How does a Harvard-trained digital marketer use statistical analysis to improve the results he's getting from pay-per-click advertising?
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Nerds Do It Better (how great is that company name?!) founder Adam Lundquist pulls back the curtain on the process he uses to build, execute and test high-performing PPC campaigns.
Adam started his career as a shock jock and when he saw the business of radio giving way to digital, he embarked on a new career path that had him attending Harvard to study digital media and teaching himself how to do everything from social media to digital advertising.
In this episode, Adam shares the exact process he uses to create high performing ads. He covers everything from his tech stack to the frequency with which he reviews and adjust ad performance.
It's a replicable process that any business can copy, so check out the full episode or the transcript below for details.
Highlights from my conversation with Adam include:
Adam says that the key to success with digital marketing is to understand statistics and human psychology.
The work he does is inspired by the story behind the movie Moneyball and he believes that most marketers don't use data correctly so those who are able to do it right have a competitive advantage.
Marketers need to understand the difference between digital marketing-based goals and profit-based business goals. Marketing goals are leading indicators - things like the number of clicks or the conversion rate, whereas profit-based goals have to do with sales and revenue. Adam focuses on profit-based goals.
When developing an ad strategy, Adam suggest starting by going to the Google Ads search query report to look at what you're actually showing for. If there are search queries there that are not relevant, add them to your negative keyword list.
When you have your list of desired search terms, put them each in their own ad group.
Adam uses a combination of Zapier and Unbounce to do attribution reporting on his ads, but says you can use other tools like Click Funnels as well.
Because he sets his ad campaigns up as single keyword ad groups in Google Ads, Adam is able to pull the keyword that drove a visit or conversion into Unbounce using a hidden form field.
He then uses Google sheets to track and report on ad performance, and automatically pulls data in to Google sheets in real time using Supermetrics.
This system allows Adam to track the return on ad spend (ROAS) of individual keywords. When he finds a keyword that is yield a 3x or 4x ROAS, he puts that keyword into its own campaign and sets the budget to unlimited (because he knows, with confidence, he'll see a positive return on that investment).
Adam uses Unbounce's dynamic keyword insertion functionality to create multiple, customized landing pages from a single template.
Adam reviews and adjusts the performance of his ads on a weekly basis.
He recommends starting your ads with a top of funnel offer such as an ebook that people will be more likely to convert on. This leverages the principles of compliance psychology which dictate that once someone says a small "yes," they are more likely to say a bigger "yes" after that.
All of Adam's ad groups are single keyword and set to exact match.
I'm your host, Kathleen Booth and my guest today is Adam Lundquist who is the founder of, and I love this agency name, Nerds Do It Better.
I just have to take a moment and tip my hat to you Adam for the best company name I've had on this podcast to date. It's awesome.
Adam Lundquist (Guest): I mean, we do. You know, you got to be a nerd to be in this business.
Adam and Kathleen recording this episode.
Kathleen: I love it so much. So much. I kind of wish I had thought of it myself.
But you're interesting to me and I'm excited to chat with you about some of the things that you guys are working on, specifically with pay-per-click advertising and leveraging, like, statistical analysis and, you know, all that nerdy stuff because nerds do it better.
About Adam and Nerds Do It Better
Kathleen: But before we get into that, can you do me a favor and just tell my audience a little bit about yourself and who you are and how you wound up where you are and what exactly Nerds Do It Better does?
Adam: Sure. So, hi, my name is Adam. I recently moved to London, England but I grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. Pretty average childhood, but in Boston, it's a little bit of a different area. Have you ever been to Boston?
Kathleen: I have, I grew up in southern New Hampshire, so.
Adam: Okay, so you know. Oh, by Salem? That's where I got my first car, I don't know if you knew that. Beautiful, tax-free Salem. But so it's not like in California where I ended up moving to, and Boston, really, the two big things were sports and radio.
Like, when I was growing up either you wanted to be on the Patriots or the Bruins, which definitely was not going to happen for me. Or you could be on radio, were like kind of the two big dreams.
So, I wanted to be on radio. I kind of wanted to be the next Howard Stern, was a person that I really idolized growing up. And kind of I was going to school in the mountains of Massachusetts in a place called North Adams and I just basically got tired of the cold and I moved to Santa Barbara and I kind of applied six or seven times to be an intern at the local rock station.
Got the internship, worked my way up there and eventually got my own radio show. My morning show, just like I thought, would be awesome, and it was awesome.
We became number one rated and things were going really well, but around 2006 or 7ish I started to see that our advertising revenue was going down despite the fact that we were the number one rated show.
So, I kind of knew that there was a death knell of radio because radio was supported by ads. Public radio, terrestrial radio, whatever, it's all ad supported.
