These Coding Skills Will Make Every PPC Specialist More Valuable

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You don’t need to be a full-fledged programmer to do PPC, but having at least some basic coding skills will make you a better and more efficient PPC specialist.

In this post, I will discuss four coding skills that will increase your value as a PPC specialist.

1. JavaScript

What is it?

JavaScript (not to be confused with Java) is one of the world’s most popular programming languages, and together with HTML and CSS, it’s one of the three main building blocks of the web. Almost every website incorporates some elements of JavaScript.

Why is it useful in PPC?

The tracking codes from Google Analytics or AdWords are all based on JavaScript, and it is nice to be able to make changes to these scripts if needed. Sometimes you may find it necessary to modify the standard Analytics code or to set up event tracking on a landing page. Being familiar with JavaScript will let you do this without needing the assistance of a web developer.

 google analytics

More importantly, knowing JavaScript will enable you to write AdWords scripts! AdWords scripts can be used to automate common procedures like checking that URLs in ads do not produce any “page not found” or other errors. It is surely one of the most powerful features of the AdWords platform and will save you a ton of time managing PPC accounts.

Even if you are not going to become fluent in JavaScript, it will still be helpful to learn the basics to be able to explain to a developer what you would like a script to do.

Where can you learn it?

There are many places to learn JavaScript as it is usually the first programming language introduced to beginners.

I have heard good things about the book Eloquent JavaScript by Marijn Haverbeke, which is available online for free at eloquentjavascript.net. There is also the free online platform Codecademy, which offers a range of interactive courses on how to program and one of their coding classes is in JavaScript. For getting started with AdWords scripts, you should check out Google’s official documentation.

MORE: 7 Places to Learn to Code – for Free!

2. Regular expression

What is it?

A regular expression (often shortened RegEx) is a sequence of characters that define a search pattern. RegEx is a way to express how a computer program should look for a specified pattern in a text.

Why is it useful in PPC?

Google Analytics supports regular expressions and by using this feature, you will be able to find what you are looking for much faster.

Let’s say you want to find all visits from branded terms for PPC Hero. You can create a custom filter setting a regular expression for all brand keywords. The filter below will only return keywords containing “ppc hero” or “ppchero”. The pipe character is a RegEx command meaning “or”.

 regex

RegEx in Google Analytics is useful when setting up custom reports and for defining goals.

Where can you learn it?

It is very easy to learn regular expressions and to get started – you just have to memorize a few key characters. Start with this useful guide by Bethan Bey. It will help you understand how each of the regular expressions function and includes examples of how they can be used.

I also recommend RegExr, which allows you to build and test your regular expressions. It makes it easy to confirm that your RegEx code will actually match what you intended it to.

3. XPath

What is it?

XPath is a query language for selecting nodes from an XML document. You may find that it is a little similar to regular expressions, but XPath is designed specifically for selecting elements from XML or HTML documents.

Why is it useful in PPC?

XPath is incredibly useful for scraping content off websites to be used in building out campaigns in Excel. I will show you a quick example below.

Let’s say you wanted to get a list of every brand your client is selling along with a link to the landing page of each brand. For clients carrying hundreds of brands, this would take a long time if you were to do this manually.

 zalando

Luckily, you can use XPath to scrape this information in a few seconds. I often use this little Chrome plugin, but Google Sheets will also let you import data with XPath using the IMPORTXML formula.

In the image below, you can see how I’m using XPath code to select every brand and the matching URL. Now I can easily copy this and paste it into Excel where I can start working on the campaigns.

 xpath

Where can you learn it?

Like regular expressions, XPath is quite simple to learn. You just need to know a few basic commands to get started. However, I do find XPath a little more tricky than RegEx as it requires at least a basic grasp of HTML/CSS.

4. SQL

What is it?

Structured Query Language (or simply SQL) is a programming language designed to communicate with databases. With SQL statements, you can perform tasks such as update or retrieve data from a database.

Why is it useful in PPC?

SQL will be able to do much of what spreadsheets are used for – just much faster and easier.

You can compare SQL databases to spreadsheet files. A table in this database is a sheet in the spreadsheet. Both have columns and rows. SQL then gives you a language for producing new tables or altering existing ones.

There is a range of SQL commands called joins which can be compared to the famous VLOOKUP function in Excel. When working with large datasets from different sources, it will quickly get messy and slow in Excel. But SQL is just much more powerful.

Where can you learn it?

The previously mentioned Codecademy also offers a free course on SQL. I have also heard many fellow PPC specialists recommend sqlcourse.com and sqlcourse2.com as the fastest and easiest ways to learn SQL.

Be prepared for the future

By learning some basic coding you will not only become more valuable right now, but you will also prepare yourself for the future. I don’t think PPC specialists should fear losing their jobs due to advancement in AI within the next few years, but I am confident that we will only see more and more work being automated by intelligent algorithms, smart scripts, and third-party tools. Having some coding skills is a great way to improve your resume!

Author bio:

Frederik Hyldig is the Head of PPC at s360 – one of the leading search agencies in Denmark. He is currently focusing 100% on the ever-changing Google AdWords platform. Besides making sure the PPC team at s360 stays sharp, he also manages some of the country’s largest AdWords accounts. Frederik has been featured on PPC Hero, Wordstream, Certified Knowledge, Moz and other leading search marketing blogs.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/frederikhyldig

 

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Comments

Mike
May 09, 2016

Nice post. My digital skills in general have significantly increased once I learned HTML/CSS/JavaScript and SQL.

Do you have any experience using R for PPC? I know there are packages for AdWords and Google Analytics to pull in and wrangle data.

shalini
May 10, 2016

Superb i got some valuable tips from here. Really its a amazing article i had ever read. I hope it will help a lot for all. Thank you so much for this amazing posts and please keep update like this excellent article.

Dan Gilbert
May 10, 2016

Love this!!!

mohammad
May 12, 2016

Many Thanks .....

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