Tech-Success: Larry Kim Shares his Story, Insights on SEO, Social Media & Advice for Start-Ups

Today on TechSuccess series, I am delighted to have Larry Kim, the Founder of WordStream join us. He is one of my mentors and a global authority in the digital marketing space.

This interview is an unusual one, it offered a rare opportunity to dig into the mind of one of digital marketing’s brightest minds.

So, I and the TechSuccess editorial team decided to dive into insightful topics like Post Idea’s for Social Media, What is working in Social Media, Role of Social Media in Search Engine Optimization and the changes that digital marketing is likely going to witness in the next five years.

Also, we had the unique opportunity to talk about Larry’s journey as an entrepreneur, but for me the icing on the cake was having Larry offer advice to Entrepreneurs who are just starting their Journey. I got really inspired hearing all of this and I think you will too.

Before we get started, let me give you a run down on Larry’s background.

Larry Kim is the founder of WordStream, a leading search marketing software and services provider based in Boston, managing approximately a half-Billion in annual ad spend across over thousands of customers.

He regularly shares his advice and insight with over a million visitors a month at his WordStream Blog and is a top contributor for leading industry publications including, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch and Social Media Today.

Larry is often called on to keynote or speak at industry events including INBOUND, SMX, ClickZ/SES, Pubcon, MediaPost Search Insider Summit, PPC Hero Conference, SEMPDX, SearchLove and many others. He was recently named “Most Influential PPC Expert” for 2015, 2014 and 2013 by PPC Hero Blog, and won Top Search Marketer Awards for 2015 from the US Search Awards and Search Engine Land.

1. Why and how did you become an entrepreneur?

I can’t imagine my life turning out any other way. Even so, actually starting up and building my own business was shocking a lot of ways. I actually wrote a post on LinkedIn about the many ways being an entrepreneur was completely different from what I’d expected. That myth that you’ll be your own boss!

Sure, when your business is small, that’s true (although even then, I’d argue your customers are the boss). But once you add employees and then especially investors to the mix, you’re accountable to a lot of people. It’s a great responsibility.

2. What are the two big things that are working in Social Media Marketing today?

Hands down, it’s social PPC ads and super precise targeting. On their own, social ads have exploded and proven incredibly effective at promoting and amplifying content, but it’s the targeting capabilities that give them real commercial value.

I’m a huge advocate of using new social ad formats to your advantage — basically, you want to beat your competitors to the punch by doing new and different things that will help you stand out and increase engagement.

Another of my favorite social ads hacks is to test your content out on Twitter organically first, then only promote your most engaging stuff. This helps maximize your Quality Scores and increase engagement while keeping your costs low.

Both Facebook and Twitter are now partnering with third-party, offline data providers that have a ton of real-world data purchasing behavior, net worth, credit card habits and more. The social ad networks match their user profiles with the offline behavioral data, allowing you to get crazy specific with your targeting.

The real power is in layering these insights over demographics information and your Custom Audiences (on Facebook) or Tailored Audiences (on Twitter).

3. What post aren’t the best post ideas when utilizing social media marketing?

Anything that sucks for engagement. In both organic and paid social, engagement is critical. Both Twitter and Facebook have their own version of Quality Score, which determines how often your ads will appear, and where, and how much you’ll pay per engagement.

On Facebook, this is called Relevance Score and on Twitter, it’s the quality adjusted bids algorithm. Basically, it’s just a fancy way of saying they’re going to reward quality, engaging content by showing it to more people and letting you pay less for it. This is great for the social networks, since they want to show their users the best content possible.They still make a ton of cash off of the crappy, low engagement ads.

so make sure yours don’t fall in that pile!

4. What role does social media play in Search engine optimization?

This is always a fun debate: whether or not social media has SEO value.

Of course it does! There’s more to it than just considering whether Google uses social Likes as a ranking factor (to our knowledge, they don’t).

But you can’t deny the power of a socially popular piece of content. Social sharing attracts valuable mentions and links from other websites. It inspires people to keep sharing your content, exposing it to more and more people who will potentially visit your website and engage your brand, sending all kinds of warm and fuzzy relevance and authority signals to search engines.

It’s totally worth using PPC to help your content go viral socially, both for the discovery value of social and the inherent SEO benefits.

5. What are your thoughts on black hat vs. white hat SEO tactics and the long-term effects of each?

We generally stay clear of black hat stuff, since the chances are pretty high that it will destroy your business. Legitimate businesses simply can’t afford to dabble on the dark side.

6. What changes will digital marketing likely witness in the next 5 years?

Just check out the rapid-fire evolution of digital marketing over the last five years! I expect we’ll evolve at an even faster pace in the coming few years. The rise of mobile in established markets has been insane, and we’re now seeing exponential adoption across emerging markets.

Over 4 billion of the 6.8 billion people on earth now have mobile devices and companies like Google and Facebook are trying to get one in the hands of every remaining person.

All of these people represent socially and digitally savvy new audiences for brands, so expect that trend to spill over into physical businesses expanding into these new markets as they discover lower cost, super effective ways to reach these consumers.

Identity-based marketing is another hugely important digital marketing trend that will continue picking up speed over the next 5 years. It’s allowing marketers and brands to communicate and build relationships with consumers on a much more personal, emotional level, which is far more compelling and leads to greater conversions.

7. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out as an entrepreneur, what would it be?

Be picky. Don’t settle. Come up with tons of business ideas and test your theories before going all-in on one. I like the idea of using optimal stopping theory, considering many different ideas before picking the best one to move forward with, as a method of ensuring you’re positioned for success. Being an entrepreneur requires testing and skill and smarts — only a very small part of it is luck.


Larry, a very big thank you from all of us at Nativedge for taking time and sharing your knowledge with us and our audience. I really appreciate it and I’m certain our entire team and audience will too.

And to everyone who took time out to read this, thank you for reading our Tech-Success interview with Larry Kim. I found the whole experience really exciting and inspiring. Please look out for the next interview as it promises to be as insightful as this one.

Have a great day.

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Originally published at on October 30, 2015.

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