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February 28, 2007

Women of Internet Marketing Wednesday Part 11

By Li Evans

Womenofinternetmarketing_10 So after a week off, we're back with our next edition of Women of Internet Marketing!  Are you ready to learn about our next two featured women?  I certainly am, they are definitely a couple of fun people to meet and hang out with, but also, have a rich history in our industry.

One of our women this week is a linking guru, the other cracks a whip from time to time to help keep the infamous Danny Sullivan in line on the Daily Search Cast.  One of our women learned her craft by driving traffic to online psychic networks and a Russian Bride website, the other still has her first reply back from one our industry's leading experts.  Have I intrigued you enough?  Great!  Now its time to learn more about Alex Bennert and Debra Mastaler.

Debra Mastaler

Debra07 I first met Deb online in the High-Rankings forum, and even before meeting her in person, I knew she was a great person to get to know.  Perhaps I'm a bit biased, but, I think she's likely the top expert on the subject of linking and how it affects your search marketing efforts.  I know that's a bit of a big statement, but she not only speaks and trains at SES conferences, but she volunteers at High Rankings as a moderator.  There's never been a time where Deb's information and advice has steered me wrong.

Deb's the president of her own company, Alliance Link, and also has her own blog called the Link Spiel.  Along with training and speaking at SES, Deb also speaks at Jill Whalen's High Rankings conferences and fills in once a month on the Linking column with Eric Ward at Search Engine Land.  So now, lets get to the questions!
Alliancelinklogo Q: How did you get into the Search Marketing Industry?
A:  By way of a directory link. Between late 1997 to early 1999 I had a directory of organic co-ops, farms, and food stores after searching online for a central resource and not finding one.  Email aside, I had no experience online much less with search engines or SEO so I used the standard marketing and public relations techniques I knew and was comfortable with.  I bartered links for email lists, ad space, created cross promotions and would issue a press release each time I had a new customer or created a new section of the site. I started to rank really well for just about any ‘organic’ phrase so I was happy but still clueless as to what was making that happen. It wasn’t until the business owners in my directory started asking me to help them rank that I realized I was doing something right. That’s when I started researching online marketing and found a newsletter called Rank Write which was written by Jill Whalen and Heather Lloyd Martin.

I still have the original email I sent to Jill and her answer to me. Every once in a while I pull them out and remember fondly the simple days when it was all about  keyword density, meta tags and any inbound link. Jill patiently explained what I was doing and the effects it had on my site and from those conversations Alliance-Link was born. I eventually let the directory go and ventured into SEOLand and link building. It’s been a fun ride so far and I have no regrets save one – I wish I had never let the directory go for all the ‘link’ reasons you can imagine!
Q: Most successful industry accomplishment?
A:  I’ve been very fortunate to have a number of wonderful opportunities come my way and I appreciate each one beyond words. I’m especially grateful to Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman for making me part of the SES conference series and part of their Search Engine Land blog team. It was an honor to have been asked to be the initial Link Building Moderator at the HighRankings Forum and to be part of the Incisive Media SES Training Program. I will always be grateful to Peter DaVanzo for being the first person to ask me for an interview and to Jennifer Laycock for being the first to reprint one of my blog posts.
Q:  Why do you like/love this industry?
A:  For several reasons. I like being part of an industry that has front row seats to the changes taking place in our society via the Internet.  I’ve watched as MySpace burst onto the scene and became part of our daily vernacular, how Google morphed from a search engine to a verb and how local search has just about made the yellow pages obsolete.   And it goes without saying that I love a great number of the people I’ve met along the way and consider myself lucky to call them friend. 
Q:  What aggravates you most about this industry?
A:  LOL – guess I should have seen that question coming…. Well, two things aggravate me  - people who plagiarize content and people who preach SEO/link building but don’t practice it.  Just because someone has a website and “optimizes” it doesn’t make him an authority on the subject of SEO and/or linking. And yet we tolerate a number of people in our industry as *experts* who have this type of background. I work on a variety of sites and never experience the same outcome for any of them, so why do we embrace people who make blanket statements about cause and effect when all they have is one site to base their observations on?
Q:  What’s the next big thing you see happening in this industry?
A:  More and more integration of Web 2.0 type concepts and technology into corporate  America’s online sales and communication activities. We’re starting to see it but once the blue-chip companies integrate the technology and show consumers it’s fast, easy and fun to use, it willl morph forward./p> The other thing I see happening is the refinement of mobile search. You can search from your phone now but it’s not pretty and it’s not efficient. Wouldn’t it be cool to speak a search command into your phone and produce a listing of businesses? I’d have a field day with shoe stores wherever I traveled! Or how about rating a restaurant right after leaving it instead of waiting to get home and power up the laptop? Point and click will be replaced by speak and click and we’ll all own more shoes. Do you feel Search Marketing and Search Marketers get have a bad rep, from outsiders of the industry?

