A summer interview with… Jonathan Allen (@jc1000000): “SEO strategies are finally on the boardroom agenda”
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes, 9 seconds
There are many great search-experts out there. We decided we wanted to give some extra attention to some of them. Therefore we will be interviewing some of these experts. During the entire summer you will be served with short interviews with influential people in the industry. You will be seeing interviews with the likes of Joost de Valk, Marcus Tandler, Chris Sherman, Mike Grehan and Danny Sullivan, and off course our bloggers! Be aware that some interviews will be published in the newsletter! Today: someone who is making a career for himself pretty fast: SEW chief editor Jonathan Allen
1- Can you introduce yourself in one paragraph?
Thanks for inviting me to comment on State of Search. I am an SEO by trade with roughly 9 years experience. My claim to fame in the search industry is the 50 SEOs, 1 Question (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NvwDP0prng) video & remix (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2mxGbrCI9M&feature=fvw), which I am pleased to say raised a few smiles amongst an industry that really didn’t know me up until then. By way of background information, I taught myself how to reverse engineer websites for search engines in 2001, from a website called spiderfood.net (sadly departed from the interwebs), working as a data-monkey for a christmas gifts catalogue. Between 2001 and 2010, I have bounced between freelancing, trying my hand at a startup or two and finally deciding that in-house SEO was where I was happiest – under the tutelage of some truly brilliant business leaders at Incisive Media. I honed my SEO skills reading SearchEngineWatch.com back then, and since December 2009, I now have the great honor of running it (http://searchenginewatch.com/3636064/). I couldn’t be happier.
2- What are you doing this summer?
Going to A LOT of weddings. Whilst I am not bearing witness to true love, I will mostly be working on the new website design and re-branding of SearchEngineWatch.com and, with the help of Mike Grehan, planning a brand new track at Search Engine Strategies San Francisco called SEW Labs. Have you seen it? If you’ve got blocks in your campaign strategy, you can’t miss it. Come and grab me – I’ll be the egghead dressed in a lab coat. (editors note: hence the picture on top) As I said, the SEW Labs are a totally new track, sourced exclusively from the Search Engine Watch community. The panelists involved are passionate readers of SearchEngineWatch.com and proponents of tried and tested tactics. The SEW labs are a longer, classroom style session that focuses on specific issues that members of the audience are having with their campaigns. We’ll be bouncing problems and solutions against our expert panelists and audience members until everyone’s brains are buzzing with the fundamental principles required to be a successful online marketer. If you ask me, truly great search marketing is about lateral thinking and in the SEW Labs I’m expecting a case of maximum participation equals maximum reward – those businesses that put themselves up for analysis, and those marketers who bring their own expertise to other site owner’s problems will generate the most insights. We’ll be running four different topic areas – SEO, PPC, Video and Local. Having had a hand in picking the panelists on each lab, I’m willing to bet money that their isn’t a single campaign difficulty that can’t be overcome within the dynamics of collaboration and collective thought, no matter how basic or advanced your current strategies are. Honestly, I wanna say that there will be less of a an emphasis on ‘Ad’ and more of an emphasis on ‘Vance’ in these ‘advanced’ classrooms.
3- What is the most hottest subject in search at the moment, what should every SEO be looking into?
I think the hot topic in search at the moment is scalability. SEO strategies are finally on the boardroom agenda at every company and really, for the first time, there are tools out there that can help companies of any size and their agencies scale all their SEO activities. The SEO is no longer the weirdo geeking out in the corner, they’re respected for the broad set of skills and perspectives they can bring to what has always been a complex problem – how do we generate visibility for our business via the search engines. CEOs are realizing that ROI needs to be attributed to SEO and that the best campaigns require an ‘all hands on deck’ approach. All of which requires proper targeted reporting because that can enable the leveraging of talent across the entire company. From the conversations I have had within my role at SEW, I would say that 2010 will compact the ascendancy of search marketing as a staple component of all online marketing activities and in turn, online marketing will emerge as the most viable route to market. This will bring a massive shift in the relationships between the in-house teams and agencies as downward pressure will be exerted from CEOs to maximize the value of every dollar spent on online marketing. Barriers between companies will fall and everyone will be looking at safe data sharing. I would highly recommend StateOfSearch readers to check out what Conductor (http://www.conductor.com/searchlight OR http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/100621-163903), BrightEdge (http://www.brightedge.com/), Eightfold Logic (http://linker.eightfoldlogic.com/ OR http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/100623-165013), Trada (http://www.trada.com/) and Magnetic (http://www.magnetic.is/ OR http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/100526-165533) are upto in this space. They all have a different take on data sharing that, in my opinion, is extremely compelling.
