Danielle Denman is a digital marketing professional, specialized in Pay Per Click and small business development. Danielle is currently the senior PPC analyst at SmartSites where she leads the largest and most diverse group of the PPC department. She earned her MBA in Business Administration with a marketing concentration at William Paterson University while launching her career.
LinkedIn research currently places digital marketing specialists as one of the top 10 most in demand jobs worldwide. Despite the widespread news of layoffs at the biggest companies, there are a number of ways to thrive in the digital marketing industry if you know the right tricks.
Danielle Denman, senior Pay Per Click analyst and small business lead at SmartSites, initially began her journey exploring graphic design before switching to a career in digital marketing and helping small businesses strategize their growth trajectory. By helping her clients reach success, she has learned the hard way what it takes to grow your business with the help of digital marketing.
In this interview, Danielle has let us in on what’s changed in digital marketing since the beginning of her career, how to make the most of a PPC strategy, and why it is especially rewarding working with small businesses.
Spotlight: What drew you to digital marketing and how did you end up specializing in the growth of small businesses?
Danielle Denman: I'm actually in Pay Per Click right now. I've been in the space for about eight and a half to nine years now. But I started out with a couple of internships at a couple of digital marketing roles, and then I found myself at a traditional advertising agency that was specializing in newspaper and print ads. Then I quickly carved my way back into the digital department within that agency and that's where I started my paid search journey. From there, I moved on to SmartSites, where I have been now for a little over three and a half years. I started out as a PPC analyst, and then worked my way up to the team lead position. Now I manage a team of five and we all pretty much specialize in lead generation.
Did you always know that you wanted to get into graphic design or digital marketing?
I guess we could date back to high school. I was in art classes, and thought, “Hey, this is really fun. Maybe I can make a career out of it.” So I actually took an AP college course in high school and I figured I can actually go into graphic design. From then on, I realized: “Hey, maybe this isn't for me.” I started to not like doing art anymore, just because it was a job. It wasn't fun anymore. And I was like, How can I change this? I can go into the business sector of it and go into advertising. That's the part that I liked to do. Even though I started out with graphic design, I liked to be a part of getting the message in front of people and tailoring it. I found a new interest in it, it wasn't just work anymore. It was me being able to put multiple parts into it instead of just, “Hey, draw this and this is what we need.” I was able to put some strategy into it too.
Let's shift back to the years that you've spent with SmartSites. How did that all start for you? And how's the journey been for you there?
I actually started in November 2019. Somebody that I worked with at my previous agency actually gave me the intro and set up the interview there. It was nice to know somebody that was already working at SmartSites. She was able to help me set up an interview, the team liked me, and they thought I was a good fit. Then I actually started really diving into paid search there. At the time, it was a team of maybe eight or nine people on the PVC team, but now we have 26, and are still growing. It's really fun to be able to see that growth and be a part of the original members. Now we are about three, four times the size that it was.
To talk a little bit more about the digital marketing industry as a whole, have you noticed any big changes? What are some of the biggest changes that you've noticed from when you first started in digital marketing to where you are now?
One of the biggest things I saw change while I was working in digital was on Facebook, the Cambridge Analytica, which I remember in depth. There's been other small changes, but that that was the start of making advertisers be more transparent. We would target people using the data that they had, and that quickly changed once that whole scandal came to light. We had to rethink the audience structure of all those social media ads.
That's one thing that I've seen change early on, but I think one of the things that makes me very interested in digital marketing is that it's not static. It's always changing. Whether it's like something big like that, or small changes along the way. Not even six months ago, ChatGPT entered the digital world. And that shook everything up as well, like maybe we don't need people creating different ad copies anymore. We can scale it out easier now. Obviously, you still need a human touch. But it's really a question of economies of scale and being able to use that as a tool to help gain your digital presence.
So how do you foresee AI changing the digital marketing space?
ChatGPT is something that became popular and opened people's eyes to it. So AI was already there. It's also growing exponentially, I think. So I think this is just the start, I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly how it's going to change. But I know it's going to change. And I think everybody should be prepared for that change. I don't think people should be afraid, instead they should utilize it and leverage it to their advantage. There's some things, such as streamlining, that will be able to help. But as I said before, It's always been there. But I think there's going to be more learning of it, and it's going to be able to change and update continuously. It's always been there, it's going to stay here, and it's going to grow rapidly. But we definitely have to grow with it.
