PPC Associates Is Now 3Q Digital

Sep. 17

I’m thrilled today to share a mini interview with my good friend, David Rodnitzky. David is a true leader in the digital marketing industry. David and his agency are also long time sponsors and supporter of PPC Ian. I have some exciting news! David’s agency, PPC Associates, is now 3Q Digital. You can read all about the rebrand here. 3Q is one of the best digital marketing agencies around, I cannot say enough great stuff about them. Want to learn all about 3Q Digital? Let’s jump into my mini interview with David…

3Q Digital

Ian: David, congratulations on your big announcement!

David: Thanks Ian. It’s been a long journey to get to this point and I’m excited it’s finally arrived!

Ian: How did you decide to re-brand your company?

David: Over the last couple of years our clients have increasingly asked us to do more than “just SEM” for them. The most frequent requests we got involved SEO, Facebook PPC, display advertising, and creative work. We responded to these needs by building out dedicated teams to service each of these areas. Whereas three years ago 100% of our spend was SEM, today almost 20% is a combination of Facebook and display, plus we have about 10% of our customers also using us to manage their SEO. Our name – PPC Associates – implies that all we do is PPC (or SEM, same difference!). While we still see SEM as our core offering, we now have many people on the team that focus on other online marketing services, so it just made sense to come up with a new name that wasn’t so PPC-centric!

Ian: What’s in the future for 3Q Digital?

David: In the short term, we want to just get better at what we are already doing – SEM, SEO, Facebook PPC and display. In the long-term, we are continuing to evaluate different marketing channels that are complementary to our existing channels. If we think we can do an awesome job of servicing clients in these new channels – and we hear from clients that they need help in these areas – we would certainly consider expanding into new areas.

Ian: As a marketer, it must have been so much fun thinking through your branding strategy. How did you arrive at your new brand?

David: We actually had an internal contest where we asked everyone on the team to submit recommendations for the new name. We got about 100 responses and then we narrowed those 100 down to 17 semi-finalists. We had a management team vote on the 17 finalists and ended up with two finalists. We submitted the two finalists back to the greater team to vote and we went with the one that got the most votes. To give you a sense of how much we believe in democracy, the name I voted for lost!

Ian: David, huge thank you for the mini interview. As always, it’s such a pleasure connecting with one of the top marketers ever. I have so much respect for you, your amazing team, and your incredible business. You are an inspiration in our industry!

David: Thanks Ian. We are big fans of you and PPC Ian. If you decide to change your name from PPC Ian to something more generic, let me know, I can help!

That’s it for today, everyone. Make sure to head on over to the 3Q Digital website, and make sure to check out their amazing blog.

3Q Digital Logo © 3QDigital.com

Interview: Sean Marshall From PPC Associates

Feb. 16

Today I am truly lucky and honored to interview Sean Marshall, Senior Director of Client Services at PPC Associates. PPC Associates is Silicon Valley’s SEM Agency. They are awesome! A while back, I had the honor of interviewing their CEO and Co-Founder, David Rodnitzky. Today, I am so excited to interview Sean because his experience is truly exceptional. Joining PPC Associates as the 5th member of the client services team, Sean has enjoyed 3 years of success and is now part of a 50-member team. Without further ado, let’s jump into the interview:

Sean Marshall

Ian: Sean, thank you so much for interviewing with me. I know PPC Ian readers are going to be truly thrilled with this one.

Sean: Thanks for having me Ian.

Ian: You have built an exceptional career in paid search. How did you first get started?

Sean: I took kind of an odd route. I started my career in lead qualification with a company called Tippit in 2006 and quickly realized making 100+ calls a day wasn’t really for me. I ended up pivoting into a freelance recruiting role for them and the first position I helped them fill was that of SEM Manager. I liked the idea of recruiting as a way to explore the job landscape but half of my reqs were for SEM. The exposure to these PPC jobs and the folks we were recruiting got me thinking: hey, I should be doing that.

Ian: How has your career evolved over the years? How did you grow your career in online marketing?

Sean: Well, after getting snubbed by David at Mercantila (true story), I wound up at Webtrends working on their SEM tool. It was an account management gig but more of a hybrid services/tech/SEM role. It taught me a lot and I got exposure to all sorts of programs. In the meantime, I’d kept in touch with David and heard he was getting his agency off the ground. After about a 6 months of back and forth, he decided it was time to scale the operation and I jumped at the chance.

