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Where We Are Today With Google’s Mobile-First Index

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Where We Are Today With Google’s Mobile-First Index

Okay, so it’s been a few years now since Google announced the mobile-first index.

Most sites have been moved over to Google’s mobile-first index and it’s no longer a “hot” topic in SEO.

I found a tweet from John Mueller, Google Search Advocate, in 2021 that sums up the lack of focus on this topic the best:

Going with that mentality that mobile-first indexing is a “part of life” (which I wholeheartedly agree with), as an SEO, it is helpful to know some of the history and where we are today.

For instance, since the announcement of the mobile-first index years ago, Google has now also placed emphasis on Page Experience, which is a ranking factor and very much incorporates mobile.

Before we jump into that topic, let’s first get into the beginnings of the mobile-first index and what we know so far.

Then, we’ll get into what Google is looking for in mobile usability, what it means to have an identical experience on mobile and desktop, how you can meet Google’s expectations of mobile-first best practices, and more.

Google’s Mobile-First Indexing

No, There Are Not Two Indexes

Google has stated that there isn’t a separate mobile-first index.

Instead, mobile-first indexing means Google primarily uses the mobile version of the webpage for ranking and indexing purposes.

In 2018, Google explained that with mobile-first indexing, the URL of the mobile-friendly version of your site is indexed.

If your website has separate mobile and desktop URLs, Google shows the mobile URL to mobile users and the desktop URL to desktop users.

Regardless, the indexed content will be the mobile version.

Shifting To The Mobile-First Index

At the end of 2017, Google announced that it would start slowly rolling out mobile-first indexing.

By March 2018, Google stated that they were expanding the rollout and instructed websites to prepare.

Fast forward three years later and not all websites have been switched over to the mobile index.

In June 2020, Google stated that while most websites were set to mobile indexing, there were still many that were not.

Google announced at that point that instead of switching in September 2020, it would delay mobile-first indexing until March 2021.

Google cited a number of issues encountered with sites as a reason for delaying the rollout, including problems with robots meta tags, lazy-loading, blocked assets, primary content, and mobile images and videos.

Eventually, Google removed its own self-imposed deadline in November 2021 explaining that there were still sites that were not yet in the mobile-first index because they weren’t ready to be moved over.

Google went on to say that the lack of readiness was due to several unexpected challenges faced by these websites.

According to Google, “because of these difficulties, we’ve decided to leave the timeline open for the last steps of mobile-first indexing.”

Google also stated that “we currently don’t have a specific final date for the move to mobile-first indexing and want to be thoughtful about the remaining bigger steps in that direction.”

Mobile-First Indexing As The Default For New Websites

If your website was published after July 1, 2019, mobile-first indexing is enabled by default.

Google made this announcement in May 2019 and explained that the change applied to websites that were previously unknown to Google Search.

The announcement went into detail about why Google would make mobile-first indexing the default for new websites.

According to Google, after crawling the web with a smartphone Googlebot over the years, they concluded that new websites are typically ready for this type of crawling.

Mobile Usability And Mobile-First Indexing Are Not Synonyms

In January 2019, Mueller explained that if your content does not pass the mobile usability test, it could still be moved to mobile-first indexing.

Even if Search Console’s “mobile usability” report showed that your site had valid URLs, it didn’t mean those pages were ready for mobile-first indexing.

Mobile usability is “completely separate” from mobile-first indexing, according to Mueller. Consequently, pages could be enabled for mobile-first indexing even if they were not considered usable on a mobile device.

You can hear Mueller’s explanation in the video below, starting at the 41:12 mark:

“So, first off, again mobile usability is completely separate from mobile-first indexing.

A site can or cannot be usable from a mobile point of view, but it can still contain all of the content that we need for mobile-first indexing.

An extreme example, if you take something like a PDF file, then on mobile that would be terrible to navigate. The links will be hard to click, the text will be hard to read.

But all of the text is still there, and we could perfectly index that with mobile-first indexing.

Mobile usability is not the same as mobile-first indexing.”

In summary, mobile-friendliness and mobile-responsive layouts are not mandatory for mobile-first indexing.

Since pages without mobile versions still work on a mobile device, they were eligible for indexing.

The Mobile & Desktop Experiences Should Be The Same

Google added to their mobile-first indexing best practices in January 2020, and the big emphasis was on providing an identical experience on mobile and desktop.

