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Written by Caroline Cox on Oct 28 , 2020

Managing your pay-per-click (PPC) program shouldn’t feel like wandering through a haunted house.

Here, you’ll find:

  • A few of the most common PPC problems
  • Actionable solutions to help you overcome them
  • Pro tips to boost your PPC program
  • Best practices to help you stick to your budget

Ghouls, monsters, zombies, an underperforming PPC campaign — all pretty scary, right?

When it comes to paid search, it can be easy to spend your whole budget and still see underwhelming results. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We’ve highlighted 4 common PPC problems, complete with solutions that can help turn things around. Just beware: there’s spooky stuff ahead.

HawkSEM blog: Common PPC Problems — And How to Fix Them

Create ads that match your keywords closely to create more detailed reporting and become that much more likely to attract qualified leads. (Image via Unsplash)

PPC Problem #1: You’re driving traffic, but not conversions

You’ve decided on the copy, finalized the design, organized your campaigns, and launched your ads. Now, you’re seeing traffic numbers go up — that’s great! But conversions are another story.

Traffic is one thing, but if you’re not getting conversions, something is amiss. So, what gives? It may be a matter of where you’re sending that traffic on your site.

Solution: Create optimized landing pages

If your ads send leads to your homepage, you’re not making the best use of your traffic. As we’ve said before, quality traffic can lead to more conversions, sales, and a better-performing digital marketing strategy. When people click your ads and land on your homepage, it’s not always clear where they should go or what they should do next.

By sending this traffic to optimized landing pages instead, you can deliver a minimalist visual experience with a clear message that makes it easy for your leads to know exactly what action they should take. You can even tailor these various landing pages to different audience segments and speak directly to them.

Properly optimized landing pages have elements like:

  • Consistent verbiage with their corresponding ads
  • A clear CTA
  • A mobile-friendly format
  • Easy shareability

PPC Problem #2: Your leads aren’t qualified

Sure, it’s great to have a large influx of leads coming your way. But if, upon closer inspection, the bulk of your leads aren’t qualified, you’re using up time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. 

By not taking advantage of all of the keyword and targeting strategies at your disposal (like using too many overly broad keywords and not leveraging retargeting and negative keywords), you risk having a high volume of leads that don’t actually translate into sales.

Solution: Revisit your targeting strategy

It may be time to look into the audiences you’re currently targeting. Where are they in your buyer’s journey? By targeting your prospects who are further down the funnel and closer to the decision-making stage, you can create hyper-focused campaigns that’ll increase your odds of converting them into closed business.

It’s also a good time to look into single keyword ad groups (SKAGs). Experts define SKAGs as ad groups designed with a one-to-one relationship between the root keyword and the ad. These groups can include multiple variations and long-tail keywords. 

By creating ads that match your keywords closely, you can pull more detailed reports and become that much more likely to attract qualified leads. 

Pro tip: While most brands know about targeting on social media platforms, don’t forget about Google and Bing audience targeting, too. When it comes to leads, it’s often a matter of quality over quantity. 

PPC Problem #3: Your PPC program relies too heavily on automation

Automated marketing can be great for time-saving and repetitive manual tasks. But being too hands-off with your PPC program can have drawbacks.

This can result in underperformance along with a lack of understanding about what’s going right and what needs attention. When you opt for the “set it and forget it” model, you risk wasted spend and losing control of the whole operation.

Solution: Keep the human element intact

At its core, marketing is about connecting with people. Because of this, it’s essential that you keep the human element at the center of any marketing strategy or initiative if you want to see long-term success.

Leveraging tools to make your job easier is a win, but they work best when paired with a hands-on approach. This means taking the time to understand your audience (in a way no algorithm can), revisiting your goals, and iterating when necessary. By continuing to test, track, and reconfigure your PPC program, you’ll land on the combination that works best for your company — with or without automation.

Get solutions to even more PPC problems here: Our Ultimate Guide to Problem-Solving for Your PPC Program and Getting the ROI You Deserve.

