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Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Part 1 of 4, The Basics of Search Marketing (Audio Podcast Transcript)

Heather Lloyd-Martin discusses the basics of Search Marketing with the authors of Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company's Web Site, 2nd Edition, Mike Moran and Bill Hunt.

This is a transcript of an audio podcast.

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Heather Lloyd Martin: Hello, everyone and welcome to part one of this IBM Press Podcast Series featuring Bill Hunt and Mike Moran coauthors of Search Engine Marketing, Inc. Their book is now available in its second edition; it’s been thoroughly updated and includes new chapters and a companion DVD. I’m Heather Lloyd Martin, President and CEO of Success Works, a Search Copywriting Consultancy and author of the book, Successful Search Engine Copywriting. In this Podcast, I’ll talk to Mike and Bill about the basics of search marketing.

HLM: Let's start with the questions for Bill. What's the difference between organic and paid search? Should certain companies focus on one over the other?

Bill Hunt: Heather, the big difference is one you pay for and one you get pretty much for free, and both of them should be interwoven into a successful program. So a lot of people may start out with paid while you make changes to your website and then as you start ranking naturally in the organic area, you may start to scale back your paid search, but a company should definitely think about both interchangeably.

HLM: Excellent; that's a great point. Now let's bring in Mike Moran who recently retired as a distinguished engineer from IBM to become a chief strategist at Converseon, the social media marketing agency. Mike, as you move from a large company to a smaller one, what do you see as the big differences between large and small companies in search marketing?

Mike Moran: I think small companies have to focus on the same difficulty that they probably have in any kind of marketing which is getting attention. It's harder for small companies to be seen. It's harder for small companies to know what it is that they need to do in search marketing because no one knows who they are. The big problem in search marketing is for them to get links. And for bigger companies, links are usually the easier part. Lots of people are already linking to them, and that's how the search engines know that that's an important site because they get a lot of links.

But big companies usually have found a way to afford to make bigger mistakes. They’ve done things like redesign their websites so that the search engines can’t actually see the pages because they’ve used different kinds of technology to present the pages. They’ve also often overlooked what it is that their customers are looking for. Often they have a lot of different specialists that cover different areas and nobody really has looked over the whole search marketing program to understand holistically what they need to.

So search marketing for smaller companies is usually easier than for bigger companies because they just have to figure out how to get more people to link to them. For bigger companies it’s usually a little bit harder because they have to mobilize their organization to work together in ways they might not have to work together for other types of marketing. They also have to make sure that they undo some problems that they may have injected into the website with very expensive technology.

HLM: Interesting. So both small and big companies have their own unique challenges and opportunities there. Bill, as President of Global Strategies, your company focuses on the unique challenges of global companies and search marketing. What do you think are the biggest challenges for companies whose marketing crosses country boundaries?

BH: I think everything that Mike just described — getting all these sort of inter-workings of a company to hum together to do any kind of search program is clearly the first thing we encounter. The second thing is as you go away from the mother-ship whether your companies or your corporate offices are in Russia or the US, the farther away from the mother-ship the fewer resources you tend to have. That's often the biggest challenge. You can tell them all day long what they need to fix; you can task them with doing links or any of the other good stuff that they need to do, but the number one issue we encountered across the globe is just a lack of resources. That’s where all the things that Mike described about all the benefits or the complications of big company. We find that if we can harness those work flows — we call it corporate judo — doing things like you do with getting people to integrate search best practices into their style guides, getting it built into the templates, and things that as it pushes out to countries and integrating into that workflow where as it goes to localization as it goes through copywriting in that for a particular market, a lot of the heavy lifting for search is already baked into that. In a sense, that has little to do with optimization and everything to do with change management organizational culture.

MM: Bill, don't you see sometimes that there is more of a need in search marketing to have some central focus on it? So folks that use to just format all their marketing to other countries and let them deal with their own campaigns find out that the mother-ship has to be do a lot more of helping, aiding, training, and trying to make sure that the other countries are doing things than maybe other forms of marketing?

