Thursday, August 4, 2011
I had the opportunity last week to sit down with Matt Hunckler, the Director of Marketing at Slingshot SEO, and talk with him about Search Engine Optimization and how organizations are incorporating it into their marketing mix. Here’s a bit of our conversation:
Director of Marketing
Colby: What is SEO? It seems a little abstract – like alchemy – can you get us up to speed on this topic?
Matt: No problem. It's a fairly complex practice, but I'll see if I can break it down a bit.
From the perspective of the search engines, search is about providing the best possible response to a user’s keyword query. The response that is most likely to match the user’s objectives deserves to be listed first in the search results.
SEO, when done correctly, is about connecting brands with the customers for whom they are the best fit, and working with search engines to make sure the brand that deserves to be first shows up in the search results where it should.
Colby: Why is SEO important? What kind of company needs SEO?
Matt: Well, so many internet interactions start with a search. Think about what you do when you need to book a hotel, or hire a plumber, or research what school to send your kids to. How do we go about finding the product or service—or brand—that's the right fit for us?
There's so much intent with that first search and consumers are becoming much better searchers. As marketers, it's really our duty to our organizations—or clients, if you're at an agency—to make sure that the brands we promote are a part of that research and discovery phase.
The type of industry or company doesn't matter quite as much as the company's commitment to staying current and relevant. This means being truly agile or finding a partner that they can really empower to execute—almost as a part of the team.
Colby: What’s different about the approach that you guys take?
Matt: It's pretty simple, really. Our entire team is dedicated to executing comprehensive organic search marketing. That means we don't do web design, we don't do email marketing, and we don't do paid search (PPC). We have over seventy-five people in our office who eat, sleep, and breathe SEO.
Our clients are awesome, too. We don't require our partners to begin with a sophisticated understanding of SEO, but we work with businesses that are coachable and dedicated to their own success.
We help our clients refine their online properties for maximum search visibility, while leveraging proprietary software and processes to dramaticaly increase search visibility. We've boiled everything down into a methodology we call "CLASS." It's more than we probably want to get into during this interview, but we're all pretty geeked about it.
Colby: What’s the appropriate way to work SEO into your overall marketing strategy?
Matt: First, you just need to get real. You have to think, "Do I currently have the resources to execute an SEO strategy the right way?"
That means having resources committed to SEO research as well as the execution and communication with the rest of your marketing team. Really take time to assess this before trying to work SEO campaigns into your marketing mix. SEO isn't an extra responsibility you can assign to your already-busy email marketer or analyst and expect them to be able to successfully execute on it.
If you have a big marketing team, maybe you can pull that off yourself in house, but a lot of times working SEO into your overall strategy means selecting the right outside partner who has the knowledge and experience to get you the results you're looking for.
That's not to say that you can just "set it and forget it." Collaboration is so important to any successful partnership.
Just like any other marketing or demand generation function, you'll be much more successful in the long run if you start with a solid strategy that complements your other branding efforts and campaigns. There are a ton of other things to think about when you're hiring an SEO partner, but that's really where you need to start.
Colby: What does the future look like? What is the next iteration of Google and search? How will SEO play into that world?
Matt: As we've seen over the past couple of years, social is really important. That isn't going to change and will most likely accelerate as Facebook continues to roll out more social tools and provide integrations through their API, while Google+ gains more momentum.
At the same time, it's been noted by search experts, like Stefan Weitz from Bing, that the web is moving from "search and find" mentality to a "search and do" mentality. That's the future that engines like Bing and Google are building toward.
So, SEO will only become more important as search results become more tailored and personal. Intent to buy will only rise as search engine accuracy increases.
Colby: Thanks Matt, great stuff!
Matt: Thank you.