Ian: What’s it like at PPC Associates? What’s your favorite thing about working at PPC Associates?

Sean: I love to build things, break them, and then build them back up again. Working at PPCA gave me the chance to do that. We were a small scrappy team of 6 when I joined and no one really had agency experience. The company was founded by in-house marketers and combining that mindset with some agency experience was a winning formula. I was able to soak in all sorts of marketing knowledge, contribute things they didn’t know about and then teach it to a new wave of account managers after that.

Ian: You’re a leader at PPC Associates. What are some of the most important lessons you have learned about team leadership? Any recommendations for those just starting out in people management?

Sean: Everyone wants to get into management until they actually start managing… and realize how hard it is. The reason is pretty simple – managers put out fires. Now if your entire job is putting out fires, you should probably rethink your process but that doesn’t mean you won’t deal with tough situations. Having a thick skin and understanding that a large part of the job is managing problems and crises is key. The reward comes in creating and implementing solutions to drive continuous improvement.

Ian: What’s your favorite thing about online marketing? What part of the job do you enjoy the most?

Sean: I’’m definitely one of those guys that appreciates the quantifiable aspects of what we do. I’m a poker player and I need a way to keep score. Tracking and measurement are addicting. That said, I love that it’s still a people business. Sure you can bury your head in excel and AdWords editor but the crux of this is to understand audiences and, on the agency side, clients. The mix of math and people means things will be different every day and if you’re tired of one, you can retreat to the other any given day (just not everyday).

Ian: Any tips for PPC Ian readers looking to grow their career in online marketing?

Sean: Be patient and keep grinding. The internet never shuts off and the work never stops. You need to invest the time but make sure you’re being productive. Doing busy work just to say you worked 60 hours a week won’t accomplish anything. Take the same quantitative approach youdd bring to a marketing campaign to measure the impact your work has and use that to adjust where you spend your time.

Managing online programs can feel like running on treadmill so you need to find finish lines. If you can’t find ways to say “mission accomplished” for various projects, it just feels like you’re perpetually working and that will drive anyone crazy.

Ian: Any campaign optimization tips that are top-of-mind for you right now?

Sean: Attribution is definitely top of mind. We’re focused on an RFP of various attribution/tracking vendors to make sure we can offer clients the best of what’s out there. Each channel influences the other in different ways – not to mention cross device implications. Last click is dead!

Ian: Looking forward to 2013 and the future, how do you see online advertising evolving? What can smart professionals do to stay ahead of the curve?

Sean: Well if you listen to everyone out there, it’s mobile and social. They can’t be looked at in a vacuum though. Mobile commerce sucks and will never equal desktop commerce (now it might generate more traffic but the conversion issues wont magically fix themselves). Connect the dots to measure the true impact. Beyond that – I’d pay more attention to tablets than smart phones. Maybe I’m too fixated on usability but tablets (and eventually larger screened phones) will have a greater impact than people think.

Ian: Sean, thank you so much for the amazing interview. This has been a true pleasure. Any closing thoughts/advice for PPC Ian readers?

Sean: There’s a lot of great content out there – keep reading blogs like these!!

Ian: Thanks again, Sean! Wishing you and everyone at PPC Associates all the best, you guys are true leaders in our industry!

Image of Sean Marshall © Sean Marshall

David Rodnitzky Interview, PPC Associates (2 of 2)

Feb. 14

David RodnitzkyHey Everyone,
Today, I’m thrilled to share part 2 of my exclusive interview with David Rodnitzky, CEO of PPC Associates. PPC Associates is Silicon Valley’s SEM Agency. Before reading this post, I encourage you to first read Part 1 of my David Rodnitzky Interview. Part 1 of the interview is totally awesome and is not to be missed. Without further ado, let’s jump into part 2 of this amazing interview…

Is PPC Associates hiring? If yes, how can candidates get in touch with you?

To some degree, we are always hiring, though it depends on the level of experience. For candidates with 3+ years of SEM experience, good quantitative skills, and a client-focused attitude, we hire 365 days a year. Moreover, for the right candidate, we offer 100% telecommuting and to date have hired senior folks in Portland, North Carolina, San Diego, and Ottawa.

