We continue our popular interview series with some of the titans of digital marketing. Today’s marketing morsels come courtesy of WordStream, Inc.’s Larry Kim — just crowned the most influential figure in PPC by PPC Hero! 

larry kim wordstreamName: Larry Kim
Title: Founder & CTO
Company: WordStream, Inc.

What’s the first metric you check when you start work for the day?

Recently my focus has been on trying to build my business’s brand, so the metrics I’ve been obsessing over the last year are all user engagement metrics. Stuff like overall traffic to the site, % repeat visitor rates, time on site, number of page views per visit, number of comments per blog post, bounce rate, branded searches, Net Promoter Score, social media interactions (etc.) – and the change in those numbers over time. I realize these may seem like unusual KPIs to track but they’re very aligned with my current goals for the business.

What’s one metric you rarely bother to check? 

Strangely enough, conversions – my view is that conversions are a side effect of having an awesome brand, product, and company, which is why I’ve been focusing on the latter. It’s basically the old “If you build it, they will come” philosophy.

Another reason I don’t obsess over conversions so much as others is that I’d prefer not to get people to sign up for stuff before they’re ready. I’d rather that prospects take time to interact with our brand and content – then reach out to us when they’re ready. Prematurely pulling people through a conversion funnel isn’t efficient for the sales team here, and it’s not a great experience for the customer either.

Why did you start WordStream?

I started the company with certain dopey expectations in mind, like wanting to be your own boss, etc. Looking back, none of it was aligned with the reality of running a business. However, the journey has so far proven to be far more amazing than I could have ever imagined, however wrong my initial expectations were.

What are the 3 biggest changes in PPC over the last 5 years?

– Search Ads have become bigger and more verticalized.

– Display ads are way more targeted.

– Mobile is now baked in.

What’s your favorite advertising campaign (e.g. Betty White Super Bowl ad, Got Milk billboard, etc.)? 

The Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign cracks me up.

What are the three most important qualities of a good account manager?

– Workflow: The ability to identify and prioritize low-hanging fruit in an account. There are thousands of different things you could potentially do in a PPC account every week. Adopting an efficient workflow is key, otherwise you’ll just get lost.

– Communication: This is important for maintaining the client relationships.

– Creativity: Sometimes SEMs forget about the “Marketing” in SEM, and this is unfortunate because it results in all sorts of dumb ads, excessive use of Dynamic Keyword Insertion, etc.

If anything keeps me up at night worrying about my company, it’s…

I’m so exhausted that nothing keeps me up at night these days. (My problem is staying awake…)

What’s the one marketing lesson you wish you had learned earlier?

I wish I had set up a system of core values earlier on at my company.

If you could invest in one marketing technology company, which would it be and why?

Other than WordStream (which I’ve invested all my savings in already), I’d sell Facebook shares and buy Google and/or Yahoo stock.

In three words or fewer: the future of SEM is…?

Contextual. Predictive. Hyper-targeted.

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