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September 12, 2007

Women of Internet Marketing Wednesday Part 19

By Li Evans

Womenofinternetmarketing Women of Internet Marketing is back from its summer break.  Just under the wire (it is still Wednesday here on the East Coast), and after coming back from a business trip to Dallas, TX tonight, I'm setting my keyboard on fire to bring you the latest edition of Women of Internet Marketing.

After a summer chalk full of conferences, events, vacations and life changing decisions, I’m geared up and ready to roll with new women to interview in the next coming weeks. The women that will be letting us into their lives are industry veterans, newbies, in-house, agency, and particular to certain segments of the industry and even some that are on the cusp of internet marketing.

This week I've got a woman who has been in the industry quite a while and if you are a forum goer, you certainly know her by her handle.  What I didn't know is that she's in a unique position of being both an in-house SEO and has her own consultancy in her "off hours".  I got to know her a little better while I was out at Search Engine Strategies, in San Jose this past August.  Today, let me introduce you to Diane Aull, more affectionately known know “Torka” to us forum goers.

Diane "Torka" Aull
Dianeaull Diana Aull, more affectionately known to us as "Torka" from High Rankings and the Search Engine Guide forums, has been in the search marketing and web development industry since about 1995.  Currently she serves as the in-house search marketer for AcroPrint, and at night she runs her own consultancy called NineYards, she also has her own blog of great articles on Search Engine Guide.

When I asked Diane what she considered her specialty she responded, "Well, to be honest, I'm something of a generalist, with a bit of knowledge about a lot of things. I guess if I have to pick one or two things I like best, though, it would be site usability and content development/copywriting."

So, after I re-read Diane's bio on Search Engine Guide, I ventured some more questions, in my usual interviewing fashion.

Q: So Torka, tell me what brought you into the Search Marketing Industry?

 A:  It's not a "what," it's a "who." Seriously, it was Jill Whalen. I was a subscriber to Jill's newsletter, and when she opened her forum to the public in July 2003, I was one of the first through the door. I've learned a tremendous amount from reading and participating in the discussions, and from picking the brains of some of the brilliant people I've met through the forum. Pretty much everything has flowed from that.

Q: What do you consider to be your most successful industry accomplishment?
A:  Birthing a successful B2B e-commerce site for my company. I've been responsible for everything from selecting and configuring the catalog software to coding the page templates to writing the copy to ongoing store management, so I really do consider this one my "baby." The store converts like gangbusters, and almost from the get-go it's brought in more money than management thought it would. This year, for example, we're looking at potentially a 40% to 50% revenue increase over last year.

Q: Why do you love this industry?
A:  Because it's endlessly fascinating. There's always something new coming down the pike. Anyone who's looked at the variety of jobs on my resume can probably tell I get bored fairly easily. This industry is a lot of things, but it's never boring!

Q: You've worn a lot of hats before you fell into your current career, what was the most memorable experience you had at any of those positions?
A:  More years ago than I will admit to, working as a staff auditor at Price Waterhouse, I remember when one of the managers showed up with the office's first PC. It was a "portable" computer -- must have weighed at least 50 pounds and was the size of a small suitcase. Amber monochrome screen, and the only application installed was VisiCalc. (Yes, I am old.) We gathered around that thing as though we were cave dwellers witnessing the discovery of fire. One of the other staffers and I spent the next couple of days exploring all the nooks and crannies of VisiCalc, exclaiming to each other every few seconds, "Did you see *that*? It *calculated* the answer all by itself!" We were enthralled. I count that moment as the beginning of my downfall. :)

NineyardslogoQ: You are in a very unique position, in that you are an in-house SEM but you also consult, could you enlighten us on what the major differences are for you?
A:  The in-house work is totally hands-on -- everything from server administration to web design to content development to search marketing. Whether I do the work myself or I direct the work of a contractor, I'm very much responsible for everything that happens with all our web properties. While I also manage the websites for some subsidiary and "sister" companies in other lines of business, the main body of what I do is quite focused on a single fairly "niche" industry. It's been a chance to go very, very deep in terms of industry, business and product knowledge, which has proven to be fascinating.