Matt Southern provided a great summarized list of what Google meant by the same experience:

  • Ensuring Googlebot can access and render mobile and desktop page content and resources.
  • Making sure the mobile site contains the same content as the desktop site.
  • Using the same meta robots tags on the mobile and desktop site.
  • Using the same headings on the mobile site and desktop site.
  • Making sure the mobile and desktop sites have the same structured data.

Google warns that if you purposefully serve less content on the mobile version of a page than the desktop version, you will likely experience a drop in traffic.

The reason? According to Google, they won’t be able to get as much information from the page as before (when the desktop version was used).

Instead, Google recommends that the primary content on the mobile site be the same as on the desktop site. Google even suggests using the same headings on the mobile version.

To drive this point home, even more, Google mentions in its mobile-indexing documentation that only the content on the mobile site is used in indexing.

Therefore, you should be sure that your mobile site has the same content as your desktop site.

Mueller reiterated this fact during Pubcon Pro Virtual 2020 with the following comment:

“…we’re now almost completely indexing the web using a smart phone Googlebot, which matches a lot more what users would actually see when they search.

And one of the things that we noticed that people are still often confused about is with regards to, like if I only have something on desktop, surely Google will still see that and it will also take into account the mobile content.

But actually, it is the case that we will only index the mobile content in the future.

So when a site is shifted over to mobile first indexing, we will drop everything that’s only on the desktop site. We will essentially ignore that.

…anything that you want to have indexed, it needs to be on the mobile site.”

You can read more about Mueller’s comments here: Google Mobile-First Index – Zero Desktop Content March 2021.

Google’s Mobile-First Indexing Best Practices

Google provides a comprehensive list of best practices for mobile-first indexing “to make sure that your users have the best experience.”

Most of the information Google shares as best practices is not really new.

Instead, the list is a compilation of various recommendations and advice that Google has provided elsewhere over the years.

In addition to the list of recommendations above about creating the same experience on mobile and desktop, other best practices include:

  • Making sure the error page status is the same on the mobile and desktop sites.
  • Avoiding fragment URLs in the mobile site.
  • Making sure the desktop pages have equivalent mobile pages.
  • Verifying both the mobile and desktop sites in Search Console.
  • Checking hreflang links on separate mobile URLs.
  • Making sure the mobile site can handle an increased crawl rate.
  • Making sure the robot.txt directives are the same on the mobile and desktop sites.

Google offers an entire section focused on suggestions for separate URLs.

The “Troubleshooting” section of the best practices document is also worth checking out.

It includes common errors that can either cause your site to not be ready for mobile-first indexing or could lead to a drop in rankings once your site is enabled.

Note that Mueller explained nothing has changed with mobile-first indexing related to sites with separate mobile URLs using rel-canonical. Mueller recommends keeping the annotations the same.

Google will use the mobile URL as canonical even if the rel-canonical points to the desktop URL.

Mueller created a helpful graphic that shows a “before and after” indexing process for desktop and m-dot URLs.

Read more: Google’s John Mueller Clears Confusion About Mobile-First Index.

One last note about best practices.

In Google’s mobile-first indexing best practices documentation, it states, “While it’s not required to have a mobile version of your pages to have your content included in Google’s search results, it is very strongly recommended.”

While it might seem obvious to have a mobile version, I have gotten pushback when speaking about mobile-first.

At one conference, an attendee asked during my session if having a mobile version of the site was necessary if no one was coming from a mobile device.

He kept emphasizing “no one.” My answer? Do it anyway.

Not only does Google very highly recommend it, but visitors, especially repeat visitors, might not be using mobile devices because of the poor experience.

We need to focus not just on getting pages ranked in search results, but also on ensuring that the visitor has a good experience once on the page.

Page Experience Update + Mobile-First

The Page Experience update also needs to be part of the conversation.

The Page Experience update was officially released for mobile devices in 2021 and includes measurement signals regarding how visitors perceive their experience of interacting with your web page.

According to Google, this perception goes beyond just the information value provided on the page. Therefore, Google takes into account loading performance, visual stability, and interactivity of the page, which is known as Core Web Vitals.

Page Experience also looks at mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitials, which were already a part of the ranking algorithm.

