PPC Takeaways From Pubcon

Besides the “Awesome” yeti shirts and amazing buffets there was much to takeaway from this years Pubcon conference. I was fortunate to attend and represent Utah PPC. Many of the industry leaders in PPC attended. They shared their tips and tricks to help us master Adwords and take accounts to the next level. There were plenty of interesting speakers. Among them were; David Szetela, John Ellis and Kevin Lee. Many of these speakers had several opportunities to speak in numerous sessions and were also available after to answer questions one on one. Sitting in on as many sessions as I could here are a few of my PPC takeaways from Pubcon.


As PPC managers we are constantly analyzing data and generating reports for our clients. John Ellis offered great insights on creating automated reports using Google analytics data. John stressed using Google Sheets and app scripts together to create custom reports. Since most of us have clients with different goals and needs, these reports make it easy to customize and include different data for each PPC account. These reports can be tailored to each client and provide only the information that matters. The reports can be customized to include different templates, business logos, color schemes…etc. Using app scripts and Google Sheets can change the way we do reporting. To learn more visit https://developers.google.com/analytics/solutions/report-automation-magic Advantages of using Google Analytics to create reports using app scripts include:

  • Fast & Easy to gather data
  • No limitations as far as building a template
  • Custom Designs, visualizations, dashboards
  • Live Reports

Watch a Google Analytic professional Now

David Szetela was the “Conversion Optimizer” King! If there were any PPC managers out there wondering about Conversion Optimizer and missed Pubcon, Szetela’s session was informative. So what is Conversion Optimizer? Conversion Optimizer Changes your bids automatically every time an ad is displayed. What you do is set a target CPA goal and CO takes control. CO will find the optimal CPC to reach your target CPA. Not every account is eligible for CO, Google sends out an alert within Adwords when a campaign is eligible. Among the various tips David shared here are some important takeaways:

  •  CO is most effective with a lot of conversions
  • Wait until you’ve reached 30 conversion or more over a span of 30 days. This allows Google to work more effectively.
  • After 2-3 weeks regulate by changing Target CPA.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 11.21.20 AM

 One of the main PPC topics at Pubcon was Google’s new Adrank Change that took place on October 22. Ad extensions will now impact your Adrank. In the words of Kevin Lee, “Its time to test ad extensions to see which ones produce best results and how they will give you the ability to trigger ads or not.” By including ad extensions into your campaigns there will be an increased opportunity to achieve a higher Quality Score. The pros of having an increased Quality Score are; the possibility to experience lower CPCs at the same position, lowered billed CPC or a better Average position. Kevin Lee emphasized that an increase in Quality Score can lift conversions. If searchers find your ads and landing pages to be more relevant you can experience:

  • Higher Average PositionsScreen Shot 2013-10-31 at 11.23.48 AM
  • Less Expensive Clicks
  • Higher Conversion Rates
  • Increased Volume with better ROI

Before ending Kevin encouraged everyone to stay educated on best practices. To find more information on the new Adrank change and recommendations for using extensions follow the link below.


As with any conference there is a plethora of notes taken and to dos. The next task is to put those notes to good use by testing new ideas, tools and theories. Thanks to all the Pubcon speakers who shared their insights and strategies.

Any other insights or takeaways please don’t hesitate to share.





Interview of Pest Control Guy by SEOinHouse

Jessica Bowman of SeoInHouse.com sent this series of questions to Thomas Ballantyne of Bulwark Exterminating prior to an attempted interview online. The interwebs did not align that day, the recording failed. Not able to find time to do it again Thomas asked Jessica’s permission to take her questions and answer them by blog. Here is the virtual interview conducted by Jessica Bowman and the Pest Control Guy.

Imagine…. Its 8am, Monday morning and you arrive at work to find that SEO traffic has plummeted.  What are the first places you would look to begin diagnosing the problem?

I’d start at my local listings. My business is local search driven. I’d check to see if they were up and running. Then I’d look at my website. Look for errors. Look for bad script. Look at the .htacces, robot permissions, website logs. If that doesn’t solve it, then I’d retrace recent updates to our website. Any glaring mistakes would be fixed immediately. If nothing is glaring then I’d check twitter for SEO chatter on updates.

There are a number of things that can cause your website traffic to drop, or seem to drop. Things like the simple error of removing analytics code, to bigger errors like adding a “NOINDEX” to all of a sites pages. Trace your steps, and the activity of anyone that has access to your site. Look at your own activity and logs before screaming and ranting at the “SEO Demons”.

If you were to guide an enterprise-level SEO on their budget, what would you suggest be in it?