I started to see that the ads were actually going towards more of the internet and this was still very early on. I think YouTube came out like 2006.
So, I thought well, I better get involved in this internet thing and I wanted to have a viral video. I thought that would be a cool thing to do and I thought it would be easy and it was not easy at all.
So, I tried my hand in it. I had an interview with this guy called Sam Cassell on the Clippers and like, just to let you know where I was at, like, I know eventually I learned all this stuff, but at the time, like, I knew nothing about the internet or really marketing.
I had no money at all because the pay was terrible. I couldn't pay to promote it. And I was in like pretty much the most expensive place I've ever lived and keep in mind, I'm living in London, but Santa Barbara is incredibly expensive.
I mean, I did have my successful radio show but, so I did this interview, I put it on YouTube and nothing happened. Literally, two, three views maybe.
So, I started to learn how to work the internet basically. I learned about email marketing, finding the right blogs, getting in front of the right audience, compliance psychology.
So, at first I was saying, "Hey, would you put this video on your website?" Which was way too big an ask. I had to kind of go down and use an easier thing saying, "Hey, would you watch this video?" And when people start watching it, they would then post it on their site.
Eventually, the video got picked up. Its number seven on Sports Illustrated's Viral Videos of All Time. It's on VH1s Best Week Ever. It really blew up, which was great.
I needed to use the internet.
I then got picked up to run six radio stations on the Central Coast internet presence. Wasn't even on the air for much, just running their internet presence. And I just basically got tired of radio.
They were asking for stuff that could definitely happen in the 70s but could not happen in the 00s/10s, like a country station asked me to get them a team of horses which is just not going to happen in this day and age.
So, I went back to school. I got accepted into Harvard. I got a master's degree from it and then went to a start up and from there, it was a very small start up.
I was maybe the fourth employee or fifth. We became the second fastest growing start up in San Diego.
Our biggest client was a water proof cell phone case company. We took them from about 20,000 in monthly revenue to over a million.
But at some point I realized I needed to start my own company because basically I'm just a control freak and I kind of have an independent streak. But my company has grown quite a bit.
You'll see us run at PPC Hero, Search Engine Journal. I spoke at Philly Tech Week maybe a year or two ago and Hero Conf, whatever. And you know, things are pretty good.
I mean, I live in South Kensington, England. Kind of travel wherever I want. My wife and I were just in Bali and it's just a very comfortable way to live.
As long as you can understand statistics and human psychology, you can pretty much run your part of the internet.
Kathleen: Yeah. Your story is so interesting to me for a number of reasons. I mean, when I read your bio and it talked about you being a shock jock, I was like, "Oh I want to talk to him so much about that." But I feel like we won't have time. That's like a whole other podcast.
But now I'm curious because I have a theory and I want to see if it turns out to be true. What did you major in at Harvard?
Adam: What was it? Digital Media Arts and Instructional Design.
I thought that I was going to be part of those massive online open courses. And I actually did, one of my teaching fellows pulled me aside and wanted to do something with it, but the pay for those is pretty bad. You'd be surprised. So, they're prestigious like it's definitely prestigious, but it was not the pay that I was looking for.
Kathleen: Yeah. No, I've had this theory that many of the best marketers are not actually trained marketers. You know what I mean?
I have a graduate degree in marketing so maybe I'm taking myself out of the running for this, being one of the best marketers, but a lot of the greatest marketers I've talked to, they didn't study marketing.
They came from other backgrounds but they are super driven learners. Like, they have this sensational curiosity and so they wind up in marketing because there's a challenge they're trying to figure out like you with your viral videos.
And they kind of like sink their teeth into that challenge, they figure it out and then they kind of like follow the thread and that takes them into marketing.
And it sort of sounds like that's what happened to you with like trying to figure out the video, leveraging the statistical analysis, trying to figure out pay-per-click and solve for this changing landscape of radio and such and such.
It's just interesting to me that that's what your background is. And just how you kind of rolled your sleeves up and figured it out. I love that.
Adam: Yeah, I mean, I kind of had to. I saw the writing on the wall.
So, at the point I was doing radio, I was teaching a course at a city college and working the newspaper like, might as well have been working the silent film era.
Like, I was like, "I am in some really bad industries. I need to get in some really good industries real quickly."
You know, a lot of my radio friends have wanted to transition into this, but at this point it's a little bit late and they don't really, the background doesn't move as much as it used to, right?
So, if someone comes to you and they say, "Hey, I'm in the radio. I can make you have a great internet presence," you know, maybe they can do good on the radio.