4- What do you think is the “state of search” at the moment, is the industry doing good?
As an industry we are doing extremely well. Did you know that, according to Forrester’s Interactive Ad Model, interactive marketing only accounts for 13% of the total global media spend across all channels? That’s 87% of the market to play for. I’ll say that again – 87% of all the money spent on marketing, globally, has still not been transitioned into online strategies. Furthermore, search accounts for 61% of that interactive marketing spend, meaning as a search marketer, we are well positioned to transition all that traditional ad spend into more effective interactive channels and online strategies.
5- What is your favorite website, apart from your own?
The Onion never fails to bring a smile. Youtube is my jukebox. Facebook still important. Twitter my least favorite but is growing on me since I moved to the US. But to be honest, I could live without all of the above. However, I couldn’t live without the legendary people I have met online and in person behind Intruders TV (www.intruders.tv) and Moblog (www.moblog.net)- they have supported me creatively for the last few years and I owe so much to the people I have met via those communities that even a “thankyou” is frankly, inadequate.
6- Can “social marketing / media” and search survive apart from each other?
No offense intended, but this kind of question irritates me. In my view, social media marketing was never any different from search marketing, except to say, that arguably they require a different set of tools. Google’s PageRank was a ‘social’ algorithm from the outset. In my mind, Google really was the beginning of social media. Think about it, PageRank calculated relevance by ‘who’ was linking to ‘you’ – when people were ostensibly websites. All that has changed is that people are no longer mediated by the websites they own; online proximity has transformed and now everyone can make more connections faster – yet every search marketer or social media guru still hits the same marketing problem as ALL marketers face – which is, “how do i reach more people?” and “how do I extend my influence?” Search marketing has been the de-facto way of reaching more people in high volumes for the last 10 years and I would say that it’s still the case. Social networks enable everyone to generate valuable connections faster, but beyond that, knowing people is not much different from knowing search engines – the fundamental principles of marketing apply to both and the rest is common sense. Don’t write for search engine robots and don’t act like a robot in social circles – being human is it’s own reward in the digital age, as it ever was. Do Google use social media or search marketing to reach new audiences? Not so much. They just do something f***ing cool and often in partnerships. Like making dozens of inflatable screens so that remote villagers in Africa can enjoy the world cup (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/10542870.stm). There are thousands of people doing similar things on a smaller scale – one just has to connect with them and get behind their projects. Finally, I would say that search is the winning online business model – it is simply the best lead generation model out there; leads being all every business wants. That is going to mean that search and social continue to converge, whether that is via ‘Like’ buttons, ‘resonance’ algorithms, semantic or real-time information providers and geo-targeting. To that end, Twitter is positioning itself as a ‘content discovery network’ rather than a social network and Facebook is clearly trying to turn the ‘Like’ vote into something as valuable as a link. Even e-commerce sites, who already have a solid business model, are turning the search queries that go through their catalogues into a new revenue stream via search re-targeting, and in turn content companies are launching digital marketing services (http://www.clickz.com/3640896). The only forseeable sea-change in the search and social landscape, in my mind, is that search will become more social by pushing information to you – put another way, the search query box may eventually die. That said, every business knows the value of an active consumer over a passive one, so for years to come, the question on everyone’s lips will still be, “how can we bet on what people are looking for and be there when they want to buy it?”
7- What’s your search tip for the summer?
I hate to be obvious, but it has to be: Follow (@sewatch), friend (www.facebook.com/sewatch) and feed SearchEngineWatch.com (http://searchenginewatch.com/sew_feeds). Get on my radar: contact me (http://searchenginewatch.com/3636064/contact_author) to find out how to get involved in the new SEW – pitch an idea or simply touch base with a friendly message. If you are going to SES SF, checkout one of the SEW Labs and share your knowledge or put your site up for an ‘autopsy’. However, if you can’t do any of those things and need a quick fix, right now, then scour the internet for a cool project, contact them and find out how you can back their vision. I guarantee you’ll be amazed how you can connect with unimaginable talent through your marketing.