Abdo Mazloum Talks About PPC, Programmatic Ads & SEO

September 8, 2023 | Interview

Welcome to the Marketing Lego Thought Leader Interview. Today, we will speak with Abdo Mazloum, Founder and CEO of WebTmize, about his journey and how he came up with his marketing agency. We will also discuss valuable insights on PPC, Programmatic Ads, SEO, and more.


Hello, everyone, and welcome to another marketing Legos thought leader interview. My name is Harshit, and I’m the Director of Business Alliances of two amazing marketing SaaS tools, RankWatch and WebSignal. Today, my special guest is a highly experienced digital marketing and analytics expert, Founder, and CEO of the marketing agency WebTmize. Abdu, a big welcome to you, buddy. I’m so happy to have you today.

Thank you, Harshit. It’s good to be here with you.

Perfect. Abdu, let’s talk about your journey, man. How were you as a child, and how did you get to where you are now running your marketing agency?

I grew up in Lebanon and the mountains of Lebanon as a kid. I was a shy, geeky, nerdy kid. I liked maths and physics and computers at the time. I also liked sports, more individual sports. I did martial arts at a young age and worked my way up. I got my black belt. Recently, I passed my third dance. I’d say individual sports, lots of analytical subjects, and problem-solving. That’s been my journey as a kid, and I’m still growing up. While growing up and becoming a business owner, I became less shy and probably switched from introverted to a bit more extroverted, or I still feel like I’m in between the two.

Let’s talk a bit about your professional journey as well. After you’ve done college in Canada, after your graduation, how exactly did your professional journey get started? And the most important thing is to get to that key to start your engagement.

Yeah, I moved from Lebanon when I was 17 years old. I applied to universities. I got accepted and did a computer science degree and a business minor. I worked for a few companies. I worked in-house and at agencies, multiple agencies, and multiple brands for ten years before having the courage to optimize my digital agency out of my apartment. So, starting a business took much experience, passion, knowledge, and courage. You’re jumping into the unknown. I didn’t have any investments. I didn’t have a ton of cash. I had saved up over the ten years of employment. But I said I feel like I’m prepared. I did it. And quickly, from one client to the other, it grew organically. Referral is worth it. You build a reputation, a network of people you work with over the years. And within six months, I was like, I can rent an office and take this more seriously. We rented an office. We were four or five people at a time. Fast forward four and a half years, we’re a team of 30 now, and we service 50-plus clients on an ongoing basis.

Let’s talk about the core service offerings of your agency. What good work do you do right now?

We have mainly paid media, so we now have Google ads, Facebook ads, or Meta after rebranding TikTok more recently. We do programmatic media buys on DV 360 CM 360 LinkedIn for B2V. We do some Pinterest. We’ve doubled with Snapchat. Pretty much anything literal media, we do that. So that’s 60 to 70% of our business, and then we have about 30% in SEO. The remaining 10% is around analytics, some web development, email marketing, and design for the smaller clients that need a full service and don’t want to work with multiple agencies at the same time.

And Adu, which particular niche do you enjoy working with? Is it SEO? Is it PPC? Do you enjoy working on mobile? Or any other marketing or specific niche?

Yeah, over the years, almost 15 years in the industry, you have become well-rounded and know the benefits of all those channels. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. They all work well together, and all businesses need these channels. So, I don’t say I have a preference, but they’re all important. We have to give them the attention they need to service the clients better because they focus more on paid media. You’re putting all your eggs in one basket, and that hurts the business in the long run. You could be investing much money and end up paying what? 25-30% of your revenue into paid media? That’s not healthy. You want to be well-balanced as a business.

That’s true. I was asking more or less on a personal level. Do you know what? Do you enjoy learning and implementing? I know that in today’s world, omnichannel is a need because your audience is everywhere, and you want to touch base at the highest level possible. Right? As a person of preference more than anything. I enjoy SEO a lot. Even though I have no grudges with PPC, I also love it. But my personal preference is this. Anything like that with you?

Yeah, frankly, whatever brings good results. I honestly love both. I love SEO. I love PPC. They both have pros and cons. I look at the results from the channel. I enjoy both. I originally started with SEO only, so I’d say, at some point, I was more focused on SEO. But as paid media started developing and growing, it had more attention. And with the evolution over time, when Google started removing all the keywords on the SEO sites, I’ve seen that evolution. So, naturally, we had to become stronger and better and adapt to the paid media side because it became so important and diverse, and you had more control than SEO. But again, I don’t have a preference because I enjoy working on both.