They're probably good at podcasting but yeah, for me it was the challenge and then seeing how it could scale. Like, just taking that first company from like 20,000 to over a million and it probably took me two months.
Like, I could not even believe how this stuff scales. It's worldwide, it's incredible.
Kathleen: Yeah. Now, shifting gears for a minute.
You're doing some interesting work at Nerds Do It Better with pay-per-click and again, when I read your bio, it talked about leveraging statistical techniques developed at Harvard to get better results with pay-per-click marketing.
Can you just start by kind of giving an overview of that and then maybe we can dig a little deeper into exactly what you're doing?
Using statistical analysis to get better marketing results
Adam: Sure. So, a little bit of this comes from that movie and book, did you ever see Moneyball by Michael Lewis?
Kathleen: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Adam: One of my favorite authors, but also a really good book. So, the book was about how the Oakland As -- they're like a major league baseball team -- how their front office hired this big nerd status statistician who kind of noticed market inefficiencies and how players were value based.
I mean I won't get too, too into it but it was basically like batting average versus on base percentage.
What you do need to know is that they took people who are undervalued and using that, were able to make the, I think it was like the ALCS, and they were able to basically, like, win way more games than the Yankees.
That's the basic premise of it.
Kathleen: And now all of baseball uses those same techniques, is my understanding.
Like, that's not only baseball, but like, many sports have essentially adopted that approach of like, looking at the data and using more data-driven decision making because of that situation, that case. And it was so successful.
Adam: Yeah. That's exactly right. They ended up hiring the guy for the Red Sox and he won the 2004 World Series. Football does it. I mean, Amazon does it. A lot of my friends who are stock brokers or financial people do it.
Like, data is kind of like the new oil. Like, if you can really look at it and look at it correctly, which is what I want to talk a bit about, you can do amazing things because so many people are looking at it incorrectly.
So, I kind of want to talk about the difference between a digital marketing-based goal and a profit-based business goal.
So, a lot of times I'll have a sales call and people will be like, "Well, how many clicks can you get me?" Like, you really can't pay your workers in clicks or Facebook likes.
So, what I try to look at and optimize towards is towards profit-based business goals rather than digital and marketing-based conversion goals.
So, what I mean by that is a couple of things. So, a lot of what I do is lead generation for lawyers, hormonal therapy doctors, just a lot of lead generation.
But every lead isn't created equal, right?
So, I might have say a search query in Google which gets me 10 leads at a cost per acquisition of say 10 bucks a lead versus another one that will get me a CPA of 30 buck a lead, however if we're optimizing towards profit-based business goals, which is really what we want to be optimizing towards, you can handle the higher cost per acquisition because you're actually optimizing towards your return on ads then return on investment, whatever you want to call it.
So, I really try to look at the gap between digital and the real world because well, for one, my clients wouldn't be around all that long if I wasn't actually tying it to real world profit.
But also, people need to realize that the internet is amazing but it's not magic. Like, you still have to have good solid business principals and look at the statistics that way. Does that make sense?
Kathleen: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, and I love when you talk about shifting your focus with pay-per-click to having that more profit-driven approach because one of the questions I get all the time, all the time, and I come from many years in the agency world.
I owned an agency for 11 years, I then worked in another one for two. And I can't tell you how many times people have said, "What should my budget be for pay-per-click?"
And they think that there's some magic like aggregate number like oh, you should spend $3,000 a month, right?
And you're right, it's exactly the opposite approach that you should be taking.
It should really be how much are you willing to spend to get a new customer, and if it's working, and you're getting new customers, then your budget should really be limitless because there's that return baked in.
So, I don't know, I've always thought that was really interesting that people think in terms of budgets instead of cost per acquisition and return on ad spend.
Adam: Yeah. I do, too. And with some of the bigger companies I work for, like, it has to be because people have to sign off on it.
But I did want to say, because I promised you when I came on I'd tell you how to make this actionable, so, let's talk about this in AdWords because there's a whole, obviously, variety of networks, Facebook, AdWords.
But I want to at least give people something to walk away with.
Getting better results from Google ads
Adam: So, in AdWords, your keywords aren't actually like what you think they are.
So, your keyword that you tell Google that you want to search for might be "DUI lawyer." That's an example, I have a lot of lawyers. But if you don't have the match type, that could match for things like "cool movies about DUI lawyers."
So, the first thing you want to do is in AdWords, go to the search query report to look at what you're actually showing for.
So, that's the first step and if you do that alone, you're probably going to save yourself a lot of money.
Now, what you want to do is you want to take the search queries, which again are not keywords, and if they're bad, make them what's called a negative so they don't show.
So, say you're a DUI lawyer and your keyword is matching for "cool shows about DUI lawyers." That is not going to be a profitable keyword ever. That's just not going to work.