In general, we’ve grown pretty fast so regardless of your experience, it’s probably worthwhile to submit a resume, because if we aren’t hiring today, there’s a good chance we’ll be hiring in 30 to 60 days. I think the best way to submit a resume is to send it to careers@ppcassociates.com.

Any advice for entrepreneurs starting their own business?

PPC Associates Ad

Well, to some degree I don’t consider myself a true entrepreneur, so I have to tread carefully here. I tell people in Silicon Valley you either mine for gold or sell Levis to the miners, and I’m the latter!

For a service business, I think the two pieces of advice I have are to 1) remember it’s a small world and 2) pay for the right people. Regarding the first point, the vast majority of our new business comes from existing or former customers. So by treating clients right and trying to build lifetime relationships instead of short-term profit, you have a greater chance of succeeding long-term.

Regarding the second point, I’ve learned the hard way that you get what you pay for when it comes to building a team. Initially, we tried to build our business with recent college grads and overseas remote employees, but the amount we saved in salaries was offset by the extra management we had to apply to these team members. We probably didn’t overwhelm our clients with amazing service and results either, which is simply unacceptable.
So we now live by Malcom Gladwell’s notion that you need 10,000 hours of experience to be a true expert. To hammer this point home to potential clients, I always ask them to imagine that they’ve been accused of a horrendous crime that they did not commit (yes, I know, I scare potential clients). In such a circumstance, would they hire a recent law school grad for $25/hr or a criminal attorney with 10 years of experience at $250/hr? They then understand why we are so picky about who we hire, and how we can get the results we can get for clients!

Any campaign management tips for PPC professionals?

Test, test, test. Oh, and keywords are a fictional concept invented by Google (or maybe GoTo). Queries are what you need to optimize against, not keywords. We’ve written a lot of great whitepapers on our Web site that are all free – check these out and you can learn a lot about my philosophy around campaign management.

How do you see the SEM industry evolving?

I believe that traditional SEM is dead. Buying keywords and creating text ads is just one part of what SEM is today. Today you need to have expertise in search, social PPC, YouTube, mobile, display, landing page optimization, analytics, and attribution, to name just a few. To be great at SEM today, you have to understand the entire conversion funnel and touch every part of that funnel.

The SEM industry is evolving in the same way that many other professional fields have evolved historically – specialization and sub-specialization. In 1860, if you had a headache, you’d go to your local doctor and he’d try to diagnose your problem. Today, you might go to your general practitioner, who would refer you to a neurologist, who might send you to a movement disorders specialist, who might further refer you to a Parkinson’s Disease expert. The same thing is happening in SEM. We have Facebook PPC experts, YouTube pros, GDN gurus – it’s impossible to expect one person to be an expert at all facets of SEM anymore.

Any closing thoughts for PPC Ian readers?

Keep absorbing everything you can about SEM – the deeper you dig into it, the more you realize how much more you have to learn. I’ve been doing this for 12 years now and I feel like I learn something new every day!

Thank You, David!

David, on behalf of all PPC Ian readers, I want to sincerely thank you for the amazing interview. I’m certainly inspired and truly enjoyed the interview. PPC Ian readers, make sure to check out Part 1 of My David Rodnitzky Interview (if you have not already) and also don’t forget to stop by PPC Associates, Silicon Valley’s SEM Agency.

Images in this article © PPC Associates.

David Rodnitzky Interview, PPC Associates (1 of 2)

Feb. 13

David RodnitzkyInterviews here on PPC Ian have been incredibly popular. I’ve been so fortunate to have secured interviews with top industry leaders. Today, I could not be more thrilled and honored, I have secured an exclusive interview with David Rodnitzky, founder and CEO of PPC Associates. PPC Associates is Silicon Valley’s SEM Agency. Just check out their billboards in Palo Alto and see for yourself. I’m a huge fan of David and his agency. They have grown quickly and have an amazing reputation because they deliver results and know their stuff (you may wish to check out their 7 Habits eBook). Without further ado, let’s jump into today’s interview! Today I’ll post the first half of this great interview and tomorrow the second half!

How did you get started in the SEM industry?