With regards to digital marketing, did small businesses in particular interest you? What's the difference between approaching digital marketing for small companies, as opposed to bigger ones?
Well, first of all, you're helping somebody that needs help. If you have a large company, they probably have a set marketing budget already: “This is what you have to spend, and this is what we have to do.” These are the goals we have to make with small businesses, maybe they're still figuring that out or maybe they just need more guidance. I like that I'm helping small businesses with their strategy, and providing recommendations to them, and I like to see them grow. I always tell my clients that if they're not growing, then I'm not growing, because if they're not seeing any success with it, then I don't think I'm doing my job. If they're not happy, if they're not growing, I’m ultimately going to lose that client and then that's not good for me. So I like to make sure that they're winning and I'm winning as well.
Let's talk a little bit more actually about SmartSites being focused on PPC analytics. What makes using PPC advertising for business growth such a powerful tool?
Businesses can invest into their digital marketing for SEO, PPC, web development, and web design. But say, for example, if you have a website already and you're trying to grow your marketing presence, you would use tactics like SEO and PPC to help yourself grow. For the PPC part of it, it's a little bit faster than SEO. SEO is more so working to get your organic search and search engine listings to the top of the page. That takes time because robots will crawl your page, and you have to write a bunch of content, fix your website, and make all these changes and backlinks. So that takes a lot of time. Whereas PPC, it's a little bit faster. I wouldn't say it's immediate, but I can turn on campaigns, raise budgets, and really utilize PPC to get in front of new customers quickly. So getting your message in front of your prospects is going to be quicker with PPC and then businesses can utilize that to really optimize and help. You can just blast it out there. Or you can just start optimizing and curating your budget and results into the type of customer you want and then work the back end to get more of that type of customer.
With regards to measuring the success of a PPC campaign, what sort of metrics should businesses be paying attention to?
I think it all goes down to what the customer's goal is. What are they looking to get out of it? Are they trying to grow their business awareness? Usually most of my clients want more sales or more leads so that they can convert them. But I always like to make sure that companies really know what their goals are before starting. A lot of times clients will not be sure, they will just want to allocate a certain amount of budget and get their presence out there. Then, ultimately, at the end of the day, maybe that's not their business goal.
So I always like to ask those questions upfront and then see if it's obtainable. If somebody is asking for 100 leads within two days and their budget is smaller, that isn't going to be obtainable. I’d like to make sure that we have clear goals set in place first, and then work to set realistic expectations and make sure that we're able to obtain those goals. If not, then maybe we need to reconsider what your strategy is and what you need to do.
At a higher level, if you just wanted to look at metrics, most of my clients are looking for leads submissions and that usually buckets into a conversion. If they're looking for more of a brand awareness play, they're usually looking for how much their search impression share is. You can look at cost per click to see where you stand in how competitive the industry is, or you can look at what your competitors are, if there are any that are coming in. There's a lot of things and metrics to look at. But ultimately, from a business owner's point of view, you would want to make sure to get your goals first and see if a solution can fit based on what those goals are.
How would you go about navigating their expectations in terms of being flexible with what they initially thought was something that they wanted for their business?
I think the most important part is being transparent. A lot of the time it's just a numbers game. What are the average cost per click for your industry? What's your expected conversion rate? And what's your budget? Based on those three, you can get your estimated cost per conversion. If the expectations are way off from what that calculation is going to be, I think you need to reconsider a different strategy. Maybe you just want to do an awareness play or to go to a different platform where there's a lower cost per click. It really depends on that formula and really showing that transparency of “This is what we're gonna get out of it.” When searching for a partner, it's really important to focus on whether or not that partner is going to be transparent with you.
LinkedIn actually shows that digital marketing specialists are one of the top 10 most in demand jobs worldwide. In your experience, what does it take to gain a competitive edge in today's digital digital marketing space?
Currently, there's a ton of news about tech jobs and media jobs laying off. What I've seen alone is that there's a lot of a lot of talent, a lot of people either looking for work or a lot of people hiring on my LinkedIn feed. There are industries right now that are thriving, even though there is a lot of talk about these big layoffs from big companies. To stay competitive ties into what we were talking about before. If you're not using AI, you're almost behind because it's definitely growing. What the media is showing doesn't always align with everybody's business goals. So if you are thinking of growing in a time like this and you have a solid business plan and can differentiate yourself, I would say go for it. It's going to be a competitive market if you join, but I think if you can stand out, you'll succeed.