Next up on my list of interviews and another SEO that I look up to is Jeremy Dearringer aka @PapaSlingshot who is the co-founder and Chief Research Officer at Slingshot SEO, an Indianapolis based agency.
I began following Jeremy and his work a few months back and consider him an expert in the field and a must follow for any emerging digital marketer. In my brief conversations with Jeremy leading up to this interview, I was impressed by how willing he was to participate and even more impressed by his great taste in music (further down the interview)…
You can find some of Jeremy’s blog posts here.
(photo above courtesy of Purdue University: Dearringer, left, meets with Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniels)
Craig: For those that don’t follow you or your work, let’s kick this off by having you describe what your role as Slingshot SEO’s CRO entails:
Jeremy: With a fancy title like Chief Research Officer you may think I run a top secret lab with statisticians running correlation studies, regression analysis and unlocking the deepest secrets of SEO. In reality that’s the C level title I took to ensure we left the legitimate C level titles for key hires such as our new CEO, Jay Love, and our COO, Don Kane. I do have a passion for everything Internet marketing and originally I was the guru SEO of the three founders. Today we have individuals with SEO knowledge that surpasses my own. We actually do have a R&D team with a developer, statistician and thought leader that reports in to our Director of SEO Performance. I sit on the board of directors that our C levels report to. My partners and I focus a lot on vision. We’re actually on a vision charter mission right now and are not in the office on a daily basis.
Craig: I know the answer but have to ask, SEO or inbound marketing, and why?
Jeremy: That’s easy, SEO. It’s all semantics really. Inbound Marketing is a term that’s been adopted and made popular by Hubspot. I have no problem with the term, but I bleed SEO. It defines me. Our organization witnesses the value of organic search traffic every single day. At the end of the day it’s our job to optimize any given clients’ ability to drive targeted, relevant organic search traffic that creates business impact. Anything and everything we consult on or produce that helps achieve that goal we do in the name of SEO. At Slingshot SEO we focus not only on site architecture recommendations and link building, but we also recommend and engage in social media, content production, topic modeling, ROI tracking, conversion rate optimization, public relations, content marketing and more. For us, today, that is SEO.
Craig: What do you enjoy the most about the SEO industry?
Jeremy: I would have to say the fast paced nature of our industry. There is something new happening EVERY SINGLE DAY. Our SVP of sales, who previously worked for ExactTarget and Compendium, was shocked after working at Slingshot SEO for only a few weeks. He mentioned that “no one watches the grass grow around here.” It’s inspiring to watch everyone on our team work. We’re over 110 full-time employees large now. The people that work at Slingshot SEO thrive in this fast paced environment. The only constant at Slingshot SEO is change. I remember back to my college education at Purdue University. I had a class that covered change management. We brought in manager after manager from old-school organizations. Employees would get so use to the same old routine that it was a complete shock when the company would make almost any change. The team at Slingshot would laugh if they were forced to go through that class after experiencing what it’s like to work at Slingshot. In summary, the fast paced industry that is SEO keeps me feeling alive every single day.
Craig: How do you think small businesses / small budgets can incorporate something like Coca Cola’s “Content 2020” into their marketing campaign?
Jeremy: The short answer is that I honestly don’t think 99% of small businesses can. They’d likely fail even if I spent three hours per week consulting with them for free. My father owns a small business, NewProContainers.com. I meet with him and his team for two to three hours every Friday. I try to bring the lessons I’ve learned working with mid-market and enterprise organizations to his company. We try to cover the basics like optimizing content, email marketing, retargeting, branding, blogging, conversion rate optimization, etc. They can’t afford the services my company offers, so I do my best to provide consulting on how to best use their limited resources. Don’t get me wrong, my father’s business is very successful and grows based on their SEO success. They still have a lot of work to do to be where I’d like to see them from an SEO perspective even. Most small businesses are lucky to have two or three people dedicated to marketing in general. You almost never see anyone with a high level of expertise in even one area, such as SEO or Social Media. Small businesses often can’t afford marketers that will grasp Coca Cola’s Content 2020 video, let alone be able to implement it with such limited resources and support staff. The most competent marketers often find their way into an agency, start their own businesses or become part of a large company’s in-house team. The only way I’ve seen this work is when the owner of a small business makes it personal. The owner dives in hard and studies marketing. They take on the role of CMO. With this level of involvement a small business owner will be confident enough to seriously invest in marketing, well beyond the 5% of revenue that’s typical with small businesses. I always laugh when my father tells me I need a better understanding of accounting now that I own a big company. I remind him that I set the curve in my cost accounting class at Purdue. I then proceed to tell him that he needs a better understanding of marketing.
Craig: Where do you see this industry in 5 years? What about 10 years?