HawkSEM blog: Scary PPC Problems (And How to Fix Them)

It’s easy to spend your budget in a flash when you’re managing PPC campaigns. (Image via Unsplash)

PPC Problem #4: You’re not sticking to your budget

One of the PPC problems we often see is how easy it can be to go through your allotted budget in a snap. But, as we said above, if your campaigns are bringing you a high volume of leads without resulting in substantial return on investment (ROI), then there’s work to be done.

But, wait! Don’t throw more money into Google Ads to try to boost profits and fix your wasted ad spend issue just yet. You don’t necessarily need to modify your budget just because you’re consistently underspending and not hitting your goals. 

Solution: Identify your “money keywords”

We’re all about money keywords — the keywords that bring you the most PPC ROI. By zooming in on the right data, you can get a better idea of your money keywords and the ones that can be scrapped.

First, check out your PPC performance over the last 3-4 months (as long as your current strategy has been in place at least that long).

Go into your Google Ads account in the Keywords tab. Next, then identify all the keywords that haven’t produced any conversions during those months (you can organize this info in a spreadsheet or PivotTable) and dump them. It’s worth noting here that branded keywords are a different story, as these can help boost your quality score, even if they don’t result in conversions.

It’s not all about clicks and traffic, both of which may decrease after you eliminate those keywords. Look at which ones are driving the best lifetime value (LTV), then put as much of your budget as you can towards your money keywords. 

Pro tip: Not hitting budget? Try increasing your cost-per-click (CPC) bid limit and expanding your audience location. By creating a simple budget tracker that includes your overall budget, average spend rates, and actual monthly spend rates, you can get a grasp on where you are and where you want to be. 

The takeaway

Your paid search strategy shouldn’t be a mystery, and it shouldn’t feel like you’re simply throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. 

By identifying your PPC problems and arming yourself with the solutions, you can turn a broken program into a high-performing strategy that yields big results.

Need more PPC help? Let’s talk. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2019.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Oct 21 , 2020

An unoptimized PPC campaign could be worse than not running ads at all.

Here you’ll find:

  • Common pay-per-click (PPC) myths
  • The truth behind these myths 
  • The benefits of monitoring and optimizing ads
  • How SEO plays into PPC success

We know PPC is a key component to most digital marketing programs. Not only can it help increase web traffic, but it allows you to target your audience at a time when they’re seeking your products or services. 

Because of the popularity of PPC (or paid search), there’s a wealth of information swirling around about best practices and getting started. But, depending on the source and age of the content, you shouldn’t always believe what you read. 

As times change and technology shifts, some PPC practices become outdated. What’s worse, following some obsolete suggestions about paid ads can end up costing you. 

Want to make sure you can separate fact from fiction when it comes to PPC? You’re in luck: we’ve busted 8 common PPC myths to ensure you’re on the right track. 

PPC myths blog

Being in the top spot on the search engine results page (SERP) is great for visibility, but it’s not always the best for conversion rates. (Image via Unsplash)

PPC Myth #1: You should run PPC campaign on autopilot to save time

Truth: While it’s easy to see the appeal of the “set it and forget it” strategy, this will not only cost you more money, but could cost you qualified leads. 

Some brands think a campaign simply consists of selecting keywords, creating ads, setting a budget, and letting it run. But we’re filing this under “PPC myths,” since putting a PPC campaign on autopilot often isn’t the way to get the most bang for your buck. Rather, your PPC management should follow the same advice that applies to most things in life: the more effort you put in, the more you get out of it. 

Setting up an effective PPC campaign is a detail-oriented process that requires consistent monitoring and testing. This is why some businesses opt to hire a PPC expert to manage their campaigns and achieve the best results. 

PPC Myth #2: Top placement means higher conversions

Truth: Being in the top spot on the search engine results page (SERP) is great for visibility, but it’s not always the best for conversion rates. That’s because the #1 spot not only grabs those ready to purchase but also those searchers who may be in the researching stage of the buying process. 