Money. =) … Everything would really depend on the budget and the company. Are they a location based service? Are they a brand that wants an online shopping cart? Do they want more “branding”? You always have to start with an understanding of where they are now and where they want to be. I’d then look at where they are strongest. What service or product are they best at, or best known for? I’d look at what customers most talk about online, both the good and the bad. Then I’d follow with what service or product gives them the best margins. Lastly I’d compare that data to what is easiest to achieve success for online. For example, Nike is best known for shoes. Hypothetically, their Elin Woods Golf Clubs are getting rave reviews. Where do they rank for shoes? Where do they rank for Golf Clubs? Which needle can we get to move the most with the least effort? How much does the effort cost and what is the potential gain?

To put that in a budget bullet point:

  • Online Listening
  • Website Performance Tracking
  • Site Maintenance/Upgrades
  • Content Creation
  • Content Promotion
  • Paid Search

The amount for each of these will vary based on the sophistication of the site and company. Enterprise companies may also have silos between SEO and Paid Search. Break that down. That data needs to be shared. Paid search is an SEO data mine for the digging. The SEO team and website maintenance may also exist in different departments. Restructure that. If the company is not running all of these areas in sync then add that reformation to my budget.

What SEO metrics do you report on to upper management that other in-house SEOs should use as well?

My CEO and I have a close relationship. It really helps to have a CEO understand the value of SEO. That understanding is actually the burden of the SEO, more so than the CEO. Learn to speak in numbers and dollars then your CEO will understand your SEO.

I report on internet marketing costs and how the cost is trending.

I report on the cost per acquisition.

I report on the trending cost per acquisition.

I report on if internet sales are above or below our target cost per acquisition.

I report on total sales marked as “internet” this month compared to like month of the past year.

What metrics do you follow within the SEO team that every enterprise-level in-house SEO should monitor?

Total cost for the team. Total revenues generated by the team. Is it profitable?

Here is the real meat and potatoes, no matter what your boss says is your budget, you won’t have a job if your budget does not produce profits. Granted you have to please the boss. Some bosses aren’t willing to share, or don’t really know. Figure it out. If your average online sale is $10 and it takes $10 to produce that sale you are loosing. If it takes $1 to produce that sale but the margin is only 10% then you are likely loosing.

The other trends are nice to know (website traffic, time on site, pages indexed, bounce rates) but they are all secondary to the big question of “Are we profitable?” That is the real number to know. That is the only number that ultimately counts. “Are your efforts profitable?” You must know this number. You live or die by this number. If you choose to ignore this or if you run from this number then you are running from your job. Tie all of your efforts as closely as possible to profits.


What do you wish someone had told you when you started as an in-house SEO that would have propelled your SEO program to the next level faster?

Make friends and keep learning. Early on in one’s SEO career it is easy to find a single way to win. There are so many ways to win. But believing just because you are winning now that you’ve got it down is a mistake of arrogant ignorance. Humble down a bit and realize that there are others that are winning and in ways you have not yet discovered. Make friends. Keep learning. Keep winning.

What is some of the great advice you learned from other in-housers? How important is it to interact with other in-house SEOs?

I don’t know that I can name any one particular thing that I have learned, there have been so many along the way. Each specific to challenges from different SEO eras. But here goes…

Keep secrets. I personally try keep all the good stuff to myself and I don’t ever share my golden nuggets… STOP. I’m Kidding…like a pest control guy has golden nuggets…

But really, share golden advice in confidence. I can share what I have experienced at Bulwark Exterminating, but I won’t share my friends enlightenment on what Shopzilla, Ebay, or Home Depot experiences. So know who you can trust, and make yourself trustworthy. Because of this, it’s hard to pinpoint some of those golden nuggets that I’ve pick up. Actually they may not even be nuggets they may be gold flakes. But collect enough gold flakes in the friend stream and you can be richer than the guy looking for a gold bar in the public stream.

So yes, sharing with other in-house SEOs is priceless. Tthe ability to reach out and get a general consensus from your SEO peers is a great asset. The collective knowledge of who you know and who you share with is by far one of the best sources of info you will ever find. I rely more on those insiders than I do on any given SEO blog.

(…if any of my SEO friends read this, Thank You. Sincerly, I thank you for yet another great year)

What is one site you envy and would put in the SEO Hall of Fame? Why?

Facebook. Because they beat the SEO game the day they said “screw you” to the search engines. Any website that can learn to exist without search traffic has won the SEO game. In fact, that is my next game.