So, you want to negative out shows, you might want to keep cool, like, that's fine. Usually for my lawyers they want "cheap" removed or "free" removed.
And then you want to put it in its own ad group. So, if it's a good one, say "best DUI lawyer," now you can show up for that.
Of course you can't put that in your ads. Anyone who is a lawyer knows that any claim has to be verifiable. That's a tip for you. Don't put "best" in there.
Kathleen: Don't lie.
Adam: Don't get disbarred.
Yeah. I mean you can say "best plumber" but you can't say that for a lawyer because lawyers will get disbarred.
Adam: Okay but so then you do that and what you can actually do, which is really cool, and a bit more advanced, but I know you have more of an advanced audience, is if you use something called Zapier, and I use Unbounce but I believe you can just use Click Funnels as well. You can pull the actual name with the actual search query and then follow it through.
Now this works really well for, one, seeing the quality of the leads.
But if you have a client who you can track to the end, which you can't do with the DUI lawyer or really any of my lawyers, but you can do that with other types of clients. You can see the return on ad spend on an individual word.
So, what I do then, is what's called alphabeta.
If you have a keyword that's, say, delivering you like a three or four times return on ad spend, I make its own campaign, which is where you allocate budget and basically set it on unlimited.
You know, you obviously want to talk to your clients about it, but if it's coming in at four times, and you have the individual search query and you know that that's the case, I say that's a great series of steps to do to look at statistical analysis to then increase your actual real world profit.
How to track attribution for your PPC campaigns
Kathleen: So, I want to back up for a second. You talked about using Zapier and following the keyword all the way through to profit. Can you just get, like dig a little bit deeper in there and explain exactly how you do that?
Adam: Sure. So, Zapier is a way to connect different apps. And anything I recommend on this program, I don't get a cut of any of it because-
Kathleen: And Zapier is great by the way. I will second that. I've used it a lot.
Adam: Yeah. I want people to know that if I recommend something, I don't think I get a cut of any of these. It'd be cool if I did. I once got a free Unbounce t-shirt.
Zapier connects different apps. So, the way that I do it is I use Unbounce, which you can pull in the keyword from a hidden form field.
And, if you have your single keyword ad groups, which is what I recommended from the search query report when it's good versus bad, it'll pull it into a hidden form field in Unbounce.
Now, I do all my reporting in Google Sheets. I love Google Sheets. Again, don't get a cut of it but I just think it's the most amazing program.
I use a program called Supermetrics to pull in data in real time. Clients love that. I guess not exactly real time, it pulls it hourly because that's the max Google's API will let you and Facebook. But that way you're not filling out things all the time.
Now, Supermetrics or Zapier can pull in the keyword, the name which will typically be an email, which you want to use as the unique identifier into Google Sheets. Now, what I-
Kathleen: And this is assuming so they've converted on the form. So, you said you have a hidden form field which, I've done that before with some things but I want to make sure I'm understanding directly and that listeners are understanding correctly.
So, you have an ad that's associated with a single keyword.
Kathleen: Are you directing them back from that ad to a landing page that has a form and that form is specific to that keyword and that's why you're able to have that hidden form field that says, "this is the keyword"?
Or is it somehow using the referral URL to populate that?
Adam: Yeah. So, in AdWords when you have, well, really any ads, and they're auto-tagged, which it's set to by default, it has something called a GC, I think it's LID. Or GCID, I can't remember off the top of my head. But that pulls in the keyword.
It's actually how Google does it with analytics. You might wonder how where do they get these keywords from. That's how.
And then in Unbounce, I have that just pull in.
Now, one of the cool things in Unbounce you can do is called dynamic keyword insertion.
So, if I don't know, like, I have a long distance medical transportation company as an example, as a client. If someone types in "Alzheimer long distance medical transportation", that will show up in the headline just because it pulls in from the keyword which is a really cool trick to do.
That way you don't have to make a million different landing pages. Also makes it easier to split test.
But the keyword itself, you can pull in variables from the URL into your form field. SO, I mean, if you've ever filled out a form like on the, say, the first page like, "Hey what's your name?" And I put Adam. The next page is like, "Hey Adam. We'd like to know whatever, x, y, z." That's how it does that.
Kathleen: Cool. So, they convert on the form, there's a hidden field that's the keyword that associates their conversion with the keyword that first brought them in. So, sort of that first touch attribution modeling.
I think that's my last episode actually. So, check that out if you want to learn more about Supermetrics. We're bringing it all full circle.
So, you pull it into Supermetrics and then where does it go from there? What happens next?
