4 Takeaways from HeroConf Austin 2018

by Posted @ May 10 2018

HeroConf Austin 2018 Opening Session

Since getting back from the PPC-centric HeroConf in Austin a couple weeks ago, my mind has been buzzing with all of the ideas, tactics and strategies I heard. Go Fish Digital is known to love a good conference, but this was our first time at HeroConf and I was pleasantly surprised to come away with both actionable processes that I’ve already been able to implement for our clients and high level takeaways that will help shape our PPC accounts this year.

Here are 4 of the big themes, as well as some tactics you can implement today.

1. Automation is not a threat

Despite some half-joking that we’re all going to lose our jobs to a computer one day, the unanimous consensus at HeroConf was that automation is a gift – a strategic lever that allows PPCs to spend more time on those high cognitive function tasks that only humans can do.

Dan Gilbert from Brainlabs said “90% of the PPC tasks you do today will be automated within 3 years.” The best possible outcome for PPCs and their clients is the effective combination of humans and machines. By implementing the tools available to automate tasks like reporting, bidding, budget updates, translation, and account uploading, we get precious time back.

What to do with that time? Do things with your human brain that artificial intelligence can’t, such as:

  • Get creative on competitor research and use the information you get to predict what they’ll do next. For example, understand what funding cycles typically mean for advertising spend (expect low spend in the quarter before a funding round to show efficiency, and high spend after the funding is completed) and align your paid strategy to capitalize on the quieter times in the market.

Slide showing funding timeline's effect on ad spend

(Aaron Levy at Elite SEM)

  • Speed up the ad testing process to become more thoughtful and creative about personalized messaging. Use tools like Ad Variations and IF Functions and have more time to write highly customized ad copy based on funnel level, search intent, and brand recognition.

Ways to Personalize PPC Ads for Audiences

(Mary Hartman at Hanapin Marketing)


2. People are tired of brands shouting at them

Harris Poll Study on Digital Natives

(Mary Hartman at Hanapin Marketing)

With all of the funnel and audience targeting possibilities out there, brands can and should send different messages to different consumers. I would venture to say that this theme was present in most sessions, regardless of the core topic. We have more tools than ever to help us understand and target audiences. We should seek to uncover the meaningful differences between audiences and then target them differently. As Brad Geddes noted, PPC is conversation marketing; it’s storytelling. But to effectively tell a story, we need to understand the audience properly.

These meaningful differences can be found in data points from event and funnel tracking.

  • Retarget people who converted via phone call during your off-hours and use your ad messaging to remind them that they still need to find a solution to their problem.

Targeting Off Hours Conversions for Remarketing

(Joe Martinez from Granular PPC)

  • If you know someone has clicked on an ad previously, send a message that acknowledges this, such as a headline that says “You’ve seen the ad…”.

Customizing PPC Ads Based on the Funnel

(Joe Martinez from Granular PPC)

  • Hold the user’s hand and guide them down the funnel with your messaging. Rather than blasting “buy now” at everyone, present the CTA that makes the most sense for the last action that they completed. Did they view a video? Offer a whitepaper. Did they download the whitepaper? Offer a free consultation.

Creating a Funnel for PPC CTAs

(Michelle Morgan from Clix Marketing)

  • Structure your campaign around the different intents of these different audiences.

Why PPC Account Structure is Important for Audience Targeting

(Michelle Morgan from Clix Marketing)


3. Even the most simple account is not simple

Simple Accounts are Complex

(Dan Gilbert from Brainlabs)

Many speakers reinforced the message that we must look at attribution holistically and use the tools available to truly understand results and make better decisions about what happens next. Even the most simple account has dozens of moving pieces and requires constant optimization to perform well. It’s not just the large-scale, complex accounts that need and benefit from advanced strategies. Those strategies should be applied to any account as a best practice and will move the needle when used smartly.

  • Use tags, event labels, funnel tracking, and attribution models to pull out data points that are key to making even the simplest account more effective in sending the right message to the right person at the right time. You might not know the data you’ll need later, so measure everything.
  • Think like a coder when structuring your account, using consistent and deliberate naming conventions so that even the information you don’t know you need yet is at your fingertips when the time comes.

PPC Account Naming Conventions for Gathering Data Points

(Julie Bacchini from Neptune Moon)


4. The status quo just won’t work in PPC

We must be nimble in our approach to PPC. Why? Because Google will move the target tomorrow. Where are we missing the mark on this?

  • Not testing, testing without a process, and not learning from tests. Set aside time and budget for testing, then go into a test with a clear and logical process that will yield learnable results, rather than trying a smattering of random ideas.

Process for Conversion Rate Optimization

(Peep Laja from ConversionXL)

  • Fear of the new Adwords UI. For all the unfamiliarity and features still in progress, there are plenty of positives to embrace in the new UI for those who intentionally learn it. We’ll eventually be forced to use it, so we might as well get ahead of the game.


I only got to hear about a quarter of all of the sessions at HeroConf, and there were so many more awesome topics covered. I’d love to hear your most actionable takeaways and “Aha!” moments below in the comments!

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