For instance, mobile-friendliness was announced as a ranking factor in 2015, which led to Mobilegeddon (the industry’s name for the update… not Google’s name).

This factor took into account text readability, spacing of tap targets, and unplayable content.

A year later, Google announced that it was strengthening this ranking factor.

Originally, the mobile-friendly update was meant to apply to mobile search results only, but now with the mobile-first index, it applies overall.

Let’s get back to Core Web Vitals.

Core Web Vitals are factors Google considers important in a user’s overall experience on the webpage, including Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Each of these factors contributes to the user experience and is scored as “Good,” “Needs Improvement,” or “Poor.”

Now, let’s see how this relates to mobile-first indexing.

There is a lot of overlap between Core Web Vitals and the mobile-first index because both look at how a page performs on a mobile device.

To tie this together, you can reference one of the mobile-first indexing best practices provided by Google, which is to ensure your mobile site loads fast.

Google offers specific recommendations, including using Google PageSpeed Insights and focusing on the “Speed” section. Note that there are other tools you can use too to test speed, such as GTMetrix and WebPageTest.

Martin Splitt, who works in Google’s Developer Relations, was asked in May 2021 if the Page Experience Update was going to roll out on mobile and desktop pages at the same time.

His response was that it would start with mobile pages first, which it did in August 2021. It would be rolled out on desktop pages in February 2022.

It was also made clear that Google would assess mobile pages separately from desktop pages, meaning there is no aggregate score of mobile and desktop (at least not for now).

You can access both the desktop and mobile Page Experience reports in Google Search Console.

Just as you need to pay attention to the desktop and mobile versions of your site for the mobile-first index, you also need to for the Page Experience update.

Check out Core Web Vitals: A Complete Guide for detailed information about this update and how to implement fixes.

One last note before we move on: When Google scores a page, it will test the speed, stability, and usability of the page version that the user ends up seeing.

Here’s where things get tricky. For Core Web Vitals, if you have an AMP version, Google will use it for page experience scoring (i.e., speed, quality, and usability). The mobile version would not be used.

Yet, the mobile version is what would be crawled for the mobile-first index.

So, to sum it up, the AMP version would be used for Core Web Vitals scoring and the mobile version would be used for mobile-first indexing.

Read Google Mobile-First Indexing and Scoring of Sites with Mobile and AMP Versions for the full explanation from Mueller.

Improve Performance In Google’s Mobile-First Index

Here is a consolidated list of items to check that build on some of the best practices already provided.

1. If You Have Multiple Versions, Make Sure Important Content Is Shown On All

Make sure your important content – including structured data, internal links, images, and so on – is on the mobile version of your website, too.

Google even warns in its mobile-indexing best practices that if you have less content on your mobile page than the desktop page, you will experience some traffic loss when your site is moved to mobile-first indexing,

Read more here: Google: Mobile-Friendly Does Not Mean Ready For Mobile-First Index.

2. Let Googlebot Access And Render Your Content

Google recommends that you use the same meta robots tags on the mobile site, avoid lazy-loading primary content (Googlebot can’t load content that requires user interaction), and allow Googlebot to crawl your resources.

3. Verify Structured Data

Double-check that your structured data is the same on both the desktop and mobile versions of your website and also ensure the URLs are correct.

4. Improve Mobile Page Speed

Page speed has been a factor to consider for a long time and it is even more important with the mobile-first index and Page Experience update.

Advanced Core Web Vitals: A Technical SEO Guide is packed with how-to advice on identifying and addressing speed-related factors that impact Core Web Vitals and mobile-first indexing.

5. Keep An Eye On Mobile Errors

As with most SEO work, getting a site to perform well in the mobile-first index is not a “one and done” task. You need to be closely monitoring Search Console so that you can identify and fix mobile errors.

Make it a habit to regularly view the “mobile usability” and “Core Web Vitals” reports in Search Console.

Keep Reading: Google’s Changelog On Mobile-First Indexing

The changelog in Google’s mobile-first indexing best practices gives a quick recap of the changes since 2016.

As you can tell, there is a lot to know and keep in mind on mobile-first indexing.

Make sure you are staying on top of best practices and monitoring your website’s performance to succeed in the world of mobile-first indexing.

More Resources:


Featured Image: DisobeyArt/Shutterstock



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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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