With more and more businesses becoming savvy in Internet and search marketing, it also becomes more difficult for smaller businesses to stand out in the online noise. Creating quality content for your website and devoting time and money to search marketing is one thing, but what if you don’t have those resources at your disposal? That’s where WordStream comes in.
WordStream not only delivers a paid search marketing platform that helps businesses optimize their online marketing efforts, but they also provide a number of services to help small and medium sized businesses get their search marketing on track. We took some time to speak with WordStream founder and CTO, Larry Kim, about the ever changing landscape that is Google’s search engine results, what small businesses can do to stay on track of their search marketing, and what WordStream’s vision for the future entails.
Bootstrapping the company was quite a juggling act, especially at the beginning because you need money to hire people, and you need to hire people to make money. It’s kind of like a catch-22. So in my case, I was doing some consulting work to bring in some money, and then using the consulting revenues to hire engineers and marketers and sales people. It was really tough because you don’t want to spend all your time doing consulting projects. You want to also have your time to build the business. But you have your day job to bring in revenue, and your night job of working on advancing the business – meeting the goals that you set. That was pretty tough. But of course, we were able to get past that.
I think there’s kind of an implication that it’s more for the small or medium size businesses that might be struggling a little bit more with search marketing. Even though that’s not specifically mentioned in our mission statement, our ideal target market has to do with smaller and medium-size businesses that might not have a full-time dedicated search marketer on their team, but nevertheless would like to do well and get decent results from their search advertising.
Early on in the life of the company, we had a portfolio of beta customers, who had used the product and provided feedback and stuff like that at a reduced rate. That was the beginning. Today we have kicked that up a notch. We have a full product team that employs more sophisticated design processes and user experience testing. There’s a lot of testing and surveying and iteration that happens in that process. It’s pretty sophisticated.
One is that we’re very recommendation-oriented. So this software has something called the 20-minute PPC workweek. It’s our main feature. It does a lot of analysis on your search marketing campaigns and gives you 10 really good things to optimize or fix every week. In doing so, it takes into consideration that you might not have all week to work on this thing. It’s very impactful and prioritized. Other tools are a little bit designed in a different way. They’re more designed for full-time search marketers. What I mean by that is they’re going to have a much less directed workflow. So the software will be more like data grids and charts, and allowing a full-time search marketer to formulate their own decisions and try to run complicated experiments, spending all day on search marketing in all sorts of dorky and complicated ways.
Our software is designed more with an intermediate user in mind, as opposed to the super advanced users. What we find is that there’s a lot more intermediate people than there are advanced people, and they really struggle with some of the complexities of search advertising. Our software makes it a little easier so you don’t have to be a math PhD or something to figure this stuff out. It tells you what to do.
I think the biggest challenges facing small and medium-size businesses in the area of search marketing is a lack of time and a lack of expertise in the area. Like I said, that’s the genesis of WordStream. It’s to target those types of advertisers who might have other things to do, like running their business. They don’t have all day to be changing keyword bits or writing ads. If we can provide them with an ROI-oriented very actionable, simple product experience that tells them what to do and in what order, in a regular weekly way so we can get them on a path to success, then I think that’s pretty powerful.
I definitely think that search advertising is increasing in its prominence and importance in terms of online marketing. Just think: in the last year, if you do a search on Google for something like dishwashers, look at the search results. Do a search on something like that and see how much of the search results are actually ads. It’s almost the entire page. It shows up with dishwasher pictures and all sorts of product listings. Google is going to make that even more prominent this year and next year.
Everyone knows that the stuff at the top of the list tends to get more clicks than stuff on page two or three or four. When was the last time you scrolled to page two or page three to click on one of those links? Because of this trend of Google coming up with different types of specialized ad formats for everything from flights and hotels and cards for the first page. By and large, people are starting their research processes on Google. I think what we’re seeing is an increasing prominence to the sponsored search options. So this is likely to be more and more important in the near future.
Another trend that I’m seeing over the last year has to do with Google really cracking down on organic search tricks. They’ve been unleashing all sorts of zoo creatures. There’s this one called Penguin that goes after link abuse. There’s one called Panda that goes after content farms. They’re very aggressively making it difficult to artificially promote your site, to optimize your site by unnatural ways. Some SEO has relied on some of those tactics on the past, and Google is quickly shutting those down. I think there was a golden age of SEO over the last five or eight years, where it was pretty easy, and I think it’s definitely getting harder and more expensive to execute, which makes the return on investment of that channel a little bit less attractive. There’s so much more stuff you have to do these days. You have to do all this PR marketing and content marketing. It’s not the slam dunk it used to be. I think it’s still valuable, though.
I don’t think that Google is going to stop. I think they’re going to keep making it more and more complex and more challenging to get free clicks in there. I just view search marketing to be the prominence of the paid options. In terms of the real estate it takes up on the page, as well as the increasing costs of organic search – and also the decreasing costs of paid search. So what’s happening is paid search clicks are actually getting cheaper and cheaper over the last year, by over 15 percent decrease on average. I think it seems that Google is very aggressively monetizing search through paid sponsor listings. That would be a pretty interesting place for businesses to invest in. It’s a little bit more predictable than organic search, for example, because there aren’t any zoo creatures for paid search.
There’s a tremendous amount of stuff happening in search. It’s very fast-moving. The obvious stuff is Google rolling out new stuff, almost every other day it seems. A lot of it is very powerful and exciting stuff, like mobile ads or display ads or all sorts of social media stuff. Similarly, I think Facebook is pretty innovative as well, although more so on the organic social media stuff. I don’t consider them a huge innovator in terms of advertising options, but definitely like they’re coming up with cool new social media features. I think that’s pretty interesting stuff that they’re working on.
That’s our core values, easily. Just recently in the past couple months, we’ve enacted a set of WordStream core values. It’s a very fun project that we just recently rolled out, which has to do with what it means to work at WordStream and who we are, what the essence of our company is, and what’s the purpose of the business. We came up with a couple values like – be authentic, be transparent, take action. You can read about them there. I think this is really exciting because it will allow us to be very successful in the coming years in terms of our business growth. I think that’s what I’m most excited about, is looking up to these values and realizing and making them real.
Want to read more Business-Software.com exclusive interviews with CEOs and company founders? Head over to the Behind the Software Q&A section of the blog to browse the complete collection.