Because of this, you may end up spending more money to keep the top placement than you’re getting in return on ad spend (ROAS). 

It’s also important to remember that a company with a larger budget may be able to outbid you for the coveted top position. Testing different ad positions (and types) is the only way to determine which one strikes the best balance of cost vs. value in your target market and in terms of your goals. 

Pro tip: If you notice a low click-to-conversion ratio when monitoring your paid ads, dig deeper to determine what the cause might be (such as an irrelevant landing page or broken link).

PPC Myth #3: You should use generic keywords for a wider reach

Truth: While dumping a bunch of general industry keywords into your PPC account may help get your ad in front of more people, it won’t provide you with the most qualified traffic or help increase your bottom line. 

In reality, adding a ton of generic keywords will deplete your budget super-fast without the desired results. Instead, it’s best to rank for the most relevant keywords that your target audience uses when typing into the search box to generate a much better return on your paid ad investment. 

Pro tip: Use geo-targeting and a mix of short-tailed and long-tailed keywords to reach a variety of buyers within your service area. 

PPC Myth #4: PPC is best as a short-term strategy

Truth: Some business owners mistakenly believe they only need to employ PPC to promote specific sales or limited-time offers. But using paid ads only as a short-term strategy can be detrimental to its overall effectiveness. 

While PPC helps generate website traffic relatively quickly, having continually running ads will yield you the highest ROI. Also, the data gathered from those clicking on your ad can be beneficial for optimizing your ads and for retargeting campaigns later. 

blog - PPC myths

Some advertisers see better conversions and ROI results with search engine sites outside of Google because there’s less competition. (Image via Rawpixel)

PPC Myth #5: You can quickly improve rankings by increasing your PPC budget

Truth: Of course, it helps to have a sizable budget you can put towards PPC bids — but it’s certainly not everything. There are other key factors you need to take into account when it comes to a campaign’s relevance to improve your rankings, such as:

  • Quality score
  • Targeting
  • Ad copy
  • Extensions

Paying attention to your quality score can help to improve your rankings because the higher the score, the more Google or other search engine ad platforms see your ads as relevant for the search intent. 

When you notice a lower score, it should be a red flag to take a closer look at your ads and see how you can improve the targeting or message of the campaign. Even without a large budget, you can create an effective PPC strategy. 

PPC Myth #6: Stick to Google for your PPC campaigns

Truth: One of the biggest PPC myths is that Google is the only search engine you need to invest in when advertising. While Google is the most widely used search engine by consumers, other search engines, such as Microsoft’s Bing and Verizon’s Yahoo!, are also worth exploring.

Although the number of searches on these make up a smaller percentage, they still see a significant number of users that would seem silly to ignore altogether (especially when these platforms make it relatively easy to export existing Google ads). 

Some advertisers even see better conversions and ROI results with these sites than with Google because there’s less competition. 

PPC Myth # 7: Don’t bother with PPC if you have high organic rankings

Truth: Both SEO and PPC are powerful cornerstones for any well-rounded digital marketing plan. Staying on top of your website’s SEO so you can rank well in organic searches is greatly beneficial, but paid ads can work alongside this organic reach to increase your overall branding efforts and grow your website traffic as a whole. 

PPC campaigns can help you reach your target audience and expand your exposure by allowing your brand to show up for competitive, highly sought-after keywords that you may have trouble ranking for organically. In this way, both organic traffic and paid ads are essential to ensuring your business is reaching the right people at the right time. 

PPC Myth # 8: Any marketer can manage a PPC campaign

Truth: While some teams may be able to handle PPC on their own, others simply don’t have the time or resources to properly dedicate to it. If you or someone on your team doesn’t have time to focus on your PPC account at least on a weekly basis, it may be best to call in an experienced agency to manage your account. 

Besides the time commitment, there are constant changes to monitor and best practices to follow. Hiring professionals who have extensive experience and stay current on new features and updates will help successfully grow your traffic and revenue while giving you hours of time back. 

