Many of you may recognize Larry Kim as a regular SEJ contributor and CEO of Wordstream. Today, we are honored to also welcome him as one of our speakers at our next SEJ Summit, happening at the Chelsea NYC Hotel on September 16th.
I had the chance to ask Larry a few questions about his background, personal branding, and more information on PPC, which is WordStream’s main focus.
Before we get to the interview, if you’d like to learn from Larry and our other amazing speakers, we still have some complimentary tickets available for our New York City marketing event. Anyone can request an invite to attend a SEJ Summit conference, but big brand and enterprise marketers will get priority. Tickets can also be purchased on Eventbrite.
The SEJ Summit series is possible courtesy of our partner, Searchmetrics. Their “search experience optimization” software makes digital marketing better, faster, and more profitable.
1. You founded WordStream in 2006, but your background is in programming. In fact, you have written several books on XML and Java software engineering. How has your experience in computer engineering informed your approach to digital marketing?
My background has been a huge advantage throughout my career. Primarily, it’s enabled me to write software to automate processes that were tedious and time-consuming to do manually.
But, it has huge advantages in marketing as well and has allowed me to tackle things in a far more data-oriented way than a person without this background. We’ve worked on reverse-engineering click-through rate, and how Quality Score is calculated, for example.
We’ve also examined average conversion rates and my motivation for looking at things in this way is that when we truly understand how they work, we can reap the maximum advantage. Most of the content I produce today involves figuring out these unusual hacks related to internet marketing; having a computational background has definitely helped give my content a differentiating factor.
2. I am excited to see your presentation at SEJ Summit, titled Harnessing the Awesome Power of Identity-Based PPC Marketing. What exactly is identity-based PPC? It sounds a lot like personalization.
Identity-based PPC is the biggest advance in ad targeting in the last decade and topped my list this spring of forward-looking trends that will change the way we do online advertising (a post on WordStream’s blog).
Remarketing, search ads, and demographic targeting are all fantastic tools for targeting groups of people with certain intent, browsing behavior, or characteristics. But really, these are all just proxies for people — we’re constantly trying to use different parameters, triggers, and characteristics to get closer to reaching the people we want to reach.
Identity-based marketing means you can target people using personally identifying factors like their phone number or email. On Facebook Ads, for example, with the integration of Atlas and their offline data provider partners like Acxiom, you can target your existing customers but then layer other identifying information over top. You can layer on income data, past purchase history, household traits and more, all in an effort to make your advertising as relevant and timely as possible.
3. I love the way you use social media for your personal brand, you tend to mix a lot of humor in (including a healthy dose of laser cat photos). Why do you think so many people struggle with building their personal brand?
I think many aspiring thought leaders could afford to spend a lot more time researching and developing an actual strategy for their personal brand.
What exactly do you want to be known for? How are you going to be memorable? What sets you apart from other influencers in that space? Are there gaps in what is currently offered out there in terms of thought leadership? (For example, maybe they’re all super smart but really boring.) What is your speaking and writing style? What people do you admire most and why?
Marketing teams put a ton of thought and energy into researching and defining the essence of a brand and while you may not need to go to the same extent, remember that you’re a product of sorts. You do need to be intentional in how you develop your personal brand — simply blogging or showing up on social media doesn’t cut it.
For example, two years ago I did this personal branding exercise and came up with a few ideas. Most of the stuff I was reading in my industry was interesting, but boring or not very memorable. I thought that by injecting more humor into PPC content, I could stand out online and at conferences, as a speaker.
It’s also a big mistake to develop this personal brand and fail to evolve with your audience. It’s important to measure and track what works and what doesn’t, and to truly listen to your audience.
4. You have been in the field for a long time. Who influenced you the most when you were just getting started?
When I was just getting started, I had no idea what I was doing. I was pretty much just bootstrapping my business, using my consulting practice to fund my software startup. I don’t remember sleeping, let alone having time to read and get involved in the industry!
But then I started looking to people like Rand Fishkin and Dharmesh Shah –- at these founders of other huge internet marketing software companies who seemed so balanced and together. I learned a ton from the way those guys managed their time and built their businesses.
5. You recently had your first child. What advice do you have for new or soon to be parents for finding the right work-life balance?
We have a lot of help, including a near full-time nanny and my mother, who comes over every other month or so. My wife is a heart surgeon and obviously has a lot of demands on her time as well, so I say if you can afford to get help, get as much as you can!
6. Bonus question: Like me, you travel a ton – what is your favorite travel destination?
You can’t go wrong with one of these amazing places:
I’d love to go to any of those places, thanks Larry for the tips and insight on PPC.
Don’t forget, you can request your complimentary ticket for our SEJ Summit New York City marketing conference, taking place September 16th at the Manhattan NYC Hotel in Chelsea, New York City.
You can also come see us in Atlanta later this year.