BH: Absolutely, and I must think that the key thing that we talked about in the book is building that team and it’s one of the things I’m seeing across the boards so the IBMs, HPs, the mid size companies. I met a company recently that had 30 people, and they were talking about building this search center of excellence that you’re talking about where the corporate entity — the entity that often has a little more money than a region or a country or even a business unit — they provide centralized services, the best practices, the style guide, the training. They’ll often fund keyword research; they’ll fund a consultant to help out whatever internal piece; they’re also the hammer. They are the motivator to get things done; they’ll put in a governance program. Again, it's forming that team. And whether you're a decentralized or centralized organization, figure out how you can get economies to scale by creating just even a simple wiki or a blog or anything to share information with a wider group of people, and with a little bit of leverage and governance from the corporate entity, it makes all the difference in the world. That's probably the biggest initiative we see people working on. How do I frame this team? How do I build a center of excellence? And how do I share this valuable information with the far reaches of the world?

HLM: Excellent, excellent, those are all are very good points. So, Mike, from your experience at IBM, what did you find was the biggest misconception about search marketing?

MM: Well, I find not just from IBM, but also from other clients that I worked with is that often people who don't have much exposure to search marketing think that search marketing is some kind of technological tour de force where you’re trying figure out how to trick search engines to rank you higher. They think that there are some set of secrets that some kind of intelligence that they can get the search engines to rank them high.

Search marketing is not really a technical exercise at all because search marketing is a lot more about marketing than about search. It really focuses us to try and translate the things we already know about marketing into search marketing techniques. So there are some things that you need to understand — and we spend a lot of time in the book talking about them — but one of the things that marketers have to know is that they are still the experts in the marketing. They have to just understand that even though they understand how to do segmentation, they have to figure out how you do segmentation in search marketing which is by figuring out which keywords your customers are using. And that's the first level of segmentation — what words that you type into the search engine. They need to understand how messages on the internet not only have to appeal to people to persuade them, like they do in any medium, but they also have to appeal to the search engines. You have to make sure you’re using the right words and you’re using them in the right ways; that will help the search engines to realize that that's what your information is about. Instead of trying to trick the search engine, what you really need to be thinking is how you work with the search engines so that you’re alerting the search engine as what your messages are about. If you do all those things, then you can also rely on direct marketing techniques that understand how to do measurement of response rates and conversions where you actually make a sale or you pass something offline to make a sale. By using all these traditional marketing techniques, but just doing them in different ways to fit the new type of search marketing campaign, that's what can help marketers to translate what they already know into what will make them successful.

HLM: Yeah, that's a very good point; as a lot of marketers are little afraid of search marketing because they do think it's a lot of technological tips and tweaks, and what they don't realize is that they already have a lot of these skills; they just have to learn how to implement them in a different way. That's exactly right. So, Bill, where do you start when you begin your search marketing efforts with the client?

BH: I think the biggest one is, as Mike said, we sort of break down some of these myths. We typically do a presentation called, ‘search for managers,’ and this is where we try to disspell a lot of the myths; we try to understand what their thinking is. The other thing we tried to do is we show what we’ve called a ‘Missed Opportunity Matrix,’ which — is what we found in discussions with people who bought the first edition of the book — is clearly the most valuable thing that was in there. We heard recently that Google has adapted it for their sales people to basically tell them what the opportunity is, and that opportunity and the Missed Opportunity Matrix becomes either becomes a carrot or a stick. Very quickly with that, we can gauge the organization to understand how willing are they to undertake this, again, whether it's paid or organic; that's one of the first things. Then the next, after we sort of test the waters to understand how much they really want this, as Mike describes sort of the lay of the land, to understand who is doing what and remind them that this is marketing. We've got to change copy. We've got to change the workflow of how they’re doing. Probably the biggest thing we’re imparting to people now days is it's get away from just thinking about search engines it's digital asset optimization. Who’s tweaking your videos? Who’s making adjustments to your press releases? What words are we using on our blog, and are we linking back to that? So it's understanding their organization and then creating a series of training exercises and meetings to help them understand all the connected pieces. Whether you are a two person, person with your own blog, or if you’re big company understanding, “What assets do I have? What do I need to do to make changes? How do I fit this in my existing workflow because there is never any new time.” We find that doing this is radically different with how most people did this. They wanted to jump in and start tweaking pages and making the heavy lifting type changes. We try to shepherd them through a fundamental understanding of where it fits into the marketing mix, how you do this, and what are the implications down stream for your business. And in doing that, we found that these — especially enterprising global level programs — go exponentially faster and easier when people really understand the total cost of ownership and the total set of activities that are necessary.

