Writer for Practical eCommerce (www.practicalecommerce.com)
Huge fan of the Boston Red Sox!
Entering the work force
The beginnings of PPCChat
Solidifying the brand
So this awkward photo of me came the day I graduated from the University of New Hampshire in May of 2007. The beautiful girl next to me would become my future wife!
I graduated with a degree in Communication and a minor in Business Administration. That all sounds good on paper, but the road ahead would lead me to areas I never knew existed and initiatives that I didn’t yet know I was capable of.
That summer I applied to many jobs as I was ready to enter the work force and more importantly, I wanted to show what I could do. Plus, I would soon have to begin paying back my student loans
In July, I applied to a company called PixelMEDIA as a Search Engine Marketing Associate. Frankly, I had very little knowledge of online marketing and the web in general, let alone search engine marketing. Nonetheless, the position incorporated elements of marketing, writing, and client communication which I knew I was capable of.
After submitting my resume and cover letter, I didn’t hear back from the company. After a week went by I emailed the company and also followed up with a call. I was able to speak with the HR Director and schedule an interview at the office.
During the interview I believe I presented myself well. I spoke to my strengths and acknowledged that I was new to the work force and would need to learn, but I was more than willing to.
My last interviewer was one of the co-owners of the company! He flat out asked me why I was applying to this job with no experience. Again, I acknowledged I was new to the work force, but also made it clear that I would work hard to succeed and that lack of preparation would be never be an issue. About a week later the co-owner called and let me know that I was hired!
During my first two years at PixelMEDIA my primary areas of practice were search engine optimization, or SEO, and pay per click marketing, or PPC). I found myself gravitating toward PPC because I enjoyed the immediacy of it. For example, I could bid on keywords, write two different pieces of copy, and quickly get results. SEO involved much more patience as you wouldn’t realize the fruits of your labor until months later.
Additionally, as I started to do more PPC I made a point to showcase my work. Whenever I saw great results I would reach out to clients for testimonials and write case studies. I also began regularly blogging on the company site. Those first couple of years at PixelMEDIA not only allowed me to learn a new industry, but to begin growing my personal brand
By the time August 2010 rolled around, I had been at PixelMEDIA for three years. I had a pretty solid grasp of the PPC industry and absolutely loved my profession. I read all of the industry blogs and was an active member of Twitter, following and communicating with well known PPC professionals. I was starting to present my own ideas well also analyzing PPC theory, not just the day to day.
During my review that year I set some pretty high goals for myself. The main goal was to be one of the top 20 names in the PPC industry by the next year. I didn’t know how that goal would be measured but I strongly believed that at last anecdotally, I could reach that milestone. Now I didn’t set this goal because I was overconfident. I set it because I felt I was a part of an industry that was about to boom and strongly believed that I could be a major player.
As I alluded to in the previous slide, I was very active on Twitter. Twitter was my go to source for PPC blogs, questions, discussion, and so much more. Where as I was the only PPC Specialist at PixelMEDIA, Twitter allowed me an interactive, digital knowledge base. Fresh off my review and lofty goals, I began to think about how Twitter could be used to bring the PPC community together.
After checking out such Twitter Chats as #seochat and #blogchat, I thought to myself, why can’t we have our own PPC chat? So on February 14, 2011, I sent out the first tweet utilizing the hashtag #ppcchat.
The format would be simple. I would moderate the chat by asking questions while others (myself included) would answer.
Overall response was highly positive. People were extremely interested in participating in such a chat and relished the idea of a new community focused solely around PPC. The framework was set for PPCChat to begin!
The first ever PPCChat, utilizing the hashtag #PPCChat, occurred on April 5, 2011 at 8 PM EST. We had about ten participants that first chat as I asked various PPC questions across many topics. Seven of the ten questions were asked in the hour and ten minute chat as many good discussions were raised. Additionally, PPC industry leaders such as David Szetela, Melissa Mackey, and Chris Kostecki attended.
With any project like this, the hard part is staying consistent. The quote in this slide rings true as it’s much tougher to remain consistent than to be a flash in the pan.
In order to grow the PPCChat community, I had to make a commitment to have the chat every week and adequately prepare for it. On top of a full time job, dedicating enough time to extra projects like this can be tough. Though the PPCChat following was steadily growing, some updates would be needed to sustain the chat.
After consulting with James Svoboda, the CEO of the Search Engine Marketing agency WebRanking, I changed the time of PPCChat to Tuesdays at 12 PM EST. This time was better suited for more people to attend as it occurred during work hours instead of on people’s personal times. The chat still occurred in the late afternoon in the UK, but it was better than the previous three weeks where it occurred in the middle of the night. I also made a point to send out 5 – 7 tweets in preparation for the chat, keeping it top of mind.
Additionally, each session yielded a single topic. For example, a chat topic might be “Pay Per Click Account Structure” or “Psychology of PPC.” The chat wasn’t just confined to the technical aspects, but theory as well.