Perhaps that is a dodge on that question. There are a lot of great websites out there that win at SEO. I don’t know that I have a particular favorite. Usually the ones that I notice or watch are the ones that I see winning in new ways. I thoroughly enjoy picking through any website that is consistently beating the machines. I learn a lot by simply paying attention as I surf the web.

And I should give credit to Mat Siltala with Avalaunchmedia.com. He has opened my eyes to the possibilities of referral traffic and social media. Having shared with me the percentage of traffic his site gets from search versus social and referral. I am indeed awed on how well diversified his traffic is. It truly is my goal to be able to exist online without search traffic.


About Thos003
Pest Control Guy - Thomas Ballantyne

-Thomas Ballantyne
Director of Marketing for Bulwark Exterminating
Follow me on Twitter —> @Thos003

Thomas Ballantyne works with Bulwark Exterminating. He developed their first site and has moved Bulwark from ranking as a small Phoenix Pest Control company to competing nationally for pest control. He’s spoken at both SMX and Pubcon conferences, as well as other smaller SEO events. He’s also a fan of Avalaunch Media and has used them for some pesty infographics.


When Did the Google Review Stars Return to Local Search?

James Hansen sent me an email the other day asking “When did the stars return to local search?” Attached was a screen shot from a search done that very day:

While helping Mark Derrico, a local Chandler Insurance company with their online marketing, James had stumbled upon the lost gold stars treasure of local search! If you are like many people you may be recovering from being star struck by Google Places. Yes those five little gold stars we so easy to find before Google bought Zagat. Made searching for services and restaurants a lot easier. But alas, the golden review stars are dying out. So where did James find these beauties?

The good old Apple iPad. Simply scroll down and click on “Classic”. Yep, back to the refreshing classic taste of Google. Mmmmmm. Love that classic stuff. Oh and if you are in New York at #SMX and can’t Handle a Big Gulp of that Classic Google taste try the mobile sized.

Places for Pest Control near Tempe, AZ

That view is achieved on the iPhone the same way, click on the “Classic” version. Sadly, I can not figure out how to make the stars reappear on my desktop computer. As a searcher, does anyone else miss the Google review stars? As a business do you miss them?

The Business Side of the Gold Review Stars

For those businesses that believe the gold stars had a value for their online marketing, Google agrees. In fact, they will gladly take your money and add the stars back onto your listing. Well, your PPC listing. Getting you local search stars for your google reviews back is as easy as clicking “go” on the fully automate Google Adwords Express campaign. Hopefully you will find the value equal to what Google says it’s worth. And some dentist office in Denver believes it is worth paying to have the stars.

And with a quick scan of that result where do your eyes fall? It’s almost enough to bug you isn’t it? Well don’t call me, I only deal in offline pest control.

Pest Control Guy - Thomas Ballantyne

-Thomas Ballantyne
Director of Marketing for Bulwark Exterminating
Follow me on Twitter —> @Thos003

Make it a great day!

Thomas Ballantyne


New Google Maps Favicon

Earlier this week Google Maps rolled out their new Favicon. The added “g” is perhaps an effort to further brand their maps section. But perhaps the most iconic portion of the maps, the red pin, remains the same. The blue portion of the map in the image seems a bit off, as water doesn’t typically get blocked into a street corner. The new favicon follows the pattern of their new “g” favicon ( ) for google itself. Similarly the “g” is displayed in the Google+ Favicon ( ). These three favicons are the only Google properties currently supporting the little “g”


What does the new favicon meeeeeean?


Well perhaps the most important developments in Google right now surround GoogleMaps, Google+, and Google Search. Although the blue “g” favicon is shared across many of google’s properties, and isn’t specifically unique to Google Search. Or perhaps, it’s just an little thing that is intended to bug a pest control guy. Really, any meaning added to the recent changes in Google’s family of favicons would be purely speculative.

Good by Old Google Favicons

You may now pay your respects to the late Google maps favicon.

My most recent history with the Google Maps Favicon.

Bulwark Exterminating Google Maps

One last look…


And “Ado” to the multi-color Google favicon…



Google Properties vs Not Google Properties in the Local SERPs

It is pretty clear that Google wants you to stay on Google.  I miss the days of doing a search for something local and actually finding it with one click.   You know the whole movement to shop local & avoid big brands and get back to main street?  This really makes me wanna start a similar campaign.

Not many non Google Results these days
Google vs Not Google Results

What the Google+ and Google Places Merge Means To You

Google Places and Google+ Merge
Google Places and Google+ Merge

*Disclaimer – If you absolutely must tinker with your Google+ Local page right now – check out this little write up. I think we should all hold tight for a while to see what happens while a lot of the kinks are worked out so things don’t get really screwy. Anyway, if you are one of those kind of people that cant help but mess around with stuff – Check out this post first for a little help.

