It was a unique and nifty opportunity to interview Purna Virji (@purnavirji), chiefly because she brought something to the proverbial table not many others we’ve interviewed on aimClear blog have: insight from in da house! That is to say, Purna has been working as in-house Online Marketing Manager at education-focused eCommerce company Stroll for the past few years, while many other of our Q&A friends are based in an agency environment.
At Stroll, Purna focuses on Paid Search, Display/Banners, SEO, Social Media, Direct Response Marketing and Web Analytics, as well as Customer Retention Marketing. But interestingly enough, Purna originally came from an SEO / SEM agency background, and before that, she was all about PR and journalism. This complex prism of professional experience made for some fascinating brainchow during our recent chit-chat.
Next week, Purna will be heading to NYC to speak on two panels during SMX East– YouTube Words: Tying Your PPC Campaigns To YouTube and In-House PPC: Organizational PPC Challenges & Solutions. She was kind enough to share some time with us prior to the show, the share some words on her areas of expertise and the evolution from agency to in-house marketing. We also got a sneak peek at her upcoming presentations! Read on for the full effect .
| aimClear: Purna! Welcome. Tell the folks at home a little about yourself. Who are you, where do you come from, how did you end up in the online marketing industry?
Purna Virji: Hi Lauren! Thanks for interviewing me, it’s a huge honor to be on the aimClear blog. I currently head up the search marketing, customer retention, and international expansion efforts at Stroll, an eCommerce company in the education vertical. With my first degree in business and finance, I went on to do my post-grad in journalism in Britain. I remember at journalism school, our professor had said on the first day that most people in this room will end up working in PR one day. Idealistic as we were at that time, we thought, “Oh that will never happen, we want to cover war and strife across the world and be real journalists.” Thankfully, sanity prevailed and I realized that covering war and strife isn’t for me. I then moved to Philadelphia and worked in public television for the next four years. During my time there, I produced the Emmy-nominated TV series Philly Live and a series of public affairs talk shows, for which I won multiple awards such as the Telly and PAB awards.
Real life then got in the way- I had my son, and realized I couldn’t keep up a journalist’s schedule or salary, so I crossed over to the “dark side”, that of PR at an agency. My best friend at the time was an SEO in London, working at one of the top agencies there. She kept talking about what she did and how much I would love it, so I got her to tell me more and instantly I was hooked, realizing I had discovered my true passion. Through her, I got an amazing foundation and went a step further and discovered PPC, my other true passion. I then went on to actually introduce search marketing at the agency I worked for and expanded our services from there. In the three years there, I worked with hundreds of clients in the SMB market. Finally, I decided to move in-house to see how much of an impact I could make by working full time on just one “client”. Now, I head up many more projects in addition to search marketing, but that experience actually helps make me better at search marketing.
| aC: The “dark side.” I love it. Very cool stuff. How is YouTube search PPC different from traditional search PPC? What do you want us all to know about the two?
PV: YouTube paid search is a fantastic extension of traditional search PPC and allows for reaching a much broader audience in a different way. The main difference I see is that YouTube searches tend to be higher up in the search funnel than with traditional search PPC. In Google, people know what they’re looking for and search to find the solution. On YouTube, they’re just looking for more info related to their interest, and if you can capture them at that time, you’re in the right place at the right time.
The videos also allow for sharing so much more information in a more engaging manner than with a traditional landing page. You can tell your story, showcase customer testimonials and use humor and other fun ways to connect with your audience. Having other comments on the video from the strong YouTube community also helps to build a degree of trust with searchers who find your videos.
The biggest misconception I find is that YouTube is only for brand advertisers. That’s not true at all. YouTube is a great place for direct response advertising, and the ads do convert, often at better CPAs than with traditional search PPC. So don’t wait! Competition is so low at this time, that’s it’s a great way to ahead of the curve. Make YouTube a part of your marketing arsenal, since with AdWords it is super easy to manage. Traditional PPC is of course invaluable, whether one does SEO or not, but adding on a YouTube ad campaign can give you a huge edge.
| aC: Awesome to know. Now, here’s another thing we’d like to know: Who are your three favorite marketers in the world?