A final piece that added sustainability to PPCChat was the introduction of the streamcap. After every chat, Paul Kragthorpe, also of WebRanking, would transcribe all of the tweets and questions into an easy to read, digestible format. These streamcaps were posted on my personal blog at the time, theppcblog.com. Along with the questions and answers, the streamcaps included resources mentioned in that particular chat and a list of participants who had tweeted during the chat.
With the transcripts now having their own pages, they could be linked to from others’ blogs and would also show up in the search engine results pages.
As the weeks went on, the PPCChat following grew. Not only we’re more users participating in the chats, but the hashtag was being used throughout the week. Users were asking questions, sharing blog posts, and updating others on new ad formats or betas being seen. Programs like Tweet Chat and Twubs make it easy to follow the #ppcchat hashtag.
As the community grew, so did its reach. In May of 2011 I received an inquiry to interview for a senior level PPC position at Exclusive Concepts, located just outside of Boston. Within this inquiry, PPCChat was referenced as the primary reason for reaching out to me. In fact, one of the agency employees gave me a good recommendation based upon his involvement in the chat. I interviewed for this position and was hired soon after.
I’ve grown within this agency and am now the Director of Paid Search. Over the past two years, I’ve reveled in my experiences at this agency. I’m in a place where I’m challenged every day and absolutely love the work. My experiences here have helped to bring many new topics to PPCChat and continued to enhance my own knowledge. In fact, my schedule is blocked off in my Outlook calendar every Tuesday at 12 PM EST
As PPCChat approached its one year anniversary, I wanted to emphasize that the chat was here to stay. The community was strong, but I wanted to keep building. So I reached out to a friend to create a logo for PPCChat. This slide showcases the initial concepts she came up with.
And here is the final version of the logo. I was able to start using this logo on my site, social channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Plus and in any materials I created. I was thrilled to have a logo associated with my brand. The logo has since been updated, which I’ll discuss in a little bit.
Along with using the logo on LinkedIn, I also created a PPCChat LinkedIn group. Aside from Twitter, this medium has been the best channel to promote streamcaps and upcoming chats. As of April 1st, the group has 1,076 members!
In December of 2012 I decided that I needed to rebrand my site. The site was still listed as theppcblog.com, which was severely out of date. I looked to buy the domain, www.ppcchat.com, but alas it was taken, so I ended up buying www.ppcchat.co.
The new site was much more in line with the goals of PPCChat. Along with the streamcaps, the site also included:
An archive of all PPCChat streamcaps A “Meet the PPCChat’ers” section which gave bios of myself, James, and Paul An “About PPCChat” section which gave a brief description of what the chat was about A “Contact Us” section for users to submit ideas, future topic ideas, or anything else
The site also included links to all of PPCChat’s social channels. In January of 2013 the new site went live!
I wanted to keep the momentum of the new site running so I thought about ideas for getting more exposure and ultimately more links back to the site. Thus, I had my designer create a PPCChat badge that others could place on their sites. This badge includes all of the pertinent information about PPCChat. Industry leading sites like PPC Hero, Righteous Marketing, and SEOM Interactive all have the badge on their sites.
Starting in the spring of 2013 I thought of ways to monetize PPCChat and put these funds back into the program. Though the costs weren’t high, I was spending money out of my own pocket for areas such as the website and logo. Additionally, I was spending 5 – 6 hours a week outside of my day job working on PPCChat. I needed a source of funds to continually grow PPCChat.
Since the chat had been received so well, I decided to start offering sponsorships. Companies could get their name out to the PPCChat audience by sponsoring specific chats. The sponsorships included my tweets saying that the chat was sponsored by so and so and the actual streamcaps including a brief description of the sponsor. To date, the sponsorships have worked out well and have allowed me to put money back into PPCChat.
One of those areas I put the money into was a new logo. Earlier this year I asked my designer to mock up some new concepts. On this slide you’ll see the concepts she came up with. Ultimately, option number two most resembles what the new logo looks like.
I wanted to make sure that the logo included my website URL. Again, it’s about the exposure and brand recognition. By putting the URL on the logo, those who haven’t heard of PPCChat have a destination. Additionally, I didn’t include the hashtag on this logo either. I want PPCChat to be more than just a Twitter chat. My BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, of PPCChat is for it to be the go to source for PPC news and discussion.
A great side benefit of PPCChat has been the ability to get my name recognized within the PPC community. I already spoke about how PPCChat helped me secure my job at Exclusive Concepts, but it has also helped me to earn speaking gigs at some of the most prestigious conferences in the country. I’ve spoken at the all PPC conference, Hero Conf, twice, and will be speaking again this year. I just spoke at SMX West in San Jose and I’m planning on pitching for future SMX and ClickZ conferences.
Transcript of "Growing a Community and Brand - The Story of PPCCHAT"
Growing A Community and Brand –
The Story of PPCChat
Founder of PPCChat
Senior Account Manager, Community at Hanapin
• Member of the PPC industry since
• Managed over 200 PPC campaigns
• Writer for Practical eCommerce
• Huge fan of the Boston Red Sox!
• Entering the Work Force
• The Beginnings of PPCChat
• Gaining Momentum
• Solidifying The Brand
• Final Notes