Adam: Well, actually, so Supermetrics pulls into Google Sheets. Kind of think of it like a database.
So, everything I do is a hub-and-spoke model which, I don't know how much you want to get into that but that's a business model where these hubs and then little spokes that come out of it for a reporting basically.
So, as far as Supermetrics, that's just really going to tell you your ad spend. It can also tell you how much that actual cost per click is if that's something you're needing to know.
With lawyers it is, you know it can be 40, 60 buck a click.
So, you would see, all right, so this single keyword ad group which is what we started with, let say it spends, I don't know, you want to look at things in a two week period generally, $40 just as an example and you see you got three leads and two of them signed up or a $3,000 product.
Probably a pretty good keyword. And you're probably not going to be blasting through Google's entire search inventory with whatever it was, 10 clicks, whatever the example was.
So, what you would do then is looking at that, and what you again want to do is use the email as the unique identifier because people use different first names, you know, Mike, Michael, whatever.
If it's the kind of, say, software as a service, you can track lifetime value of that. So, if someone is on for a long period of time, you can track lifetime value to a keyword. And you really just want to stay on top of the value versus just the digital part.
And the digital part matters, right? Like it's not coming into your funnel otherwise. But you just, from the point where it's in a Google Sheet, you just look at the data.
It's simple but hard to do if that makes sense. Like, kind of like doing a bunch of pushups. Like, you know you could do this but you have to stay on top of it.
How often should you adjust your ad strategy?
Kathleen: So, what does that look like? When you say "stay on top of it," is there a certain cadence that you maintain as far as, like, how frequently you're watching the data?
How long do you let an ad run before you make a decision to, like, keep or cut? And based on whether it's working or not and how often are you making changes?
Adam: We usually make changes weekly. Depends a little bit on the size of the account and the size of the keyword.
So, what I try to do is have multi ad group testing so that there'll be two ads but they'll be variations. So it will be just two variations but the headline will be dynamic based on the keyword. And generally two landing pages as well.
Now one thing to think about is a local maximum verses a, I forget what the other one is called. But local maximum is like, I could change the font, I could change the color, whatever, I can do these little minor changes.
The other one is I can change the actual offer.
Now, where you're going to see the biggest change is when you change the offer. So, if you're looking at someone coming in through the display network versus the search network, you're going to want a very different offer, right?
So, the search network you can go right for a consultation, it's not problem at all.
For the display network, I typically recommend you start off at least your funnel with an e-book or something directly of value that's a low threat.
Because while you think, and I like to think as well that my sales calls are full of value, and they kind of are, realistically the person seeing is like, "Oh, I don't want to like stop what I'm doing to get on a stupid sales call." But they may want to do it for an e-book and again, this is a bit of compliance psychology.
I don't know if you have show notes but I wrote an article in Search Engine Journal for this a couple of weeks ago.
Intuitively that makes sense. I don't know if, intuitively, it makes sense to have someone downloads an e-book they're much more likely to sign up for a consultation, but they are.
So, I mean I don't know how else to say it. Like, that's the basic gist of what I do. So, I would look at if I was going to be changing, which I do change. I tend to change the offer much more readily than I would change say something small like the copy of an ad.
Kathleen: It makes sense. It makes a lot of sense. There's a great book called Influence and if people are listening and they want to learn more about compliance psychology, like that book is fascinating.
It's not really about marketing, it's about how to get people to do the things you want them to do and all the different ways you can approach it. And they talk about that kind of like the little yes before the big yes.
They also talk about the principal of reciprocity. It's a fascinating story in there about the Hare Krishnas and how they were struggling to get donations and when they started giving out, I think it was flowers, all of a sudden their donations sky rocketed because people felt obligated.
They got a flower they felt then obligated to donate. Even if they then threw the flower in the trash right after getting it, they would still donate.
So, you're absolutely right. There's concrete scientific evidence that these strategies work. We just don't always apply them in marketing.
Adam: They're like timeless strategies. So, that's what certain people ask me. They're like, "What network should I use?" They can all work if you look at the strategies.
I actually noticed this, so I was in Santa Barbara for my wife's 40th and there are people on the streets with clipboards, you know? And they say, "Hey, do you have a second just to sign something that says you care about the environment?"
And I watched this and people would sign it and then once they signed it, which is the small commitment step, the next step is well, will you donate money?
So, at that point they can't say no they don't care about the environment because they've already signed it and taken the small steps.
If you start to learn this stuff, you start to see it all around you. And it's like seeing the matrix, it's really cool.
And you're right, that book is like when I'm not doing good in marketing and I need to really think things through, I almost always come back to that book and I say all right. He had like six principals.
