In response to my coverage of previous Search Engine Strategies events last year, the organizers of the show reached out to ask me if I would interview a few of the speakers this year. In the first of what I hope will be a three-part series of interviews, I sat down with Julie Batten, SES Toronto speaker and eMarketing Manager at Klick Communications for a little Q&A on a range of topics affecting our industry.
GP: First and foremost, thank you for taking the time for this interview. For those of us that are not familiar with an agency setting (myself included), could you run us through what an average day in the life is like?
JB: It really depends on the day, but typically I’m furiously responding to emails on the commute in, participate in at least a couple internal team meetings, client calls or in-person meetings throughout the day. Our team spends a lot of time developing presentations, whether it be to review a media plan, report on the results of a campaign, or deliver a POV on a topic/issue. I also participate on new biz dev initiatives and client pitches, which involves researching a client’s current strategies, the competitive environment, developing strategic recommendations, and the delivery/presentation of these recos.
GP: With all this talk about strategy, what would you consider your biggest win for a client? Why was that campaign/strategy so effective?
JB: For one particular client, we started off doing paid search marketing as a pilot program to demonstrate our efficiency and efficacy compared to their traditional agency. We blew them away with the outcome, and as a result, got our foot in the door to talk about their overarching digital strategy, which included online media (including search), web design and development, analytics, eCRM, etc. We’ve been working as their digital AOR ever since. It was effective because we were able to prove ourselves with a low-risk test, but by delivering results and showcasing our ingenuity, we got the credibility we needed to obtain the entirety of the business.
GP: Sounds like a great approach to winning clients over with digital savvy. Speaking of testing innovation, what are some of the weirdest keywords you’ve tested on campaigns, and which actually worked?
JB: Oh I’ve seen them all. It’s actually the weird, niche, or long-tail terms that tend to be the best performers. But I actually always think it’s really weird when a very vague or broad term performs well. For example, including a term like “real estate” as a term for a condo developer, you’d think it’s so broad that it would be too expensive or poorly targeted to actually result in a strong ROI, but it did.
GP: But now that you let the cat out of the bag, the real estate industry is on notice. Get in the game people! Speaking of winning clients over, many of us in the industry recognize that C-level executives may have a hard time grasping the value of paid and organic search campaigns. Having lived the pain of explaining the benefits of search marketing, what do you think are the top 3 take-aways that really sell executives on search?
JB: Top 3: Affordable, measurable, pre-qualified. Affordable because you can control what you pay and its bar none — the cheapest way to drive traffic. Measurable because you can track and optimize to any goal you want, place a value on that goal, and only run on keywords that meet those goals. And finally, pre-qualified because you are reaching an audience who is essentially raising their hand and saying “yes, I’m interested in this topic / category / product”…they are actively seeking information on what you have to offer – where can you find a better prospect than that?
GP: Once a client is sold on the idea, usability issues can really hamper search marketing efforts, especially as control slips from marketing to development or IT. How do you ensure checks and balances are in place to measure significant results?
JB: You have to make sure the team works together and communicates constantly. As the subject matter expert in SEO, I consult with the user experience and design/development teams throughout the entire web dev process to make sure that we are building a search-friendly website from the ground up, and that the final outcome is what I need in order to meet my search goals. I give input into the content map or information architecture, the wireframes, user pathing, the dev practices, etc., so that we aren’t sitting there with a final product that has to be completely overhauled for the search engines.
GP: So, if you’re in friendly development waters, you may not have technical issues, but many larger organizations will have issues related to campaign attribution. With potentially several marketing campaigns contributing to online conversion, how have you tackled the problem of multi-faceted advertising and offline conversion skewing search marketing results?
JB: This is definitely a tough one. I think if you have a really strong measurement framework in place, you can clearly delineate where the conversions are coming from. For one, you can make sure that your online campaigns are clearly tagged so you can see which referrals are resulting in which conversions. You can also use vanity URLs in your print or offline advertising so that you know what traffic is being driven from offline.
