Simon Heseltine: Summer School, Learning from the Experts

This summer we are taking you back to school! We are focussing on education in Digital Marketing: what is the best education, what background is important? Questions you will see answered throughout the summer by those you can learn from the best: the experts. Those that already earned their stripes and are now willing to share with you how they got there and what you should do to get that far as well.

Today we listen to Simon Heseltine, Simon is currently the Senior Director of Organic Audience Development for AOL Inc. In this position Simon and his team are responsible for planning and implementing SEO, Social Media and Email Marketing projects and training for many well known sites across the HPMG / AOL brand portfolio.

More about Simon here.

Summer School

Let’s ask some questions!

What type of education did you have?

Formal education: I started out with a BA(hons) degree in Business Administration from the University of Humberside, and followed that up with a Masters in Information Technology from Virginia Tech.

Is your education related to what you do now?

simon-heseltineMy original degree had a minor in marketing, so from that perspective… slightly, although it was a completely different marketing to what I actually do today. As far at the IT, it’s given me an understanding of what can and can’t be done, even though I don’t go anywhere near the coding myself these days.

How did you get into digital marketing?

I was a Smalltalk developer when I first started working online, but didn’t really get into digital marketing until, I was working as a Java developer for a DC based firm. We took the print yellow page phone books and put them on CD for print reduction purposes. The next logical step was to put them online, so for 2nd and 3rd tier yellow page publishers we created their yellow page sites. We installed analytics and watched as it flatlined. What to do? How were we to move the needle? In April of 2005 the CEO asked me to take a look at this thing he’d heard of called SEO. I did, and within 4 months I’d set up a digital marketing team to do SEO and PPC for our sites and for our clients.

Did you need extra schooling? If so, what type of extra schooling did you get?

The way I picked it all up was by reading books and blogs, by attending conferences, and by actually working on the sites.

How do you think the state of education in marketing is these days? Do marketers learn what they need to learn?

As someone who teaches Digital Marketing at Georgetown University in D.C. I can’t say that it’s bad 😉 But it really does depend on what people are trying to learn, and where they go to try to find the right education. Regardless of where they get their education from people need to ensure that they think critically and test things out, as even if you were taught something last week, that may change this week.

How do you feel about online training courses?

A large portion of my Masters degree was online, so I think that if it’s done effectively, and it’s kept current, that it’s a valid teaching mechanism. Of course, it’s not for everyone, but price wise, and reach wise, it can work well for many.

What is your tip for those that want to learn more?

If there’s someone that doesn’t want to learn more, I hope they’re running sites that compete with the ones I run 😉
For everyone else, they need to ensure that they’re continually reading the sites that count, following thought leaders on social media, and testing, testing, testing with their own sites.

What resources are best to learn marketing?

It really does depend on each individual, some people are absolutely fine with online courses, others need that ‘in classroom’ feel. There are plenty of places to get both from. From a continual education perspective, you need to find the sites that talk about the topics that interest you and follow them, whether it’s State of Search, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, or somewhere else.

What’s the last lesson in marketing you learned?

It’s not the last lesson, but it’s the most enduring. No matter what you’ve learnt, be prepared for whatever was true yesterday to perhaps not be so tomorrow. This is such a fast moving industry, change is constant, if you don’t keep yourself up to date, if you don’t keep testing and trying new things, you’ll fall behind those that do.

Follow Simon on Twitter.

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Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.