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Paid search and the hottest ticket in town

  Article , Retail , Success stories

Event Tickets Center uses Bing Ads as part of a holistic strategy

A numbers game

In today’s world, $100 will get you a tasty dinner for two, seats at a local multiplex and, perhaps, a box of Junior Mints for the show. So how did Event Tickets Center CEO and founder Adam Young manage to turn $100 into a thriving online business with millions of customers and hundreds of millions in annual sales? “My grandfather told me to learn numbers,” Young recalls. “He said you could figure everything else out.”

To those of us who struggled with algebra, a small piece of our collective soul just died. But fear not, for Young’s ascent to wild success with Event Tickets Center didn’t come from some cryptic algorithm as much as it did dedication, an open mind and a willingness to take risks. Not just any risk, however; calculated ones in which you play chance from knowledge, not rolling dice. “You want to take three steps forward for every step that you take back,” Young says. “But you have to be willing to take that step back.”
Ad extensions have been key to creating highly targeted ad units that help increase traffic and conversions.

— Adam Young, CEO and founder, Event Tickets Center

The pay-per-click potential

Adam Young, CEO and founder, Event Tickets Center

Adam Young, CEO and founder, Event Tickets Center

Young’s ascent to successful businessman began as a typical twenty-something, a deer in the headlights with no clear career path in mind. “All I knew was that I was going to work very hard and be successful at something,” he recalls. His journey led him through manufacturing and sustainable technologies before he opened a consulting business that helped companies prepare their technology for Y2K. “My company just boomed,” he says. But, then Y2K ended and the tech bubble burst. Suddenly, Young found himself without a business and his career at a crossroads.

While planning his next move, he helped a friend launch a one-page, single image website to generate leads for a local home security business. As fate would have it, he discovered GoTo.com, the father of the pay-per-click (PPC) search engine, in the process. Playing around with the tool, he started generating leads nationwide, resulting in contracts with one of the leading national home security companies.

Fascinated by PPC’s potential, he tried taking baby steps into other digital marketing methods, such as email, popups and banners. None of them delivered the same results. Clearly, Young knew he was onto something. Now all he needed was a business to put the method into practice. He found it in rock and roll.

How Dave Mathews changed my life

mobile Event Ticket Center

Event Tickets Center listings on a smartphone.

A friend of Young’s wanted to trek to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado to see his favorite group, Dave Matthews Band. Young watched as his friend repeatedly bought and sold his pair of tickets. “Soon he had better seats, airfare to the show and money left over for a nice cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley,” Young says. At that moment, something clicked with him.

“I realized how enormous and dynamic tickets sales were,” he says. “It's cycle after cycle of concert tours, amphitheater seasons, Broadway shows, sports and more. Every year is different.” Young found himself thrilled by an industry whose commodity was constantly in flux. The key would seem to be making a ticket available to a shopper when they’re in buying mode. But how do you do that when everyone in your industry has access to the same collateral?

Young first came up with a platform, which became EventTicketsCenter.com. He then devised a strategy to get the word out. “We became bad-ass marketers,” he says. “Around here our motto is ‘Preparation makes luck.’ So we got very good at putting exactly what the person is looking for in front of them when they're looking to buy it.” According to Young, PPC search is responsible for 99% of his business, which is why early on he put in so much time to learn all he could about the format. “It's just work, work, work,” Young says. “You find your holes, what works, what doesn’t, and then focus on the successes.” One place that quest for success led him to was Bing Ads.

Building a partnership with Bing Ads

Initially, Young focused on the volume of users that Google AdWords offered him. But when Microsoft and Yahoo Search joined forces in 2010, Young felt he had to get Event Tickets Center’s feet wet with the new partnership. “All of a sudden, they represented a third of the traffic,” Young recalls. “It kind of forced my hand.”

