PPC Seattle Style: 9 Pay-Per-Click Lessons from the Emerald City

Ah, Seattle.  The Emerald City.  You’ve taught me so much.  Things like, “the morning’s weather is in no way a forecast of the afternoon’s weather” and “cream cheese and hot dogs belong together.”

In addition to being the place where I learned that it’s okay to throw fish, our fair city is also the place where I learned about PPC.  Seattle tends to have its own way of doing things, and pay-per-click marketing is no exception.  In no particular order, please enjoy:

9 PPC Lessons I Learned in Seattle

    1. If you (or your conversion rate) are depressed, check to make sure it’s not just seasonal.


    1. Skimping on the foundation when you build a PPC campaign is just going to cost more in the long run.
      Recently the news came out that a high-rise in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood – built just 9 years ago – has to be completely torn down, thanks to structural problems arising from shoddy materials and workmanship in the building’s construction.  In addition to being a huge waste of materials, this building’s failure is costing a lot of people a lot of money – WAY more than they could have saved by cutting the corners that they did.The PPC lesson here?  Do not cut corners when you’re building a campaign.  Take the time to create tightly-knit ad groups, lock in landing page best practices, add negative keywords and write killer ad copy before you launch – or it’ll cost you more money in the long run, and might even mean you have to tear the whole thing down.


    1. Evolve as media evolves – or die.
      It’s a story happening all over the world right now – print newspapers are struggling to survive in a digital world.  When the Hearst Corporation announced in 2009 that they were putting the Seattle Post-Intelligencer up for sale, I’ll admit that I was certain it spelled the death of the paper.  Fortunately, some P-I employees were given provisional job offers to start an online-only edition – and they ran with it, keeping the paper afloat even without the “actual paper” part.  That’s what makes adopting new media good PPC, Seattle style – if you’re not moving into new ad spaces (hello, Facebook?), taking advantage of rich media ads, and in general staying on the bleeding edge of PPC, you’re not gonna make it.


    1. Negative keywords can’t be ignored.
      I learned this lesson as a consumer, not as a PPC marketer.  Have you tried to book a vacation in the Northwest’s beautiful San Juan Islands?  If you do, you’re gonna see a lot of paid search results for San Juan, Puerto Rico.  A little time spent hand-crafting negative keywords and studying user intent could have saved those travel agencies a lot of clicks that are never going to convert.


    1. Don’t be afraid to test until you get exactly what you want.
      Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, which means that most Seattleites start drinking coffee beverages at a very young age (I was 14).  Seattleites get a lot of guff for our super-long latte orders – but we’re not just making it up to amuse ourselves.  How did I arrive at my double-tall-nonfat-1-pump-sugar-free-vanilla-iced-but-with-no-ice-just-cold-milk latte order?  TESTING.  I’ve spent the last 12 years tweaking that latte order until it is just the way I like it.  Got a PPC campaign?  Then you’ve got an opportunity to tweak and test until it’s just the way you like it – every time.(Yes, that is my real Starbucks order.  Shut up.)


    1. Reuse, Recycle.
      In the Northwest we’ve got some straight up environmental nuts – and if there’s one thing they’ve taught me, it’s to reuse and recycle everything until every ounce of use has been squeezed out.  Throw keywords and landing page elements that underperformed in the past into the testing mix once in a while – you’ll be surprised what works now that didn’t then.


    1. Think local.
      Buy local.  Eat local.  Advertise local?  We’re all about reducing our carbon footprints here in Seattle.  PPC marketers can reduce their unwanted click footprints by taking full advantage of geotargeting and other new location-based PPC opportunities.


    1. Sometimes the words you don’t want to use are going to be your top converters.
      You can’t really go to shows or talk to tourists around here without someone being like “Seattle, man…grunge…Kurt Cobain…Soundgarden…legendary, man.”  As much as we might want to walk around screaming “That was FIFTEEN YEARS AGO,” that image of Seattle is part of what keeps tourists coming around – and what keeps Seattle as vibrant a music center as it is.  As a marketer, especially as a PPC marketer, it’s vital that you not let a too-rigid conception of your brand keep you from missing keyword opportunities that can turn into sales.


  1. Be passionate.
    Without passion, you’re not going to be able to test new things, recycle old ones, think outside your brand, adopt new technologies, or any of the other tenets of Seattle-style PPC.  Without its huge fan base, the Seattle Sounders would be just another MLS team.  Without you as its biggest fan, your PPC campaign is doomed to failure.

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