On the consulting side, my partner and I both spend our days in hands-on roles so we enjoy the opportunity to do something a little different in our own business. Our focus is on offering education and empowerment -- helping our clients learn for themselves what it takes to make their own sites better. While we will occasionally take on a particularly interesting site makeover, by and large I see my consulting role as an adviser and guide.

Q: What is the favorite part of your job as an in-house marketer?
A:  The best part of being a one-woman show in-house is I don't have to spend a lot of time convincing the rest of the web marketing department to go along with what I want to do. :)

Q: What advice would you give for other women starting out in this industry, based on your own experience?
A:  In some ways the SEO/SEM industry -- like the business world as a whole -- remains something of a boys' club. But don't try to out-testosterone the guys. Remember just because somebody thumps his chest harder, or shouts louder, or charges more money for his advice, this doesn't necessarily mean he's right. A good testing protocol is your friend. Force yourself out of your comfort zone every now and then. Trust your feelings. Be excellent to one another, and party on!

Q: Who's your favorite blogger to read?
A:  For business, I nearly always find something interesting at Seth Godin's Blog. For general thought-provokingness, with a bit of humor mixed in, I like Scott Adams's "The Dilbert Blog." Lately I've also found a lot I resonate with at Penelope Trunk's "Brazen Careerist" blog.

Q:Paid Links – evil, a necessity or Matt Cutts and Adam Lasnick just worrying too much?
A:  Yes! :)

Paying for links in an attempt to fake link popularity for higher rankings seems to me a bit like paying people to be your kid's friends. No matter how many you buy it doesn't actually make your child popular in Real Life. As soon as you stop paying, your kid loses all his so-called friends, and it could be pretty damned embarrassing if anybody ever finds out. There just seems to be a reasonably high potential for a scheme like that to backfire sooner or later. "Evil" is an awfully strong word, though. "Misguided" might be more accurate.

Paid links are advertising. For many (most?) businesses, advertising is a necessity. I don't have a problem with paid links -- as long as people don't try to deceive anyone into thinking these advertisements are editorial endorsements.

And Matt and Adam *do* worry too much. But that's part of what they're paid to do, so it's not necessarily a bad thing.

Q: PPC or SEO?
A:  For me, I guess it would be SEO. I haven't had the chance to play around with PPC as much as I'd like. Besides, anybody who's read many of my blog posts knows it's almost impossible for me to express my ideas as succinctly as required by PPC ads. I'm pretty much a long-copy kinda gal. :)

On the other hand, I'm also one of those who advocate NOT relying totally on organic listings for website traffic. That's just too risky to be a viable business model. So in terms of what I'd recommend to clients, I'm going to have to come down strongly in favor of both. :)

Now for the fun part of the interview, I hear a lot of people actually like this part!

Q: Where the heck did the handle "Torka" come from?
A:  In the words of Inigo Montoya: "Let me 'splain... No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

I'm a big Monkees fan. You know, "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees"... Have been since I was a child back in the 60s. In particular, I'm a Peter Tork fan. (As an aside: I actually first met Peter nearly 20 years ago and over time we have became friends. I was for awhile the webmaster for his blues band and I still host his personal site. Yeah, I know... brag, brag, brag. Sue me -- he's my childhood idol, this is *my* interview and I'll show off if I want to. Neener neener.)

But I digress. So, Back In The Day on AOL (this would be '91, '92 or thereabouts), my screen name was Torkaholic. (Get it? Peter Tork fan... Torkaholic? Okay... So, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.) Anyway, there was a huge Monkees fan community on AOL then. We had a collection of very active message boards and these enormous, chaotic, six or seven hour long chat sessions every Friday night, among other things. One of the other community members apparently decided "Torkaholic" took too long to type, so he took it upon himself to shorten it to "Torka" -- and the name stuck. It's been my "nom de 'Net" ever since.

Another aside: the cartoon avatar I use on most of my forum and social sites is actually me -- or at least, my "Torka" alter ego. Some years ago, my business partner (online handle: "Zan") and I were featured in an action-adventure comic book scripted by a fellow Monkees fan. We were secret agents whose cover was a "Sigfried and Roy" style Vegas act, except that instead of working with white tigers, we worked with trained white monkeys. As far as I know, the comic was only published in Sweden. The avatar is scanned from an ink drawing used in the comic book, which I subsequently colorized. Unfortunately, I never saw the book in its final published form.

