Yesterday at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose we caught up with Larry Kim and got his insight on his new keyword research product, WordStream. Larry is the VP of WordStream and he provided a lot of the early vision behind the technology. Read our conversation below:

[Manoj]: What was the inspiration behind developing WordStream? Was there a 'pain' in the industry you were trying to solve?

[Larry Kim]: I spent about ten years marketing software products, both in-house and as an independent consultant, primarily through search. What I found was that at the heart of every successful search marketing endeavor was a set of highly relevant, well-organized keywords. The way that you discovered, organized, and continually analyzed keywords would have a tremendous impact on how successful your campaigns were: ten times out of ten.

And for me, a combination of traditional keyword tools and Microsoft Excel simply fell short. I wanted a tool that leveraged keyword suggestion, but placed an emphasis on actual traffic and activity on my Websites, and I wanted something that would allow me to dynamically integrate and manipulate keywords for paid and natural search. So I designed it, and started hiring engineers who could make it a reality.

[Manoj]: How does WordStream differentiate itself from Analytics (Omniture/Google Analytics), Keyword Research (WordTracker) or Bid Management Tools?

[Larry Kim]: WordStream focuses on an area that none of those tools really touch. Here's a quick visual (some of these tools have pieces that flow into different areas, but I think this gives you a good idea of the gap we feel we're filling):

The general idea is that while the software offers keyword research tools and features a type of Web analytics, we're really the only tool focusing on helping marketers aggregate keyword data and then effectively organize it. WordStream offers powerful keyword grouping and organization, and allows you to continually discover and group keywords.

First we create a database of all your keywords (in this instance, an online pet store):

Next we offer a series of suggestions for how you might want to segment that database:

Finally, you'll end with a very tightly related, intelligently segmented taxonomy that you can leverage for either paid or natural search:

From there, the software dynamically tracks each new search query that comes to the site, along with the visits and actions (goals or conversions) associated with all of your keywords. Even better: new search queries are automatically funneled into the appropriate "buckets". So in the above example, if someone searched on "fish aquariums for first time fish owners" and we had never seen that keyword before, it would be added to the fish aquarium group (users can either allow this to happen automatically, or make this process subject to review).

So basically the idea is:
  • Web analytics looks at what's happened
  • Keyword research gives you a really rough guess of what could happen
  • Bid and campaign management tools help you tweak and manage around existing campaign structures

WordStream takes numbers one and two, and leverages them to help you build a strong campaign structure from the start, and then focuses on dynamically maintaining a really high-performance keyword infrustructure.

[Manoj]: Can you discuss the process of how an organization would use WordStream on a regular basis?

[Larry Kim]:
Sure. Really it's three things:

  • One is continual keyword discovery and analysis. Our customers install a snippet of java script on their websites and are able to track and integrate new search queries and new visits from search.
  • A second is continual segmentation and discovery of negative keywords. WordStream users create an initial hierarchy, like the one above, but then proceed to segment even further and to use our negative keyword tool to discover irrelevant keywords, making their Ad Groups or organic search segmentations more and more relevant (and effective) over time.
  • A third thing WordStream customers leverage the tool for is workflow prioritization. There's really no end to the things you can do to a search marketing account to improve it. WordStream lets you quickly look at all of your keyword groups to determine which are driving the most traffic, the most conversions, or are the largest in terms of number of queries in a group; really anything a user may want to look at. They can then apply their work in creating Ad Groups, assigning negatives, etc. to the most important areas of their accounts.

[Manoj]: You have an analytics-like component to WordStream, can you discuss the importance for it?

[Larry Kim]: Really any tool that has anything to do with marketing online should have some sort of analytics component, particularly a search marketing tool, and particularly a keyword-related tool. The power of keyword research and organization is that you're discovering the keywords that work best for your site, and then implementing those keywords. By being analytics driven, we can help people to structure their campaigns and prioritize their daily tasks so that they can drive more traffic and grow their business.

[Manoj]: I personally saw some benefits of WordStream from an SEO perspective, do any of your clients leverage WordStream for SEO?

[Larry Kim]: They do. Currently most of our clients are primarily leveraging the tool for paid search, but there are also some powerful applications surrounding content creation, information architecture, and SEO workflow prioritization. We recently put together a white paper outlining how WordStream helps with SEO (PDF).

[Manoj]: What kind of process do you have in place for providing consistent updates to your product?

[Larry Kim]: We have an "agile" development environment, so we ship product updates frequently. We push updates based on a set of features. After a round of testing by our engineers we issue an "internal" release and test all of the new features on our own WordStream paid search account (one of many advantages of using your own tools in your marketing) and for our employees to play with (though not on client accounts). We then issue a feature update to clients and push the changes into the wild.

Thus far I think our customers would agree we've been able to respond very quickly to feedback and feature requests.

[Manoj]: What is the cost of WordStream?

[Larry Kim]: WordStream offers a variety of pricing options ranging from $100 a month up to about a thousand a month. We charge a flat monthly fee and don't ask for a percent of spend. If you look at some of the other paid search management solutions ours is a very low price point. We're hoping to delight power users with what they consider a remarkably low price, while offering really powerful software that's accessible to small and medium size businesses who are shut out of some of the higher-end pricing structures but are still interested in doing expert-quality work.

To get in touch with Larry, you can send him an Email at lkim at wordstream dot com, check out the WordStream Blog, or follow him on Twitter (@larrykim).

August 12, 2009

Manoj has been in the Digital marketing industry for over 10 years with experience at some of Canada's largest companies: WestJet and Shaw Communications. Manoj first started in the search marketing industry with Enquiro Search Solutions, where he spearheaded web analytics, SEO Training and the development of cutting edge search marketing solutions for clients. Manoj is also an entrepreneur in the Mobile and Local Deals space.

Manoj is a Professional Speaker having participated at events such as Web Analytics Congress (Amsterdam), Emetrics, Web Analytics Xchange, WebTrends Engage, Internet Marketing Conference, Social Media Innovation Summit and Search Engine Strategies. He has also contributed to several leading online publications such as: Search Engine Land, Marketing Pilgrim, WebProNews, Search Engine Guide and the Web Analytics Assocation.

He founded and successfully sold Web Analytics World (a top 100 Digital Marketing Blog – and was voted #39th Most Influential Digital Marketer in North America – 2009 (see:

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