Crealytics eCommerce Café: Kirk Williams

This post is part of the series eCommerce Café

Other posts in this series:

  1. Crealytics eCommerce Café: Brad Geddes
  2. Crealytics eCommerce Café: Matt Van Wagner
  3. Crealytics eCommerce Café: Kirk Williams (Current)
  4. Looking Forward: SMX London 2017
  5. eCommerce Café: Frederick Vallaeys

At the SMX West 2017 Conference in San Jose, we had the opportunity to interview Kirk Williams, Owner of ZATO Marketing, about the current and upcoming trends in all things SEM. Full interview, below.

Youtube link 

If you’re interested to hear more from Kirk and what he’s up to at ZATO, check out @PPCKirk

Stay tuned for more Crealytics eCommerce Café, as we will be at SMX London, May 23-24.

Full Transcript

Andreas: Kirk you’re a coffee nerd and conference junkie. What else do you do?

Kirk: Well I have a few children that take up my time. I have a family, four children, with my wife and we do that. That takes up a lottt of time. I enjoy hiking in the Montana mountains, that’s where I am located. I am also a music leader at my church. All those things with running the business and keeping up with the trends in digital marketing takes up my time.


Andreas: Your agency, what is this business about?

Kirk: ZATO consists of me and one other guy. We run specifically Google and Bing for search marketing. We are also expanding into social, primarily our client size focus has been mid-range of clients, often times in enterprise I think there is a sweet spot we focus on in terms of client size.


Andreas: You just mentioned Twitter. I’m no social media junkie, but every time I’m on Twitter, I see you. You are ALL over the place. I see you tweet every minute and you’re very active, and you have a lot of exposure. What’s the rationale behind this…is this your personal passion or does this also make sense from a business point of view?

Kirk: When I first started my business, I beat the streets and did a few cold calling to get a few clients. Believe it or not, it’s difficult. So I had this idea to expand through writing, speaking, and social media engagement, to become an “authority,” for better or worse, so people would see the value there and have that person run the marketing.

So years ago I decided to become active on social media. Twitter made a lot of sense for PPC. There is already this really active community of PPCers, especially #PPCchat. So I dove in, learned a lot, made a lot of great friends, a ton of networking, and I’ve gotten many referrals from it.


Andreas: We met over Twitter!

Kirk: I honestly think I’ve met every single PPC friend or acquaintance via Twitter. It’s been great for me in education, in me learning and growing. It’s been great for business networking. I’ve had leads say “we saw you on Twitter,” so overall it’s been part of the strategy. I’ve been doing a lot of writing and speaking as well, so I think it was all of that combined.


Andreas: You just mentioned SMBs. From what I see in the market, agencies have the philosophy: The upper end of the market, enterprise clients, and they are quite interesting and hard to get, there is a lot of competition, but if you get them, that is a huge ticket size. And then there might be the very small local players, like the hairdresser next door, where it’s a mass market, a type of B2-verysmall-B business, and then there is the SMB part of the market, which for many companies, has been quite challenging.

What is the rationale behind your strategy and how to do you do this?

Kirk: It’s been changing. Even from when I’ve started. Some of the changes are because let’s say Google’s CPC is rising. You can do a lot more with a thousand dollars 5 years ago than you can do with a thousand today in Google AdWords. Some of that is naturally shifting in terms. If someone comes and they are a local business, and they don’t have a lot of money. Are you going to try to work with Facebook or Search? For me, in terms of client size, I’ll always hop on the phone, even if they’re enterprise level. I’d love to hop on a call, just to see what they’re interested in. But I’ve found, from an agency owner practicality standpoint, especially from a smaller perceptive, some people like that whale client that makes up 75% of income. That kind of freaks me out…so part of what I like to have is a variety of clients that make up a cohesive whole, so if there are any issues, it won’t tank the agency. Some of that is practical that way, which may work for some agency growth models. I’ve never really had the mindset, which isn’t wrong. My intention has never been to grow as quickly and as big as I possibly can. I just like to finding good clients I can partner with well. We have enough spend to do it well with because sometimes you get too small in the SMB, and you need some level of spend to start with initially.


