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October 10, 2007

Women of Internet Marketing Wednesdays Part 23

By Li Evans

Womenofinternetmarketing It's that time of week again, where you get to learn all about two wonderful and talented women in the search industry.  Welcome to another edition of Women of Internet Marketing Wednesday! 

The two women I'm featuring tonight are a lot of fun, and it's been a great pleasure getting to know more about them.  One of these women is probably one of my oldest friends in the industry, and the one person I have the most respect for.  Not a lot of people know her, because her husband does most of the "face work" for the company. 

The other woman I've recently gotten to know through SES events.  I also read her blog and am now cheering her on as she steps into a new role in her life, one probably a lot of us would deem as our "Dream Job".

Tonight let me introduce you to Irma Wallace and Jessica Bowman.

Irma Wallace
Irma_wallace I've known Irma Wallace now for about 4 years.  David Wallace and Irma are the cutest couple in SEO there is (sorry I'm probably bias as I consider them some of my closet friends!). Most people know David (SearchRank) from the forums - HighRankings, Search Engine Guide and also on his own blog, on his business site, SearchRank.  Irma's his better half, and today I get the pleasure of introducing all of you who don't know her, to this wonderful woman.

Irma's the other half of SearchRank, an Arizona based search engine marketing firm, and has been in the industry for about 10 years now.  Irma handles most of the day to day operations of the company. This includes what she says are "some of the more boring details of running a company" such as billing and accounting, but then some of the more exciting elements such as looking over all search marketing campaign maintenance for our clients.  Irma's about to launch her own blog, so keep your eye to IrmaWallace.com

Now, lets get to know a little more about Irma.

Q:   What brought you into the Search Marketing Industry?
A: My husband, David, and I inadvertently entered the search marketing industry as a result of our web site design business. When designing clients’ sites in the later part of the nineties, we would perform what is now considered elementary SEO techniques such as optimizing title tags, adding unique meta description tags, optimizing content, etc. and then “submit” those sites to the search engines.

At the time, we were not charging client for this extra service. Once we realized we could monetize this service, we started offering what we called back then “search engine submission” plans. That eventually evolved into us launching a separate site, SearchRank.com, which would focus solely on all aspects of search marketing – both organic and paid. Now, search marketing is 95% of what we do. We still design some sites but very few and mostly our own internal projects.

Q:   Most successful industry accomplishment?
A:I’m especially proud of the first internal site we ever launched - The Arizona Builders’ Zone. It was my original idea as I was working with contractors at the time, helping them to get their contractor’s licensees as well as set up their businesses. It seemed like a natural fit to launch a contractor directory and resource site and try to appeal to that niche industry in offering them web design services.

The site has evolved over time into one of the leaders in its niche and earns a decent income through advertising and lead generation relationships we have established. We are now working to take the site national which has the opportunity to greatly increase its revenue earning potential.

Q:   Why do you like/love this industry?
A:Are you kidding? The money! In all seriousness, yes the money is great but I also love the fact that running my own business affords me liberty with my time. If David and I want to take Friday off to go see an early movie and lunch, we have that flexibility. I also enjoy many of the people I have met around the world. While it is a diverse crowd, we all have that common ground that brings us together – marketing. However, at conferences for example, I love to go beyond “marketing and business talk” and get more personal. It allows me to get to know about a person - like a father whose son is overseas serving our country, a new baby’ arrival, plans of building a new home, weddings, and lots of cute photos and stories. I appreciate all those who where willing to share with me.

Searchrank_logo Q:   You and Dave run a rather successful small business SEO company in the Phoneix, AZ area, what do see as your biggest challenge in keeping your business successful?
A:  David and I have discussed this as we both feel we are at a crossroads – either grow the business larger by taking on more overhead, adding staff, increasing office space, etc., or placing more emphasis on our own internal projects, which typically are placed on the back burner. I think we are leaning more towards our own projects, but time will tell.

Q:   You are as fluent in Spanish as you are English, do you see some great opportunities for search marketers in working with the Spanish speaking market?
A:  Actually, I understand Spanish pretty well; I just don’t speak it properly. I have taken a few college courses and plan to continue future ones so that I can become fluent. As far as the opportunities, they are huge. For the Spanish market, it is like 1997 all over again – lots of opportunity and very few companies/individuals filling the gap. David keeps on me to get my Spanish up to speed so we can begin to tap into the Hispanic/Latino market.

Q:   What advice would you give to other small business SEO companies just starting out?
A:  Make an effort to develop partnerships with web design companies, PR firms, advertising agencies, etc., essentially any company dealing with clients who will be interested in online marketing but they do not offer the services themselves.

Another piece of advice would be for an individual or individuals within the company to work to establish themselves as an “authority” in the industry. While that may be more difficult now than it was a few years ago, I believe at least one person from each company should still work towards that goal, whether they blog, moderate forums, speak, get involved with social media, etc.