PPC Associates

I graduated from law school in 1999 and all I knew was that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. So I moved to San Francisco from Iowa because I wanted to live on the West Coast. Initially I took whatever job I could find, from helping QA a Barbie videogame, to doing legal research for a law firm, to consulting to the financial industry.

After about six months, I got an offer to work for a startup called Rentals.com as a "manager of strategy," whatever that means. About six months into that job, the Director of Marketing quit and there was no one in the company managing the marketing budget. So I just volunteered to do it, even though I knew nothing about marketing, and the company agreed to let me take a stab at it.

Initially I was working with an ad agency and a PR agency and paying each of them a retainer of $30,000/month (I did not negotiate these contracts!). Then one day I heard about a company called GoTo.com where you could buy advertising for a penny per click. I tried it out and I was shocked at the volume and quality of traffic I was getting. I fired the two agencies and shifted as much of our budget as possible to GoTo as I could. GoTo turned into Overture, which then turned into Yahoo Search Marketing, which was of course copied by Google AdWords. I was lucky to stumble into this stuff when it was all very new.

How did you decide to start your own agency?

In 2007 I was working for an etailer and managing a remote team in Bangalore, India. About once a quarter, I was making the 30-hour trip over to India to coordinate with my team. Toward the end of the year, my wife got pregnant with our first son, and traveling overseas suddenly seemed like a very bad idea. Plus, I had been working for startups for more than seven years at that point, and I was just burnt out. So I quit without any plan other than to spend time with my wife and new son.

For the first few months of 2008, I hung out at a coffee shop playing online poker and dabbling in affiliate marketing. Slowly, however, I started to get calls from friends in the industry asking me if I could help them with their SEM campaigns. The call volume kept increasing to the point that I stopped the poker and affiliate marketing (neither of which were making me particularly rich) and I focused full-time on the consulting.
From there, I eventually brought on a partner (Will Lin) to handle additional work, and we eventually started to hire staff, rent offices, build process and technology – and, as they say, the rest is history. Today we have 35+ team members, two offices, almost 60 clients, and we manage somewhere north of $60 million in online marketing spending.

What’s it like running an SEM agency?

It’s a lot of fun. We work with a lot of entrepreneur-driven companies, and it’s really exciting to be a part of taking a company from an idea to a successful business. I’m not the kind of person who can come up with a great startup idea and actually execute against it, so I enjoy living vicariously through our clients!
Of course, there is also a lot of stress running an SEM agency. We have to constantly stay on top of the latest trends in SEM, and more and more we are being asked by clients to manage their Facebook, display, mobile, YouTube, and LinkedIn campaigns. So we are constantly distilling new information and applying this to clients’ accounts. It can make your brain hurt, but I’d much prefer to be at a job where I come home mentally exhausted than numb from boredom.

What sets PPC Associates ahead of the competition? What makes you guys unique?

There are a few things we do differently from other agencies. First, we invented the concept of the two-day contract. We want clients to work with us because they are overjoyed by the results and service they are getting, not because they are locked into a long-term contract. So every client has the right to fire us at any time with just two days’ notice if we aren’t exceeding expectations. Fortunately, most don’t!

We also provide our clients with free landing page and banner ad design – this is also a concept that we’ve pioneered in the industry. We’re huge believers in conversion-rate optimization, and we’ve put our money where our mouth is by hiring a full-time designer to support our clients. A lot of clients don’t have internal resources for design, so this is a huge value-add for them.

Third, we have a pretty unique internal process for optimizing campaigns. We call it the Alpha-Beta process, and you can understand the foundations of it by downloading the whitepaper available on our home page. Alpha-Beta is a very granular process that creates incredibly targeted ad groups, each based on a specific query in exact match. We basically make it impossible for Google or any other search engine to match our clients on bad-performing queries.

And last but not least, we are obsessed (in a good way) with service. We run a Net Promoter Survey ® every quarter to make sure we are absolutely delighting our clients, and we make process and personnel changes continuously to improve our results. Our last survey yielded a 91% Net Promoter score, which is about as good as you can get, but we are always trying to get better.

What are some of the greatest challenges you face?

The biggest challenge I see is keeping up with the pace of online marketing. It’s hard enough to keep track of all of the AdWords betas and improvements coming out, but when you combine that with changes to Facebook’s ad platform, the rapid pace of innovation in the display media buying world, and everything else we touch, it’s a lot of information to absorb. Our solution – which has worked so far – is to hire channel-specific experts to be the internal "gurus" for our clients.

