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At Google HQ With Our Head of Digital Strategy

By Brendan Flavin

VP + Director of Digital Marketing

Our VP of Digital Strategy, Brendan, recently traveled to New York City to speak on a panel at the Google office in the city as part of the tech giant's summit for partner agencies. The panel was focused on Pay Per Click advertising and how marketers can more effectively integrate PPC into their wider campaigns, something that Brendan orchestrates every day here at Swell. Beyond the expertise he was able to offer, he also gleaned quite a bit of strategy and information from the Google team that he was able to bring back to Portsmouth and deploy for our clients.

Have a question for Brendan about PPC? Send him an email!


1. What was this Google Panel about? Can you describe the developments within Google that you were speaking to, and that created the occasion for the panel?

The panel that I was participating on was part of a larger summit for Google Partner agencies to share ideas and experiences around integrated PPC and SEO strategies. As agencies, we often find ourselves being called upon to provide services for clients who desire specific services— support for a PPC campaign or program, optimizing a new site, or ongoing PPC/SEO. What this event did was help us as practitioners to identify the scenarios where different strategies are warranted, and to better communicate how these services overlap and work together.

2. There were 3 people on the panel. Was everyone in agreement about how marketers can move forward with Google advertising? If not, why?

The three of us on the panel each had a different background. We came from different sized agencies, work with different types of clients with budgets that cover a wide range of the types of services we offer.

The panel all agreed that, in a perfect world, we would be approaching every SEO/PPC engagement with a website that has been developed in accordance with SEO best practices. We'd also be employing an integrated strategy from the start, understanding that good SEO benefits PPC, and vice versa.

Unfortunately, as marketers, a lot of the time we don't have control over the development of a site that we're tasked with promoting, and our client might only want one service. This may be dictated by budget or a preference of the client. When discussing how our individual agencies handle these types of situations was when our differences became more apparent.

I spoke about how, here at Swell, we prefer to have a goal-oriented conversation at the outset of an engagement to help inform our strategy for marketing on search engines. We want to understand the timeframe for the desired impact, whether it is a campaign based initiative or an ongoing engagement, what the budget implications are, and who the audience is. We are in a much better place to provide effective services when we have the answers to these questions, and sometimes the service we propose is different than what we are approached with at the outset.

3. What were the top takeaways from the rest of the event at Google? What did you learn and how might you implement that for your clients?

The highlight for me was talking with the other attendees after wrapping up the panel discussion. I was approached by several folks from a variety of agencies, some who specialized in SEO, others in PPC. The attendees' agencies served a range of different industries, so it's always helpful to hear how these specialists leverage different strategies for their specific audiences. One attendee had some great insights into call tracking, and how this is one area that is really neglected by many campaign managers.

I also spoke with several marketers about the best way to present PPC as a solution to "Main Street Businesses" with tighter budgets and higher expectations. I reiterated to them that PPC can fit any business, and while the goals and strategy may be different than how you treat an enterprise client, the approach to the client should be the same: setting expectations, encouraging patience, and maintaining transparency.

It was also great to have Google employees confirm a lot of the ideas we've been sharing around the office and with our clients. We were presented with real data explaining how paid search doesn't cannibalize your organic traffic, but delivers incremental traffic beyond what you're already receiving. We also exchanged stories about how we've seen integrated strategies succeed (or fall flat) and how we can leverage data from one area to inform the other.

All in all, it was a really productive day and a great experience for me professionally. Given the success of the event and the panel, I'm already looking forward to future opportunities to share my experiences within the Google Partner Network and to other digital marketing professionals.

Ready to get started with your own PPC strategy? Check out our guide to launching a campaign here.

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Brendan Flavin

VP + Director of Digital Marketing