Q:   What advice would you give to a woman starting out in this industry?
A:  I’ve had the opportunity to have met and attend sessions of some pretty amazing speakers. The best advice I can give to women starting out is to identify other women that stand out in the industry and learn from them through their articles, blogs, and attend their sessions at conferences. Of course, also take the opportunity to attend the Women’s Luncheon that Li does such a great job organizing and get connected.

Q:   Who's your favorite blogger to read (can be any, doesn't have to be SEM/SEO related)?
A:  My husband, David of course. Other than his blog (company and personal) and yours, Li, I don’t really spend too much time reading blogs. This is partly due to the fact that David keeps up on all that’s happening in the industry along with being our “face of the company.” On a regular basis David will always inform me with posts of interest. It would be really easy for both of us to spend 24/7 on-line. But I have to bring some balance to keeping up with the industry and getting actual work accomplished.

Q:   Should companies blog?
A:Yes, I think they should. I know that every since we added a blog to our company site, it has done wonders as far as helping the site to become more of a resourceful site as opposed to an online sales brochure. Having a company blog has also worked well to draw in new business.

Q:   Digg or Sphinn?
A:  Definitely Sphinn with regards to our own industry. However, when dealing with non SEO/SEM topics such as stuff for client sites, you can’t beat the traffic and links Digg can offer.

You know.... everyone is just waiting for this part!

Q:   Alright, you have to give us the goods on Dave, does he really wear chaps, boots, a cowboy hat and slay rogue spammers with his six shooters?
A:I wanted to post a picture I snapped of him one time working with no shirt, however you would never hear from me again. ;)

His typical attire is a t-shirt, shorts and bare feet. If meeting with a client, he will then dress business casual but it is rare that he meets with clients face to face. Most correspondence is via email and phone.

Q:   Pick a Matt, any Matt.... Matt Bailey, Matt McGee or Matt McGowan?
A:  Who else? Matt McGee, the teddy bear.   (Li: Ha! Ha! Twice in as many days ...Matt and the Teddy Bear references. Ha! Ha!   ... I think I might need to hide at SMX New York)

Q:   You're in charge of recasting the Brady Bunch, who do you cast as the following?
A:  Okay, here I go. Remember this is all in fun. :)

  • Carol Brady: Jill Whalen (mother of SEO)
  • Mike Brady: Danny Sullivan (father of SEM)
  • Marsha (Marsha! Marsha!): Jennifer Laycock (cool popular sister)
  • Jan: Diane Aull aka Torka (quite but very smart)
  • Cindy: Tamar Weinberg (too cute)
  • Greg: Cameron Olthuis (the cool big brother)
  • Peter: Robert Clough (shy)
  • Bobby: Neil Patel (cute)
  • Alice: Shari Thurow (cleaning up after spammers)

Thanks Irma!  This was great, I knew a lot more about you than most, but this gave me a chance to learn even more about you.  Thank you!

Now I get to introduce you to a gal who's about to start out on an entirely new adventure in her career, meet Jessica Bowman.

Jessica Bowman
Bowman_jessica Jessica, at the time of this interview is currently the in-house search marketing manager at Business.com, but that's all about to change as she's taken a position with Yahoo!

Jessica's been in the search marketing business for over 5 years and is probably best know for all of her knowledge circling around in-house SEO.  She writes a column at SearchEngineWatch and has a very popular blog, SEM InHouse.  Jessica's also been a speaker at several Search Engine Strategies events.

So now let me introduce you to this really great lady.

Q:   What brought you into the Search Marketing Industry?
A: Like most in-house SEOs, I fell into it. I was working in IT for Enterprise Rent-A-Car and one day my manager said "we need to figure out how to get into search engines. It's called search engine marketing." With that little guidance I went off for two weeks and came back with a 20 page document on what is search engine marketing, what we did right and what we needed to fix. A week later they offered me a full-time job doing SEO. The rest is history.

Q:   Most successful industry accomplishment?
A: Helping build the awareness and resources for in-house search marketers. Life in-house can be very isolated, especially when you're a one-person team. Challenges aren't the same as those agencies face – our biggest challenge is getting stuff through the system and live on the site, not how to boost our rankings. I started as an in-house SEO before people talked about search in-house and had to navigate the waters without insight from someone who had been-there-done that. As a result, I've stepped in more than my fair share of goo along the way. I started to blog about SEM in-house to share my lessons learned, so that others don't have to walk through the minefields without any guidance.

Q:   Why do you like/love this industry?
A: Aside from the culture we've created, I love that the industry is changing at a rapid pace. I worked at Enterprise Rent-A-Car for 9 years and in the first five years I had six jobs. After about 8 months in each, I felt it was mastered and I was ready for something new. With search, it's never fully mastered – the search engines constantly throw in a new twist.

Q:   What was your best experience working at Business.com?
A: I was prepared for in-house challenges when I started, but they weren't there. Business.com was ready to embrace SEO in every way that can be imagined. In fact, I almost felt guilty talking about in-house challenges, when it was so easy for me to get things prioritized and live on the site. Outside of that, I learned how to do large-scale SEO, something very different than what's taught at conferences and in books and articles.