What are some of the greatest rewards of running PPC Associates?

The biggest reward for me is helping others to be successful and getting paid to do it. I love seeing our clients gain market share and get accolades from the press. I also love that we’re now employing more than 35 people in a tough economy. Happy clients and happy team members are about all I can ask for.

Stay Tuned – Part 2 of The Interview Comes Out Tomorrow

David, thank you so much! What an amazing interview. I’m totally glued to this one, and am so impressed. I can’t wait to post part 2 of the interview tomorrow. PPC Ian readers, make sure to check out PPC Associates today.

Images in this post © PPC Associates

Exclusive Interview With Dino Vedo

Jan. 08

I’m thrilled today to interview one of the top commentators on my blog, Dino Vedo! Dino Vedo is a very popular blogger in the affiliate space, I frequent his daily and have learned numerous affiliate marketing tips from Dino. Above and beyond his blogging expertise, Dino is a full time college student and a young millionaire. Very impressive stuff! It’s been a real honor getting to know Dino over the last year, he’s a great friend and business partner. I know many of you reading PPC Ian are interested in PPC careers. Dino is someone you’ll want to pay close attention to because he can definitely teach you some strategies than can help with your online marketing career. Without further ado, let’s get into the interview…

Please tell PPC Ian readers a little bit about yourself

Dino Vedo

I’m currently a student at University of Michigan and I’m super busy juggling both affiliate marketing and my school work. College life is fun, don’t get me wrong, but it can get quite overwhelming when you need to attend clubs, hang out with your friends, study for tests, and then check over your campaigns before you go to sleep! Most of my friends have no idea how to make money online, nor exactly know what I do. Most of them think the only way to make money online is to scam, but as we all know that definitely is not the case. Anyways, I’m studying in the School of Business at U of M, and later plan on transferring maybe to a different University as this will be only my sophomore year and I’d hope to get into a much more prestigious school to finish my studies.

How did you get started in affiliate marketing and blogging?

Dino Vedo

For me, it all began around 3 years ago, when I was just turning 16. My mom encouraged me to start selling stuff on eBay to make some money as I was always asking her for some and apparently she got sick of it. Ha. A good friend of hers was already selling a lot of things on eBay and already was well experienced with how eBay works, and agreed to help me get started. After weeks of selling some of my old stuff around the house, I came to see the huge potential in this and wanted to expand and make a lot more money just like any teenager at that time would. So I ended up going over to Liquidations.com and buying huge amounts of auctions in bulk, such as electronics and video games and who knows what else. On a per item basis, the items were being liquidated for only a few bucks, and I knew I could sell them for maybe double or triple for what I got them for. So that is exactly what I did, and in a few months I quickly became a eBay Power Seller, and before I knew it my basement was turning into a large scale warehouse! At that time, I was making a few thousand per month with minimal work. Sure you had to take pictures of the items and write descriptions and then ship and package them out, but I honestly did not mind as I liked what I was doing and was making good money with it as well.

But of course, after around a year of two of this, all good things came to an end. PayPal had limited my account and froze my funds inside the online account. Not only that but since they work directly with eBay, they had my listings closed, and my eBay account was put on hold. Now why did this happen? My eBay account was in good standing, I had close to 5K in positive feedbacks and close to 98% positive feedback. Well, at that time eBay was going through drastic changes in their policies, and numerous sellers were complaining. If you had an eBay account a few years back, I’m sure you can remember that the eBay feedback system was completely fair. By that I mean the seller and buyer both had the right to leave positive or negative feedback. But that was changed a few weeks before I got in trouble, and the reason, my best guess is (as eBay or PayPal aren’t allowed to tell you the reasons..) that I had too many bad reviews or ratings in a short time frame. Sure I was an eBay Power seller, but eBay at that time did not care, or was their system broke? I have no idea but they ended up limiting my account and ruining my business for a good month or two. I was able to get the account back after I had verified that the stuff I was selling was legit and after I sent numerous paper work to prove it.

