Enterprise SEM: Q&A With Zappos’ Darrin Shamo

Zappos.com, the online retailer with legendary customer service, has been on a meteoric rise during the last few years. After achieving revenues of over $1 billion in 2008, Zappos was acquired by one of the biggest players on the web in late 2009: Amazon.com. Behind Zappos’s amazing customer service and great brand, lies a sophisticated marketing department led by some of the best in the business. One of those people is Darrin Shamo, the Zappos in-house lead for all search marketing initiatives.

I’m lucky to work with Darrin and the rest of the Zappos team through AudetteMedia in my role as one of their lead SEO consultants.

One of 2009′s iMedia 25, Darrin is the consummate professional. As the senior manager of search marketing for Zappos, he oversees all of the paid search programs, comparison shopping engines (including Google Product Search initiatives) and paid inclusion for Zappos. He also works closely on SEO initiatives and is involved in many other areas of the company, from affiliate marketing, to analytics, to display advertising.

In this industry there are very few people that impart the professionalism, analytical mindset, and insightfulness you get from speaking with Darrin. He has real passion for his job, and it shows. And when it comes to squeezing ROI out of massive and complex PPC campaigns, Darrin has proven he can run with the best.

I asked Darrin a few questions about his experience in the industry, his work at Zappos and what areas of search marketing he’s focused on in 2010. You can follow Darrin on Twitter at wakemono.

Zappos baby!

Can you give SEL readers a brief background on your history in the industry, and your role at Zappos.com?

I started selling display ads in 2000 as a way to pay for college. It was exciting time though as many online companies started to go under I felt it was time to head in a different direction. So I went on to co-found a computer networking company. After 3 years of 70+ hour weeks and little income, I decided that for the health of my recent marriage and sanity, it was time for another switch. This time I figured I should explore a career that involved my major in college: marketing.

I joined Zappos in 2004 as the 3rd member of the marketing department. On account of our small team, I was fortunate enough to become involved with everything from print buys to paid search. From the very beginning, our team was very focused on direct response, I loved it. I was able to combine my passion for consumer behavior with the technical intricacies of paid search. Today, I’m lucky enough to be involved with a talented team whose passion and focus continue to be around evolving the channel.

As the director of paid search at Zappos, what does a typical day look like for you?

Each day is different so I can’t say that I have a set routine though I do like to start the day by reading industry reports. It’s always healthy to get another point of view from industry experts.

Aside from this, the day quickly turns into a barrage of emails, meetings, reports and nerf football.

What areas are you particularly interested in right now? Where do you see the most potential in your PPC programs?

  • Switch to contribution margin bidding
  • Stronger emphasis on local markets
  • Placing greater value on terms with a higher propensity to drive new customers.

Is the future of PPC automated, or will there always be a human element involved?

We have attempted to automate many of our functions. This approach has helped us to become much more effective in reaching deeper into our campaigns with the time we have. That said and as it stands today, many functions such as campaign sculpting, ad copy and keyword discovery around trends are best left to those in the know.

What ramifications do Google’s personalization, blended results and localization have on your PPC strategies?

These are some of the most exciting parts of the industry. The game keeps changing so it’s a race to keep up and become increasingly more efficient. Greater understanding of the Google ecosphere and the various pieces that make it up keep us on our toes. All of these elements weigh heavily into our ongoing strategy.

What does the acquisition of Zappos by Amazon mean for your PPC strategy and workflow?

Up to this point, this new association has been nothing but complimentary to our internal efforts. We have had some great conversations with their teams yet all decisions regarding strategic direction have been left to our teams to devise.

Last, what do you feel are the most important skills a PPC specialist can cultivate? What do you look for when hiring?

The industry is becoming more data-driven than ever before. Today we look into clickstream behavior as opposed to last click to make decisions. We need people that can chase this data and sort it into meaningful clusters from which to make decisions.

Aside from our ten core values that focus on character, we look for people with a strong analytical backgrounds and a rich understanding of Excel.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Industrial Strength


About The Author: is the Chief Knowledge Officer at RKG, where he blogs regularly. You'll find him speaking at conferences around the world when he's not riding down mountains on something fast. Follow Adam on Twitter as @audette.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


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  • aroundtheweb1980

    Hi, great article but I’m wondering if someone could expand on the term “contribution margin bidding” in relation to PPC?

  • http://www.thegreatguys.com greatguys

    kool wow


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