Yahoo_purple_logo Q:   What excites you most about starting a new position, especially one at a search engine?
A: Starting a new job is always exciting. Starting your dream job makes you speechless.

I couldn't have written the job description better myself. It's a centralized marketing role that faces with business sponsors and SEOs that work on the Yahoo! properties. I anticipate this to include many meetings and presentations, which is what I enjoy most. My favorite part about being in-house is educating and evangelizing SEO throughout the company, I love that single moment when SEO clicks and someone suddenly "gets" how it works and how they can directly make an impact in rankings and revenue.

Q:   What changes have you seen over the years to typical in-house search marketer position?
A: Primarily, there are more of us to learn from. At my first Search Engine Strategies conference I looked everywhere for an in-house SEO and didn't find one. Likely they were there, but it took a few more conferences before they crossed my path. Today, there are many in-housers, devoted tracks at the conferences and we are starting to mobilize ourselves and communicate with each other to share challenges, successes and brainstorm ideas.

We are also seeing that an in-house SEO can be very visible within the organization. A role that started as a lower level position in marketing or IT now interacts with VPs, attorneys and more. We are also seeing VP level search marketing positions in-house, which shows that search marketing is truly becoming a strategic part of a company, much like marketing and public relations.

Q:   What's the toughest thing you've ever had to deal with as a search marketer?
A: Getting your changes pulled out of scope. I can handle drastic drops in the SERPs. But, it's really tough when you sell and sell, finally get buy-in and prioritization, only to have it all removed from scope at the 11th hour in order for the project to stay on schedule. The intense frustration level experienced is unique to in-house SEO's who live and breathe one company's SEO strategy every day. I've learned how to deal with it, but it still hits where it hurts.

Q:   Who's your favorite blogger to read (can be any, doesn't have to be SEM/SEO related)?
A: About once a month I sit down and read Swiss Miss. It's a Swiss designer in NYC who finds novel things that make you say "Hmm." There are gadgets and gift ideas, I just ordered smittens as a thank you gift for newlyweds – I can't wait for their chuckles when they are delivered.

Q:   Should companies blog?
A: That question opens a big can of worms.  I don't have a blanket yes or no answer; my answer is "it depends."  It depends on the company, their resources and their culture. I definitely believe there is a lot of potential for a company blog and is something every company should evaluate as a part of their strategy.

Q:   Digg or Sphinn?
A: Sphinn, definitely. I never caught on to Digg. When you're in-house, there is very little time for anything less then what's required. Sphinn is all search, all the time, so I can manage that in my readings.

So now it's Jessica's turn for a little fun!

Q:   So tell the audience, why do you like Belly Dancing so much?
A: Honestly, I tried it for kicks. I always try unusual things, I've also tried flamenco dancing, fencing and kick boxing. It turns out that belly dancing felt as good as a workout, but was a lot more fun. One day I'll be good enough to dance in public, but for now I'll stick to the back of the dance studio.

Q:   Neil Patel, Chris Winfield or Ken Jurina?
A:  Oooh-la-la, too tough to choose! 

Q:   You're on SEO Survivor, you can have 5 other SEO's on your team, who do you choose and why?

  • My first choice is Craig Paddock, an industry veteran who keeps a low profile. Craig is an SEO I wouldn't want working for my competitors.
  • Rob Snell is my second choice. He knows how to sell online, irk the competition and will keep us all roaring with laughter the entire time.
  • Third choice is Greg Boser who joined the Pasternak contest and timed his #1 ranking down to the hour. I'd also choose Greg because he knows SEO dark arts so we could use 'em if we need to. 
  • My fourth pick is Duane Forrester. Duane has a fellow in-house SEO with an interesting perspective and experience. I believe Duane would get as much satisfaction as me to see first hand how much can be done in such a short amount of time – something that rarely happens in-house.
  • My last choice is Vanessa Fox. I thought about Matt Cutts as the fifth, but he has this tendency to hold back the juicy bits and I suspect he wouldn't divulge anything we could use after Survivor ends, whereas Vanessa is a free agent… and, I can't survive all that testosterone alone!

Thank you Jessica, you know I have to agree with you, trying to pick between Niel, Chris and Ken is a tough one!  Good luck with your new adventure at Yahoo! :)

My thanks to both of these women for sharing a bit of their lives with us.  I hope you come on back next week for edition #24.  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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# Jan: Diane Aull aka Torka (quite but very smart)

Quiet? Hmm...I wonder if Diane has ever been called that before! :D

It's great to see that SEO and internet marketing are represented by some very smart ladies from SearchEngineWatch... Jessica and Irma - based on their experience and resumes above do bring a lot to SEO world...
I would personally like to see even more ladies get into this field of marketing.

As far as a Search Engine perspective, what do you recommend is the most important for search rankings, blogs, posting in directories, or article submissions?

Just starting out and learning tons. I must have 4 SEO guides printed out and ran some link analysis data on one of my competitors. Needless to say I am way behind the 8 ball.

Well I really enjoyed the article. The SEO survivor question was rather interesting. I have some names to do some research one. I appreciate it.

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