Let’s talk about who is an ideal fit for your agency and who it is from a customer point of view. Is there any specific industry that you tend to work with?

We’re a strong e-commerce company. Because I worked in e-commerce in-house, I worked for big brands. Essence is a big story out of Montreal. I started with them when we were a team of 15 in 2010. Today, it’s a thousand-plus employees. I was hoping you wouldn’t quote me on it; they’re probably more. They’re doing really well. I was there for four years. I worked for Beyond the Rack. Also, there is a strong story at some point in Montreal before things didn’t go so well, and the company sold. So naturally, my network was really in the e-commerce space. So, any business starting has a lot of potential or established, ideally established brands that make over a million online sales; that would be the ideal customer profile.

Got you. And how do the client onboarding and the first 30 days look like? What processes do you have?

Yeah, the first step is getting access to all their platforms going through that. And the next step is checking the setup of all these platforms. Are they tracking properly? Do they have the pixels in place? Do they have a container tag like GTM that consolidates all those pixels? Are the triggers firing properly? And then the reports, what reporting do they have? Most of the time, we need to build and automate some reports. Internally, we extract data into Google BigQuery and then visualize it on Data Studio. The clients love that because they become self-sufficient. You customize the report to them from multiple data sources. You put it into one place in that data warehouse, then visualize it via Data Studio, and the client can change the date range and see exactly what’s going on. We can customize the client based on what they need to see. As long as we have access to that data source, use the APIs, dump and in, and then output via Data Studio.

Got you. Abdo, any specific client management system you have in place for timely communicating with the client and anything that you use on those lines?

Yes, Slack has been a common tool internally that we use. A lot of clients are on Slack, so it makes things easier. Competing with the client, we internally communicate with Slack as well. We use ClickUp for our project management. What else? We’re on Google Workspace as well. That’s a lot of things.

What’s anything specific that you’re doing for client retention? Because I’ve seen in the industry that when you have a service, especially in the agency environment, lead generation is always a problem for the agency owners. Are there any specific programs you have for customer retention?

Yeah, I’d say giving a good service to the client, being truthful to yourself and your client, and operating with high integrity is the best way for client retention. That served us well because you give a good service and the client would refer you to more business. They come across their businesses, and their business owners always meet other business owners.

And most of the time, for you as well.

Yeah, nine out of 10 times, a happy customer will refer to at least one customer throughout the lifecycle.

That’s true. Let’s talk about some of the common mistakes you see while onboarding a new client, which must have been done previously when it comes to Google. You have set up and can walk conversion or anything on those?

Yeah. We often see tracking needs to be better set up. Sometimes, clients have two conversion tags in place or two sources. They’re importing the transaction event from Google Analytics and the GTags event for transactions, so they’re double counting. This is a classic mistake that we see. We don’t know if it was done by mistake or intentionally to increase the revenue per client, whether done by agencies or in-house. That’s a common one that we see. Another big one, we see it less and less now. There’s a shift in which clients are more savvy than they used to be, where the agency owns the Google Ads account and won’t give ownership of that account to the client. So you have to start somewhere.

I know a lot of agencies say that word.

Yeah, we’re seeing it less and less. I think clients are becoming smarter. I think the old model of not being transparent with the client is vanishing. I think some agencies are also suffering because of that. For a long time, they weren’t very transparent with their clients, and it’s actually hurting them. It served us well because we were always looking out for the client and never tried to circumvent the client or hide anything from the client. We always operated with full transparency, high integrity, and keeping the client’s interests first.

And Abdu, I’ve also seen this particular model in one more vertical website design. Many agencies need to share their logins or CMS or hosting logins, but not entirely like this. We can control some aspects of it, but only partially. So, many countries like Australia and the US.

Oh, yeah. It’s unfortunate. But it’s short term. You can only sustain running a business by being transparent and giving full access to your client.

I would perceive it as you don’t have confidence in your business model; in your processes, you can be getting the customer. These problems were so irritating for them that they could not get hold of their product even after that. Something people shouldn’t do, unfortunately. Not a clear word. So yeah. Abdu, because you’re doing both, you have the omnichannel approach; you do SEO and PPC. And to be honest, in today’s landscape, both of them are like you cannot survive with just one thing. It would be best if you focused your energies on both things. How do you synergize between your PPC and your SEO effort? Are there any tips around that?