HLM: That's an excellent point, and when they understand what's involved and they can buy in to it and it does tend to make things go a lot faster and a lot easier with folks.

MM: Exactly.

HLM: So, Mike, what would say to marketers that know how to write copy but they feel at a loss to how to appeal that copy to the search engines?

MM: Well, you are obviously an expert on copywriting here, Heather, but I think one of things — to really followup on what you and Bill have just been talking about — the first thing you need to do when you talk to any of these kinds of specialists whether it’s writers or web designers or programmers or any of the people that you talk to when you're doing one of these search campaigns, first thing to do is to get buy in. First thing you need to do is to convince them that this is important. I mean, these are busy people; you have to first get them to understand why you need them to change their behavior. Because they’re professionals — they’ve been doing the job for a long time — they think they’ve been doing it very successfully, and if you were to walk in and say, “No, no, all that stuff is wrong like you’re doing it,” is usually not the best way to get into the conversation. One of the things you can do with writers is they take a lot of pride in their writing; a lot of times they feel offended that you would come to them and say, “Hey, you know you’re using the wrong words; people use these words and you’re not using them and that's why you’re not getting good search rankings.” You can go after them that way and say, “Hey, if you want your writing to be read, these are the kind of words that you want to use.” But the other thing you can do is you can say, “If you use the same kind of words your customers are using they will understand it better. It will make more sense to them. It will be easier for them to be persuaded by the message.” That's the first thing to do is to try and help motivate them to do the things you need them to do.

The next thing to do is to really make sure that they understand that you’re not trying to make some kind of sea change in what they do. It's not a situation where what they were doing is no good and now they have to do this totally new thing. What they have to do is just add a little bit to it because you still need to appeal to people. You still need to be able to persuade people. It's no good to torture your writing so that you get a high ranking in the search engine and then find that nobody is buying anything because when people see the words that you put on screen they faint dead away. What you really need to do is to figure out how you’re going to take that persuasive writing that you already have and make sure that you’ve added enough to it that you are using the words search engines are looking for and that you’re now starting to get those rankings. Because appealing to people is important for search rankings as well because one of the main ways that your pages appeal to search engines is by having lots of links, and those links are given out by other people. So if other people read your information and they think it's worth linking to, then all of a sudden that’s something that tells the search engine that the pages are really important. So writers are a critical part of this process sometimes and some ways I think that they are the most critical because they’re the ones that have the message that actually appeals to the search engine; that's the message that attracts links to them, and it's also the message that persuades customers to eventually buy.

HLM: You are exactly right, and for writers to come in and learn about this — coming into a training situation — that’s exciting for them to realize that once the light bulb turns on that it's just building on the skills that they already have. It's just learning how to tweak their writing a little bit differently, but it's still building on all the direct response principles that they know how to do really well. It's a really important part.

MM: Yeah, I agree with that. For those who don't know, a great resource is your website, Heather, it's searchenginewriting.com because it's got lots of free information that helps people to improve their copy to not only get rankings, but get people to click and then to buy. So to me, a lot of things that the experts don't talk about enough is that you need to do more than just get those high rankings, you need to get people to buy from you, and I think that your resource at your website is something that people should really be turned on to so that they can understand how that can happen for them.