Andreas: In traditional text ad based search, there are so many slots on the first page. We all know that if you are not the first page, but rather on 3rd or 4th, there is no traffic available. Google is kind of excluding the vast majority of other companies from being present in the SERPS. On shopping, this might be a bit different since there are many more products that get into the google shopping page. What would you recommend a small business should do to compete with the big guys?

Kirk: I think you’ll see that similarly in Shopping just because there is still some limited number on that SERP. Bidding is still, as you all know, still a significant part. If you can get that product in the first or second slot on the SERP, then that is a big deal. I’ve been seeing clients’ CPCs rise in shopping too, but especially with a client with a limited budget that is e-commerce focused, our fist talk is “let’s invest this in shopping” because we are more than likely going to be seeing better returns with our money than with search text ads.


Andreas: To compete on GS, do you suggest that small businesses apply the same strategy as the big guys. Or is there anything they can do in a different way?

Kirk: That’s a two-part answer: in one sense, we are working with the same product feed and bidding mechanisms. In some ways, we do want to figure out how to get our feeds optimized well and how to bid smarter and segment out by queries. On the other hand, as you’ve known before, there is a difference between an enterprise level strategy, especially if you are talking millions of ad dollars vs. a few thousand a month. You definitely have to be much more targeted in terms of where you are spending that money. You can’t be interested in getting out there on everything.


Andreas: So cutting off traffic, targeting a smaller group of people, and focusing on ROI instead of scale?

Kirk: That is probably the biggest places to start. Some of that is involved with query type strategies with Shopping. Some of that is when you’re targeting ROI, being a little quicker, even if you are convinced these general queries should convert for you. Hey you only have a limited budget, you know these specific brand queries are can convert, then initially maybe the place to start is to focus your budget there. If you’re expanding your spend and you want to get into that stuff, great, build that. But started out, go VERY targeted.

Andreas: What do you say are the most exciting GS innovations that will influence retailers’ businesses in the next 12 months.

Kirk: I’ve been doing more with dynamic remarketing. I think some of what is happening there in terms of innovation is not more of what we see but on the Google side. My assumption, they are putting out more and more dynamic stuff, they are getting their machine learning on the back end smarter, better, it’s becoming better at finding intent. So I think things like Dynamic retargeting will continue to get smarter and better, and I can see us using that more in the future. Another part of it is advanced strategies to target with shopping. Some of that in this year might be implementing those. Just doing those well. I still talk to a lot of people who run shopping, even people who know advanced strategies who still aren’t necessarily running those. So that might be one area for people to focus on: do it well.


Andreas: We are getting into the next stage where everything is getting more and more refined. You won’t win the game doing the same as you did years ago. The market is getting way more mature, that is what we see.

Kirk: I hear people say well, my campaign is working for me. That’s great! But first of all, how do you know that couldn’t be getting more from it? Secondly, just because it’s working now doesn’t mean it will once more people enter the space and CPCs keep rising.

I think this is something that might change over time. As competition is growing, we currently see a decrease in cost per click on GS, that is because G is expanding the exposure of these ads. So there is more ad inventory available and the fixed budget is allocated to more clicks. So CPC has gone down to a certain extent, but it will definitely pick up to close the gap efficiency of shopping and search text ads. At a certain point of time eventually, it won’t be just good enough to do what everyone else does. Then some companies will see that our ROI goes down, these refined strategies will maintain efficiency at a high level as competition continues to increase.


Andreas: What is your highlight at this year’s SMX?

Kirk: Learning social ads even better. I have a few friends here that are teaching, Susan Wenograd, AJ Wilcox has done a lot of LinkedIn ad stuff. I’d like to personally get more advanced and learn social better. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the search side of things. Social is blowing up! So I’d like to improve on that.


Andreas: Do you think there are true synergies between social and search?

Kirk: I do. I don’t think to be honest with you that I’m the expert to be able to point out exactly where those are, which is what I am hoping to learn. I definitely know there are relationships. I’m hoping to better learn what that looks like so I can specifically advertise and combine those together.


Andreas: Very good. Thanks a lot for the interview Kirk.

Continue reading this series:


Mallory Chen

Marketing Strategist at crealytics. Based in Berlin!