The takeaway

With an industry that changes as rapidly as digital marketing, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of myths surrounding the best practices, tips, and tactics to follow.

Once you determine what makes a paid search campaign and overall program successful, you can better weed out the PPC myths from the facts. 

Need more help creating a myth-free PPC campaign? Get in touch.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 1 , 2020

PPC marketing is a proven way to get fast results. But just like any other strategy, it needs regular tweaking, updating, and optimizing.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why Google Ads isn’t the only pay-per-click (PPC) player in town
  • Why manual bidding is worth your attention
  • Ways to optimize your PPC ads in 2020
  • What Core Web Vitals are and why they matter

We like to say that digital marketing is part art, part science. Sure, there are guidelines and processes and steps, but without a heavy dose of creativity, your program isn’t likely to shine. 

Well-versed paid search marketers know this. They also know that experimentation, analysis, and optimization are key components to creating a PPC strategy that isn’t just successful, but lasting too. 

Behaviors, competitors, and algorithms change fast. To stay on top of your game, you have to catch on before someone else does. Let these PPC optimization strategies guide your paid search efforts for the rest of the year — and beyond.

1. Switch to manual bidding

No matter how stellar your PPC ads are, they won’t achieve proper results without the right bidding strategy. The tactic you choose for your bids depends on your campaign goals.

If you want to achieve the largest number of clicks according to the set budget, you can use the traditional automatic cost-per-click (CPC) bidding system.

However, allowing Google to do the job for you comes with a couple of downsides. One of them is lack of an easy way to adjust your campaign if it’s not performing properly. Manual bidding can fix this problem. This hands-on, more customized bidding approach:

  • Increases ad visibility
  • Lowers your cost per action (CPA)
  • Allows you to prioritize keywords that convert better

Switching from automatic to manual bidding is an advanced strategy that requires paying close attention to tactics such as:

  • Focus on one campaign at a time since the process can be time-consuming
  • Lower your bids for keywords that receive solid impressions but don’t generate sales
  • Increase bids for keywords that convert to increase the position of ads containing them and generate more conversions
  • Choose the default bid, which is close to the average CPC in your automatic campaigns

When you leverage manual bidding, it’s a good idea to run the manual campaign for a couple of weeks to see if it achieves the goal of lowering CPC and generating sales. If the process seems like too much, partnering with a well-rounded PPC agency might be the right solution for you. 

hawksem: ppc optimization blog

Creating an ad group that consists of people who have already visited your landing pages can be the key to improving your conversion rate. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Take advantage of remarketing

Research shows that only about 2% of potential customers convert on their first visit. Does that mean you’re wasting your money on PPC ads? Of course not. You just have to boost their success by pairing them with remarketing (or retargeting) campaigns.

This process involves using ads to follow potential clients who have already clicked your ads once or visited your site. Placing your ad in front of them serves as a tasteful reminder of the action they may have wanted to take on your website.

Google Ads allows you to segment your remarketing lists to show ads to visitors based on their needs and the landing page the initial PPC ad brought them to. Creating an ad group that consists of people who have already visited your landing pages can be the key to improving your conversion rate.

3. Explore Microsoft Ads

Google Ads is an unmistakable leader in the PPC marketing realm. But that doesn’t mean others in the space aren’t worth exploring. For some companies, using Microsoft Advertising can be just the solution they’ve been waiting for. What’s more, you could potentially see more success with Microsoft Ads, depending on your industry, as there’s often less competition on these platforms. 

But simply importing a campaign over from Google Ads and forgetting about it means missing highly useful tools other ad platforms have to offer. For example, Microsoft advertising has:  

  • Action extensions: add CTA buttons near your ad that link to the landing page of your choice
  • Review extensions: feature reviews from third-party sites below your ad
  • LinkedIn targeting: view the reactions of the LinkedIn audience to your ads for further adjustments
  • Competition insight: see how your visibility compares to competition, which shows up for the same search queries

4. Pay attention to Amazon Ads

Another PPC optimization opportunity is Amazon Ads. While the audience covered by Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Ads is huge, those who see your ad on those platforms aren’t necessarily in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey.