So problem solved huh? Nope not at all. Since eBay closed my listings, some items were in transit and some were sold and not shipped yet. So what does eBay do for those buyers? They send them a message stating that the seller may have been fraudulent and they are investigating him. Wow thanks eBay right? So imagine what happened, I got even more negative ratings and feedback, some complained they never got their item when they paid, which at the time was true, but there was nothing I could do as PayPal froze my funds and said not to ship anything until the investigation was complete. So my eBay account was in horrible standing afterwards, and I could barely get a sale and ended up giving up after that, enraged at eBay.

As an entrepreneur at heart, I never admit failures, but rather look at them as opportunities to learn or to make something better out of it, and that’s truly what happened. I ended up reading about other ways to make money online, read tons of eBooks on various subjects such as internet marketing and blogging. Starting creating websites and products, and before I knew it I was making just as much, if not more than on eBay. Not to mention, it was much easier to do as I had no items to ship, and no customers to deal with! Now it was all just a matter of scaling up, learning more, and trying out different affiliate strategies to get traffic, whether it was paid or through organic searches.

How are you able to balance your coursework in college with Internet marketing?

This is definitely hard and I would be lying if I said anyone can do it. I do believe that anyone can learn internet marketing and make money online, but to attend college and do it at the same time? No definitely not easy to do and you can trust me on that. Being a full time college student and living there is hard to start with, but now add girls, partying, studying, more girls, homework, tests, more girls… alright I think you get it by now and see where I’m getting at.

But yeah, it definitely is hard to do, and I manage it somehow. I’m always in class multi tasking. I think that is the biggest difference from me and another student. I have my laptop whenever I got to class, and I’m always doing something on it, while listening to the instructor. Risky huh? It sure is but I’ve managed to listen and learn, while optimizing campaigns and reading up on new posts on blogs such as Ian’s! So take it from me, it can be done but its hard!

When you graduate, do you plan to get a job or pursue affiliate marketing full time?

I really don’t know about this one. I guess whatever happens, happens. I enjoy what I am doing now, so if I get job opportunities that are similar and I see that there’s a huge potential in it, I may as well bite. But to say that will happen anytime soon, would be a lie as I see myself being self employed and working from my own home/office for the next few years for sure.

What advice do you have for affiliate marketers in high school or college looking to make it big online?

Perseverance and determination is key in my opinion. I see lots of my friends wanting to do what I do, they start asking me what is best they do first and this and that. I’m a good friend so I tell them what to do and how to do it right. But after a few days of maybe losing money or not making what they hope, they give up and say its impossible and pointless. I think that’s the attitude of around 99% or so of everyone who tries to make money online and fails at it. So if you fail, look at what mistakes you made learn from them and try again. If it fails again, reconsider what you are doing and research a better niche or try something else. The opportunities are so vast, that if you give up it truly is no one but your fault.

What are your long term goals?

To make lots and lots of money. That and enjoy the internet lifestyle and all the good things that come with it. I really enjoy networking with people and learning about the successes and failures of others. It truly is the best way to further your understanding of how affiliate marketing really works and how to be successful. I also plan on expanding the niches I am currently in, develop a few authority sites, invest in more domains, create a few products to help people out, and who knows what else…

I also plan on moving out from Michigan as soon as I finish college or transfer. I hate the cold climates and would do anything to be able to live in a place like California, so you can definitely count on seeing me there in 2-3 years. Specifically a city such as San Francisco. I’ve heard lots of internet marketers are there and there are lots of things to do, both on the entertainment and business side.

What’s the future of Internet marketing?

The future is what we all make. Sure some say mobile and some say applications like on Facebook, but who really knows. There could be a shift in the mobile industry that changes it for good, maybe Facebook dies off, or maybe the internet and SEO changes? Most would say yeah sure, but if you look just a year or so ago, everyone was on Myspace and it was huge. Now in only a year, Facebook is bigger than Myspace and even bigger than Google in traffic. Would anyone have guessed this? So the future is really in our hands, and is truly what we make of it. With that, be the future and create something that will change it. I’m sure there is money to be made in that…

Check Out Dino Vedo’s Blog

Dino, awesome interview! Thanks so much. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview, you’ve got some amazing stories, accomplishments, and true value to share with the online marketing community. PPC Ian readers, you’ll definitely want to check out Dino Vedo’s affiliate blog.

Images in this post © DinoVedo.com