Jeremy: Search is forever. I may not be able to predict exactly what devices we may be using to search in the future or what the input/output may look like, but search will never die. Mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad will continue to evolve how we interact with the search process. Assistants like Apple’s Siri give us a taste of what the future of search may look like. Organic search traffic of some sort will always be valuable to organizations that have something to sell, so SEO won’t go anywhere. It will never die, no matter how many bloggers decide to write “SEO is dead” posts. If anything mobile devices will enable people to search anywhere and everywhere all the time. You see it every day. Your friends and family are searching for stuff mid-conversation or mid-TV commercial on their iPhones.
I think we’ll start to see content marketing in the name of search continue to become a big deal. Creative agencies will be combined with technical SEO experts to craft content strategies around search. Big companies will spend big money to simply market amazing content to create long term search benefit. Right now a lot of companies are still creating entertaining mass advertising with the end goal of brand awareness associated with a few core benefits. Brands will learn to leverage those budgets to promote search ready media so they can experience lasting benefits beyond brand awareness.
The industry will also continue to mature and consolidate. As SEO becomes more of a marketing household term larger agencies will either develop a competency or acquire companies with the “will to rank”. We’re already seeing most enterprises hiring in-house SEO talent to manage SEO agencies.
Craig: What do you like to do or what are some of your hobbies when you aren’t busy marketing the interwebs?
Jeremy: I’m a movie and concert/show buff. My wife and I see most movies and attend most shows that come through town. Recently we’ve attended the Pink Floyd experience, a Puscifer concert (project by the lead singer of Tool), the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show and will be attending Roger Waters “The Wall” in June. They’re of the few ways I can actually shut my brain off and detach from work. I’m also a car nut so I spend time watching shows like Top Gear, reading car magazines, shopping for cars on the Internet and modifying the vehicles I have. I also like hanging out with a few close friends to play cards, video games, cookout, etc. I’m not really into big crowds and you’ll rarely find me at a bar or club. Finally if I have any time left over from that I’m likely to build another business. I run a couple eCommerce projects, blogs and a community forum.
I would like to thank Jeremy for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions and hopefully enlighten SEOs, both up and coming and the more experienced. Here is where you can connect with Jeremy: Google+ | Twitter | Linkedin.
Thank you for reading!
About the Author: Craig Kilgore is a digital marketer with Mainstreethost and currently heads up their R&D department. Craig’s interests include SEO, paid search, content marketing, social media marketing and business development. You can find Craig on Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin.
I am a recent follower of Chad Pollitt and have found myself checking out more and more of his work as of late. I was intrigued to find out that not only is Chad an SEO / inbound marketing professional, but he is also an Army National Guard Commander and Iraq War Veteran. Chad was willing to take the time to participate in an interview I prepared to ask him about the two careers. Below are the questions and answers:
I would like to start by asking you why you chose to get into the SEO or what you are recently referring to as the inbound marketing field and when that happened?
This process can be best described as an evolution. To be more specific, the evolution of a virus which I caught clear back in 1996 as a business undergraduate student at Indiana University. It started with a rudimentary HTML class. Soon after, I entered a business plan contest sponsored and judged by a real local company. My plan? I pitched an email marketing campaign as the foundation of the business plan. They loved it and I beat out over 700 students for the victory! In hindsight, it was nothing more than a spam plan before anyone knew what spam was.
From that point on I was hooked on Internet marketing. After college I worked for a couple of large companies in sales (Internet jobs for non-programmers and non-designers where unheard of at the time). Throughout my sales career I worked on several freelance projects involving the deployment of websites (really bad websites). It wasn’t until I left big corporate America in 2006 to work in sales for a small boutique web shop that I was exposed to the idea of SEO as a marketing function.
After that I pursued every Internet marketing challenge I could find, both freelance and professionally. I knew I hit pay-dirt when one of my SEO projects alone grew sales by more than 10 million dollars for a client. I went from working in sales for a small boutique web shop to being an Internet marketing manager for a top-flight development agency called Digital Hill. In 2008 I enrolled in the University of San Francisco’s Internet Marketing Master’s program and was able to learn under some of the greatest minds in Internet marketing in the world. This led to helping launch a wildly popular Facebook app call TabSite.
Seeking even greater challenges, I landed in Cleveland, OH in 2010 to work with Kuno Creative and became a Certified HubSpot Partner. I’m happy to say that everyday represents a new marketing challenge and that I’m one of the lucky few. I get paid to do my passion and what I love to do. It doesn’t even feel like work.
Following up on your webinar from 1/30/2012 titled “Inbound Marketing is the New SEO”, you compared “traditional SEO” to “inbound marketing” and what you feel is necessary to succeed. Your recommended number of blog posts per week nearly tripled. On an annual level, white papers are 6X higher and webinar and video are both included into the mix.
With all of this content, where do you turn for new ideas and do you feel it is necessary to staff content marketers / creators more heavily?
The great thing about the Internet is that there’s very few ideas that someone else hasn’t come up with in some fashion somewhere. New ideas are harvested almost every day from Twitter, Facebook, Google and beyond. We’re not trying to create the new buzz phrase or format like an infographic, podcast or whitepaper. The formulas for success are tried and true. We just duplicate them with unique problem solving content. It’s not 100% necessary to staff content creators if the current staff has the talent and throughput. However, once a certain threshold is met outsourcing becomes a great way to offset content throughput limitations. One of my favorite sources for content outsourcing is Zerys.com. Having journalists and writers on staff to manage the outsourcing and conduct interviews is valuable as well. A mix of all of the above is the approach we take here at Kuno.