That said, sometimes people will see an ad on TV or in a newspaper for a certain product and then go search for the name in Google. Then they might click on a sponsored search ad and complete the desired action. So who gets attributed that conversion – the offline media who got them to search in the first place, or the search engine marketing campaign? Maybe offline channels contribute 5%, 10%, 20%, but you may never know for sure given the current tools we have at our disposal right now.
GP: No, I disagree, it’s all due to online.
Around this time last year at SES, one potentially sensitive subject for many search marketers was the notion of brand protection. How far can keyword protection go in securing trademarked, reserved, or copyrighted terms? With the introduction and subsequent full-fledged adoption of blended search, do you think search engines are doing enough to protect brand-owners?
JB: I agree this is an issue, but I think the search engines are doing their due diligence for the most part. I know many times I’ve tried to create an ad using a trademarked term and Google didn’t let me do it. But advertisers can bid on whatever terms they want, so in this case, companies are not protected, i.e. as long as you don’t use their term in your ad, you can bid on a competitors’ term to your heart’s content. You can submit a complaint to Google about term usage, but I don’t think there are any hard and fast guidelines that determine what is ‘acceptable’ and what is not. There is still work to be done.
GP: Being a fellow Torontonian, I thought it best to throw in a uniquely Canadian question. With a lot of effort being made to bring local search to the forefront, how do you manage all the local keyword combinations that can go into a single campaign? Have you come across any challenges where search engines just didn’t understand Canadian geography?
JB: This is where leveraging geo-targeting comes into play substantially for paid search. Obviously you don’t need to have all of the potential combinations and permutations if you use a broad match and geo-target to your location. A challenge for Canadians is when it comes to organic search because the web is a global community. As such, you want to ensure your local business isn’t competing in the US or UK. So instead of listing all of your locations on one page, have a page dedicated to that location and optimize that page for local keywords. Registering your site with local search like Google Local is also recommended.
GP: We’ve been talking about mobile for years and years, it seems, but relatively few companies have been able to monetize mobile internet effectively. With the challenges of a recession, fragmented broadband adoption, and shrinking advertising budgets, where do you see the search marketing industry going?
JB: It’s funny you mention mobile, as I recently wrote an article for ClickZ (it will publish this coming Monday) on mobile search. I agree with you that mobile has been touted as the ‘next big thing’ in search for many years, but I think this actually may be the year!
Advertisers are looking at new ways to capitalize on search, and as more and more people are getting enhanced mobile devices (smart phones), more and more people are surfing and searching online. Advertisers are going to have to understand the complexity and unique considerations that come with optimizing sites for mobile, and how to leverage the AdSense for Mobile platform.
GP: I look forward to reading the article. Wow, this might be the longest post ever for me, but it’s well-informed and extremely thorough. It was my distinct pleasure to interview you, I wish you the best with the speaking gig and hope to see you at SES Toronto.
About Search Engine Strategies
Search Engine Strategies is the definitive digital event for marketers, corporate decision makers, webmasters and search engine marketers (SEMs), including pay per click (PPC) advertisers and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals. Attend SES Toronto, network with your peers, and learn the tips, tactics and strategies that will grow your business online.
About Julie Batten
As the eMarketing Manager at Klick Communications, Julie Batten heads up the Online Media practice, a team which is responsible for developing and managing online marketing campaigns for world-class brands. With a strong emphasis on search marketing activities, Julie conceptualizes digital marketing strategies to enhance clients’ online presences. She previously headed up the SEM practice at Non-linear Creations where she managed the search marketing team to deliver exceptional results by means of both organic and paid search campaigns. Having written several whitepapers and articles, instructed online courses, and spoken at various seminars on the topic, Julie is well-versed in all things search.
Note: This post was sponsored by Search Engine Strategies Toronto. As such, it’s important to note that the opinions expressed in the preceding interview were not those of the organizers, Incisive Interactive Marketing.