Josh VanDeBrake

Digital Marketer | Problem Executioner | Ravenclaw

I’m switching to Medium [+post log]

This is my official notice that I’ll be posting on Medium instead of here on my own website. I’ve been posting here, then reposting there with minor tweaks. After some thought and soul-searching, I have decided to post on Medium instead. Especially since my article about AI and its future role in Digital Marketing got picked up by Emergent // Future. (Check it out here!)

I love writing. Unfortunately, it’s super hard for me to carve out the time to do more of it. So I’ll be focusing my limited resources by publishing on a single platform, but continue to promote on the same channels.

Connect with me on LinkedIn

or Follow me on Twitter

I hope to see all of you (yes, all 10 of you!) on Medium. I’ll also keep a current log of content I post on Medium below.


That’s all.



Articles on Medium since this switch:

Embrace Innovation: Digital Marketing and AI (posted in Emergent // Future)


91% is a good score, right?

In school, we strive to get A’s. At least that’s the idea my parents threw at me. When I scored over 90% on a test or in a class, that was a sign of success. It was a sign that I knew the material that I’d been tested on. Or at least that I’d made a wonderful string of correct guesses. But usually, I’d let everyone assume it was the first one.

When it comes to digital marketing, there are tons of tools to grade your own account’s success. WordStream is a pretty well-known authority in the PPC world, due to their platform’s success. Plus, they’ve analyzed over $9B in ad spend. That’s “Billion” with a capital B. I’d trust their opinion. And, Larry Kim (their CEO) writes some really great content.

I’m an avid reader and follower of digital marketing. I love that PPC gives us the ability to learn and use a numbers & data intensive platform. I love being able to confidently browse through campaigns, knowing what kinds of things I’ll see when I click something. I love the measurability of it.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with AdWords for the last several years. I was thrown into managing the in-house campaigns with no previous knowledge or experience. Hell, I was 18; fresh out of high school. I’ve built up my own knowledge-base and gained lots of hands-on experience. Most of it was trial-and-error, and I’m sure I had a slower start for my learning than those who were given an entry-level agency position, with a company that provides training.

Luckily, my buddies over at WordStream got my back. Even if I don’t have all of the conversational jargon down, and even if I don’t answer questions as well as I would like to. Part of this is due to my own lack of confidence. I tend to downplay my own abilities. But when push comes to shove, I can manage an AdWords account. And WordStream has my back on that one, via their AdWords Performance Grader tool.

In fact, they told me I got a 91% percent; that’s an A minus.

That one’s going on the fridge, for sure.


UPDATE: Thursday, 9/15/16


Check it!

Officially official!

The “Partners” section of Google has 7 different exams you can take for certification. Here’s a complete breakdown:

Google Adwords

  • Fundamentals Exam
  • Search Advertising Exam
  • Display Advertising Exam
  • Video Advertising Exam
  • Shopping Advertising Exam
  • Mobile Advertising Exam

Google Analytics

  • Google Analytics Exam

Each of these exams has a different focus area and purpose. Passing score is 80% on all of them.

To become Google Adwords Certified, you have to pass their “Fundamentals” exam and one other exam. This gives you a certification in that area of specialty. So for example, you pass the Fundamentals exam with 85% and the Display Advertising Exam with 91%. Congratulations! You are now Google Adwords Display Certified! Same with Search, Video, Shopping, and Mobile.

And Google Analytics has one exam that covers the whole of their Analytics platform. So, you pass this one comprehensive exam, and you’re certified.

I’m officially official

Yesterday, I finished taking their series of exams that now gives me double Adwords Certification in Search and Display Advertising, as well as Google Analytics Certification.

It was a long road. I’ve been meaning to get around to finally just doing the exams and getting it done. I was sure I’d be able to pass at least the Fundamentals exam and Search exam, with a possibility for the Display. Well finally, on one fateful Thursday afternoon… I had the time to get online and take the Fundamentals exam (this was 8/18). Then I put off doing the other exams… and put them off… and put them off.

Until the next Friday night.

Side note: I obviously live an exciting life; just look at how I spend my Friday evenings…

I got some more time on Friday night and completed the Search Advertising exam. Nailed it!