We started getting a lot of questions from other marketers, as well as clients we work with on the recent changes with Google+.  We felt it would be a pretty good idea to just write up an answer to point people to.  We hope this helps.

Big changes are happening online and we are here to inform you of what is going on. Google Places has merged with Google+. What does that mean for you and your business? We’ve broken it down so that you can understand what will be going on with the way your business receives reviews online from now on and how you will be rated.

If you receive 3rd party reviews for your business you can no longer receive them directly on your place page. Now an individual must use Google+ in order to leave a review. The idea is that the review system becomes a more social (or some might say Google is forcing social), versatile, and interactive system.

The main difference in the review process is the new rating system. Instead of a 1-5 star rating, individuals will use the ZAGAT rating system. The ZAGAT system uses a 30-point scale. These points are based on multiple areas for a business like food, décor, cost, and customer service. There is space provided for a brief paragraph to be written by the business owner, and several quotes will be pulled to use from different customer reviews in that area.

This merger comes as no surprise and has been anticipated since Google+’s birth. As of May 30th of this year, 80 million Google Place pages through out the world were converted to Google+ Local pages. Your searches will still appear the same as before, and it’s not more difficult for an individual to leave a review for your business either. Just as before, individuals will need to get a Google account in order to leave a review.

The good news is that provided you have both a Google Places and a Google + page, Google will at some point merge the two automatically and therefore you don’t have to do anything.
If you don’t have a Google+ page for your business or you simply can’t wait for the merger, you can create a Google+ page or login to your existing page, and then claim your new “local” page on Google +.  (Note: You will also need to start encouraging your clients and customers to leave company reviews on the new Google + page and send them to the Google + URL rather than the old Google Places URL)

Take these steps to create your new page on Google+:

  • First, you will need to log in to Google+.
  • Next, upload an image of your correct logo, or an image of your business.
  • Then, once you have adjusted your new page, the map for your business will be added.
  • Write your review in the paragraph space provided under the icon “edit your review.”

Below is an instructional image of how to adjust your new place page.

Google+ and Google Places Integration

If you have any further questions we are here to give you answers and make this process as simple and stress free as we can. Please let us know what we can do for you.

“Ads related to” New Google Ad Space Text

Google tweaking their Ads section once again:

Google is testing new text above their sponsored ads. The search terms are now placed in the ad area. The above is a screen shot of Google’s yellow ad section above the organics. Highlighted is the text with the search terms Fountain Hills pest control. Previous versions have included simple text like “ads” or “sponsors”. This is the first time Google has included the search term.

Previous Versions:

Google Ads and Conversion Rate Optimization

They have tested a few different things in their ad space. Above is an image when Google used the pinkish background for ads, they also included the little triangle, and the title “Sponsored Links”.

Above is Google testing pulling the Ad description from the page the ad points to. Note yellow background and text that calls the section “Ad”.

Today’s Version:

Do you Think the text encourages more Ad Clicks?


Google+ Finally Has A Decent App

Here are a few screen shots of the new Google+ iPhone app. I am loving the new features and will probably end up using it more now. It’s not perfect, but it’s worlds apart from what it was.  With the latest algo update and Google putting more emphasis on social you know they are gonna be making signals from Google+ even that much more relevant.  I am already seeing huge benefits …  Get on board now!

Here is a shot of your main profile page you see when you go to navigate around the new Google+ interface.

Google+ iPhone App

Here is what it looks like when you click on the stream.

Google+ iPhone App

Here is what your profile screen looks like.

Google+ iPhone App

Here is what your “photos” screen looks like.

Google+ iPhone App

Notifications is really the only area where it has not changed a ton, but I just hope with this update it remembers when you have cleared something.  That was really annoying with the old version (at least for me).

Google+ iPhone App

Here is what the area to posts looks like:

Google+ iPhone App

Thoughts on this new update?  I am really loving it so far.  What about everybody else?  What do you like?  What do you hate?  Sound off:

How much of a Pie Chart Looks Like Pac-Man per Matt Cutts?


