Varthana Faulkner: The lab's loss, the Search industry's gain

May 2015

Pharmacology is the branch of medicine that centres on the development of new drugs. In this field, lab-coat-clad scientists spend day after day testing, learning and iterating. They keep this up for years — often stretching into decades — until their hard work eventually pays off in the form of a new medication.

When Varthana Faulkner read pharmacology for her bachelor of science degree, she loved the testing and experiments. As for the decades-long wait to produce an effect? Not so much. "What really interested me in a career was a fast pace in which you can see the results," she explains. It was that drive to produce tangible responses that led her to land the job of EMEA Search Director at Performics.

"You can really have an impact," she says. "It's very data driven, not something that is estimated. It is very direct so you can see the results instantly." Last year's Cyber Monday activity provides an example of the kind of rapid data points that this former scientist craves. For one client, Varthana oversaw a 241% increase in the average conversion rate for Cyber Monday and a 191% rise in return on ad spend. As a result, the brand achieved 586% higher revenue than on an average Monday. Pay-per-click drove 50% of the total marketing revenue and 32% of all revenue on the day.

How can others replicate the kind of success Varthana habitually produces for clients? "I think firstly to create a new search campaign, understand the brief. Understand what the consumer needs, what your KPI is and who, what and where you are targeting. Secondly you need to have some creative skills in order to stand out. It's a very competitive environment and there are a lot of big players in the field, so use all the ad formats you have and be creative in ad copy creation. Thirdly you really need to be highly analytical. Obviously we are looking at numbers here and extensive data. What do the numbers tell you, what do they mean? Finally you need to interact with people, your peers and your clients. You really need to know how to present those numbers in a very palatable way that tells a story so your clients understand the impact search is having on their business or brand."

This ability to distil complicated numerical information into rich stories is highly prized at Performics. "We are search geeks and we love it," she admits. "If we are looking at new business, search is the first point of call. This is where you can get large volumes of accurate and current data to give consumer insight. We give up-to-date trends and information to help forecast and plan, wherever a bit of activity is needed — not just specific to search but across the whole industry."

The innovations in search that she's most excited about centre on some upcoming betas in Google Shopping Campaigns and Product Listing Ads. "Another one that not everyone will agree with is smartwatches and wearable devices," she reveals. "I want to see how they adapt to search or how search adapts to them. What impact will search have upon that environment? Will it affect the length of queries? I'm really interested in that."

While many of us may shrink away from anything new and unknown with trepidation or skepticism, Varthana runs at it full-tilt. "It's an ever-changing environment that's always adapting to new technology. You can be at the front and be brave in the industry. You need to test and learn, not be afraid to be the first to try new things. It requires a lot of proactivity. If no one else has tried it, you need to go out and find information for yourself. Everything new that you test — even if it doesn't work — you will learn something from it." She may have left the test tubes and lab coat behind, but make no mistake — this adventurous, inquisitive search specialist is still an experimenter at heart.

As consumer decision-making gets more complex, automation helps to simplify