Then again Yesterday, I took some time. I buckled down Sunday afternoon, 8/28. And this time, I did the Display Advertising exam and the Google Analytics exam. And once again… NAILED IT!

So, like I said, I’m now officially official! Check me out!

Also, special thanks to Johnathan Dane over at KlientBoost for helping fill in some of the AdWords blanks!

Hi! I’m Josh!

Location: Orange County, CA

Personality Type: ENFJ (“The Protagonist“)

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Business

Work Experience: I’ve been working since I was 16 – starting with cold-calling style telemarketing. My jobs have evolved over time through Accounting and Finance, Customer Support, and Sales. One day I was given a marketing project. I fell in love that day because I realized something… Successful marketing creates a measurable difference. My work affects the company’s bottom line. And at the same time, I get to work with a bunch of other awesome and talented people. Working in Digital Marketing allows me to create and optimize campaigns that have measurable results. These results, because they are so measurable, can continually be improved based on the KPI’s being measured.

Hobbies: reading – give me fiction or non-fiction – if it’s interesting I’ll read it. Drinking (socially, of course). Listening to and playing music. And walking my dog (a white miniature poodle mix named Lily).

Interests: Technology, Marketing Automation, Fitness & health, Software Development (give me agile or give me death!), Design, UX, Web Development, Online Gaming. But of course, my interests are always changing and evolving.

About my work: I’m Digital Marketer with experience in SEM (PPC & SEO), email marketing, web design, and content management. I’ve done research, setup, and execution of campaigns while staying within prescribed budgets.


Google AdWords Search Certified

Google AdWords Display Certified

Google Analytics Certified


I have succeeded.

I have failed.

Neither dictates my life.


My hope for the future guides me. My goals lead me.

I want to grow. Personally, professionally, skillfully. I want to make enough of an impact that I can travel the world. I want to work with companies who make a difference and who change the way things are done. Those who vigorously and systematically challenge the status quo. I want to work with professionals and companies who work ethically to achieve their goals. I want to make a difference by driving success through growth marketing.

If you’d like to partner with me, I have one promise I want to make to you. I’ll do everything I can – EVERYTHING WITHIN MY POWER – to make every difference I can.

Together, we can break through the noise and build something awesome.

If you were a yacht, what would your name be?

Oh, to be a boat… — or a dog. That’d be nice too…

Either way, I wouldn’t have college debt and wouldn’t really need a job. But then again, I wouldn’t be able to contribute to society other than by just giving all the love I can. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad.

The other day, this question came up while discussing a job opportunity (looking for my next challenge).

Question. “If you were a yacht, what would your name be?”

My first response: “USS…Josh?” more like USS drawing a blank.

So I did a little research

I did what any other tech-savvy, comedic genius/digital marketer would do. I Googled “funny boat names” and got quite a list. Try it for yourself if you want a good laugh. Here are some of my favorites:

  • In Deep Ship
  • In Decent Seas
  • Unfathomable

I considered all of those, along with “Plan B” and “Midlife Crisis” Here’s where I found those great names.

Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately?) none of those hilarious names actually described me. So I was back at square 1. But I did have a good laugh, so maybe square 1.25

Why so serious?

This got me thinking deeper… Am I maybe not quite as funny as I consider myself? I mean, I know I’m not Seth Rogen. Or even a c-class stand-up comedian who may-or-may-not be completely drunk. But I generally consider myself to be a pretty humorous guy.

Creativity: Destroyed

So, since the thought of me not being funny was out of the question, I got to thinking about my creativity. Maybe I’m just not as creative anymore. I mean, I’m not spending nearly as much time in an environment that fosters creativity and humor like I was in school. This is actually the line of thought that recently got me writing on a regular basis.

Jon Westenberg — one of my favorite writers on medium — mentioned that creativity isn’t about mood, it’s about choosing to just do it (or something like that). I know he isn’t the only person who’s said it, but he’s the one who comes to mind.

Because being creative isn’t about waiting for the right mood to strike, with the just the right mix of excitement and spark and lunar alignment. That’s a myth. And if you waited for those conditions, you would Never. Make. Anything.
The right time to be creative is the time you’ve set aside. The right mood is whatever mood you find yourself in. That’s the way to create something tangible. The only way.

