Julia Vyse was nominated to have her profile raised by Jon Kagan in June of 2021.
How long have you been working in PPC?
It’s been about 12 years at this point. I started in SEO, so we could call that PPC-adjacent. 🙂
How did you get started in PPC?
I went from a small affiliate agency to a bigger advertising agency as a junior copywriter. I was writing headlines, landing pages, occasional microsites, and their search person started needing help. She taught me about early search marketing, and soon we had enough demand that they needed to make another hire. They offered me a choice between full-time search or full-time creative and I went for it!
The next few years of my life were diving into search as a service – so running paid search campaigns, but also building keyword recommendations for landing pages and working closely with the UX team for quality. We were already getting into social, YouTube by then was the world’s second largest search engine (it still is) and Microsoft was coming online. It seemed like every couple of weeks there was something new to learn about, and bring back to the overall strategies we were planning and executing.
If you went to college, what did you study? If not college, do you have any other degrees or certifications?
I started university at night while I was at my first agency! I began as a double-major in Religions and Women’s Studies. I had no visions for a long career in advertising, but I can distill down my studies to What we believe – Religions, and How we treat each other – Women’s Studies.
I was not able to do university right after high school, instead I worked, and started my degree ten years later. I chose pretty dense academic subjects because I wanted a bit of a brain workout, and I had this very romantic idea of academia as ‘thinking big thoughts’! Being able to think for a living seemed like a good deal to me, and I now am, insofar as I offer advice, plans, research, and essentially applied psychology on behalf of my clients.
What was your first job that involved PPC?
My first ever client was for Pfizer Canada. They had a really good understanding of search, and we needed two campaigns – in two separate accounts – for brand messages pointing to a microsite, and a generic campaign for a completely separate microsite. This client’s flagship product had a brand name widely used as spam on the internet, and needed to counteract low-quality and even dangerous messages from fake suppliers promising ‘herbal viagra online.’
Solving this problem was really fun! This is around 2010, so tactics like the trademark symbol in search ads, negative keyword mining, and simple, almost boring ad copy, were the best ways to identify our ads as legitimate and medically sound, unlike the spammers. Guidelines around what is allowed in ad copy were another obstacle, but hey, if the task is too easy, it isn’t any fun.
Learning about paid search as answering important questions and providing clear, authoritative answers in a sea of misinformation has come up many times in my career, this past year especially.
What is your current position and how long have you been in it?
Currently I run digital media for the west coast office of iProspect, which is part of Dentsu. I’ve been in this position since February 2018, so three years and a bit, though last year feels like it should count for more!
What kinds of things do you currently handle or manage in PPC?
I plan and run PPC campaigns across clients who need search, social, and digital support. I guide a team who focus on particular clients, with very different needs and requirements. Our office is unique as we offer full-service media. So my day to day includes planning and strategy for campaigns, but also industry landscapes, and pulling together fuller pictures of how traditional and digital media work together.
It’s also a fun space to expand what search looks like! Yes Google and Microsoft search, and yes, Shopping, but hey also, Locals. Waze map placements. There are pretty strong search + planning behaviours on Pinterest, Search for App results on Apple, and Amazon search. There are so many different ways to imagine how a person might look for the answer to a question they have, and get the right answer for them.
Has your career path had any hiccups or nontraditional aspects that you’d like to share?
Probably? I don’t actually know what a traditional path looks like for PPC. When I started there weren’t even certifications let alone courses in how to do this, so I launched myself at the algorithm and learned everything I could. When I moved from Montreal to Vancouver I started at a small design firm where I got very comfortable with the organic side of search and social media. I then went back to search full-time at my next agency, managing major accounts.
I’m now in a space where all kinds of media types and approaches come together to create a large-scale program, and it’s a very cool way of thinking about what I do and where we can take things.
What are you most proud of in your PPC career?
A few project highlights come to mind, but I think looking at the overall scope of my career, I’m most proud of the relationships I’ve built with clients and newer specialists. Winning pitches feels good, getting high returns feels good, but knowing you helped a team who needed help, knowing you supported someone in building their career, giving good advice to those new to digital media, knowing your day to day had a positive impact on others is something to strive for no matter where or how you work.
What, if anything, do you wish you could “do over” in your PPC career?
There are definitely projects that could have gone better, and ways of working that could be improved. I think if I were to get a do-over, it would be not staying too long on a team where they and I were unhappy, cutting the cord sooner, being less anxious.
If you could give advice to someone either considering or just starting out in PPC, what would that be?
Be humble and keep learning. There is no hope of getting everything right the first time, and you won’t get a feel for the work unless you practice. Roll-up your sleeves and get in there, and if someone is guiding you, push them to teach you everything they know!
And on the day to day, try to read a lot. Like, a LOT. Search systems are based on language, and they’re starting to learn syntax. I like to read a lot of fiction, if that’s not your jam, don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be. But as you get the rules and requirements of statistical analysis, bid strategies, and all the numerical features of search, remember you’re dealing with people, speaking into their phones casually. Get comfy with lots of different language types. You don’t have to get it from only one way. Reading fiction, listening to dialogue, poetry, pop music, hip hop, watching TikTok videos, whatever works for you to hear lots and lots of ways people express themselves linguistically is incredibly helpful.
Are you interested in speaking opportunities? If so, what topics are your jam?
YES! I love talking about systems and behaviours. Case studies are great, and I love sharing tactics with other professionals, but my jam is how we think about people, what they need, and how we can inspire and respond to them.
I have a really fun one based on a plant-based burger rollout we did here in Canada, which always makes me hungry, and shows how to build a systematic approach to your cross-platform audiences.
I have another one about using Facebook for lead-gen, particularly with B2B, and one I’m working on right now about shaping your message to avoid obstacles beyond your control. That particular example is a cruise line who had their strongest Q4 ever in 2020. Yes, that 2020, when the cruise industry basically capsized (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). Stay tuned!
Anything else you’d like to share?
Other people are going to do very, VERY cool stuff. Applaud them. Lift them up and if they’re on your team, highlight their work to your clients. Your strategies are only going to get bigger and better if you are open to new ideas than if you remain closed off based on where the idea originated.
Where can people find you to connect (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)?
On Twitter @JuliaVyse
On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliavyse/