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» Exclusive Interviews, ppc software, SES Conference Coverage » Exclusive Interview with Larry Kim, WordStream Founder & VP of Product Development

Exclusive Interview with Larry Kim, WordStream Founder & VP of Product Development

Larry-kim-wordstream SemGeek is proud to present an exclusive online interview with Larry Kim, Founder and VP of Product Development for Wordstream. This interview is brought to you in cooperation with the Search Engine Strategies' Pre-SES San Jose 2009 Blog & Q&A Coverage.

About Larry Kim:

As Founder and VP of Products of WordStream, Larry is responsible for designing the next generation of Keyword Management tools for PPC & SEO.

Larry Kim has 8 years experience managing PPC and SEO campaigns both
in-house and through his own agency. He's also an electrical engineer
with experience with software development and product management and
recently founded WordStream, a provider of keyword management solutions
for PPC and SEO. For more information, or to contact Larry, check out
his blog or message him on twitter (@larrykim). Larry lives in Central
Square, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Question #1. What's the driving force behind the creation of WordStream? What specific opportunity were you trying to capitalize on?

Answer: Many people equate SEO with keyword research and PPC with bid management, but in my experience, the key to success for both paid and organic search marketing is the work that takes place in between—the analysis, organization and prioritization that happens in the middle. These middle steps—what we call keyword management are both the most critical and the most overlooked part of search marketing.

A few years back, I had my own search marketing agency, and I was weary of all the time I spent on repetitive yet necessary tasks like scrubbing keyword lists, breaking them into smaller, more relevant groups, etc. I looked for tools to assist with this but found that these tasks were completely ignored by PPC and SEO tool vendors. Anyone doing keyword management type tasks was using Microsoft Excel, which wasn’t designed for search marketing and is less than ideal for this kind of work. So I designed my own software, initially to make my life easier, but I realized search marketers and agencies everywhere could benefit from it. The idea became WordStream, the world's first keyword management solution. WordStream is an innovative approach to discovering, analyzing, grouping, organizing and acting on large numbers of keywords to optimize PPC and SEO campaigns.


Question #2. Google AdWords Editor is the most widely used AdWords management tool on the market. It’s also attractive because it is a FREE desktop tool. What makes WordStream more valuable than AdWords Editor?

Answer: Well, for starters, we're clearly not a replacement for AdWords Editor. Our focus is keyword management. Where WordStream and AdWords Editor overlap in functionality is PPC campaign creation and optimization, but even there, we take very different approaches. For example, to create a PPC campaign in AdWords Editor, you make an ad group, add keywords and write ad text – kind of a top-down approach.

WordStream takes a bottom-up approach. You start by developing your keyword universe – the product helps you aggregate thousands or even millions of keyword opportunities from your own Web analytics data and our keyword suggestion tools. Our powerful keyword grouping, organization and negative keyword tools help you quickly eliminate the junk, extract the keywords that are relevant to your business, and organize the data into tightly knit keyword groups, which is critical for successful PPC campaigns.

By analogy, consider a multiple-choice math test. My approach is to start from scratch – read the problem, do the calculations and come up with the answer. My wife, on the other hand, starts by realizing the fact that the answer is there – she then works "backwards" and chooses the right answer via a process of elimination. Both are valid approaches with different strengths and weaknesses – my point is, there's more going on here than a difference of features. The two products employ different methodologies.

I don't believe in a "one interface fits all" view of PPC. The WordStream approach sacrifices some up-front flexibility in exchange for far more robust campaign organization. The result is that PPC campaigns created in WordStream are better organized and easier to optimize than campaigns created manually in AdWords Editor. The keyword organization aspect is critical, since it impacts relevancy, a single point of leverage that affects just about everything going on in your PPC account, including Quality Score, minimum bids, actual CPC, impression share, click-through rate, and even conversion rates. Better organized campaigns can also lead to all sorts of additional benefits, like simplified PPC reporting, easier team collaboration if multiple contributors are working on a single account, and can enable more effective bid manipulation strategies. Another key difference is productivity – WordStream suggests the next step to do, and then helps you do it, which is a lot easier, faster and more effective than trying to figure out what to do, then doing everything manually.


Question #3: Are there other differences in the approach between Google AdWords Editor and WordStream?

Answer: Sure. Here are a few other examples:


AdWords Editor


Campaign Organization

Tabular structures (campaign and ad groups).

Hierarchical – organize your keywords into
groups, and then organize the groups into trees, going from broader, more
general terms to more specific keyword groupings.

Keyword Expansion

Manually add more keyword opportunities to
existing ad groups

Newly discovered keywords continuously flow directly into the most relevant existing
keyword groupings. And the keywords suggestions are personalized based on
actual traffic and conversion data from your own site.

Campaign Optimization

Focus on optimizing bids and budgets (using
Conversion Optimizer to determine maximum bid, expanding campaign budgets to
maximize impression share, etc.).

Focus is exclusively on improving campaign
relevancy and Quality Score through better keyword selection, negative
keyword selection, tighter keyword groupings, and more relevant ad text and
lading page authoring. And as keywords pile up,
you can incrementally optimize them by segmenting larger ad groups into smaller,
more relevant subgroups, with more targeted ad text and landing pages.

PPC Workflow

Endless possibilities; little direction.

Analyzes keyword data to suggest where to best
direct campaign creation and subsequent campaign optimization efforts.

Click & Goal Attribution

Attributes clicks and conversions to whatever
keyword in your account that the AdWords ad auction matched you to.

Attributes clicks and conversions to the user’s
search query (i.e., what the user actually typed in the search box); this
data is then used to
compute PPC workflow
Also, WordStream leverages both PPC
and SEO click and conversion data, whereas AdWords uses only PPC data.

Ad Text Optimization

Write whatever ad text you want, monitor the
results and pick a winner.

Having created such tightly segmented keyword
groups, the software can suggest headlines and URLs that are likely to be
highly relevant to the intent of the searcher, and will likely be rewarded
with a higher Quality Score.

Essentially, all of these differences stem from our unique approach to campaign organization. AdWords Editor is more of a blank slate, and if you're already a PPC guru, you can make it work for you. WordStream is an expert system. It's designed to learn and help you build success into your campaigns from the ground up.


Question #4. Can you give us some insights into the level of experience of WordStream's main target market? Is it targeted to seasoned professionals or novices wanting to start a new career in PPC?

Answer: The software in its current form tends to resonate better with intermediate and expert-level search marketers, as well as agencies. WordStream helps these users do most of the work they were previously struggling to do manually in Excel, like aggregating keyword data, organizing and grouping the keyword lists, keeping keyword research up-to-date, etc. But we're working on simplifying the product to appeal to beginner search marketers too, since we've found that the software can help them better understand concepts like the long tail of search, keyword grouping, ad-text optimization, and negative keywords.

Because we're a search marketing tool, not a platform, anyone can use the product. For example, just because you're using an expensive PPC management solution, it's not like you can't still use WordStream to database your keywords, and WordStream helps you make sense of all that information to better inform and optimize your PPC and SEO efforts.

Question #5. During this economic downturn, is WordStream concerned with the overall decline of PPC budgets? If so, what strategies are in place to try and make the best of the situation?

Answer: First of all, despite the recession, we've seen that a lot of businesses are actually increasing PPC spending. Even companies with lean budgets are willing to make a new purchase if there's clear ROI.

Much of WordStream's value is derived from increased productivity. Better software means spending less time on iterative tasks. The software is also designed to improve campaign organization, increasing relevancy and Quality Score, which lowers your cost per click and improves conversion rates. Many of our customers see significant gains in traffic and conversions without raising their PPC budget. And keep in mind that at $300 a month, we're a lot cheaper than PPC platforms or consultants that bill on a percentage of ad spending.


Question #6. What would you say is the "secret sauce" of the WordStream platform? Is it a specific tool or a combination of functions?

Answer: The secret sauce isn't any one feature, but the design philosophy of the product being dynamic and actionable.  I believe it will be a game changer, as people catch on to the importance of keyword management for PPC and SEO.


Question #7. WordStream also offers conversion tracking for its customers. Does that mean WordStream wants to play in the Web analytics space?

Answer: WordStream is a kind of Web analytics tool, but it's stripped down and keyword-focused. For example you can drill down and see what search queries led to what conversions on your website. The difference is, Web analytics are generally "read only." You can learn a lot about your site by running fancy reports, but you can't directly do anything with that information. Google Analytics doesn't improve your PPC ROI or search engine rankings —it's just a dashboard. Typically people run an analytics report, paste the data into a spreadsheet, and then get to work interpreting, organizing and applying it. There are several program disconnects between initially gathering the information, manipulating it in Excel and publishing new ad groups or Web pages.

WordStream, on the other hand, has a workbench orientation, meaning you can actually "do stuff" with the data. If you find junk keywords that aren't performing, you can weed them out then and there. You can analyze keyword performance, organize keywords into relevant groups and publish ad groups and ads all in one application. We’re finding that integrating workbenches and dashboards provides a big boost to both productivity and relevancy!


Question #8. Can you suggest some ways to learn more about WordStream?

Answer: Sure! You can…

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