Amazon audiences, on the other hand, are geared toward spending money. People who visit this shopping giant are likely ready to buy, which increases your chances of conversion tremendously.

These are the types of sponsored Amazon ads at your disposal:

  • Products: keyword-targeted ads that allow you to promote a certain product
  • Brands: help promote the brand while including up to three products in the ad — the users are directed to the Stores page or custom landing page on Amazon
  • Display ads: send those who click to Amazon product detail pages, a custom landing page on Amazon, or an external website

Plus, you don’t need to sell your products on Amazon to take advantage of this advertising option. 

Pro tip: The average CPC on Amazon typically ranges between $0.02 and $3.

hawksem blog: ppc optimization

Core Web Vitals show how good of user experience you should aim to offer your visitors. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Take advantage of responsive search ads

After first appearing in 2019, Responsive Search Ads quickly gained tremendous popularity. That’s partly because these ads allow you to create four headlines and fifteen different descriptions for your ad. Google then tests various combinations of these elements and selects those that perform best depending on:

  • Keywords searched for
  • Devices used
  • Browsing behavior
  • And more

Responsive ads save time and money on A/B testing while allowing you to reach your target audience faster.

Want to learn more about optimizing your PPC campaign in 2020? Let’s talk.

6. Optimize your website

Your PPC campaign results can fall far below expectations if you don’t optimize your website to welcome your target audience once they arrive there. In 2021, Google has said they will consider Core Web Vitals when determining the ranking of your pages. These vitals include:

  • Loading performance: the page should load in under 2.5 seconds
  • Visual stability: the page’s elements shouldn’t move when the user is reading the text (it usually happens when a piece of media loads), forcing the visitor to search for their lost place
  • Interactivity: the time between the visitor taking action (like clicking a button or tab) and the website responding should be under 100 milliseconds

Core Web Vitals show how good of user experience you should aim to offer your visitors. Improving them won’t just improve search engine optimization efforts, but it’ll also help your PPC ad clickers actually convert.

The takeaway

PPC optimization is an ongoing process. And with multiple new options and updates happening every year, it’s nearly impossible to thrive without analyzing regularly so you can keep enhancing your strategies.

At the end of the day, the best PPC ads are clear, consistent, targeted to the right audience, and follow through on what they offer.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 11 , 2020

Don’t fall for these roadblocks on the path to PPC success.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The common PPC mistakes even seasoned marketers fall for
  • How to avoid these pitfalls in your own campaigns
  • What elements make up a successful PPC program
  • Why optimization, consistency, and proper targeting are key

Marketers have been trying to figure out the secret to effective pay-per-click (PPC) advertising since its inception. PPC ads are an essential part of any social media marketing strategy, but (as seasoned digital marketers know) creating great ads that get people to click can be tricky. 

It’s important to know some background of how PPC ads work and how you can use them effectively. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the top mistakes marketers make when creating their PPC ads — and what you can do to avoid them.

HawkSEM: PPC mistakes

Once you know your audience, you can choose better keywords and create stellar ad copy that gets your target audience to click. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Not having a concise goal and strategy

When you’re first starting out, don’t head into your PPC journey without a clear end goal in mind. This can leave you wandering in the dark, unsure about whether or not you’re making progress. Instead, start your campaign with a clear, specific goal in mind, and a timeframe in which to reach it. 

From there, create a map of how you plan to get to your goal. Define your audience as specifically as you can. After all, if you don’t know who your ads are for, how can you create effective ads in the first place? 

Once you know your audience, you can choose better keywords and create stellar ad copy that gets your target audience to click. 

2. Not geo-targeting

Even if you’re selling your product or service all over the country, geo-targeting can help your ads appeal to people on a more personal level. 

