I was fortunate enough to be the moderator of the table concerned with my main area of interest – SEO, PPC, and social advertising.

We covered topics ranging from how SEO and PPC should be integrated to what new and cool stuff people were doing with paid media on social platforms.

The event was split into three different sessions, so I ended up hosting three different discussions during the day.

Though the topics varied widely on the theme, each of the tables had a ‘lean in’ moment where all 10 or so participants were actively engaged in the discussion – and offered both advice and voiced concerns about the key topic.

Now, we spoke under ‘Chatham House rule’ which stipulates that none of the comments can be attributed directly to the speaker – so there are no direct quotes here.

I can say, however, that each of the discussions involved marketers from household-name brands. That is, these big ideas came from real experiences from organizations with large marketing budgets, not from agencies.

So, with the scenario set, let’s move on to the Online Advertising big ideas from Digital Cream Singapore 2014.  I’ve organized the discussion topics into the initial important questions, the thoughts offered, and some conclusions from an hour’s worth of discussion.

1) It’s all about content


  • How do I know what to advertise online?
  • What should we offer?
  • How do we get our message through to customers?
  • How can we know if it is working?


  • Beware of those who are “deep into digital”, but don’t have any other marketing acumen. They will miss that you have to create things you can’t measure.
  • Customer experience is the low-hanging fruit of digital marketing.
  • Good customer experience starts with identifying decision-makers and mapping out their process when making the buying decision.
  • What are the pain points on the way? That is your content.
  • You need to educate consumers first.
  • Build up your brand offline so that SEO / PPC can reinforce it.
  • And be sure to edit globally-produced content for the Asia market.


  • You need high-quality, comprehensive content to back up any SEO / PPC / social advertising campaigns.
  • So how do you know when you have enough? Can you map the customer journey from start to finish with content? And address pain points along the way? If not, then keep trying.
  • Once you have the right content, THEN use SEO / PPC / online advertising to:
    • Get it to the right people in organizations.
    • Drive traffic to micro-sites (avoid ‘leakage’ clicks to other parts of the sites).
    • Add analytics to measure effectiveness.
    • Use site tools such as Alexa to compare with competitors.

2) When things get too complicated, use an agency


  • What are SEO best-practices in the industry? Are there even any?
  • How do we justify ROI of PPC?
  • How can you use untrackable platforms like Instagram to enhance campaigns?


  • First know what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you building up usage? Or are you trying to make money?
  • Then, calculate the value of each conversion. Know the lifetime value to your organization of each additional user/sale.
  • From there you need to do your ROI – how much does it cost you to get each additional user.
  • And you need an attribution model to ensure that the spend is tied directly to the sale.
  • One company justified paying $200 for every click for a particular high-end product using this methodology.
  • But knowing attribution and lifetime value (LTV) intimately is essential in order to pay such a sizeable sum for a customer.


  • Most companies are far from having well-defined attribution and LTV models. So what can they do?
  • Most felt that they should ‘try it themselves first’ – run their own SEO/PPC/online advertising.
  • But the most experienced marketers agreed that you have to know you limits – and hire an agency when you hit them.
  • Initial engagement of around $10k and ‘see how that goes’ before signing a larger contract.
  • And try to pay on performance as much as possible.
  • There are a lot of metrics, so be sure to choose one which makes sense for your business.
  • Avoid easy-to-fudge numbers such as ‘impressions.’

3) You have to be innovative to get outstanding results


  • What is the correct balance between internal and external marketing efforts?
  • What tools and technologies are people using now to drive better results?
  • How can you compete with PPC keywords which everyone else wants as well?


  • SEO and PPC were both outsourced. Some did both, others just did one.
  • But now that Google is no longer attributing unpaid search terms, it may make sense to integrate the two.
  • That way you can choose your SEO keywords from their PPC performance.
  • That is, if the keywords are too expensive to buy then really try to get them with SEO.
  • Some evidence that SEO can outperform PPC – people are intentionally NOT clicking on ads to get the most relevant content.
  • Most agreed though, that it’s very difficult to ‘move the needle’ with SEO and PPC – even when integrated.


  • Digital marketers need to consider all innovations available in order to control costs in keyword bidding wars.
  • Remarketing was considered to be a key technology to improve campaign performance.
  • One organization used ‘dynamic creative optimization’ (DCO) with remarketing to make sure relevant content appeared to past visitors.
  • All agreed that remarketing needs to be short in duration and turned off after a conversion – to avoid being annoying and creepy.
  • Now some are using a demand side platform (DSP) with a data management platform (DMP) to target more effectively than PPC.
  • All admitted that it was difficult (especially with Baidu) – and that finding a trusted parter was key.
  • So, put aside 10-20% of your budget for innovations and pilot any new techniques before committing to it.


It was very interesting to have 30 or so digital marketing specialists talk about their concerns and share, openly, what was going on at their organization regarding SEO, PPC, and social advertising.

From the discussions, I think the most important point was that we are all struggling to improve our search and advertising results.

To do so, we agreed that you need to try different things. Sometimes outperformance is accomplished with content, other times help from an agency is essential, and almost always you need to be innovative to really make a difference.

Hopefully you’ve found this short overview of our discussions useful, but I’d be very interested to hear feedback – buy-side or agency – about the state of digital marketing at your company.

Please add a comment below!