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Marketing morsels from: George Michie

Published: September 5, 2012

Author: Molly Shotwell

PPC Associates continues its popular interview series with some of the titans of digital marketing. Today’s marketing morsels come courtesy of George Michie, co-founder and CEO of Rimm-Kaufman Group and frequent contributor to renowned industry publications including SearchEngineLand.
George MichieName: George Michie
Title:  Co-Founder and CEO
Company:  RKG
What’s the first metric you check when you start work for the day? Well, I’m out of account management these days – a good thing for all parties concerned – but our perspective is that non-brand ROI and spend level are the pulse and blood pressure of paid search. If those are in line with expectations, then there is no crisis, and other diagnostics and tasks can be taken according to priorities. If ROI and/or spend is out of whack, then keyword-level performance data is next, with other metrics used to identify the causes of the trouble.
What’s one metric you rarely bother to check? Click-Through Rate. CTR is hugely influenced by the vagaries of Google’s matching choices on broad match and network partnerships. It can be useful in certain circumstances to trigger data dives that might be actionable. For example, bid increases due to performance improvements or anticipated change in performance, or whatever may lead to Google exposing the ad to more folks on more networks or more broadly matched. If the CTR declines with that increase in exposure, it might be a good time to look at the user search strings to see if there are negatives to add, or domains to block.
As a rule, though, this is a metric that goes up/down and sideways unpredictably and without much impact on overall performance; the CTR changes are produced by Google’s changes, not anything you’ve done.
If you had 10 million dollars to invest and you could invest in Google
or Facebook stock, which would you pick, and why? 
Google, though it would be tempting to use it to short-sell Facebook. Google’s valuation and stock price is based on performance. Facebook’s is still based on “potential,” not revenue and earnings. Google has an increasingly diverse revenue stream, billions of dollars to invest in R&D, and sooooo many smart people.
I’ve been saying for a while now that LinkedIn will end up being more valuable than FB.  The intrinsic value of business networking creates gigantic revenue potential for them.
What do you think will be the most important marketing platform in 10
Google, with Amazon a close second. Of course, “the most important marketing platform” will always depend on the business.
What’s your favorite advertising campaign (e.g. Betty White Super
Bowl ad, Got Milk billboard, etc.)? 

Favorite: Geico Caveman campaign. Brilliantly subtle stuff in there (like using a 1970s wooden tennis racket).
Least Favorite: The annoying redhead kid for Ntelos.
What are the three most important qualities of a good account manager?
1. Intellect. You can’t train stupid people.
2. Attention to detail. There are a million pieces to doing search well, and small mistakes can be hugely expensive.
3. Experience.  Experience doing search badly is worse than no experience, but experience in a quality firm with lots of different types of client accounts is tremendously valuable.
If anything keeps me up at night worrying about my company, it’s… Everything. If you’re not constantly worried, you’re not a CEO. In truth, I think the biggest threat to RKG is a mass exodus of employees. We set a really high bar and invest a great deal in training. That knowledge core is both essential to excellence and very difficult and time-consuming to replace. They’re also really nice people, and I’d miss them personally.
What’s the one marketing lesson you wish you had learned earlier? I wish I understood sooner the importance of having a simple, clear value proposition.  Seth Godin wrote a terrific piece on differentiation in which he made the case that you want to be different from your competition in a couple of areas, not all areas.  If the prospect is looking to buy an apple you want to tout yourself as a crisp, tart, apple.  You don’t want to tell the prospect:  “Apples suck, have an orange.”
If you could invest in one marketing technology company, which would it be and why? Pinterest. Sounds crazy after what I said about FB, but I see Pinterest’s model presenting terrific e-commerce opportunity – particularly in fashion — that they will eventually be able to monetize.
In three words or fewer: the future of SEM is…?  Long and bright!

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