In our Search History series, we speak to the leading figures in Search Marketing to celebrate 20 years of Search. Delving into key decision makers’ personal and professional relationships with Search, we explore how things have changed over the past two decades, and what the future has in store.
In the latest instalment of Search History, we meet Puneet Vaghela, head of paid Search at PHD UK. He’s been in Search since 2007, beginning with SEO before honing his skills in the world of PPC, and later joining PHD UK in 2007.
How has the way you use Search professionally and personally changed?
Professionally, it hasn’t changed much. I’ve always been a curious fellow, and so I still search for the same things I did 10 years ago, looking for the latest developments in the market, just on a much larger scale now – and not having to manually check SEO rankings. Personally, I’m now using multiple devices to conduct searches, using voice-activated devices more, and utilising the plethora of options available on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) to find the info I’m after with greater ease and efficiency.
What have been the biggest changes in Search since the early days?
When I started in Paid Search, I had to think about which keywords I wanted to target, a very basic ad copy to write, which landing page I wanted to send people to, and how much I was willing to pay for each click. Even back then, conversion tracking was very basic compared to now. Fast-forward to the present day, and there are over a hundred things to think about when running a Search account, from enhanced reporting dashboards, to bid management technology, performance enhancement technology, experiments and testing such as ad copy and landing page testing, or experimentation across different audiences within a given budget to identify the best use of a finite budget… the list just goes on!
What are the biggest changes in the past year?
The updated character limits on ads have made a massive difference to our ability to communicate with customers on the SERP. And the ability to use YouTube audiences within paid Search has also allowed us to evolve our strategies from just PPC customers to brand customers. And speaking about audiences, Google’s inclusions of in-market and life-event audiences – where we can reach and engage with users based on a range of triggers – such as people who are getting married or recently married, moving home, or graduating – has given us another layer of targeting to squeeze every last bit of value from our budgets. We can now ensure that when we are looking to reach people looking for a particular product, it’s not only the keyword intent that shows us their interest, but also what stage of life they are in to further drive propensity to purchase and deliver even better performance.
“The ability to use YouTube audiences within paid Search has also allowed us to evolve our strategies from just PPC customers to brand customers.”
– Puneet Vaghela, head of paid Search, PHD UK
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Be patient. It seems simple enough but, knowing what ‘Searchies’ are like, having been one for over a decade, we are usually impatient and want to see results ASAP. Sometimes the key is having the patience to obtain key learnings to further enhance performance. However, only with patience can you derive the true nature of your activity and acquire the learnings required to further enhance performance.
What’s the biggest single development we’ll see in Search in the next three years?
The ability to advertise to people using voice search devices – not on a physical screen, but on the voice device itself.
How do you explain to friends what Search agencies do?
We make the world go around without anyone realising. We make your lives easier by providing you with the most relevant information at the click of a button or touch of a screen. Or, more often than not, I just say we buy those ads on Google that you see at the top of the page.
How often do you think you use Search each day?
Believe it or not, I’m quite an analogue person, and so I only use Search a lot at work. Counting work, probably 100 times a day. Not counting work, probably only three times a day.
Have you ever used it to cheat at a pub quiz?
Never. Being a quiz master myself, I understand the importance and integrity of a pub quiz, and the damage that can be done to one’s reputation if one’s ever caught cheating. I’ve had to call a few people out in the past for doing this very thing in the past!
“The biggest development in Search will be the ability to advertise to people using voice search devices – not on a physical screen, but on the voice device itself."
– Puneet Vaghela, head of paid Search, PHD UK
What are the pros and cons of Search?
Pros are easily accessible information, the ability to discover and learn more than at any time in human history, and a great career to start in. The main con is that it makes us all impatient… we want everything to be done quicker and quicker!
OK, time to be honest. What are the last 10 things you searched for?
It was the weekend, so less work-related stuff here, but: “google q4 search update 2018”; “browns v steelers score”; “how can I get better at fantasy football”; “bohemian rhapsody tickets”; “nearest golf courses that don’t mind if the grass gets hacked up”; “iphone x special deals”; “how many people are currently subscribed to netflix in the world”; “how do showcase ads work”; “flights to new zealand easter”.
What would your life – personally and professionally – be like without Search?
I have no idea professionally. I’d probably be living in Thailand or Bali managing a bar if I hadn’t gotten into Search.
Why do you love your job so much?
Because the people I work with are the best, always willing to learn more and always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. This can be achieved in any career, but actually driving for more is what separates people doing their job from people loving their job. Search has grown enormously over the last five years, and the fact that I’ve been part of the generation of Searchies pushing the channel forward and striving for more – and the fact that we are an integral part of most people’s daily lives – makes me excited to be in this field. Plus, I’d probably get bored working in anything else – unless it was rocket science or chemical engineering.