Microsoft’s Senior Manager of Global Engagement Shares Vision for the Future of PPC with Game-changing AI

Purna Virji on AI and PPC
As I learned at the start of February, if you’re a lucky enough to get one-on-one time with Purna Virji, Senior Manager of Global Engagement at Microsoft, you ask her about the future of search (because she makes it sound so exciting).

Purna—with over X years of experience in pay per click, search and now AI, is on the forefront of what’s coming down the pipeline in our industry and—along with training her brand new golden lab puppy Peanut Butter—she’s joining us on February 21st as part of Marketing Optimization Week to chat about how you can prepare for AI.

Check out our video chat below, or read on for the transcript of our Q&A.

Jen: What do you imagine the day to day life of a marketer will be like in the future with access to exciting AI? You grab your morning coffee, logon to your computer, then what?

Purna: You’ll be getting all kinds of wonderful notifications about performance, new insights, and new ideas for engaging with your audience. AI, for us, solves some of our biggest problems—including [how to] engage with our audience in this world full of distractions. Like, how do you find the right way to cut through the noise and get through?

That’s where AI is super helpful because a) it can analyze all of the different data and touchpoints to see what’s working and what’s not working, and b) it can help us get really good at personalization and engaging with people in the way they’d like to be engaged with.

It also gives us new interfaces, things like chatbots or digital assistants, as well as virtual reality. So if I tempt somebody through a chatbot to come in and look at the latest collection of shoes, I can just put on my hololens and take a look at a 3D hologram in front of me of all the latest styles of shoes. It’s really cool ways to engage with brands and people in a very seamless manner.

Jen: You’re speaking at Unbounce’s Marketing Optimization Week this February 21st on how to prepare for AI’s emerging role in marketing. As a preview to your talk, can you share one of those things we can all prep for when it comes to AI?

Purna: Yes! I think one of the things marketers can prepare for is to understand what AI can do for us and try to touch the waters a bit more with a chatbot. I’ll be giving people some tips for how you can incorporate a chatbot within search. For example, Bing offers a Bing conversational bot right in the SERPs itself. So i’ll give some tips on A) how you can set it up and B) what’s a strategy you can use for your bot.

Jen: Chatbots are very hot right now.

Purna: It’s because they’re so easy and convenient. You’re already using a platform you’re familiar with—whether it’s skype or facebook messenger or Kik—or whatever platform you use to talk to your friends. And it’s very seamless;. In that same platform where I talk to my friends, I can order a pizza or check on a status of my order, or do anything I need to do with a brand in that same place. There’s no multiple hops that have to happen.

Jen: It seems like for customers, chat is very natural. It’s how we already go about our world. So as you said, very seamless.

Pruna: yes—conversation is the first thing we learn. From babies to now arguing about who’s going to take the trash out.Conversation is [still] the forefront of all of our lives.

Jen: Here at Unbounce we’re a Conversion Platform for marketers, and many of our customers pair landing pages with PPC in social or search. How do you see AI impacting pay per click the most in the next few years?

Purna: I think AI will have a couple of different roles. For one —it’s going to make it easier to hone into the right person. We’re already seeing some signs of this with our much more advanced audience targeting, such as In Market Audiences—which lets you slice and dice audiences based on people who are more likely to buy —so it’s going to be in reaching the right person and the right time, and B) it’s going to help us take a lot of the effort and pain out of the administrative side. We saw this with bit automations and things like that that came in that reduce the time that people talk, so it’ll make things like reporting a lot easier, keyword research a lot easier. Anything that’s really a repetitive task can get automated and can be improved by AI to make life easier. Time savings and more effective ads – it’s a win win for all.

Jen: Y’know, we hear some marketers kind of demonize AI, or they think of it as this sort of ex machina. they see it in a sort of detrimental way.

Purna: I don’t think so. I think the way AI has been designed and actually the way companies like Microsoft, Google or IBM, who are at the forefront of creating AI — i think the responsibility is on people like us to infuse the technology to respect humans. And, I mean, that’s one of the pillars we’re building our AI on, that it is respectful to the human, it’s there to augment what we can do it’s not there to replace us or destroy us or anything like that. All it’s doing is taking what we’re good at and giving us a little super power. It’s like wearing a little jet pack so we can run faster or slide faster, that’s all that it’s doing. When you think of it that way it’s giving us gifts that we didn’t have access to before.

Jen: You’re no stranger to setting up an AdWords or Bing campaign. So, what’s a little known technique that anyone managing paid spend can do today for more impact with their PPC ads?

Purna: I say there are two things. The first one Make sure you’re implementing in market audiences. That is —i think—If someone was to ask me what’s one tip for success for 2018, i’m a big believer of the power of In Market Audiences, it’s still in pilot in open beta so anyone can sign up an be a part of it (it’s not live yet) and test it. Throughout the testing period we’ve seen such amazing results from many people. Allows you to reach and audience that’s in teh market or looking to buy those specific products or services you’re seling. We have over 120 different categories, so if you just layer them on to your existing ad groups or campaigns and just adjust the bids accordingly, you have a better chance of reaching people who are interested in what you sell but may not know who you are…you’re just reaching this very qualified audience.

If you can do that and combine it with the wonderful landing page learnings you get with the Unbounce tool, I think that’s a really win win solution.

Jen: We know voice search is going to have a much bigger role to play, with Gartner predicting that by 2020, 30% of all web browsing sessions will be screenless. What should PPC’ers be thinking about to prepare for voice search?

Purna: We are seeing voice being adopted more and more. We’ve seen Mary Meaker’s internet study she shared that Google said that 20% of their mobile traffic is voice now, because voice is easy.

I would say PPC marketers should think about the differences or what’s unique to voice. A) it tends to be much more local. If you’re running local campaigns you want to think about, what are the queries that would relate to your business that people may ask if they’re in a hurry or on the go.

And B) all marketers (including SEOs too) should think about: are we providing the right information? I.e. do we have some sort of structured data or, for example, schema markup that can give the search engine much more insights into understanding what the page or information is about.

Lastly, [we can] look at the keywords. Voice is of course more conversational and with conversational queries, we tend to have longer phrases, we’re much more clear on the intent. If you can look at testing some of the most common, broader questions or prhases that get asked and actually test adding them in keywords and what could be the right way to answer it.

In the old days (ha, just last year!) what we would do is look for shoes or mens sandles, go to the website, select colours, size width, but now with voice you self-select in the query itself. You say “show me blue strappy summer sandles in size 8”. So if i then [have] to go to the website and do the selections again i’d be quite annoyed, but if i got to a page that showed just what i was looking for? It’s about making it very seamless for the customer.

Jen: so prepare for more granularity…
Purna: exactly, [it’s] on page as well, which is why it’s important to look at some of the landing page options you have, [and ask] —“are we answering the right questions” in the right way.

Jen: You’ve seen dozens of landing pages for PPC. What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when creating landing pages to pair with their search ads?

Purna: It’s not being specific enough. If [someone’s] looking for something and your ad promises something, does your page deliver on that promise? So if i’m doing a search for waterproof digitla cameras and i see an ad that talks about waterproof digital cameras on sale, and i go on your landing page and its all of your digital cameras —again you’re giving the searcher more work to do. So you want to make life as easy as possible, answer the right questions, and don’t go to broad. Yes – there’s the temptation, especially with newbie PPC marketers— Let’s just send people to the homepage. As you know that’s just not going to work and they’ll realize that soon.

Also, as you say, the call to action—even sales people fail at this sometimes—you don’t or forget to ask exactly what you want [visitors] to do. So making sure you do that is a huge advantage.


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