Absolutely, yeah. If a business is starting, they’re starting, they want to get a proof of concept, but to start up. Our approach is to do the basic SEO first. Ensure the site is crawlable and can be indexed in Google. And do some PPC because you’re going to guarantee traffic. You’re only paying per click, at least on the Google Ads site, to pay on CPM on the support side. Right? Put some money, get some traffic, and establish some baselines. What’s your conversion rate like? And do some models. If you take it further, can you sustain that same conversion rate? You can easily make projections and models based on the cost per click of your existing click-through rate if you’re on a CPM basis. Then, keep iterating and try to improve those KPIs. You can establish those KPIs. And if you have enough budget, ideally, if the client has enough budget, go full force, both SEO and paid, if you can. But sometimes, clients want results immediately, and you won’t give them great results with SEO within a month or two. With paid ads within 30 days, you can have a pretty good idea of whether this is going somewhere by looking at the metrics, traffic sources, campaigns, and what they’re yielding over time.
Then, the businesses that are pretty established, and we usually recommend an SEO audit, if they have a reasonable run rate, they’re already doing over a million dollars online and e-commerce sales, then if they’ve never done any SEO, ideally do an SEO audit, identify the issues. We go through a checklist of items, 40-plus items. You check all that bad stuff. Most of the time, I’d say 99% of the time, there are always optimizations to be made. So, you present that to the client, who appreciates that you’ve looked at it from multiple angles. These are some things that you can improve. The client, sometimes they say, Okay, we appreciate this. We’re going to take care of it. Sometimes, they say, Oh, can you help us with the implementation? We go on with them on a monthly retainer, implementing a certain number of hours to improve their overall SEO and UX content strategy. If they’re missing some content they want to rank for specific keywords, then we get to link building afterward. This is like a step. Let’s clean the house first before we get into external stuff. That’s generally the approach on the SEO side.
If they’re established, the assumption is that they already have a constant flow of paid media. You look at what percentage of revenue it is, like the cost of media. Does it represent 5%, 10%, 20% or more? You can make recommendations there and see how they can optimize the investment balance into media, output, and revenue. That’s generally on the e-commerce side. B2b is different. We have some clients on the B2B side, too. It’s more on the CBA side. If it’s a software company, you’re looking at booking demos, downloading white papers webinars, looking at the CPA basis, what’s the cost to acquire that lead? And then looking at the journey, if you have a platform in a place like a CRM, like HubSpot, we think it’s one of the best for the B2B space, you look at the whole cycle from acquiring that lead, becoming a marketing qualified lead, a sales qualified lead, then becoming a client, and then ideally becoming a champion that’s going to refer you more clients after and look at the ROI over time from that client.

Excellent. And when it comes to the implementation part, do you have a person in-house who takes care of all of those technical, resolving one client side, and so on?

Yeah. For the most part, we have people in-house. Sometimes, we work with partners that we don’t have the capacity or the resources to handle in-house. We work with the consultants with other agencies that support. Ideally, we want to do as much as possible, but sometimes you have expertise that you need in-house. There’s no harm in working with external experts, too.

Let’s talk more about that. How do you measure the performance of an ad? Which KPIs do you keep track of actively? And how can your improvement process work? Please tell us about that.

On the ad side, again, it starts with tracking. You have proper tracking in place. It’s solid. We all use it as a source of truth. Whether it’s looking at the platform pixel, you’re looking at GA to look at the overall MER, the marketing efficiency ratio, you determine those primary baselines. You have your source of truth. You established that with the client and said These are the business objectives. And then you start constantly testing and learning. You test different types of campaigns. There’s always new betas coming out from Google, from Meta. And are we meeting at KPI? Yes or no? You keep iterating and adjusting. You have your things that are working; keep doing that.
The Evergreen campaigns, keep doing those campaigns. You have your branded search, non-branded search, shopping if you’re in e-commerce, and remarketing campaigns set up correctly. DPA is enabled on social media. You have all those campaigns, and then you start adding new stuff, like a performance max that just came out, and you test it. You test, learn, reiterate, adjust. If you can keep 10% of your overall budget for experiments and not have a minimal ROI on that 10% of the budget, that would be the best-case scenario. Some clients invest even more in experiments.

