This month for our in house SEO interview series, we sat down to chat with Bill Scully, Director of eMarketing with Siemens Water Group. Bill’s varied back ground and hands-on history has enabled him to showcase clear successes for his company, which has translated to a solid career path for himself. Beyond that, Bill is simply a great fellow. Easy going and approachable, like so many others in this industry.
So, Bill, how did you get your start as a search marketer?
I was a product line manager at Wheelabrator and we were acquired by USFilter. USFilter was a giant in the industry, bigger than the next three competitors combined. Boy life changes when you’ve been acquired, and I was asked to take the newly created marketing manager position. My background was in engineering and management and I didn’t really respect any of the marketers I had met in my career, but I took it as a challenge, and decided to show marketing’s value through testing and measurement.
Then about 10 years ago a good friend of mine was trying to start a home based franchise business and asked me to help him with his marketing strategy. Our company did not have a website, but I just read a book on how to how to build a website, so I agreed to build him a site in my spare time. After that I quickly set out to learn everything I could about how to get his site to the top of the search engines. Man was that a long time long ago. I remember sending my cheque to Danny Sullivan to get access to the Search Engine Watch member’s content, back then on one accepted cards. I became obsessed with SEO and for a while I had the number one position for “home based business” on AOL which was the goal.
Today I’m the Director of eMarketing for Siemens Water Technologies and the search expert for Siemens Corp. USA.
What has been your biggest challenge?
On a daily basis my biggest challenge is getting engineers to think about content in terms of how people search for solutions using the web. It’s not uncommon that the words given to me have no search history. I spend a lot of my time researching technologies to understand a customer’s intent, before I can start researching keywords.
What has been your biggest success?
My biggest success was merging the content and requirements of over 20 different websites to build a single site using a new Microsoft Content Management System. I was the project manager, but IT was in another state and did not report to me. At each step and after every test release I had to fight for all the SEO requirements they skipped, sometimes making them scrap a lot of the code work they did. Today CMS’s are better, but 5 years ago, CMS systems were very SE unfriendly, and everything had to be custom coded. In the end, it all worked out. A month after we launched, 20 of our 30 benchmark phrases were in the top 5 listings. Today the webmaster reports to me, so we’re all on the same team.
Please list three things companies should be aware of when embarking on a search optimization plan.
First look for early adopters that are metrics driven. Do most of the heavy lifting for them. You need to be a marketer first, then convert marking insights into search content and campaigns. Continuously review reports with your internal customer, and they will sing your praise. Show quick results to build support before tackling more competitive terms.
Second communicate, communicate, and communicate. SEOs are a new and rare breed and we have our own language. Start at the top and work your way to the bottom, make sure you’re in touch with the business objectives and everyone understands how you’re helping them. Get close to IT and teach them how the technology of the site effects what you do; positively and negatively. Report your metrics at every opportunity to show the value of search engine optimization.
Last but not least – under promise and over deliver. Most of the projects I get involved in start with “We need to be number 1 for…”. In-house people are not sitting around waiting for stuff to do, we’re typically running on all 8 cylinders maintaining other projects. I suggest working towards an acceptable rank vs. time, and beat it. This will build your reputation for being a valuable reliable resource.
How do you see the future of careers in search evolving?
Long term, I think the individual SEO role will take the same path as Computer Programmers. As companies and agencies spend more money on SEO and SEM they will continue to build a level of internal support. At some point the growth will stop. SEO’s need to continually build marketing communication skills and understand the art of influence and copywriting because I think sometime in the future, in 5 or 10 years, there may be an excess of SEO capacity, and when that happens it will be functionalized and easily outsourced.
Any advice for those looking to build their careers?
Test, measure and report. They should do it on their own time if necessary using their own sites or sites for friends to develop their skills. You can gain a lot of experience from a blog and a Google analytics account. Let me clarify, I’m not talking churn and burn, or making money with ads, I’m talking about improving the position of a site in a sustainable way and understanding why it improved.
Never stop learning. In addition to reading blogs, I listen to 2 hours of podcasts a day in my car on seo, marketing, internet marketing, business and management and travel with a voice recorder to take the occasional note.
And, on the lighter side… What’s your favorite city and why?
I grew up on Long Island so New York City would be my favorite for the food, the cultural centers and its influence in politics, entertainment, and fashion.
Do you know of any outstanding restaurants you could share with readers?
Carmine’s on 44th Street in the NYC Theater District. It’s got the best Southern Italian, in huge portions and anything you get is great!
If someone were to offer to buy you a drink, what should it be?
For one or two I would be looking for a Blue Moon on Tap. At the beach or pool a Madras (Vodka, Cranberry, Orange Juice), more than three I’m drinking Coors Light.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
One of the multiple hats I wore with Wheelabrator was the continuous improvement process training implementation guy. Besides my real job I ran 3 day training courses, and launched improvement teams at the end of them. As a result I’m a bit of an efficiency execution nut, so I think it would be fun to be a change management consultant to CEOs.
What profession would you not like to do?
Tradeshow management. Your office is your hotel room, you spend three 18 hours days setting up, and worry all night whether the convention hall will find the new product model that got lost, then when the show actually starts you’re off planning the next show.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Influencer: The power to change anything. If you liked Meatball Sunday or Made to Stick, you will love this. It is an easy to read research and analysis piece on the most powerful influencers of the world. It breaks influence down into strategies that can work in your personal, marketing and community projects. You’ll learn new ideas for changing behaviors, instead of trying to force manage them.
Duane Forrester is an in-house SEM with Microsoft, sits on the Board of Directors with SEMPO, can be found at his blog where he speaks about online marketing and monetizing websites and is the author of How To Make Money With Your Blog. The 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.