I'm like what is it? Is there not enough authority? Is there not enough reciprocity? And that's usually what the issue is, or it's too big a step which is an internet thing. But is it too big a step is usually the other problem.
But I mean those are the ones I look out for.
Kathleen: Yeah. That's so interesting. Yeah, I could talk for hours about that book and just, you hope people are using it for good, right? And not evil because it is so persuasive, some of those tactics.
So, let's talk a little bit about this in practice. You've discussed, kind of, how you do this and how often you watch it and make changes. Can you give me some examples of how you've used this strategy with pay-per-click to improve results and how quickly those results maybe happen?
Adam: Yeah. So I'll give you actually an example with that last client I was talking about. So, they do long distance medical transportation. So there's a lot of ways to phrase that.
So, the first thing I did is I asked, "What is your definition of long distance?" Right? Because for me it might belike whatever, Massachusetts to New Hampshire or even within Massachusetts because I don't like driving all that much. But for them it was 300 miles, right?
So, that's the first thing we did is define.
And then we started looking at the keywords. So, for them, there's two different options for a lead because we're only running the AdWords search network.
So again, Google has a whole bunch of networks, but this is the one that you type in and it will say, you know, your ad will show up based on what you type in.
So, they can either have a phone call which they would prefer because we're talking about business metrics again. And phone calls are statistically much more valuable. That's because someone's right there ready to answer, right?
So, sometimes if you write back to someone they'll be like, "I don't even remember filling this out." And I don't know what to tell you. Tough luck, that happens. So, try to get back to people as quick as you can. Or you can also do chat.
But in their case, it is not a chat thing. It is either a form fill or a call.
So, what we did is we ran this for about two months as it was. I cleaned up their pages and we looked at it coming in.
So, because it's in Google Sheets, and essentially everyone knows Google Sheets, right? So, this isn't like when it comes into Salesforce and you have to show someone Salesforce which is such a pain. I just have them put was it a good lead, was it a bad lead and why?
This is good for me for a couple reasons. One, it keeps them honest about their follow up. I say if you don't follow up with someone four times before they're a dead lead then we need to talk because leads aren't magic.
But it also lets me know, right? So, if somebody types in say "long distance ambulance transportation," is it a better or worse lead? If someone types in "state to state medical transportation," is it a better or worse lead?
So, we did that for about two months and then we took the search queries that were the most valuable and by that we decided which ones produce the most good leads.
We took those, we added them as negatives to one campaign and we created a separate campaign called an alpha campaign and that alpha campaign essentially had an unlimited budget. And we had very specific single keyword ad groups in them that went to very specific landing pages and basically all of those leads are good leads.
Now, we ran into search inventory issues because I believe the top one was in fact "long distance medical transportation" kind of like you'd expect. But that's fine.
Like, if we cap out in Google, then there's really not too much we can do about that. We can move to Bing possible. But we're still getting them all sorts of really good leads with that. And then we just repeat the cycle.
So, we continue looking and mining. Getting granular is really important with this.
So, we wouldn't do a multi keyword ad group, it's all single keyword ad groups in what's called exact match. When it's an exact match it has to be that, it has to be in that order.
The ads are very specific, they'll say in the headline, it'll say in the display link, the display URL which people don't always know is actually, I guess I would call like a vanity URL but you can put in "long distance medical transportation" actually send it somewhere else.
And then for the actual landing page, that also says "long distance medical transportation" in the title tag as well as the headline.
Kathleen: So, okay, so you did these ads, you looked to see what was working, you implemented, you refined the campaigns to really focus on the things that worked the best. What kind of results did they see from that?
Adam: The return on ad spend has been very nice and I mean, I guess I don't really know off the top of my head. I mean, I could tell you-
Kathleen: Like what would be a good return on ad spend? Benchmark that for me.
Adam: That's tough to say. So, I guess like kind of anything else, it's tough to say.
So, my job stops once they get a good lead, right? So, I do help people with sales training sometimes but if you can't close the leads that we both agreed are good qualified leads, then you need sales training or something along those lines.
So, there have been cases, I think I have the quotes on my website where I've gotten people like six times the amount of leads within the first month, triple the amount of leads within the first month just by cleaning it up.
But those ones who were definitely quotes up on my website were really good at closing. Like, they're lawyers who are just, they know how to do it.
So, I guess my answer is, I would want to define that with a client. For me, anything over what your getting, like what you pay is a fine return on ad spend but you know, people do see two, three, four.
In the case of contested divorce lawyers, it's much more than that because contested divorce, not that I am, but I know this from doing this for so much, is incredibly expensive.
So, I try to find niches for me where the return is very good for the client because then they stick around for a while. Like, my first client sold cookies online. So, basically every click had to be sale and that was just, it was untenable. I couldn't do that.
