Q&A With Kieran Hawe, Director, SEO/Search: MTV Networks
This month in our continuing series of interviews of inhouse SEMs, we speak with Kieran Hawe. Kieran practices our art as the Director, SEO / Search – Global Digital Media for MTV Networks, based in New York. He’s taken the time to offer up advice for readers not just on SEO and career aspirations, but also on how to get in his good books, and where to eat when in NYC.
About 10 years ago, during the tail end of the dot-com boom, I started my career as an Online Marketing Coordinator / Technical Analyst for a then Fortune 100 CPG company. It was there that I picked up coding and started building my own websites. During the height of the dot com boom I worked at random start-ups where I was not only building, but marketing websites. It was during this time that I picked up search marketing skills, as well as other types of online marketing strengths like email program management and affiliates. Over the years my career quickly became less technical and completely focused on all aspects of digital marketing with a specific focus on driving website traffic – both paid and organic.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has always been convincing senior level management of the importance of search marketing. No matter where I have been there have always been those who do not see the ROI / need / value for any type of search marketing – usually they relied completely on brand recognition to drive traffic. As time has gone on, I am definitely seeing companies become more intelligent in regards to the online environment – but things like SEO, Paid Search and SMO are still something that needs to be evangelized, taught and proven.
What has been your biggest success?
I would have to say my biggest success is related to my biggest challenge – convincing a company of the importance of search marketing and get them to open up those purse strings. In order to convince the skeptics it would take a lot of presentations, “see it in action” efforts and direct impact on the bottom-line in order for them to be convinced. It is a very satisfying feeling to invest so much effort into something you believe and see the net result as complete buy-in from the company.
Please list three things companies should be aware of when embarking on a search optimization plan.
- Who: Who is doing what, how are they doing it, where are they doing it – one of the most important pieces of data you can have is competitive analysis.
- What: What a true search engine optimization plan entails. It isn’t about quick results, a company needs to be in SEO for the long haul and build their strategy based on not only short-term, but long-term goals as well.
- Why: why are we doing this, what are our goals? What is a company looking to gain from search marketing? Traffic? Conversions? You can’t embark on a search optimization plan without knowing where to start, where you need to end. And everything in between.
How do you see the future of careers in search evolving?
I see the need for search marketers to truly understand all aspects of digital marketing – the need for SEO exclusive skills will get less as time goes on and the need for people to understand the big picture, meaning how everything fits together and how your business can take advantage of it, being more important.
Any advice for those looking to build their careers?
I get asked this question all of the time. My advice each and every time is to get your hands dirty and do it. Meaning, if you are interested in SEO, build a website, blog, whatever, and put to use all of the SEO knowledge you can find online. Same thing goes for pay-per-click and any other digital marketing component. Not having actual job experience is not that big of a deal when you can show me work you have done on your own.
And, on the lighter side… What’s your favorite city and why?
The easy and obvious answer would be NYC. But outside of the Big Apple my favorite city is San Francisco. San Francisco and the surrounding areas have an awesome entrepreneurial, social and cultural vibe, plus endless outdoor activities…what more can you ask for?
Do you know of any outstanding restaurants you could share with readers?
Since my wife and I have three kids under two we do not get out that much. However, I have to say that the MTV Café is awesome – great food, good prices and on a nice day you can sit on the outdoor patio seven floors above Times Square. But, since that isn’t open to the public (sorry gang, perk of the job) I will have to suggest Persepolis Persian Restaurant on the Upper East Side.
If someone were to offer to buy you a drink, what should it be?
I am a straight up beer drinker. Any beer is fine, but if someone was to buy me a nice pint of Guinness I would be their friend forever. Caution: If you were to buy me a drink I would probably not stop talking until you physically got up and left. Irish + alcohol = talk your ear off.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I have always dreamed of being in a rock band, something about standing in front of thousands of people playing music seems almost mystical. Of course, since I have zero musical talent and can’t sing to save my life, it looks like I will be keeping my day job. However, I am very good at the game “Rock Band”. I have mastered the guitar & drums and I am working on my vocals. MTV just released Rock Band 2 and the songs are amazing…a must buy for the holiday season (shameless company plug, I know).
What profession would you not like to do?
I would have to say a profession I would not like to do would be a waiter. I do not have a lot of patience and have a terrible short term memory. So basically I would make the worst waiter ever.
What are you reading right now?
Web Analytics: An Hour a Day By Avinash Kaushik. Web analytics should be at the core of any search marketing campaign, regardless of what service you use the data you collect should guide any and all digital marketing decisions.
More about me:
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.
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