People are attracted to brands and ads that feel personalized and like they’re speaking to them. This goes for both local and national companies. Google will allow you to geo-target advertisements by state, so you can include the user’s home state in the header of your ad to grab their attention. 

Take it from the search engine itself: “Location targeting helps you focus your advertising on the areas where you’ll find the right customers, and restrict it in areas where you won’t,” explains Google. “This specific type of targeting could help increase your return on investment (ROI) as a result.”

3. Not using the right kinds of keywords

You already know how essential your keywords are in a campaign, but there are a few other things you need to be aware of to better make use of keywords. Keep in mind that the keywords that you’re using in your ad may not match exactly with a user’s search terms. 

Most searches are “longtail,” which means they are longer queries that may contain variations of your keywords. Focus more on these broader, long-tail keywords instead of on more specific keywords.

One of the PPC mistakes many companies fall for is failing to use negative keywords as a part of their strategy. Negative keywords are terms that you can use to tell Google which search terms you don’t want to show up in the results for. 

For example, if you were selling luxury bed sheets, and you’re using the keyword “bedsheets” in your campaign. You wouldn’t want to appear in a search query like “what to do with old bed sheets?” Using negative keywords can help improve the relevancy of your ads and make sure the right people are seeing them.

4. Not optimizing your landing pages

Where do people get sent when they click on your ad? If they’re not taken to a specific and optimized landing page, they may be unsure of what to do next. 

A landing page should have specific language about the next step a visitor to your site should take — aka the call to action (CTA). The CTA could ask them to sign up for your email list, schedule a consultation, fill out a form, or give you a call.

Make sure your landing page is written in clear, easy-to-understand language that matches the language in your ad, and that you have an explicit next step. Elements that make up a killer landing page include:

  • An eye-catching headline
  • An easy form
  • A mobile-friendly experience
  • A thoughtful design
HawkSEM: Common PPC mistakes

If people get different messages from your ads and landing pages, they may end up confused about who you are and what you offer. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Not having a consistent message

Throughout all the content you create (including ads and landing pages), your language, message, and branding should be consistent. If people get different messages from your ads and landing pages, they may end up confused about who you are and what you offer. 

Do your keywords match what you’re selling? Do they match the keywords on your landing page? If not, visitors may bounce from your page immediately, unsure of if your business is what they’re looking for. 

To remedy this, always repeat your ad copy on your landing page to keep visitors from getting lost or disoriented. You should also strive to have a similar design across all of your platforms and offerings, and keep the tone and voice consistent throughout as well.

6. Setting up a campaign and forgetting it

Another one of the most common PPC mistakes we see is thinking that you can simply set up a campaign and let run on its own. Rather, it requires consistent monitoring, analyzing, and updating to make sure your strategy is reaching its goal. 

Building a PPC campaign is a lot of work, so once it’s up and running, you may be tempted to leave it alone, sit back, and let it do its job for a while. But the truth is, you should be monitoring its performance daily. You’re paying for your ad daily, after all, so you should make sure your ad budget is being spent wisely.

Look at your KPIs and watch for a low click-through rate, a low number of conversions, keywords that aren’t converting, or other strange behavior or problematic issues. 

And as your campaign matures, you can start to think about scaling it. Once your campaign has collected enough data, you can work to expand your keyword lists, try new types of campaigns and bidding strategies, and set up additional campaigns.

7. Striving for #1

Everyone wants to come in first place with PPC advertising, but it may be difficult and unsustainable to strive for the top spot in the long term. 

While being in the number-one spot at the top of a search engine result page will pretty much guarantee you more clicks and an increase in web traffic, this isn’t always a great strategy for your budget. 

Ads further down the page can still have a great click-through and conversion rate and will end up costing you less in the long run. 

The takeaway

When it comes to creating PPC ads that work, you may need to use a little trial and error before you find a formula that gets you the results you want for your business. 

Avoiding the PPC mistakes above can help you on your journey towards creating a great PPC ad with a high click-through rate.  

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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