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SMX West 2018: Interview with Matt Van Wagner

This interview is part of our SMX West expert interview series taking place between March 12th and 16th, 2018.

We were pleased to be able to sit down with the very busy Matt Van Wagner, President of Find Me Faster at SMX 2018. Like Brad Geddes, Matt was an important part of organizing the show and coordinating the most effective sessions for knowledge-hungry marketers. This year, Matt was moderating or speaking at a number of interesting talks within the paid search track, including:

  • The Art & Science Of Crafting Successful Ads
  • Fundamentals of SEM (also a speaker)
  • Search Engine-Friendly Web Design
  • Conversion Optimization: Turning Quick Wins Into Winning Streaks (featuring Brad Geddes)
  • The Great SEM Toolbox Roundup (featuring Ted Ives)
  • SEM Tune-Up Clinic With The SMX Mechanics (featuring Frederick Vallaeys)
  • Faster & Smarter: Moving From Manual to Automated SEM Campaign Management (featuring Frederick Vallaeys)
  • Competitive Research For SEM (speaker)

Check out what Matt had to say about his role at SMX West this year, as well as what he thinks about Google’s automatic ad copy generator:


Chandal: Hi everyone, I’m Chandal here at SMX West 2018. Here with me is Matt Van Wagner, the President of Find Me Faster. Thanks so much for taking a few minutes to speak with us today.

Matt: Oh, my pleasure. It’s good to be here.

Chandal: We really appreciate it! Matt is one of the busiest people at SMX West this year. He’s heavily involved in the PPC track. So, tell us about your role this year.

Matt: Well, I’m a moderator. What I do is I help put the sessions together. Really, an honor and a privilege to work with all my good friends in the search community. Trying to find people who are knowledgable about topics, passionate about topics, and sort of at the van guard of what’s new and exciting. We evaluate pitches, we talk to speakers, and once we’ve got our panels all set, then my job here is to sit back, enjoy, and learn because we have some really good sessions going.

Chandal: So tell us about some of the things you’re learning from the sessions this week. Are there any topics that are recurring or trending in the PPC track?

Matt: We just had a great B2B session earlier today. Brad Geddes ran that one. Questions ran over time. We never know how it’s going to be. Because B2B sometimes people are less engaged. They’re quieter, they don’t want to talk about their particular thing. We had a great conversion panel earlier today with Jeremy Epperson and John Kagan and James Svoboda. And we took, end to end, from initial click, you gotta make sure you’re bringing the right traffic and really carve out your audiences. Once their on site, how to make sure you have a good testing methodology, a good process for testing quickly, learning quickly, and implementing. It was a fabulous session.

Chandal: Ya, really learning about the full life cycle.

Matt: The most important question we got for Jeremy Epperson was ‘what products do you use for your beard?’. He’s got a big beard down to here. He enjoyed that!

Chandal: We all want to know! [laughs] Too bad, you should have been here! And the last thing I wanted to ask you, because I was attending a session yesterday, was the ‘Art & Science of Creating Successful Ad Copy’ and Matt told the audience to see who had used Google’s new feature to create automatic ad copy. So I wanted to hear your thoughts on that: good or bad?

Matt: I think the jury’s still out. We’ve got some ads testing that. So far, what I’ve seen is Google’s doing very un-aggressive, very low-impact changes – word order, maybe an offer. So far we haven’t seen anything that’s like ‘oh my god, that’s the most brilliant creative I’ve ever seen in my life!’. And, nothing that corrects a defect that was clear and obvious. So I think Google is trying to get people used to the fact that it can at least do as well as they’re doing. We don’t really like to do testing unless there’s going to be a significant chance to move the needle. Changing a period to a comma, or taking a period out, is kind of low level stuff. And as Andrew Goodman liked to say yesterday, ‘it’s probably random occurrence that changes any test in ad recurring.’ But free shipping versus 3 day shipping, some offers give you a better chance to make a difference. I don’t think the Google ad copy machine is going to be able to know what your business is to change the offer. We’ll continue to watch it, but it’s unimpressive so far. But, it’s early days.

Chandal: So stay tuned! We’ll see how that plays out in the coming years. We really appreciate the couple minutes you could spend with us today Matt. Thank you so much.

Matt: Thank you Chandal!


Stay tuned for more coverage of SMX West to come!


Image Credits

Feature Image: Unsplash/Mikael Kristenson

Video property of Acquisio by Web.com

Chandal Nolasco Da Silva

Chandal Nolasco Da Silva

With nearly a decade of digital marketing experience, Chandal has created content strategies for both the biggest and sometimes the most unexpected markets, while developing strategic relationships with editors and publishers. Chandal contributes to some of the highest authority industry publications, has been featured in industry events and is thrilled to be Acquisio’s Content Director.

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