How do you feel about Search Plus Your World (SPYW) and do you think it’s a positive change to the way Google displays results to searchers? Do you think it is here to stay?
I’m pretty neutral when it comes to SPYW and don’t personally use it, nor do I plan too. The most positive part of the deployment is what I believe they call a “tell” in poker. It’s a signal to people like us as to what Google wants to do in the future and how they plan on doing it. My gut tells me that after the J.C. Penney black hat link building fiasco Google wishes to minimize the PageRank algorithm in favor of some type of social rank algorithm. This is Google’s way of testing the waters. However, unless they can find a way to more robustly include Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in their SPYW results they’ll be stuck with mediocre SERPs unless Google+ experiences massive adoption and use. I’m not sure if SPYW in its current form is here to stay. It will probably eventually get swallowed into their regular SERPs. Having to toggle between the two doesn’t seem like the best sustainable strategy. However, I’ve been wrong before…
Chad, with both a military career and your career with Kuno Creative, what drives you to stay motivated?
It’s simple – I’m always looking for the next big challenge and revel in the opportunity to overcome. I also know that my success or lack thereof is going to directly affect my two year old twin daughters. Lastly, it is my desire to be a part of the best Internet marketing team in the world. These are the things that motivate me.
What do you enjoy most about your military career? What about your marketing career?
The Army provides me with the leadership training and experience no MBA program in the world could possibly provide. I get to command, lead, mentor, motivate and work with honorable young soldiers every month. During the month I get to work with many career military brass that lead and mentor me. These experiences build the best constitution for being the best Internet marketer I can be.
Looking at the traffic, leads and customers’ trend line over 12 months in an analytics package pointing northward is what I enjoy the most about my marketing career.
Thank you again to Chad Pollitt for taking the time to answer these questions. I would also like to personally thank Chad and his soldiers for their ongoing service to our country.
Check out the slides from Chad’s webinar:
Being in the SEO field for the last 5 years has taught me quite a bit. In this post, I will share with you what I feel to be the top 10 tips for those of you just starting an SEO career or attempting to tackle SEO for your own website. For now, these are just cut and dry tips but stay tuned for some follow-up posts where I will share some tools and tactics you can implement along the way.
This list is in no particular order.
1. Don’t believe everything you read (except for this of course)! There is plenty out there, so know where your information is coming from. You know your situation and marketing needs / goals the best. If you are interested in learning and are willing to put the time into it, I recommend following some of these individuals and websites — Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, SEOmoz, Distilled and of course, Google’s blog.
2. Remember the basics. It is easy to get caught up in what’s cutting edge and forget about the basics. By no means am I implying that you shouldn’t test new ideas, just don’t forget about what got you to where you are.
3. User experience should be on the forefront. You can have the best rankings and get traffic but if you aren’t capturing your visitors’ attention, you probably aren’t converting.
4. Measure conversions. Next to user experience on the importance scale are conversions and measuring conversions. What is the purpose of each visit? Is it to sell a product? Capture contact information? No matter what the reason is, make sure you have one! And once you have one (or more), MAKE SURE YOU ARE MEASURING THEM!
5. Content marketing is a must. For a lot of SEO’s, especially the more technical / analytical ones, content marketing was probably on the backburner for the last few years. With the advancements in social media sharing and search engine rankings being influenced by this social data, a well planned, strategic content marketing campaign is a MUST!
6. Social media marketing is a must. Right up there with content marketing is a social media strategy. Whether you need to tackle this on your own or have the means to develop a team of social media specialists, do what you have to do to get out there and engage with your audience(s).
7. Continuously conduct keyword research. Keyword research is not a “one and done” and is something that should be addressed fairly frequently (depending on your vertical). Keep track of your keywords, their search volumes and how well they perform for you. Revisit this from time to time.
8. Study your competitors. If you know what works for them and you can implement it (ethically) on your end, why not? To expand on this, don’t copy your competitors mistakes (yes, this does happen).
9. Don’t be afraid of data. When it comes to SEO, both on-site and off, there are massive amounts of data at your disposal and too often, we shy away from these hard numbers. Whether this is due to the old “what I don’t know won’t hurt me” idea or just pure lack of knowledge, you should do what you can to familiarize yourself with the data out there and how you can use it to improve your marketing efforts.
10. Be ready for change. Don’t just be ready for it though, be willing to embrace it and adapt to it. Now you are probably thinking to yourself, didn’t he just say to remember the basics? If you know anything about technology and the web, you know that it changes. Being able to adapt to changes while remembering the basics will make you a more well rounded SEO / inbound marketer.
That is it for now. Stay tuned for some follow-up posts discussing some of my favorite tools and sites to help you along your way!