In-house search marketers face many unique challenges, ranging from running huge or dispersed sites to finessing internal politics and corporate egos. I thought it would be interesting to get the inside scoop from five in-house search marketers that are both successful at their jobs and who command the respect of their peers. This is the second half of my Interviews With In-House Search Marketers.
What follows are interviews with Melanie Mitchell, the VP of SEO and SEM at AOL, Patrick Schaber, Marketing Manager, George Bounacos, Sr. Manager, Search Engine Marketing at Innovectra, and Edward Serrano, President of Nine Blue.
What’s your favorite search marketing tool?
Melanie: For the publicly available tools I would have to say WordTracker. Before you write me off as “uncool” for not naming the latest trendy gadget, let me explain why. Keyword research is one of the most important parts of SEO. Wordtracker data is easy to use and is displayed in a user-friendly format that shows how often specific keywords/phrases are searched for, as well as the number of sites for which these keywords and phrases compete. This, of course, gives you a better understanding of how people are searching for a particular subject and possibly provide you with ideas for target terms you may not have thought of otherwise.
A useful addition to Wordtracker’s suite of offerings is the related keyword facility. We have 70+ channels and products and we cannot be experts in every subject matter we work with, and facilities like this help us, as well as our programming and editorial folks, uncover many related keywords and phrases that we may never even have considered to be valuable.
Patrick: I’m a big fan of Google AdWords for paid search.
George: My favorite tool is querying the raw server logs. I also love my thesaurus and Excel or Access. Everything else is a nice to have.
Edward: Google Analytics. It’s so broad and deep in its offerings, especially when combined with the e-commerce option—that it makes business fascinating.
I asked the group for their thoughts on the “is SEO rocket science?” debate from a while ago, because it still pops up from time to time, and I wanted to hear what those working in large and small corporations across the US thought on the topic. As you may expect, they all agreed that Search Marketing isn’t rocket science, but I did want to share a couple of the responses.
Anthony: I love this question because it comes around so often in many ways. My off the cuff answer is “of course it’s not rocket science, but I don’t think it’s a fair comparison.” You could argue that search marketing is harder to master than rocket science because if you go to “rocket science school” and get your “rocket science degree,” then you are done and no one questions you—you are a rocket scientist. In our field, you don’t need a degree or even specialized training, but you do need to be committed to continually learning as things change so rapidly. Also, a lot of what is “shared” in our industry is speculation or hypothesis based on someone’s experience, but others are often quicker to debate it rather than embrace it or test it. This just says more about where the (SEM) industry is and how people respect it (or not).
Edward: Search marketing is common sense. I like to think that it gives us the ability to target mind-set and needs instead of demographics. Traditional marketing vehicles such as print advertising lack what search makes clearly available to us—the ability to target people who are in need of a particular set (and even subset) of products/services and deliver what they need at that moment—and just as importantly, not target those who don’t need that product/service.
Last, I asked about the adoption of social media strategies within their companies: what’s the In-House take on social media?
Melanie: I cannot comment on the details. However, I can tell you we are seeing double digit percentage increases in traffic in a number of cases.
Patrick: Our strategy involves blogging which we hope will appeal to our audience and also to search engine crawlers. Along with that, we’re starting to socialize our content on niche social media sites. Our content is starting to get some momentum and so far the results are what we expected.
Edward: I’ve not delved too deeply in social media and thus don’t fully understand it enough to capitalize on opportunities. I also think that the sheer number of online marketing options have forced small/medium sized companies to, in effect, choose children. Having limited resources requires us to seek to develop and improve those areas of our online marketing efforts that will have the best immediate and short-term payback (pay the bills, you know), and attempting to dip into new marketing avenues involves time and research which often takes away from proven producers… the common opportunity cost issue.
Thanks to the group for answering my questions. Now, a question for you, dear reader: Are there any particular topics that you’d like me, or the other Search Engine Land In-House columnists to focus on for future columns? Post your requests over on Sphinn.
Simon Heseltine worked as an in-house search marketer for several years before moving over to work as Director of Search for RedBoots Consulting. In January 2008 RedBoots will move to a new brand: In House column appears on Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.