Academy newbies

Read how we learned from Google, Bing and other marketing specialist & why it’s worth throwing a summer academy every once in a while.

We met on the hottest days of an otherwise lukewarm summer. The excitement of first introductions was tangible as none of us knew exactly what they are getting into. Sure, we had already done some online courses and exams. But we were impatient to start actual work in the AdWords program. Still, we had to wait just a little bit more, gathering around the table, laptops buzzing, waiting for experts to share their knowledge.

But first, the introductions! I was one of the participants of the 2017 ePPC Summer Academy in Tallinn. The training programme was focused on teaching Google AdWords but also gave an overview of other internet advertising topics. My background is in anthropology, and I was fascinated by the mix of participants gathered there – all of them internet natives but with travels and studies taking them to different corners of the world.

Although only two participants were from places other than Estonia (from Finland and Georgia), the others had also lived around the world (USA, Sweden, Portugal, Bali and UK). The fields of studies we represented ranged around Business, Textile and Hospitality Management, Marketing, Programming, Computer Science and Cultural Studies.

Skittles and Skype

The academy took place in late July and August, but the preparations started earlier. We had to do an exam before being chosen to the academy and were properly studying for it already in June. Each of us remembers the day of the interview. It was a bit nervous and exciting at the same time. One of us nearly missed it because she had forgotten to set the clock to the right time-zone. But we all made it through, with extra confidence from already having done the exam.

During the academy, all the employees of ePPC gave us lectures on the different sides of their work. We were visited also by people from Google and Bing, and other industry experts who spoke openly about their experience of working with AdWords, Tag Manager and Facebook. There were always some who joined us through video calls, be it from New York, Malaysia or Ireland. We got to know how to use AdWords together with other programs and useful websites. And getting to know about the topic was also about getting to know the different personalities working in the field and the challenges they’ve come across. It gave a sense of how it all works in the real world.

It wasn’t all work and no play. We had time to relax and talk around lunch and coffee breaks. On the first week, we also had a SUP hike down the Pirita river, enjoying each others’ company until the evening and sharing strange facts about ourselves. As much as the academy was about the specific topic of AdWords, it was about meetings and learning from each other, bonding over Skittles and coffee.

What’s better for creating connections between people than these modern rituals – passing a jar of brightly coloured candy from hand to hand or standing around the coffee machine.

Learning AdWords

The lessons helped us get our head around how the whole AdWords program and its place in internet marketing. Here, I’ll share some interesting insights. The most basic one for me was coming to understand that there are actually a whole lot of people that click on ads. Really!

Other surprising realisations:

  1. Youtube is also a huge search engine (not just for cat videos), and people use it mostly for looking up products. But be careful to exclude „Masha and the Bear” from where your ad will appear if you don’t want millions of children seeing it.
  2. There’s a really simple way for advertisers to avoid stalking their customers with endless ads, called ‘frequency cap’.
  3. Ads on websites may perform better if they are camouflaged, rather than standing out. People tend to get „banner blindness” when surfing the web, but they might overcome it if the ad looks like something on the site that already interests them.
  4. In Facebook, your main competitors are cute baby pics and cat videos. And the Facebook algorithm… is a mysterious thing.

After the first test campaigns and the practice audit, it was time to get our hands on some serious work. The other half of the academy was an internship, working in small teams with our ePPC mentors. It was daunting to delve into the big accounts with complex structures and hundreds of keywords in different languages. We had many moments when we hesitated before making even the very small changes.

„Should I raise this bid 5 cents? Yes, I’m going to do it! Or not? Hmm, I have to think. Maybe… OK, I’ll do it!”

We might have been hesitant at first but over the course of working, we started to realise how much we’d learnt over the last few weeks. The knowledge from the academy had solidified in our brains and gently pushed us in the right direction. And working in a team, supporting each other and asking tons of questions – we developed the confidence in our work.

We are still learning, and we never stop learning and adjusting to the developing conditions of the virtual world. These kinds of academies are not just good for the newbies, whose learning curve is still very steep, but also the experts themselves. Besides learning through work, it’s always good to bring in fresh perspectives: to discuss and recap, to meet and share. That’s why I’m really looking forward to any other academies that will come about in the future. And I encourage you, good reader, to join in or make your own if you ever get the chance!