Abdu, since you work with multiple channels, Google ads are one; Facebook ads could be another than programmatic, all of those. Is there any help with the attribution and calculating that accurately? And if there are, how do we overcome those situations?

Yeah, this is a great question. With the shift that’s recently happening around privacy, the cookieless browsers, iOS 14, and all that stuff, it’s made it difficult for marketing. One thing for sure is that the client will still be able to see the overall top-line revenue, and the overall leads are coming through, but you can still see that. So, internal reporting, whatever platform you’re using, whether it’s HubSpot or B2B or Shopify for e-commerce or Salesforce, Magento, whatever, you still know what the total revenue is at the end of the day and the number of clicks. We’re slowly shifting more and more towards an MDR focus where this is how much media you’re investing, and this is the overall output. Because things are becoming more and more complex to track, what we see today on Facebook differs from what we saw before iOS 14. And there are also obviously double counting platforms. There’s double counting.

The challenge here is that when you need to meet the correct attributes, you must make a pretty intelligent marketing decision for that channel. That is a significant burden.


It’s a big pain point, man.

Yes, 100%. You have to look at it from multiple angles. You have the pixel or the floodlight tag that reports on that specific channel. And you have those other channels that need to be talking to each other. So, there is duplication. Of course, there will be an overlap between channels if you’re on five different channels. But the customer is also appearing on all those channels. So, as a brand, you want to make it frictionless. You want to show up for the client everywhere. So yes, there’s duplication. But at the end of the day, look at the bottom line. Always see what the percentage of media spend to your overall revenue is. And on a CPA basis, how many leads are you getting out of those leads that you’re getting? How many of the leads are you closing? The close rate? And what revenue will be generated from those leads you’re closing on the B2B side? Make those models. What is your profitability, and how much can you push it? If you want to grow the business, keep pushing as long as you’re breaking even or slightly profitable. And if you want to maintain profitability, then you’re more on the conservative side.

That’s true. I just thought of that usually. Do you know what most of the brands still do? They leverage the agency for a specific chance. If someone is good and ready as CEO, they will outsource that operation. So, that is the agency. That was give it one say. I didn’t book ads. That you would do the second party. The idea of the brand is to diversify and get the best expertise. But then again, it becomes a big point for those individual experts and the agency that you’re trying to train that traction again. Because then there are tons of overlaps. That’s something like studying the buyer journey and trying to figure those out so that some good engine running can help you do better. That’s again what I’m trying to do just from… Yeah, Abit, just like you mentioned, you study the KPIs, whether it’s matching or whether the artist is performing well. Then, one of the most significant talks to it is a landing page experience for the visitor that helps. If that is, your conversion rate for that campaign will be terrible. Do you have any tips to improve your landing page experience? And a few tips to increase the ad quality?

Yeah, it’s all about relevance. The standard marketing code you see targets the customers with the right message at the right place and time. So, if the customer is looking to buy, let’s say, a red dress, you want to show an ad around a red dress and then take them to a page that has this red dress. Ideally, that red dress has a proper description, proper photography, a video event, and the correct sizes. So, the experience is frictionless and seamless for the customer. So she can go on that page and appreciate what’s on that page. And the likelihood, if you have reviews even, making that experience seamless for the customer. So, her confidence is high to buy that red dress on that site. And she may not buy it right away. She may leave, and she’s in the research phase. On average, they say people can have up to nine sources before they buy something. She leaves, gets retargeted, and it’s on her social media channel. So, making that experience more engaging, helpful, and practical, and it’s becoming more and more visual for the customer. It’s becoming an experience rather than a click-and-buy.

Yeah, that’s true. Let’s talk about programmatic advertising campaigns. Here are a few tips for launching a successful campaign and any tool recommendations that you would do for a beginner on this page.

Programmatic works well for companies that are already established. We don’t recommend programmatic media bias for startups for people who have small budgets. You have to have a fair budget to jump on programmatic ads. I am getting access to the proper platform, but they also cost a lot of money. Only some people can have access to the DV 360 and CM 360. I was at Google Marketing Live this week in San Francisco, and they’re calling that suite enterprise ads. It’s for enterprise clients. If you’re starting with Google and Meta, it’s a good start. But if you want to take it a step further and go outside the Google Ads Exchange, you want to avoid being on more exchanges; it’s the place to be. We’ve tried other platforms. I read the 360 or the GMV, the Google Marketing Platform, which is considered the best in class compared to the others in the market. There’s plenty out there. I don’t want to name any of them because I’m not a fan of any compared to the DV 360, and it may sound like I’m advertising for Google. We are partners with Google.
We enjoy our partnership with them, and the platforms they’re doing all the updates and the engineers behind the product are impressive.

