Thursday, May 22, 2008

What are the duties of an SEO specialist, my experience, and how does all of that connect to Social Media?

I have always enjoyed interactive as a branch of the advertising and marketing industry. My experience is dynamic and allows me to see the big picture of a campaign, as well as focus on even the smallest details of tracking, implementation, and budget/time management.

Job duties for a search engine optimization specialist to include:

• Planning implementation and ongoing management of link building strategies
I’ve used link building from both my SEO and Social Media experience. I believe tying in social media campaigns with SEM/SEO campaigns helps to strengthen the relevance of the links, while bringing in customer influence. If customers seeing these links respond (either by visiting the site or writing about it in there blogs, etc.) then the brand gains consumer evangelists. Responding properly to both strengthens the brands and customer satisfaction. All of the above are traceable with social media tracking, analytics (such as Google), and blog discussion tracking. The reason a person would want to track social media and add it to a link building strategy is as simple as the reason businesses started customer comment boxes. The web spiders or “bots” know when you link out and who links into your site. The more people talking about your name and keywords, as well as linking to you in either blogs or comment areas, the more relevant a site is. Thus, the site will receive a higher ranking when searched for.

My experience planning and implementing link management strategies include: internet based lead generation companies whose only budget limitations were whether the ROI for each keyword or affiliate was productive, big charities with no budget, and clients from my agency experience. Each client has had a different target audience, different goals for their organization, and VERY different range in budgets. Knowing which sites, blogs, and social networks to connect them with were always as simple as knowing who their client was and what the end goal for the brand was.

• Keyword research and analysis
Keyword research always starts with a brand insight document. What are the company goals? Who is the target audience? Do they know a “persona” for the customer? What is the company’s top selling products/services? Do they have any known top keywords or phrases?

After the client responds, using tools from the top search engines help narrow down keywords (yahoo, Google, msn, ask). SEO book also helps brainstorm keywords to test. Top keywords always cost more per click, which is why it is ALWAYS important to make each phrase as relevant to the site as possible in a SEM campaign. In SEO it is simply more important to use those keywords in all relevant situations from picture (alt tags), to headers, and in the content.

It is also important to know the competition. Looking up their sites and knowing what they are doing, checking out key meta data in html, and simply understanding who they are targeting will give any campaign the upper hand. Simply competing ONLY when necessary will help both companies succeed if they are similar, but have slightly different goals, clients, regions they work in, or the type of services they offer.

My first experience with keyword search and analysis started at a corporation with no minimum budget. Google alone had a budget of a minimum of $10,000 per day. Moving to an agency, whose target clients had close to no budget most days, taught me to be frugal and really target each keyword appropriately. Some clients want to be number one with EVERY keyword; others don’t need to spend that kind of money. More importantly, I learned that SEO, unlike SEM, is a long-term relationship. Nothing happens overnight in SEO, keywords need to be relevant, headers and code need to be properly used, missing pages need to be redirected and tags need to be in place.

• Client Search Engine ranking analysis and reporting
ROI is always going to be number one on a clients list. It is what proves to them that the campaigns they are paying for are not a waste of money. Google analytics shows whether their site has had an increase in traffic, which of their keywords are working in their client’s favor, and funnels can show how far and how long a consumer was on the site and when they got bored and left. Knowing when the consumers drop off your site is important so that the site can be improved from an aesthetic and usability stand-point.
Tracking who is talking about a client in social media shows how relevant the campaign is and how happy the consumers are with the brand. Social media is not a directly traceable ROI like Google Analytics can be, but it is still an important factor. These can be tracked with programs like blog pulse, tweet scan, etc., as to when the company name is mentioned and, as a result, the company can respond accordingly.

• Work with clients and internal teams to help educate and understand the SEO process and principles
My experience freelancing, in corporate life, and in the agency world has always shown me that people may not always want to be bored by the complete technical side of how things work, but they want to understand that you know what you’re doing, are aware of where the money is going, and have a grasp of how you are doing it. The grasp can be as complex and in-depth as a walk through of keywords, or having a hand in the link building, or having their own blog, or the marketing manager helping with the campaign, or as simple as a walk through of basic processes.

