Purna Virji

Up Close and Personal with Purna Virji

Purna Virji

Purna Virji is a State of Search speaker and the senior client development and training specialist for Bing Ads at Microsoft, Search Engine Land & Search Engine Watch columnist, and former CEO of Purview Marketing. We interviewed Purna about top lessons for paid ad campaigns, advice for newer marketers, and who she looks up to in the marketing space. 

1. What got you into marketing?
It was a very happy accident. I started my career as a journalist, and produced an Emmy-nominated talk show on public television for a few years- we even won several awards for it! In the end, I crossed over to the dark side and moved from journalism to PR. The dark side paid a lot better and had better hours 🙂 While working at my agency I discovered search marketing via my best friend who lived in London and had been – at that time working for a very well-known company called AOL. The rest is history! I’ve discovered my passion and for the last decade I’ve been working on SEO and PPC, as well as additional disciplines of online marketing such as conversion rate testing and content marketing (a lovely extension of journalism for me.)

2. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned about paid ad campaigns?
– It’s all about the people. We have this wonderful tool in our hands that gives us the power to personalize, segment and engage with our audiences on as close to a one-to-one basis…we need to use these powers for good. Let’s not squander the opportunities through badly targeted, or lazy campaigns.

– Don’t be afraid to test things- from creative to targeting to bids. As an industry we spend more time talking about testing than actually doing it. There are a lot of great tools out there, such as AdAlysis that can make the testing process easier and more intuitive.

– Don’t get overly hung up on Quality score…it’s an important metric certainly, but use it as a guide and not an end goal.

3. What are some of the most common mistakes you see when people set up their Bing Ads campaigns?
– not understanding the differences between Google AdWords and Bing Ads. Yes it is very easy to import campaigns from Google, and we’d encourage that. Simply taking an extra 30 min to adjust for some of the enhancements Bing has to offer, e.g. we offer tablet bid modifiers and demographic bidding within the search network, or that dayparting will work slightly differently since our time settings refer to that of the user are important to know (I’ve written about this on SEL).

– Setting it and forgetting about it. In the US, Bing along with our partners, covers 1 in 3 searchers…plus our audiences differ from Google’s slightly, with our demographics skewing slightly older, better educated and higher-income. This means that the audience is more inclined to make that purchase. Take at least a small amount of time each week to monitor and perform Bing Ads-specific optimizations.

4. Where do you think paid ads are headed overall?
I believe that we’re increasingly moving in the direction of taking search to where the user is…no longer can we really expect the bulk of searchers to visit the search engine to find things. We have to think outside the search box. Voice search is going to be something we all will need to pay attention to- we’re already seeing such a heavy adoption of digital personal assistants such as Cortana, Siri and Alexa. In app searches, and digital spaces anticipating the needs of the searcher is a world we’re headed to.

5. You helped a client become a top growing company. What was your strategy, and some of your biggest lessons?
I worked for a company in the education space here in the States. We faced stiff competition from the incumbent company- think a David v Goliath situation. Through careful researching of the audience, understanding what they needed — think very thorough usability studies and collecting of qualitative data (the same tips and tactics I will be sharing at State of Search) we saw huge lifts in conversion rate and the corresponding lower CPAs helped us compete more effectively and earn more volume.

– Understand your audience

– Tailor creative to engage them

– Fix any friction points in the conversion path

– Run effective tests

– Enjoy the profits

6. How did you get started writing for Search Engine Watch?
I had a meeting with one of their editors after my first speaking gig and they offered me a column- I was very lucky 🙂

7. What advice do you have for newer but growing digital marketers?
Two pieces of advice:

– First, learn as much as you can, join passionate search communities such as DFWSEM to chat with other folks who do what you do

– Two, remember that even though we have such easy access to soooo much quantitative data, don’t ignore qualitative data.

8. Who do you look up to/reach out to when you get stuck?
My heroes are: Brad Geddes, Elizabeth Marsten, Rand Fishkin and Wil Reynolds. They’re brilliant, passionate, inspiring and overall top human beings.

9. How did you learn six languages? Six!
Growing up in India it is common to speak multiple languages, so I learned them organically while growing up. I’ve also traveled a lot (I’ve been to over a 100 cities and still have 24 more on my wish list).

10. What is the most interesting place you’ve traveled to?
Portugal. Beautiful place, fascinating history, warm and lovely people.