PV: Tough question! We’re so lucky that our industry has so many wonderful, wonderful people. Okay, so apart from the fantastic folks of aimClear (Manny, Lauren, Merry, and of course Marty), my 3 favorite marketers in the world are:
- Brad Geddes: I could gush on infinitely about him. Not only is he one of the most brilliant people in the world, he is also the nicest, kindest, warmest person I have ever met. I’ve learned so much from him, and each time I speak to him or read his blog, I learn something new. I’ve read and re-read his book, Advanced Google AdWords, about five times, and consider it the ultimate guide to PPC. If anyone hasn’t read it, don’t miss out!
- Rhea Drysdale: She is one amazing lady. Not only is she super intelligent, but I greatly admire her passion for what she does and how much she has accomplished. She’s a phenomenal SEO and CEO and very generous with her time to share ideas and thoughts, to allow others to learn from her.
- Wil Reynolds: One word- RCS! Wil is such a powerhouse. I love watching him speak, and have often re-watched videos of his talks. He has so much passion and integrity and is such a fearless leader. I look up to him a lot and am very lucky that I get to see him and his amazing SEER team often at local Philly SEO meetups.
| aC: Right on . Word on the street is you’re also steeped in public relations. (I wrote this question before receiving your first response about your PR background… ). What, in your opinion, is the most exciting part of the mash-up between traditional PR and social media?
PV: You heard correctly! PR is the other side of the coin to journalism and I did work in PR for a few years. It’s helped a lot with SEO efforts, we were doing content marketing even before it became the new industry buzz word. PR is amazingly synergistic with social media, no longer do we have to wait for mainstream media to publish our stories in order to reach our audiences. Citizen journalism in the form of blogs and on social media has been a godsend for most savvy PRs.
Social media is a natural and even more powerful extension of PR efforts. Endeavors like product launches, contests, awards, can gain extra mileage from leveraging social media sites. For example, say if one wanted to host a traditional industry awards night, which would get maybe a couple of articles in the news through PR, can now better involve the community. Post a list of nominees and let people on Facebook vote for the winners. Let them even recommend nominees, and award categories. This way, the community will feel that much more vested in the process and are more likely share the event with all their friends. It’s also a great way to help with any reputation issues to do damage control.
| aC: I love it! Great ideas. On Day 3 of SMX East, you’ll be speaking on the YouTube Words: Tying Your PPC Campaigns To YouTube session, as well as the In-House PPC: Organizational PPC Challenges & Solutions sesh. Please, oh! Give us a sneak peek at some of the juicy goods you’ll share with the audience.
PV: On day 3, I’m so excited and honored to be on the panel with aimClear’s own Manny Rivas to speak about YouTube advertising. He’s truly the pioneer of all things related to YouTube words and I can honestly say that I’ve learned practically everything I know from him. My talk is designed to be very, very actionable right from the start. I’ll share things that have worked very well in our tests, and showcase exactly how we implemented them, so I have six really amazing strategies that are super easy for anyone to implement. Just the section on leveraging annotations alone will make it worth attending the session, even if I do say so myself. Plus, with testing being such a key part of any PPC campaign, I will also share the ideal YouTube testing schedule, specially prepared for SMX attendees, that prioritizes all the levers we can pull to boost results. Stay tuned!
Later that day, I’ll also be speaking on the In-House PPC session, where I’ll touch upon how to manage management effectively. I’ll share tips I honed from my agency days and from my in-house experience to help in-house PPCs be even more successful at what they do. I’ll share actionable tips on how to get buy in, how to set the right communication balance, how to convey bad news and how to get management to respect your to-do list, amongst others. Plus that panel is amazing with people like David Roth from Yahoo. I highly recommend it.
| aC: I’ll be there. Lightning round! Name your favorite actor, ethnic cuisine, and adult beverage!
PV: Ok, rapid fire lightning round! Let’s do this.
My fav actor is Aamir Khan. He’s a Bollywood actor who not only makes exceptional movies, but the main reason I admire him is that he is also a huge proponent of social change in India with his TV show Satyamev Jayate.
Fav ethnic cuisine is Greek. Super yummy and lots of vegetarian options, since I don’t eat meat or fish.
Fav adult beverage is: Prosecco. Who can resist a glass of bubbly?
| aC: *Raises glass* not me! Thanks so much for your time today, Purna . Safe travels up to NYC, we’ll be seeing you there!
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