12 SEM, Paid Search, PPC Job Interview Questions That Make Sense – SEO Hong Kong


12 SEM, Paid Search, PPC Job Interview Questions That Make Sense

Possible questions asked on search marketing interviews, plus guides and answers

After the 28 SEO Job Interviews that make sense comes this post about pay per click (PPC) job interviews. I don’t think PPC job interviews are different from other job interviews. But it would be helpful to pick out some possible paid search questions thrown at applicants by interviewers, understand these questions, and arrive at sensible answers.

office-pen-talkPhoto credit: Language Translation

What is the difference between search engine marketing and Internet marketing?
Search Engine Marketing is specific to marketing your brand/service/products through search engines. It can be in the form of organic search results where landing pages are aimed for higher ranking, or in paid search results, where ads are aimed to display at maximum exposure for targeted keywords at minimal cost possible.

Internet marketing covers a broader range of channels. It includes search engine marketing, email marketing / EDM, social media, and so on.

What is Quality Score and how does it affect your work as paid search specialist?
State the definition of Quality Score without being too bookish. It’s important to understand what it is, rather than remembering what it literally means.

Quality Score’s a part of Google’s way of determining ranking of AdWords ads. This can be achieved by, among others, improving relevance between ad copies and keywords, improving quality of landing pages. By obtaining high quality score for my keywords, I can reduce expenses for my PPC campaigns.

Reducing operating costs is what clients have in mind, right?

If we rank high on our brand terms in organic results, do we need to rank well on paid search?
Yes, you may need to rank well on paid search even if you have high rankings within your organic search keywords. That’s because ranking high on organic search, even for your selected terms does not mean automatic success in achieving your business goals. If the ROI for paid search campaign is better than the organic search campaign, it makes more sense to do so. Also, paid search ads on top reinforce the presence of top organic search results. They make your brands/products/services look more credible.

How do you manage large set of keywords (hundred thousand to millions)?
It is prerequisite to mention automatic bid tools to manage this huge paid search campaign. But merely saying so does not mean you’re off the hook. It helps to explain classification of keywords, grouping them according to priorities, business objectives and target audience so that if business strategies change, campaigns can easily be modified.

Can also mention classification of keywords according to importance such as “high”, “medium” or “low” and those that are of secondary importance, low performance, and those keywords that are candidates for removal.

Explaining clearly how the number of keywords grew tremendously by stating methodologies for keyword research, usage of match types, negative keywords and describing timing phases helps, too.

How do I reduce costs of my paid search campaigns?
Don’t immediately answer open-ended questions that lead to answers based on multiple assumptions. Costs of acquisition? Cost per click? You can’t answer accurately a question that isn’t accurate itself. When in doubt, you should also have the freedom to ask question before you release your thoughts.

Some interviewers are fond of tricky questions.

How do you respond if your client’s competitor bought the same trademarked keyword? Perhaps you did contact that offending party, stated the violation terms, but it still refuses to budge to your polite request.
Answers may vary according to where a campaign is going to take place. In certain markets such as the UK (update: now more), Google allows bidding for trademarked keywords. But if you’re sure that you’re not covered by this policy and feel that a violation has been committed, lodging a complaint to Google is the next logical option.

job-interview-scarePhoto credit: maverick

Describe the structure of a Google AdWords paid search campaign
Google AdWords PPC advertising structure is composed of one or multiple accounts (if necessary). An account can handle up to 25 campaigns. Each campaign can handle up to 100 ad groups. Yahoo Search Marketing campaigns can have up to 1,000 keywords and 20 ads within an ad group.

Of course, we don’t have to know these max keyword numbers as we don’t need to fill each ad groups to the max. We only need to fill our ad groups with the most targeted keywords available.

How do you differentiate paid search programs of Google, MSN and Yahoo?
One way to differentiate these three are through presentation of strengths and weaknesses of each.

Google AdWords
Advantage: Most robust and corners majority of all paid search traffic
Disadvantage: Due to its big number of advertisers, cost per click is generally more expensive

Yahoo! Search Marketing
Advantage: Lower pay per click cost compared to Google AdWords
Disadvantage: Way behind Google AdWords in terms of reporting features

MSN adCenter
Advantage: Studies show that users of adCenter are more likely result to conversions
Disadvantage: Weakest PPC interface compared to Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing

How do you describe building your keyword list?
Building a list of keywords used for any organic or paid search campaign should be systematic:

Identify your audience
Who are the target audience of this campaign? What would they probably be using to look for my products and services? Knowing your audience is the first sign of a successful paid search campaign.

Review your existing offerings
Based on what search terms people are using, do I have these terms? What are the possible landing pages? Does my website have content voids?

Look at your competitors
Look at competitors and analyze how they position themselves. Are they using the same terms as I do? Broader or more specific?

Check web analytics results
History will be recorded on web analytics tools: keywords used, their effectiveness in driving sales or leads and other useful information. Such data should give us idea on which keywords yielded better ROI.

Expand keywords using various tools
Based on keywords gathered so far, expansion is made possible through various tools available: Google AdWords keyword tool, WordTracker, KeywordDiscovery, and so on. From this big list, we can sort, prioritize and group these keywords according to importance, timing or other segmentation methods.

What’s your methodology in creating ad copies?
This question wants to find out how you would come up with ad copies. Are they compelling and paint an accurate picture of the intended message? You may answer it based on the following guidelines:

  • Find out why your ad copy should be more effective than others
  • Your ad’s ability to answer basic questions
  • Testing the ad copy; we’ll never know how effective it is until we put it to the test

What’s your take on bidding for competitor’s trademark keywords?
This is a tricky question that should be addressed properly. PPC Hero has good guidance on this: citing the issue of legality and best-practice because it’s either you can or you can’t bid on a competitor’s trademark terms. Recent development in Google AdWords paid search has paved way for non-trademark owners to bid for previously exclusive trademark keywords. By being active on what’s going on in the industry, this means you’ll always be on top of things as they happen. And that’s a good thing for prospect employers.

What is your strategy on geo-targeting ads?
The question will seek answer on how you’d approach ads that are displayed for specific locations. Is it just based on IP filter or should you extend it? For example, if I want to advertise for “seo hong kong” keyword only to users who are located in Hong Kong, an IP targeting methodology will only display the ads if their location (IP address) is associated with Hong Kong.

But what if someone from UK wants to find a Hong Kong SEO agency to optimize its Traditional Chinese content? An extension of this IP targeting should also be based on the keyword itself so that if someone else outside of Hong Kong uses the exact match of the phrase, the ad should still be displayed.

I hope these PPC interview questions and answers list are fairly helpful and assists you in formulating possible answers on questions that relate to the ones I highlighted in this post.

Good luck on your interview!


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  • Rahul Singh on Sep 16, 2011 Reply

    One of the best i found on Internet and its very helpful for me to giving interview in Internet Marketing Company

  • John Britto on Mar 17, 2010 Reply

    Nice post 🙂

    Useful too.

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