So, that's why I work with lawyers, long distance medical transportation, hormonal therapy doctors. The return for them can be very, very high, in the thousands.
Kathleen: So, you're focused on how you can increase lead flow. Can you give me an idea of like how quickly lead flow increases and by what volume? Is it like 2x, 3x, 10x?
Adam: Kind of depends on what I'm inheriting. So, typically I take over accounts. People come to me because their accounts aren't doing well. They either read something I wrote or of course I run my own ads, too. But typically they've already tried it.
Like, it's very rare, when I started this people would be like, "I've never tried it before." But that's just not the case with most businesses now.
So, it can be definitely two or three, sometimes even six or seven times if I can see immediately, look, your offer is just we use a letter F, and if we simply just change your offer, then you're going to do much better. Like, that's a slam dunk.
If it's something more along the lines of like, "Hey, look, we need to dig in and we need to see is it the ads? What's going on here?" It can be a bit murkier because often times when people come to me they say, "Look, I feel like this isn't working." It's a red flag. It's probably not because they're not tracking it appropriately. I mean, and this stuff can be a pain to track, right? Tracking phone calls, how do you do that?
Adam: How do you track your leads? I mean, we're essentially doing the whole show on that. And it is, it's hard. It's really hard and I'm not taking anything away from anyone, like it is really hard to do. But it's really necessary to do.
Kathleen: Yeah. It's so funny, listening to you talk about like how you deliver the leads and it's up to the client to close it. I have a funny kind of anecdote around that.
As I said, I owned an agency for 11 years and I actually had a second start up for a little while that was an online sales training business. And I started it because it was all inspired by this one client who I worked with for six months and he was early stage. And in a very short amount of time were able to deliver a very large volume of marketing qualified leads, his definition.
And he didn't close a single one of them and he called me really angry and fired us. And I was like, "Wait, I delivered the leads you asked for. Like you still have to close them." And he was like, "I didn't get any customers." Like I can't deliver customers. I'm just your marketer.
And so, I actually had this other company that I started that was to train people on how to follow up on those kinds of leads. So, I just want to say amen that that is totally true, that marketing is not a magic bullet for revenue, you still have to understand how to sell.
Adam: And I tell people, and this is really important. Like, I sucked at sales calls, too at first. Like, my first couple sales calls were like George Costanza level awkward. Like, I got off and I was like "oh, that was bad for everyone."
I took courses and courses and courses and courses and now they typically close but I think a lot of times people are used to hot leads coming in.
So, say as an example, like I have dentists, you know, it's very easy to close someone when their friend is like, "Hey, you should check out my dentist," right? And that's what they're used to. But that's a really small, like you're' not going to get that many clients.
Whereas cold leads which are what essentially paid search is, you have to do it differently and you have to really kind of see where the problem is and get them talking.
And it's just like you said, like yeah, when that client cans you, it sucks, right? That's definitely happened to me. And that's kind of why I'm so paranoid.
Not paranoid, what's the better word? So upfront about it where I say, "Hey, look, I'll get you the leads," I won't take on anyone I don't really think I can do it. And at this point I've done it so many times. But if you can't close them then like what's the point of even doing this?
Adam: You know, you need to follow up. And I found that in the bigger companies, maybe the person I'm interacting with isn't the person who follows up.
Like, as an example with the lawyers, a lot of them are, what are they called? Paralegals at the front desk and they're not incentivized. Like, they don't want to call back people. So, it's a matter of really tracking it and having people fill in, like literally fill in, like I call them back at 1pm. Because I found if I didn't do that, well once I did do that rather, all of a sudden the leads got a lot better.
Adam: Which means they were calling them back.
Kathleen: Yeah. I have a friend who is in the sales training world and he always talked about, like, you referred to them as hot leads. He always called those layups. He was like, "That's a layup, not a lead." Like, you have to work your leads.
Adam: That's exactly right.
Kathleen: Layups come to you and they want to buy from you and if you don't close them, shame on you because it's really easy. But yeah.
Adam: I mean that's exactly what I talk about with the internet not being magic. Like, people think that look, we're going to post this, it always starts with, "Hey, I'm going to make a web page and everyone is going to come." Then everyone doesn't come. "Well, I'm going to spend money on Facebook." And then nothing happens.
And then you know, I get them the leads and then if they don't know how to close them, or if no one warns them ahead of time, it kind of does them a disservice. Like, you know, that's why I'd rather work with a good business that wants to be great than like a business that's essentially bombing and I'm like their only hope.
So, yeah, that's exactly it. If they're used to layups, you kind of got to get used to a jump shot from my sporty analogy.