Q: Robert Clough, Stoney DeGeyter or Matt Bailey?
A:  Oh, geeze! You expect me to choose?? Hmmm... Robert is an absolute gentleman. Honest, decent and generous to a fault. And he understands the value of good chocolate as part of a comprehensive bribery scheme. Stoney -- well, you've just gotta love those Pole Position shirts. Excellent branding! And sooo stylish! Plus he's a *terrific* writer; I'm envious of his ability to consistently come up with interesting article topics. As to Matt? Matt is just plain *adorable*. (He's probably going to kill me for that! But it's true. And it's so much fun to embarrass him.) As a former accountant, I tip my hat to a fellow statistical analysis geek, although I'm pissed that he pretty much owns the "Star Trek analogy" franchise. I mean, I *could* run an analysis of how often and under what circumstances Davy Jones gets the girl in old Monkees episodes. But it would be imitative, and it just doesn't have the same je ne sais quoi, ya know?

My conclusion: they're all three brilliant and great fun to hang out with, and it's absolutely impossible for me to choose one over the others. Could I have a bit of all three, please? (*grin*)

Q: You are trapped high in the mountains, snowstorm raging and possible avalanche impending, a team of 4 (search marketing) rescuers are coming to save you?
A:  Well, at least I *hope* there would be somebody coming to save me... So who would it be I'd want in the search party? Sheesh -- you aren't making these questions easy, are you!

Okay, obviously I'd want Danny "Mr. Search" Sullivan. Nobody knows more about search than Danny, so he *must* be on the search team. Second, Ian McAnerin. He's Canadian, so he should be used to snow and cold, and there's at least a passing chance he'd already have suitable gear. Third, Kim Krause Berg -- after hearing about her adventures flying to and from SES San Jose, I know she's resourceful and adaptable, so she'd clearly be an asset. And finally, Li Evans (yes, you!). Disgustingly energetic and relentlessly cheerful, Li would keep the rest of the searchers motivated. With her ever-present digital camera she'd document literally every *second* of the adventure for posterity. (And if I'm lucky, she'd arrive armed with a Thermos of ice-cold mojitos to help revive me!)

I think Torka needs to come stay with me after the Eagles loose, she'd see that the cheerful Li turns into the rabid "eagleschick" Li ... LOL :)

That's all for this week folks, I really hope you enjoyed learning all about Diane, as much as I did (being  a former Monkees fan girl, this was a real treat!)

Thank you Diane for allowing the SMG audience to get to know you!  Stop back next week for edition #20, where I'll have two more new interviews from women within our industry. Until then, read up on our many other women in this industry by checking out the Women of Internet Marketing section here on Search Marketing Gurus.


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» Interview with Search Engine Guide's Diane Aull from Jennifer Laycock
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So glad to see this series back! I was afraid I'd ruined it for eternity.

Great interview, Li! I liked the questions - Diane (Torka) has been a friend for quite a while but I still learned something - that bribary via chocolate works. I'll keep that in mind if I ever get into trouble...

As for Torka needing help - nah, couldn't happen. But if it did, I'd be right there, dogsled and all ;)


Definitely counts as one of my favorite interviews so far!

Diane, I love you, but seriously. With my kind of luck, I'd be the REASON we're stuck on that mountain. Somebody please slap me if I ever consider going anywhere near Chicago O'Hare.

Li, it's so good to see these interviews start back up. Thank you!

Oh, every time I came across Torka's name in a forum, I'd hoped that's what it came from (being quite the Torkaholic myself!) I was on a really active Monkees mailing list like 10 years ago; Zan, Hooloovoo, et al. were always around there. Wow, I'd forgotten all about that.

I was pretty stoked to meet Peter when I was in high school (at a Two Man Band show), so I totally relate!

Great interview, interesting, thought provoking, educational but most important fun!
I have come across Diane (Torka) a lot in the forums and although she is probably extremely busy, she always seems to give up time to answer and help people like myself who are new to the industry.
Thanks Torka I appreciate all the advice you have offered whether it is directly or in-directly.

Congrats on getting a WIMW, Diane!

Diane is the only woman who had a comeback that shut me up for the rest of the night. I hold her in high esteem for that.


Cripes . . .

Great Interview, Thanks Diana, very interesting questions, I appreciate all the advice you have offered...

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