Young initially had reservations about the nuances of a new platform. Since then, Bing Ads has risen to the top. “It’s just astonishing to me. They’ve made this complete transformation,” he says. “Bing has my back in a way no one else does.” Typically, there’s a level of disconnect between engineers who build a product but never use it and the users who come from the opposite end of the spectrum. With Bing Ads, he finds a seamless workflow back and forth. “It’s like we’re building the tools now. They’re quickly debugging features and giving customers like us credit for reporting bugs.” For example, last winter, Young’s team brought a laundry list of points they felt Bing could improve to its engineers. “They went to work on it right away and hammered the entire thing out,” Young marvels.

In building his relationship with Bing, Young became an early member of the Bing Network Product Advisory Group. That extra dynamic within the partnership enables him to work directly with Microsoft engineers these days. “My people are highly efficient. When something's out of whack, they recognize it immediately,” Young explains. The improvements in products and services at Bing Ads has not only made it easier for Event Tickets Center to scale and optimize, but has also instilled in Young the confidence to allocate more resources to the Bing Ads platform. In the past year alone, he has increased his Bing Ads spend by 60%.

Being able to control repeat visitors, ad copy, keywords and bidding has been a tremendous win.

--Adam Young, CEO and founder, Event Tickets Center

The holistic Zen of Bing

Ask Young what he likes about Bing Ads and he’ll shoot off a rapid fire list of features. He loves the online interface. He finds Bing Ads Editor, in many ways, superior to its alternatives. He values Bing’s ad extensions. “Ad extensions have been key to creating highly-targeted ad units that help increase traffic and conversions,” Young points out. He also likes the high level of direct control over the advertising, such as bidding on demographics differently. “Where Google AdWords groups stuff together, Bing Ads allows you to have more granularity and control,” he says.

Young also believes in the power of Remarketing in Paid Search. “Being able to control repeat visitors, ad copy, keywords and bidding has been a tremendous win.” Although currently a small amount of his traffic, he finds this Bing Ads product does well with conversions. “It converts at an extremely high rate,” Young points out.

But at the end of the day, Young looks beyond any one feature, viewing Bing Ads from a higher, all-encompassing level. Within that perspective, he feels that what sets Bing Ads apart is its holistic approach to PPC and paid search in general. “I don't have a single favorite feature,” he says. “You can’t do one thing without everything else and think you're going to be able to compete. I love building highly-targeted ad units by maximizing all of Bing Ads features. It gives us a huge opportunity to highlight how we meet user intent.” To that end, Young describes his recipe for success. “You have to have proper keywords, proper negatives, and all the extensions that make sense to you,” he advises. “Your website has to be built well also, and you need solid targeted landing pages and segmented campaigns with targeted ads.”

PPC and beyond

In the coming year, Young intends to focus on some new Bing Ads opportunities for Event Tickets Center, which he feels will only go to further strengthen the holistic vision he admires. For example, he has taken a keen interest in image, video and automated extensions. “These extensions are becoming an important piece in PPC search,” Young says. “It aligns search engine optimization (SEO) and PPC strategies closer together, which I think is very exciting.”

Young also sees Bing Ads stretching beyond Microsoft with new features such as Bing Ads Editor for Mac. At the same time, he sees the company’s almost complete dependence on PPC search evolving into a more diverse form. “I see our percentage of sales from PPC decreasing. However, we will be able to continue to grow the PPC business with the same holistic approach that Bing Ads takes, letting us contribute to an overall optimized entity that is robust and seamless for the users.”

To those thinking about paid search, Young offers very simple advice. “Start granular. Don't try to compete with general keywords. Use highly-targeted ad groups, ads and keywords; they’re less competitive and convert better.” And as he has shown within his own successful career, be willing to take risks. “Never be satisfied,” Young advises. “Here, we have lofty goals every day, every week, every month and every year. And as we achieve them, they become the norm and get added to the equation, leaving us five to ten steps ahead of the game.”

See a summary

View or save an infographic of how Event Tickets Center uses Remarketing in Paid Search and Bing Ads Editor as part of a holistic online strategy.

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