A lesson in Repurposing Content –

I heard an English teacher once say that “Every modern love story is a copy of Shakespeare.” She used Westside Story as an extreme example, stolen from Romeo and Juliet. She went on to challenge us to find a theme that Shakespeare did not cover. But there are those who argue that Shakespeare himself stole content. Who did Shakespeare steal stories from? Well, no one really knows at this point. But if he did borrow some ideas, does that constitute stealing? He took stories and themes and reworked them so eloquently that they became his own. Taking a peak at what people have done in the past and building upon their thoughts and ideas can be a healthy exercise. Adding to the conversation is a good thing. Further, those that we can identify with and build better thoughts with may even thank us. …or not. Matt Cutts may just consider me more of a pest than a pest control guy. I concede. But thanks Matt Cutts for the original Pac-Man Pie Chart idea.

Making Viral Pieces

Do your homework first. Successful viral marketing campaigns don’t just “happen”.  Search out things that have already been done in your vertical. People send the same chain letters over, and over again. In fact, I was shocked just recently to get an email about some scandal 5 years after the first bogus email came through. Yet, the same sensationalism exists, and that email was forwarded and will continue to be forwarded for who knows how long. The point being, if it worked once then it will likely work again. If people liked it before then they will like it again. Weighing human nature into business is part of a winning strategy. Love songs are still sung, and new songs still come. So find something that worked well in the past and do it again. Do it better. You may not be able to judge a viral piece correctly every time, but if you do your homework then you can certainly increase your percentages.


But Don’t mind me, Just a pest control guy… Make it a great day!

Pest Control Guy - Thomas Ballantyne

-Thomas Ballantyne III
Director of Marketing for Bulwark Exterminating
Follow me on Twitter —> @Thos003

Update: Google Local Mixed Results Hit the Blender

Well there have been a bunch of busy bees in the Google local search hive. Local has been under the knife a few times. From reset data, to cool visual effects. These are today’s changes in Google’s local blended results.

Gray Google Map MarkerThe New Gray Google Map Marker

Less intrusive, less eye catching, more interactive.

Rolling over the this gray marker will change it blue for pay per click (PPC)  ads on the right, or red for organic listings on the left. Scrolling over markers in the google map section highlights the respective listing markers in the PPC and organic section. You will also get a nice snippet for the local organic listings. No snippets for PPC. It’s also interesting to note that the listings have moved the once red-pins-now-gray-pin to the right of the blended results. Google also removed the triangle pointer they once displayed for the top listing.

Example of Snippet and red corresponding markers for search term Phoenix Pest Control.

Blumenthal alludes to the fact that the move from grey to red might be happening because Google is losing revenues on the local results. So this could decrease traffic to the local listings. But at this point we don’t know how much this will effect traffic to the local listings.

The Local One Box Left-Foot-Shuffle

The One Box moved it’s map to the right, the area usually occupied by PPC ads. … Just a new look?

Searched Bulwark Houston


 Changes to Listing Preview

In the past a listing preview would show a screenshot of the website for both local search results and regular search listings. Now the local search results show a smaller screen shot accompanied by a map, images found in google places, quick glance of categories, business hours, review sites with review count, and a feedback link.


Bulwark Exterminating - Phoenix Pest Control Results
Full Disclosure - I am a pest control guy for Bulwark Exterminating

The feedback link takes you directly to the “Report a problem” screen of google maps.

If the red pin change was due to a decrease in revenues then it might be interesting to note that this preview is pushing Google’s property a little more. Further, the other review sites are now only visible in the extended view. In the past those sites were found under the place page listing.

Local Bug Report

In the image below the cursor was over the map and it was highlighting the first PPC ad for Bulwark Exterminating and not the correct ad for scorpion control. Just a minor scripting error.

Script Error - Mesa Pest Control Search

This happened again in a Houston search. The marker with no number indicates “not on the map”, the marker with the 1 in it on the map belongs to a different Houston pest control company.

Bulwark Exterminating | 10900 Brittmoore Park Drive Houston, TX 77041
Bulwark Exterminating | 10900 Brittmoore Park Drive

With all the recent updates Google has been moving the local map rankings around. And sadly Bulwark Exterminating dropped out of the Houston pest control local pack. Clearly something is wrong. Needless to say, we have found a few bugs here as well. Not simply because Bulwark wasn’t listed, but because Google was listing a cash parked page from Godaddy that’s for sale. Apparently on-site SEO has little to no relevancy in Google’s Local Listing algorithm.

Yesterday's screen shot for Houston Pest Control

Just a few minor bugs google may want to check into. Overall, Google has done a good job with their local search section. Overall, they still have a lot of problems to fix.

But Don’t mind me, Just a pest control guy… and that is the Search Pest Report.

Pest Control Guy - Thomas Ballantyne

-Thomas Ballantyne III
Director of Marketing for Bulwark Exterminating
Follow me on Twitter —> @Thos003