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Paid Search (PPC)

How to go from general marketer to PPC specialist

I recently switched from working as a general marketer to a specialist role which has required transferring and honing in a whole host of skills and practices. Here I talk about how I went from in-house general marketer, responsible for everything from marketing materials and event planning to social media schedules and overseeing PR, to a PPC specialist within an integrated digital marketing agency.

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Molly Watters

Digital Strategist

ppc marketer

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Of course, having a reasonable amount of experience in PPC to start off with is beneficial. Google offers fantastic free qualifications in Google Ads and Google Analytics which help you understand the basics of managing PPC accounts. Anyone can obtain these certifications and they will give you all the necessary background knowledge. As Hallam is a Google Premier Partner, one of 300 of the UK’s 10,000 agencies, these qualifications are necessary to have. Better still, take any opportunity to create a Google Ads account for your company. There is arguably no better way to gain experience of the platform and apply the theory you’ve learned.

Adapting your skills for a specialised role


Creativity seeps into the role of marketers every day. Eye-catching image choices, engaging newsletter copy, and attention-grabbing CTAs are some examples of this. Refining your creative knack for PPC specifically is vital. Copywriting, for example, is fundamental to the role, giving your brand a voice and selling your product or service with language. As a general marketer, this may equate to Twitter posts, a Facebook Ad or a blog within your website. The same goes for success in Google and Microsoft Advertising, especially within the Search Network. Headlines have to capture the audience’s attention, calls-to-action must be compelling and companies’ products and services must be promoted with limited characters.

Managing budgets

Budget management is one of the most valuable transferable skills going from a general marketing role to Paid Media specialist. However, you’re no longer in charge of an annual budget covering all realms of marketing. Now budgets can be broken up not only per campaign but per engagement. Effective budgeting means little to no money is wasted. PPC specialists have the opportunity to work with a huge range of budgets for a variety of clients. Whether that’s international charities or national law firms, budgeting accurately is essential to see the most profitable return.

Organisation and time management

Every day there’s a to-do list of the short term tasks versus the long-term projects. Time management is crucial in making sure my efforts are spent optimising accounts whilst staying on top of changes in the PPC world and my client’s industries. There also has to be real flexibility and adaptability when sudden changes occur. This might be changes to trends and technology or it might be the sudden need to work out a Paid Media plan for a new client.
Working in-house means having an incredibly thorough understanding of your business, your brand and the consumer. It gives the opportunity to hone in exactly how to gain consumer understanding in one environment. Becoming a PPC specialist means taking that knowledge and determining the right ad placements, keywords, and copy for a breadth of clients.

PPC Skills


Consumer understanding

A lot of PPC work means getting into the headspace of an internet user – something we pretty much all are every day. PPC takes a lot of self-reflection and thinking about how you personally respond to the ads you see online every day. It is important to leverage emotions and FOMO to increase your click-through rates.


Life as a general marketer means communicating your ideas with just about everyone. That might be stating how you want your website to look to web developers or implementing a social media schedule with outsourced specialists. Clear communication is fundamental to PPC work. You must be able to explain your processes adequately to non-specialist clients so they can understand the work you’re doing for them. You must communicate ideas for account work with clients and team members effectively. Ultimately you have to be able to justify why your ideas are necessary to the success of a campaign.

Data-driven results

Google and Microsoft advertising platforms allow us to actually analyse the success of marketing efforts. Gone are the days where a company will dip their hand in a sea of marketing ideas in the hopes that some will work. Seeing metrics such as return on ad spend (ROAS) and cost-per-acquisition (CPA) makes it much harder for the budget to be wasted.
Previously a lot of time may have been spent making assumptions and educated guesses about the target audience for any given product or service. Now PPC presents us with copious amounts of audience data. This allows you to target remarketing lists, custom combination lists, life events, interest categories and much more. Your physical presence is limited unless you aim for a digital presence too. Specialising in PPC means you can target the exact people you’re aiming for. This is particularly helpful after recent changes to GDPR laws made the more traditional routes of email marketing and event lead capture more difficult for marketers.

Life in a digital agency

Within my client pool, I cover a range of industries from a machinery supplier to a global software company. Every week the likelihood is that something in the news, whether regional or national, will be relevant to a client. As paid media experts it is our job to react to these changes. Then it’s making sure relevant campaigns are in place to keep clients on top of these industry developments.
At Hallam, ideation sessions allow for members from all the different teams working on one client to huddle together and pitch ideas giving clients a holistic approach to their digital marketing strategy. For example, we might brainstorm article ideas for digital PR to write, for SEO to then work on the strong organic rankings of the piece. Then PPC can build campaigns leading to the article, generating leads for the client.

Staying on top

31% of U.S. marketers and 30% in the UK believe that in the next 30 years robots will do much of the digital marketing they currently do. Therefore staying on top of digital marketing advances is more important than ever. Google’s platform has allowed us to actually analyse the success of marketing efforts. How can we truly know how many people not only listen to a radio ad but then take action? A lot of advertising relies on subliminal messaging, with advertisers seducing our subconscious. This is difficult to measure when it isn’t done digitally.

Integrated Digital Marketing

Is it for you?

I’ve had the opportunity of working on both sides of the fence. Having been a client of an agency I can understand the expectations and needs of the client whilst now being able to see the importance of managing client expectations, giving clear and concise proposals and time frames and delivering the highest quality work.
PPC specialists come from all kinds of backgrounds. It’s a good idea to experience a range of specialisms to gain a feel for where your skills really lie. Often you’ll find mathematical brains fully equipped to deal with numbers in PPC. Equally the transferrable skills brought from a whole spectrum of backgrounds can make you the ideal candidate.
On the whole, being analytical, creative and keen to learn puts you in good stead. Working at Hallam comes with plenty of opportunities to learn about all other aspects of digital marketing too. Whether that’s through breakfast briefings, Hallam Schools or ‘What’s new in…’. As an integrated digital agency Hallam’s distinct skill sets are combined to produce better, and more efficient, results for clients.

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