a LinkedIn post by David Zebrout containing text discussing the importance of integrating PPC network knowledge with intertimed optimizations in generating profitable growth.Screenshot from author, LinkedIn, April 2024
LinkedIn post by Lisa Erschbamer discussing the importance of cultural fit and individual personality in team dynamics for effective performance at a PPC Agency.Screenshot from author, LinkedIn, April 2024
A screenshot of a LinkedIn post by Aaron Davies discussing the importance of cultural fit, individual skills, and team communication in marketing for a PPC agency. The post has reactions and a question comment by NavahScreenshot from author, LinkedIn, April 2024

Final Thoughts

Navigating the current job market can be challenging, but understanding industry needs and honing relevant skills increases your chances of success.

Balancing technical proficiency with creativity and cultural fit is essential for thriving in a PPC role. By aligning with market demands and showcasing your strengths, you can secure rewarding opportunities in the field.

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Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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