HLM: Awesome, Thank you very much. So, last question for both of you: for someone who is just starting out in search marketing, why should they pickup your book?

MM: I think that there are lot of good books on search marketing. One of the things that when we set out to write our book, we wanted to do it a little differently. All the kinds of technical advice that explained how you get the search engines to crawl your pages and how you put content in different keywords in different parts of the page to help the search engine know what your page is about and all that kind of technical advice is really important. Our book is loaded with it and that's great, and a lot of the other books have it, too. But two things that I think we tried to do differently is we wanted to focus on the business aspect of search marketing. We wanted to make sure that you understood how you measure your success, how you understood when things are working when things are not, and so you knew what to work on. I mean, one question you want to be able to ask yourself is, “How do I know when I am done, how do I know when I’ve done enough on this area and I should work on some other area?” Well, your metrics is what's going to help you do that. So we wanted to focus on the business aspect of being able to justify your proposal, to be able to show that you actually met the goals that you setup for yourself, and could measure your success.

The second thing that we set out to do that I don't think the other search marketing books do is we wanted to focus on some of the things that Bill talked about in this Podcast which is the organizational behavioral changes that are needed. There are usually a lot of things going on in an organization and search marketing, unfortunately, requires a lot of different people across your organization — especially in a large organization — to add one more thing to their plate in order to make things work.
We tried to put in techniques for measurement, for explanation, for persuasion, for all sorts of things that you can do to change organizational behaviors so all those different specialists do what you want. Bill, what do you think I’m missing; what else do you think is different about our book?

BH: I think everything you said is exactly what I hear. I speak it all these conferences and people come up. I think that one of the things that sort of made my day was when someone said what they simply did was they took our table of contents and simply inserted each of the headings into a project plan and then took four or five key points from each of the sections of the book and that became the project plan that they gave to their boss who asked them, “How should we approach this search thing?” And for me that was a great experience because it meant that we wrote a book that was actually, as Mike described, had both the business and technical and operational elements brought into it. Of all the people that have come up to me and said, “I like your book,” and the agencies that have said they use it as their training manual, that's probably been the biggest reason that they like book when they thumb through it in the book store or glance through it at Amazon was that it did have the blend of all three. Operationally, how do I do this, whether you’re in-house or you’re trying to organize the team at an agency — the business goals, again, the Missed Opportunity Matrix. I can't tell you how many people thought that was absolutely hands down, this sort of deal maker for them both from an agency side and in-house to be a way to prove that to their boss. It's not written in an overly, geeky, technical, searchy way. It was written as if it was the dialogue between a marketing manager and sort of some hired gun search consultant. That's why I think when we started this out, that's sort of the scenario we were in. You know, Mike was, “How do you crack the code at a big company like IBM?” I was the hired gun search thing, and it sort of naturally flowed from our experience of how have we have done this not only at IBM but many other companies. I think that's the biggest reason why it’s not a soup to nuts, A to Z guide, but it's a very well thought out, logically laid out, progressive document that walks you through ‘where do I start’ all the way through measuring, as Mike said, knowing when you are done, having a fully stood up, either team of one or team of many, and being able to demonstrate the results of your program back to higher powers. That's what I think, is for me personally, the satisfaction I get is when people sort of confirm that that's what they got out of the book.

HLM:Actually,you are right. I have read it, and it is a really approachable book for somebody who picks it up, who needs it for the organization, and needs to have tools like things like the Missed Opportunity Matrix. That’s really where a lot of that gets brought home is running through tools like that. So that is the really invaluable resource for folks.

That wraps up part one in this IBM Press Podcast Series featuring the authors of Search Engine Marketing, Inc., Mike Moran and Bill Hunt. It's now available in the second edition. You can find out more at mikemoran.com and globalstrategies.com, the websites our two authors. Thanks, Bill and Mike for your time today. I will hope you’ll come back for part two of our series where we discuss how much has changed in search marketing since the first edition of the book hit the streets back in 2005. See you then.

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