And what’s the minimum budget for them to start using these platforms?

You need at least 10K to start to do programmatic and make a difference. I recommend $10,000 a month. Having 10K is the minimum to make a difference with programmatic media. Some platforms charge less. They don’t have minimums and could take on anyone. But you may need to see the right results, and they also need the proper technology for proper tracking, as you’d see with the former DoubleClick product that became a Google marketing platform.

Let’s talk about one of the most successful case studies that you have had. There’s been around seven years of the agency as well for you.


Sure, there must be one good ready where you’re trying to skin it.

Yeah, there’s a few. One, a Canadian shoe retailer, they’re a national brand. They’re close to having 80 stores now across Canada. They started with me many years ago. We’re talking almost seven years ago at another agency. And they started with a minimal budget. We started something like 5K. And we’re talking millions a year now. That’s a success story. And with them, what’s friendly with clients with proper targets, solid business, and established KPIs, you can continue to push to meet those KPIs.
There’s openness over time that they’re open to try new things. They adopted new products that served us really well. For example, we started with Smart Shopping and saw excellent results in the beginning before everybody else was on Smart Shopping. With clients like that, you can make a difference and scale things up with new products and new betas and make a difference. One thing the client gets used to is excellent results; everybody else is on those new products. You can’t maintain the same profitability and the same results. We always have to keep innovating and suggesting new stuff and be at the forefront with cutting-edge technology on an ongoing basis so that clients appreciate the service from an agency and justify ourselves as agencies. You must always be on top of it at the cutting edge, or else you’ll fail as an agency.

Whatever you’re doing today will not work after the year. I completely agree with you. It would be best if you kept on innovating. It would be best to see new opportunities to deliver the best outcome.

Yeah, absolutely.

And any horror story or lesson that you’ve learned from that these past seven years?

Horror stories? We’ve been fortunate enough to have something terrible. Something’s great. I wouldn’t call it a horror story, but sometimes you have too much traffic on a site, Black Friday, and the site breaks. You may call it a horror story, but too much success. It can hurt you. The infrastructure of a business has to be well set up to handle business. Sometimes, if you want to break a business and do fantastic marketing for the business, you may break that business because the business may need to handle that demand.

They may need systems to handle it altogether or resources to fulfill it.

Yeah, and we’ve seen it a lot throughout the pandemic: staff issues, shipping issues. We’ve seen a lot of, I don’t know if you want to call it a horror story, but issues like business and all that. I won’t even call it a horror story.

Abdu, I won’t even call it a horror story. I know from a business point of view, excluding digital marketing agencies and the whole digital marketing niche, which we saw both. At least most of them could be more industry-delimited, say, just marketing, hospitality, industry, etc. But anyone doing broad and tapping e-commerce specifically saw both as significant, to be honest. All of that happened was good revenue, good increase, and even their remote employees. But yeah, in fact, for me as well, I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of an industry that didn’t see that decline at all. And I hope the same works for you as well.

Yeah. Perfect.

We’re coming to an end here. And I would like to have a quick rapid fire with you. Are you ready for that?

Sure, let’s do it. So, one-word answers?

It could be one word, could be multiple words answers.

Yeah, cool.

What’s something new happening professionally in your life?

Data science. We’re focused more on data science.

At what age do you want to retire?

I don’t know. I can’t answer this question. It all depends on how things evolve.

What’s something you can eat for a week straight?


What did you dream of becoming?

An engineer. Electrical engineer. I like electricity. But it never happened.

What’s your inspiration and why?

I have many inspirations. There are too many to name.

Any one of your favourites?

There are many good ones. There are perfect ones. I saw for the first time that Malcolm Gladwell-Speeg is a best-seller author from New York. I saw him speak this week, and he was quite an inspiration. He’s the first that comes to mind now.

What is your last Google search?

I can’t remember. Maybe the weather this morning, it was raining.

Thank you so much for all the wisdom and the tips. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me. That feels an honour to be… I don’t know how you guys found me, but I appreciate you reaching out, and I hope I delivered to your expectations today.

That was a brilliant session.

Awesome. Thank you, Harshit. Have a fantastic evening.

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