Our interview series with the titans of marketing continues with WebRanking partner and CEO James Svoboda, who has been marketing and optimizing websites since 1999. He is also Co-Founder and Vice President of MnSearch.org, the Minnesota Search Engine Marketing Association, a curator at Marketing Land, a member of the Which Test Won advisory board, and frequent host of #PPCchat. 

Name: James Svoboda
Title: CEO & Partner
Company: WebRanking

What’s the first metric you check when you start work for the day? The first metric at the start of each and every work day is the number of client emails that I have in my inbox. That will usually dictate how much work I have to do before I start work.

After email, the first PPC metrics I check are impression and traffic volumes. I can’t count the number of times over the years that I’ve found a client’s account that’s had its credit card payment declined, the notification email was sent to a Gmail account that is rarely checked, and traffic, leads and sales have dried up. There have been many occasions where automation has led to perfectly good ads being disapproved that interrupted traffic levels as well.

I also check Impression volume as it can provide clues to shifts in the PPC landscape. It can mean changes have occurred to competition that might bump you in or out of the top 3 spots. At times it will lead to AdWords, ahem, “Search Partners” such as Amazon, BestBuy, Target, Walmart and others making changes to how and where they are, ahem, “Displaying” ads.  Impression shifts can also mean that certain keywords have been deactivated due to the dreaded Low Search Volume stats, that there have been Quality Score changes, or that certain device types need more attention.

What’s one metric you rarely bother to check? Avg. CPM is a data column you can add to AdWords, which I rarely do. I originally learned about Average CPM from Brad Geddes. He described it as a way to understand how much Google is making on your ads for each time they are displayed (per impression). Since Google is in the business to maximize profit per impression, you can look at it from their perspective. It is an interesting way to look at things, but it’s hard to understand because you have no competitive reference point for which to gauge results. If there were another data column in AdWords for something like “Relative CPM”, similar to “Relative CTR”, then you’d have some really good data points to work with.

If you had 10 million dollars to invest and you could invest in Google
or Facebook stock, which would you pick, and why? Google. Last year I might have said Facebook, but that’s changed with the growth and launch of recent Google+ features such as Communities. But that’s only part of the reason I’d choose them. The main reason is AdWords. It’s an intent-driven, performance-based advertising program where advertisers are willing to pay top dollar for clicks that convert. (And they often do.) Once Google starts layering Google+ user demographic targeting on top of AdWords search and display campaigns to the level that Facebook does, we’ll see a major evolution in PPC.

Also, I reserve the right to change my answer if, or when, Facebook implements an intent-driven advertising model like PPC for search.

What do you think will be the most important marketing platform in 10
years? It’s my belief that the combination of several marketing platforms for monitoring, managing, engaging, and cultivating customer service will be paramount. People love taking to the Web, and social media in particular, to vent and express themselves. And since you can’t outrun the Internet, you had better beware of what’s out there and maintain a positive presence.

What’s your favorite advertising campaign (e.g. Betty White Super
Bowl ad, Got Milk billboard, etc.)? One of my favorite campaigns in recent years was the Nature’s Own TV/video commercials using the Song “I Don’t Love You Much Do I” by Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris. The commercial combines a powerful song with images of families being a family, while downplaying their own product.

The first 4 lines of the song set the tone for the entire spot.

~I don’t love you much do I

~ Just more than all the stars in the sky

~ I don’t love you much do I

~ I think you hung the moon and that’s all right

Since I’m a husband and father, this one really pulled on my heart.  It’s a great example of how important of a role emotion can play in marketing.

What are the three most important qualities of a good account manager? 

Being Detail-Oriented – There are so many important aspects of digital campaigns that influence and affect each other; you need to pay attention to the little details while keeping an eye on the big picture.

Liking Data and Analysis – Whether you are managing a PPC account or an SEO campaign, the data you gather, and what you decide to do with it, will greatly shape the campaign and results.

Challenging the Status Quo and Continuing Asking “Why?” – Albert Einstein is famously quoted with saying that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I agree.

Why is a powerful word. Challenging the way we do things should be close to the heart of every optimizer and manager.

So if I was working with someone, and asked them why they are doing something, and they responded with anything similar to: “because we always have,” I’d have to put some serious thought into why I was working with them.

If anything keeps me up at night worrying about my company, it’s… Keeping campaigns progressing at the speed in which the Internet advances. Especially during an economic period where budgets are tight and results can change swiftly and dramatically if you’re not reacting quickly enough.

Just in the past year we have seen Pinterest rise significantly, Google+ become unavoidable, Authorship become good for more than books, mobile become a primary option, social PPC become a mainstay and content marketing evolve to more than just link-building.

If you do not stay on top of the changes, and educate your clients along the way, you can quickly find yourself with underperforming campaigns and unhappy clients.

What’s the one marketing lesson you wish you had learned earlier? Internet marketing specialties, such as SEO, PPC, Social, Email, Analytics, Content, Conversions, UX, etc., are not unique dishes that are completely separate from each other.  They are all ingredients in one big Digital recipe. Adding a little Analytics to an SEO base, along with a pinch of PPC for punch and Social for spice, can transform a bland digital dish into something wonderful.

If you could invest in one marketing technology company, which would it be and why? This is a tough because there are so many start-up marketing tech companies that I have a hard time keeping on top of them all.  So based on the ones that I’m fairly familiar with I’d choose SEOmoz.

Here are some of the many reasons:

Fishkin.  Mihm.  Lord.  Morgret. TAGFEE.  Moz.com (rebrand?).  Mozlandia. Round(s) of VC funding. Whiteboards. Webinars. MozCations. Moz/Linkscape. OSE.  Daily Blog.  YOUmoz opportunities. Followers & Wonks.  Getting Listed.  14402 users. 214,742 Subscribers. 188,209 Tweeples. 90,382 Likes. 28,111 Circles. Community & Culture.

In three words or fewer: the future of SEM is…? Demographics. CRO. Multichannel.

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