Kathleen's two questions
Kathleen: Yeah. Yeah. Fascinating. Well, I love this whole approach and I appreciate you sharing a lot of these details.
Shifting gears for a minute, there's two questions I always ask my guests and I'm really curious what you're going to say about them.
The first is, we talk a ton about inbound marketing on this podcast. Is there a specific person or company that you think is really knocking it out of the park with inbound these days?
Adam: Yeah, I think Drift is. And I will say, like, this is fair. I did just write an article for them, but I wrote an article for them because I found out about them and their book Conversational Marketing blew me away.
So, I wrote to the head guy Dave, who actually just exited. I was like, "This is incredible. Like, I want to write an article about it."
And again, they're a company I don't get a cut of, but the idea of it is that you should be hitting people basically as fast as you can. So, they're all about this chat bot which I actually have on my site.
But their inbound marketing is just like mind blowing. It's just such good articles and such good content.
Kathleen: They are the company that is named the most when I get answers to that question. And we actually had Dave Gerhardt as a guest on the podcast so I'll put a link to that interview in the show notes for anybody listening who wants to check it out. It's a really interesting story about leading with brand and some of the backstory on how Drift has used marketing to grow.
Adam: Yeah, he's the guy I was referencing who actually just left.
Adam: I don't know what he's doing but he left.
Kathleen: He hasn't said yet. He's starting somewhere new in January. Keeping it on the DL. I know.
Second question is the world of digital marketing is changing so, so quickly. How do you personally stay up to date on everything?
Adam: I'm kind of obsessed with education so I get here at five in the morning everyday and my first hour and a half is education always. And that's what I think is something really important just like, Adam piece of advice, right?
I don't have any kids but if I did, I would tell them this. You know, you might have all the advantages and disadvantages in the world, right? But you can always show up on time and you can always learn stuff.
Like, the only difference between me and everyone else is that I got obsessed with learning this stuff and I just do it. Like, you know, people are like, "It's so hard." I don't see anyone else here at five in the morning.
So, it's like, you know, you're going to have as many advantages or disadvantages as you want, but like you can always learn the stuff. And I've spent more money on education than I would ever recommend anyone else to do actually.
Kathleen: Same here.
Adam: But it's worth it.
Kathleen: Yeah. And the good thing actually in the world of marketing is that there are so many free educational resources.
Like, so many that I don't think it's possible to exhaust them all. So, I don't think budget is ever a deterrent as far as staying up to date. There's so much you can do with no money if you just put the time in.
Adam: Yeah. You got to put your excuses aside and just think of them as a challenge.
So, you might say, "Look, I don't know how to make a landing page." Well guess what? I didn't either at one point. So, I went to the Unbounce Academy or whatever they called it years ago and learned how to make a marketing page.
Like, I didn't know how to do things on any of the networks at one point. Like, I wasn't born on Facebook. When I was born I don't even know if the internet existed. I'm 37 so like it probably didn't.
Adam: So, yeah, I would say to anyone who's interested, like, first read that book by Cialdini, we were talking about Principals of Influence to learn marketing. Like, that's basically a marketing degree.
And then just do it. Be willing to lose some money, be willing to look stupid, and do it. Like, that's the only way to do it is to do it.
Kathleen: Yeah. I love it. Just do it. It's like the Nike slogan but for marketing.
Adam: Exactly. Exactly.
How to connect with Adam
Kathleen: Well, Adam, if somebody wants to learn more or connect with you and ask a question about this, what's the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Adam: You can always go to NerdsDoItBetter.com. Like I said, we got that little Drift bot there. Or you can reach out to me on Twitter, it's definitely where I'm most active is @AdamLundquist. I also got a bunch of articles coming out to look out for in Search Engine Journal, PPC Hero, Drift.
Kathleen: You're a busy guy.
Adam: One more but I can't remember. There are more.
You know what to do next...
Kathleen: That's awesome. Well, I will put links to all of that in the show notes. So, definitely head there to check it out and connect with Adam.
And if you're listening and you liked what you heard or you learned something new please head to Apple Podcasts and leave the podcast a five star review because that's how more people discover us. And I would be grateful for that.
Kathleen: And if you know somebody else who's doing kick ass inbound marketing work, as always, tweet me @workmommywork because I would love to interview them.
Thank you so much Adam. This was really fun.
Adam: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Want to stay updated when the podcast is released?
Drop us your name and email address below and we’ll send you the show notes every Monday!
The Inbound Marketer’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization
Generate more traffic, leads, and sales with search engine optimization
In this free guide, you will learn:
What search engines are and who uses them.
What search engine optimization is and how it works.