A summer interview with… Nichola Stott (@nicholastott): “Stop chasing the algorithm”

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: One of our own bloggers: Nichola Stott The media flow

1. Can you introduce yourself in one paragraph

I’m Nichola Stott, director and co-Founder of theMediaFlow, a search and social media agency. I’ve spent over a decade in online communications, in advertising, public relations and most recently search (at Yahoo! for four years); although always in business development and business strategy roles. Since starting theMediaFlow around a year ago, I’ve really enjoyed getting my hands dirty and putting all that strategy and concept into practise.

2. What are you doing this summer?

As there are currently only three of us, it is still very much work, work, work; however I do have a long weekend in August planned to visit some Yahoo!’s in Switzerland. Actually it’s a Yahoo! wedding so it should be a blast. Other than that we have a couple of major goals to fulfil in the summer, all of which are under wraps at the moment.

3. What is the hottest subject in search at the moment and what should every SEO be looking at?

I’m kind of averse to steering people towards “hot-stuff”, as I think there can be a tendency to become too focused on any one factor. That said; my fundamental belief is that if you look after the brand, the rest will look after itself. What I mean by that is strengthening brand signals through marketing efforts should be the cornerstone. Define the brand, what it is, what it stands for; the principles, the voice, the subject matter – and then put that out there with great messaging, and great positioning of message and you can’t fail. If you lack the necessary know-how to do that then my number one tip is hire a skilled brand-marketer and or PR person. I wouldn’t say this is a “hot subject” but common sense.

In terms of what every SEO needs to be looking at I think it’s pretty clear that we’re going to be seeing more and more content provision and conversion activity occurring in-SERP. I’m talking about Google serving property listings in maps, or Bing facilitating restaurant booking in-SERP. Search engines are billion-dollar advertising businesses, so the more action they can serve on home ground the better for them. Of course, that is going to impact many affiliate or lead-gen business models; and sites that rely on page impressions or up-sell for their margin need to thinking way ahead here.

4. What do you think is the state of search at the moment. Is the industry doing good?

I think the industry is extremely healthy given the current economic downturn. Many other media forms struggle to prove ROI, whilst in search you get situations like the recent SearchIgnite – Golley Slater case study; which delivered 54% increase on ROI for Center Parcs (through conversion attribution). Compared to pretty much any other marketing channel I can think of search marketing delivers way more tangible benefits and when times are tough, that’s where the budget goes.

5. What is your favourite website apart from your own?

Ah.. this is a tough one. As you know Bas, I tend to write a little bit, so in the interest of fairness I’m going to rule out State of Search, SEO-Chicks, Econsultancy and Search Engine Watch and pick a site that has yet to be besmirched by my quill. I’m going to say SEO Dojo (Huomah.com) for the extraordinary amount of well-informed and well-researched content, and the really switched-on community there.

6. Can social media and search survive without each other?

‘Yes’, at skill-set level and ‘no’ at strategy level. I don’t subscribe to the debate about “who owns the social?” (Is it the search team or the PR team). In my opinion the social team “own the social”. A really good social media professional has a combination of skills that combine the ability to market a product indirectly (sell through engagement) plus; understand that social properties are assets to be nurtured and how that directly benefits search.

As a business we put search and social in equal place on the client marketing agenda and the benefits we’ve seen more than justify this. Social media can be measured in so many ways but even isolating benefits to search, we see exact correlation between social media mention and brand search volume plus considerable gains for head terms, attributable to frequent, quality participation in social media (and the resulting impact to the social graph.)

7. What’s your search tip for the summer?

Stop chasing the algorithm and focus on chasing the customer.

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.

4 thoughts on “A summer interview with… Nichola Stott (@nicholastott): “Stop chasing the algorithm”

  1. Stop chasing the algorithm.

    Ah, if only it were that easy. Of course, by doing that we’ll be leaving ourselves at the mercy of those who do chase it, and of course those who write it. The thing is, if we trust those who write it to get the best stuff to the top, and we don’t need to tweak how we do things to chase the algorithm, then what, exactly, is it that any of the so-called search experts do that is worth anything?

    I’d love to pretend that the best content always makes the top page (let alone the top spot) but we all know that isn’t true.

  2. Hi Brian – by “chasing” I’m referring to attempting to isolate and deconstruct single component variables and engineering marketing efforts to speak to that supposed variable. You raise the issue of trust in those that create the algorithms, and true there may often be room for improvement, but as a search algorithm is designed to retrieve information in an order that is most relevant to most people it is itself chasing the customer.

    I think we’re at odds regarding “best” content. I personally don’t think that the best content is indicative of most relevant. So many other quality signals at play.

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