— source: The 10 Ways You’re Wrong About Creativity Could Destroy You

Write, even if you don’t plan on publishing it. Just write. Create something.

Because when you create something, you stretch yourself to become better.

Me, as a yacht

Since I seemed to lack the creative juices required to come up with something, I started brainstorming. Based on external stimuli. I thought of my work. I thought of my hobbies. I thought about my volunteer activity. I thought about my family. My parents, my siblings, my wife… MY DOG!!

What did I choose for my name as a yacht? Bub. Because I have an adorable white miniature poodle mix whose name is Lily. We call her Bub. But that’s not the only reason I chose that name. “Bub” can have multiple different connotations.

Negative: “Not today, bub.” when speaking to a villain.

Or “Hey bub! Ready for a walk?!” when speaking to a pup named Lily.

01 - Bub


As a yacht, I AM BUB.


What’s your yacht name?


How we doubled online revenue (+104.6%)

The Project

Working with a Metal cutting supplies company, we made some changes to their main online store. When I took the assignment, sales had been on a steady decline for the last 3 years and had reached an all-time low. The main goal was profitable sales growth.

The Time Period

6 months. I took ownership of the project, effective December 14th, 2015. The first 2 weeks mostly consisted of research, so my measurable start date was January 1st, 2016. The project lasted until June 30th, 2016.

What we did over the next 6 months…

Research: Conducted user research, through a variety of methods including email and phone interviews. Provided front-line customer service to understand the customer and get first-hand experience.

Analysis: Utilized the eCommerce platform’s back-end analytics. This platform provides snapshots of various metrics that we leveraged to make decisions. We were able to keep close track of what indicators were moving and when.

Email Marketing: The company had a Constant Contact account set-up, but it was underutilized (avg. 1 email/year). So, we created a small collection of action-triggered email follow-up series. We tied the Constant Contact API into the BigCommerce platform to set these series to auto-trigger. Examples of follow-up campaigns: welcome packet after a purchase (giving access to informational resources). Abandoned cart notification with a 10% off coupon (only for new customers). And 30-day follow-up emails asking them how the product is working and seeing if they need any more. Customers who purchased specific types of products would be placed on different product-oriented lists.

Paid Ads: First off, we set up conversion tracking. Next, we optimized for CTR and CPC. After tracking these for a while, we found a couple interesting stats. 1) when customers clicked directly to the e-commerce website, they were unlikely to convert. 2) referral traffic from the company’s main website were much more likely to convert. 3) visitors who came to the main website through Google Ads and were referred to the ecommerce site had the highest conversion rates. So, we funneled the budget more towards ads that would focus on prospects who were “ready to buy.” And brought them to the places with the highest conversion rates.

UX: When the website was built, 5 years prior, the tools available were not as advanced or powerful. It had a rather complicated shopping UX, with several repetitive steps. I took this 8-step process, over the course of 4 pages, and simplified it down to a 2 page process with 4 steps. There was a similar issue with the checkout UX: multiple pages, repetitive information input, etc. This was a main factor leading to the astronomical cart abandonment rate (96-98% abandoned). The other main factor leading to the high abandonment rate was the payment options. To improve this aspect, we simplified the checkout process to a 1-page checkout, and added the option to pay credit card directly on the page.

The Results

Over the course of those 6 months we implemented all the above items plus several other, smaller initiatives. The results that we got from our efforts beat the estimates and goals that we had set. During the 6-month period, we saw the following KPI changes:

  • Revenue +104.6%
  • Conversion Rate +775%
  • AOV +54.08%
  • Cart Abandonment -27.2%

All the initiatives we ran to increase these numbers only brought up expenses by a nominal amount. We achieved these results mainly by re-routing current budgets and utilizing tools that were already being paid for.

Tools & skills used

  • eCommerce Analysis
  • Analyzing Metrics/KPI’s for actionable insights
  • Conversion tracking and optimization
  • Paid Ad Management (creation, analysis, and optimization)
    • Google AdWords
    • Bing Ads
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Researching, analyzing, and writing industry-specific copy
  • Content Creation/SEO
  • Email marketing campaign creation
  • Marketing Strategy and Planning
  • Team Collaboration