Interview Transcript

I’m always curious because, as a user, you land on that website and you think, surely, this is not the best-designed website, from a user perspective. But in terms of outcomes, it clearly converts so much better than anything else, globally, I assume. Taking a step back and looking at your career, over the last 20 odd years, how would you describe the core principles of SEO, SEM to young marketers, in terms of what advice would you give them, approaching performance marketing?

I think it’s the perfect pull marketing principle. Push and pull marketing is what you learn, back in school. Perfect pull. The demand makes itself known to your search query. SEO and SEM, you can decide to pay for an ad, SEM, to show on that query, or you can decide to pay for content, good indexable website, pay for incoming links, maybe, in a smart way, to be relevant on the query and then be shown there and the clicks are for free. Those are the two main principles.

If you want to learn more about how paying for an ad works on Google, I recommend you search for Hal Varian. Hal Varian is Google’s chief economist and he explains how the auction works. Many people think it’s just, you bid the most, and you’re on top. No. Already, for a long time, no. That is not the case. It used to be the case in Yahoo, which is very funny, because if you knew that the lazy marketer was bidding €10 per click, then I would bid €9.99 and they would actually be paying €10 a click. I would just smoke them out, while I was paying, not €9.99, but I was paying one cent more than the bidder below me, which might be just €1. That’s the old-school auction that killed Yahoo, in the end.

Google has a thing called Ad Rank, so they actually determine how relevant is this ad, for this keyword, with this landing page and with their current ad set. If you have an ad that also has side links, Google compares it on that position to all the other advertisers in that auction, with side links on that position, and then determine if you are doing better or doing worse. If you’re doing worse, it doesn’t matter that you’re paying the most, we don’t want that user on your website then. So you actually go down in the auction and a website that is heavily relevant, but not paying that much, but gets the highest ad rank, they move to the top. In this case, you understand why it’s so important to be as relevant as possible. If you don’t have the right ad and landing page for your keywords, then Google will punish you and you will pay too much for your clicks and you will drop in your rankings.

I think that is how I would explain it. Then how do you manage this, as a marketer? I have a couple of example queries. If you think about a customer journey, from a traveler going to Paris, they might start off with, ‘things to do in Paris’; the see phase. Google calls it see, think, do and then care, for after you’ve been there. This is the see phase, ‘things to do in Paris’. Do I want to advertise on that? I don’t know. People see very far away from booking something. They might, eventually, but it will take a lot more queries and visits, probably. So if you have a tiny budget, probably you are not going to advertise on ‘things to do in Paris’.

Then you have people searching for ‘Eiffel Tower tours’. Interesting. We know already that they know more about what they’re looking for. Not what kind of tour, but at least they are thinking about it. They are in the think phase. Then you have the do phase, which is ‘buy tickets for the Eiffel Tower’. By the way, they’re on their mobile phone and they’re in Paris. Then you know, boom, that one is going to buy right away.

All of these see, think, do queries you can also think about them from a monetization perspective. Maybe you want to buy more of these, than these. But it all depends on your competition, on how much you’re willing to pay, on your strategy, even. If the people who search for ‘buy tickets for Eiffel Tower’ have already been on your website and you are sure that they will buy with you, because they bought with you in the past, maybe you don’t want to advertise at all there, because they will come to you anyway. For the ‘things to do in Paris’, if you do smart bidding, with Google, Google can actually figure out if it is going to fit within your budget, yes or no. They can even figure out if the person searching for ‘Eiffel Tower’ is good for you or not.

That’s a good way to think about queries and you need to split them out to be as granular as possible. You don’t want the ‘Eiffel Tower tours’ with the ‘Eiffel Tower tickets’ because just the ticket is something else than having a guide with it, in a certain language, good for kids, maybe you have someone in a wheelchair with you. A whole different experience from just buying the ticket. It also helps you for your relevance, of course, in Google itself.

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