Many times the client knows that SEO or Social Media is important, but they’re not sure why it is important. So explaining that a campaign is long-term, make the brand more visible online by link building on more then one site, SEO will help move them up to the top of searches, and will strengthen the website content to pull it together helps the client feel apart of the team and know where they are going as a company with an SEO campaign.

• Monitoring and managing daily progress of search engine campaign details including strategy and implementation, copywriting, budgets and reporting
As I mentioned before, budgets are always an important thing to be aware of and to work hand-in-hand with reporting. I like to track how the budget relates to the campaign by keeping a spreadsheet document of the ROI to keyword ration. Trellian and Adwords tools also help to validate the numbers. Copywriting is important for SEM campaigns especially when writing the text ads.

SEO copywriting can come into play for content re-writing. Google optimizer is the BIGGEST help in this aspect. Using A/B or multivariable testing you can change the content of a site, choose which variable gets the most visits, and determine which content is working the best to keep customers on a site.

• Closely monitor campaigns and work with internal teams to ensure client goals are met
In corporate life, I worked with my marketing manager to track keywords. For affiliate campaigns on pay-per-click, cost-per-click, pay-per-acquisition, or pay-per (# of impressions) campaigns communication between account executives and keeping them up to date on tracking was the most important factor in making sure their campaigns worked.

In agency life, the team always has more then one, two or even three clients on their plate (sometimes more than 10-15) so it is even more important to communicate in-house. Knowing who is working on analytics, site analysis, if the campaign was set up… then, in addition, did everyone know the keywords and the campaign goals? The campaign budgets and strategy help determine how much time the client wants spent on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to monitor ROI, funnels or consumer tracking. But the budget is always at the forefront to time management.

• Trend analysis and Web Analytics interpretation to make appropriate campaign strategy adjustments
Trends, and web analytics are tracked with tools like trellion, yahoo, and google analytics and can be displayed in a statistical analysis, excel, or google tracking. I have received the most experience doing this in my freelance work, but first got a taste of it in agency life.

• Research opportunities with regards to new technologies or vendors
One of the reasons I think I’ve always fit with strategists is my love for research, and that probably comes from the history lover inside me. Just like any industry these days, if you don’t always seek out what’s new and upcoming then you’re more likely to fall behind. SEO, SEM, Social Media, Design, and development are definitely not exceptions to that rule.

I like to research new technologies and vendors via professional affiliations like Ad Fed, Ad2, MIMA, and IAB. I rarely miss an event to listen to the speaker and network with industry peers.

Networking research and learning is always available on the web. If I have a specific topic, I love to use various search engines (generally Google, Yahoo, and Ask). But if it’s blog related sometimes I use technorati or mahalo (the people powered search engine).

• Contribute to team efforts to maintain in-depth knowledge of industry current events and trends.

On a daily basis, I like to carve out a half hour or up to two hours for learning. Generally the best way to stay up on these new technologies is to hear it from those on the inside or from other people who discover their own techniques on a daily basis. As a result, I read blogs, watch respected podcasts, and pay attention to the new medias that are always popping up online like

• 2-3 years online advertising/media buying and SEO experience
At I managed over 110+ affiliate campaigns, while being the lead art director, designing flyers, print, and e-newsletter campaigns, as well as managing minimum budgets of $10,000+

I’ve worked in both the freelance and advertising agencies doing project management, SEO, SEM, promotions, and design. I know my freelance experience has given me the flexibility to understand my limitations and enhance my presentation skills, while my agency experiences have strengthened my team work and leadership abilities.

In college, I volunteered for the senior design exhibition co-chair of promotions. Since then I’ve attained a similar role at Ad Fed as the interactive promotional specialist. The positions have given me the opportunity to design promotional business cards for the new site, initiate discussion about social networking, develop and implement strategies to improve the volume of traffic and length of time spent on the web site, as well as manage the strategic development of the site and our social networking strategy.

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