The Future of Search: 10 Questions with Larry Kim of Wordstream

Larry Kim, WordstreamOver the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the team at Wordstream, a provider of search marketing tools. Not only are their search marketing solutions smart, but their marketing and product development team is equally as smart and awesome, as well. So I thought you’d like to get to know Wordstream’s Founder and CTO, Larry Kim. In advance of Search Marketing Day at the Digital Marketing Strategy Summit (Sept 17-28), I picked Larry’s brain on the future of search, common PPC sins, marketing metrics, and more. Here’s what he had to say:

1. What changes do you think we’ll see in the engines over the next 12 months?

I’ve visited Google and they’ve already shared some of the 2013 plans with me – they’re basically focusing on a few key areas: Mobile Search, Display Advertising, and Google+ (no surprises here!). Beyond that is just speculation, but anyway, here’s what my crystal ball says:

  • Google will make SEO increasingly difficult, by making it un-measurable, by crowding out search results with larger paid ads and ad other formats, and rolling out algorithms that actually punish SEO, and other shenanigans. I think that Google CEO, Larry Page views SEO clicks as theft and has basically declared a War on SEO to drive Google revenues.
  • With SEO under attack, look for the ratio of organic searches to paid clicks (often cited as being somewhere around 70% organic, 30% paid) to shift increasingly in favor of paid clicks. In fact, for keyword searches with high purchase intent (searches where the ads take up all of the above-the-fold screen space); I estimate that paid search ads already get the lion’s share of the traffic!
  • I think that companies, burned from Panda updates, or stumped by the increasingly complex work required to successfully do SEO, will look to Paid Search as a way to stabilize and diversify their lead flow. Don’t get me wrong here – SEO is still very important, it just that more and more people will realize that it’s important to have both PPC and SEO in the mix.
  • Microsoft Bing desperately needs to partner with the likes of Apple, Twitter or Facebook in a big way, soon. They’ve lost Billions and will need to change the game in some way, or exit the business.
  • Look for Remarketing on the Google Display Network to see big growth. Many marketers still have bad experiences from advertising on the Content Network from back when it was a waste of money and somewhat of a deceptive product offering. But it’s come a long way, and is definitely worth a second look!

2. What are some easy ways that our readers can improve reduce their cost-per-click and cost-per-acquisition?

On one hand, we’re seeing that even the most basic and important PPC advertising features aren’t being used: for example, we recently found that over half of small and medium sized businesses don’t even use conversion tracking!

But if you’ve already covered the basics such as campaign targeting options, then some powerful yet under-utilized AdWords features that come to mind include the use of negative keywords, modified broad match, long tail keyword selection & grouping, ad extensions, etc.

Since every AdWords account is in a different state of greatness (or shambles?), the low-hanging fruit is different for everyone. Recently, we developed a Free AdWords Grader , which conducts an audit of your PPC account, quickly identifying any problem areas.

3. What are some of the most common PPC sins marketers commit?

The most common sin (by far!) is that of sloth (i.e. laziness and indifference). This is more a sin of omission than of commission. We’ve analyzed the results of thousands of accounts of people who ran our AdWords Grader, and we’ve found that around half of small and medium businesses don’t even do any account optimization work in the last month – meaning, they haven’t added any new keywords, or new ads, or changed bids or anything, period!

Like anything else in life, you get out of PPC marketing what you put into it. Meaning – you can’t just set it and forget it! That’s not a viable strategy. To succeed at paid search, you need to periodically, spend some time on stuff like:

  • Adding relevant keywords that you might have missed out on
  • Replace poorly performing ads and landing pages with new ones
  • Doing negative keyword research to eliminate wasteful spending
  • Optimizing your Keyword Bids
  • Reviewing and potentially pausing poorly performing keywords
  • (etc.!)

4. What would say is the most important metric for marketers to measure?

I usually track the basics: Impressions, Clicks, Cost, and Conversions. There are hundreds of other metrics in your AdWords account (like CTR, CPA, Quality Score, etc.), but most of them are based on some ratio or trend involving these basic metrics. The cost metric in particular can help you in prioritizing where to focus your time and energy (just follow the money!).

We recently surveyed 17 experienced PPC marketers what are their most important PPC metrics – we published the results in our Ultimate Guide to PPC Metrics.

5. What are your top 3 favorite features of AdWords?

It would have to be Remarketing in the Google Display Network. (And, I’ll pick this as my #2 and #3 favorite feature as well!). We’re finding that it is a way to both drive conversions and brand awareness to a highly targeted audience.

6. How much do you think marketers should automate in their PPC campaigns, vs. execute manually?

Marketers should focus their efforts on setting PPC objectives and strategy, as well as certain tasks that are harder to automate because it requires creativity or a deep understanding of the business, such as keyword selection, and writing great ads and landing pages. Marketers should try to lean on tools and automation for repetitive, time consuming tasks such as data analysis, report generation, etc.

7. What has been your greatest work challenge recently? How did you resolve it?

One big work challenge has been in coming up with the WordStream “elevator pitch” – meaning, trying to define what exactly what WordStream’s PPC Platform does and how it’s different from other things out there in as succinct a way as possible.

We recently came up with an easier concept that we’re calling The 20 Minute PPC Work Week and it seems to be far more easily understood concept. The idea is that if you use WordStream PPC Advisor, then we’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting in figuring out what you should be doing in your AdWords account, and present it to you in a way that you can move the ball forward and be on a path to success in just 20 minutes each week.

8. What is one thing marketers can do today to improve their PPC results?

I’m biased, but I would recommend that marketers run a free AdWords Account audit on your account then try to figure out where’s the leverage in the account. For example, it doesn’t make sense to be leveraging advanced call extension options, if you haven’t covered the more basic issues, like campaign targeting options.

9. Is it possible to integrate your PPC and social strategy? If so, how?

There are several points of overlap between PPC and Social Media Marketing, for example:

  • You can link your AdWords account with your Google+ company page. This way, the friends of people who have +1’d your page will see annotated ad impressions.
  • Social marketing strategy often involves driving visitors to some content asset, like a blog post, or infographic, or video. By placing an AdWords remarketing cookie on whatever content asset you were trying to promote, you can keep the conversation going even after the user leaves your site, even if they don’t fill out some form.
  • Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter offer various PPC-like advertising options, and in some situations, it may make sense to co-ordinate search and paid social campaigns – for example, a Facebook advertising campaign could be targeted to get more followers.

Beyond these rather small overlapping areas, I have found that PPC and Social Media Marketing are typically different roles in a company, and that Social Media is usually more aligned with SEO and content marketing.

10. What’s is your favorite part of your job?

Helping companies grow their business! I firmly believe that Pay-Per-Click Marketing is a powerful marketing channel for almost every company; however, it can be quite challenging to do well, especially if PPC marketing isn’t your full time job!

About Larry

Larry Kim is the founder & CTO of WordStream, a provider of  tools and software for PPC.

Learn how to rank higher in the engines this September at the Digital Marketing Strategy Summit. The flexible, online event includes sessions on The 8 Elements of Highly Effective Search Marketing, How to Rank Higher In Google (live critique), Selecting and Managing a Search Vendor, and more.See Full Agenda