I’m sure we do but then there are people who don’t like the Pope, Gandhi and Elvis as well so it’s best to keep all that in perspective when we talk about what people think.
Q:  Why do you blog?
A:  I blog to practice my writing skills which suck. And not because I use eloquent words like *suck* but because I don’t have the ability to put down on paper what I hear in my head. I try to blog on a regular basis but life and work get in the way. And yes, I am planning to take The Link Spiel off Blogger and give it a big girl blog right after I redesign my pitiful website which at the rate I’m going will be in 2010.
Q:  What’s a typical day like for you at your company?
A:  Depends on if I’m at home working or on the road. I have a number of clients in Richmond/Wash DC area that keep me on retainer so I’ll visit with them several times a month and I do a lot of off-site training. I’m a chatty Cathy by nature so the visiting and the feedback is a lot of fun for me. On the other hand, I love my jammies too so I’m glad I can have both types of work days.
Q:  Who’s your favorite blogger to read?
A:  Hands down Rohit Bhargava.   Closely followed by SEO By The Sea, BoingBoing, Micropersuasion, Constantin Basturea,.Eric and Justilien.  Oh and Gawker, Gray Hat News and Mike Grehan for fun and good photos.
Q:  Right now, how many women bloggers do you read?  
A:  Let’s see, eight on a regular basis.   Yours, Christine’s, Dazzlin' Donna's, Amanda, Kim, and Jennifer. I also  like to read Lisa Barone at BC's and Esther Dyson.

And now of course for the juicy stuff!
Q:  Favorite Memory for an SES Conference? A:  Google Dance 2004. I got to spend time with Paul Gardi.  

Q: You have been in the industry for quite a while, surely you can tell the audience if you’ve ever seen Bruce Clay in tights and a cape?  A:  Nope, but I have seen him in purple silk _____ !!

Q:  Sexy SEO’s, which would top your list? Oilman, Web Guerilla or Dave “Fookin’” Naylor? 
Ooooo be still my beating heart!

A:  Todd can talk over Greg which makes him my hero and I hear he drives a big truck so big sex appeal points to Todd. However, I’d need to know if he has chest hair before he takes home the prize.  So…

Even thought I don’t know Mr. Naylor the fact he’s earned a middle name like "‘Fookin" is promising. I already know he doesn’t have chest hair since I’ve seen his streaking video so I need to find out he drives a big truck or SUV.  That leaves….

My panel-mate MonkeyBoy. Anyone who says it would be an honor to be bitch slapped by me and openly compliments his wife is definitely OK in my book.  However…..

Truth be told I’d run them all over for Paul Gardi. 

LOL - Deb has a wonderful way with words!  Thanks Deb for letting us get to know you!  And now onto Alex!

Alex Bennert

Ab I finally got to meet Alex in London this past SES conference, after hearing about her, and actually hearing co-host the Daily Search Cast with Danny Sullivan on WebmasterRadio.fm.  I'd hope to get to meet her so I could ask in person if she'd like to be featured here.  With a feather boa to accent her style (yes she was a victim of the bead and boa fun), she happily agreed.

Alex works at Beyond Ink, with the ever fabulous Anne Kennedy.  Her road to working with Anne and being a co-host to Danny is definitely an interesting tale that started back in 1999 and involves photography, psychics and Russian Brides.  Of course I had to hook you in, so now you are ever so curious as to how I came up with that trio of facts and you must read on to our questions and answers with Alex!

Beyondinklogo Q:  How did you land in the Search Marketing Industry?
A:  I started out trying to carve a career in professional photography. Digital scanning and imaging was logical next step followed by putting these images on the web which led to learning web design. After freelancing for a couple years, I had to find employment that provided insurance. I answered a job posting at a local dot com for a web designer. Except it was really an SEO position. I worked with a team of 4 people to drive search traffic to a network of sites that included Russian brides and psychic consultations. The job was very unusual and quite instructive. When the company went bust (along with all the other dot com deaths around 2001), I hung out my own shingle and began freelancing search optimization services.

Beyond Ink was a search marketing agency in my area. Their in-house guru was none other than Elisabeth Osmeloski. While technically my competition, the owner Anne Kennedy was always incredibly helpful and generous to me. They brought me to my first SES conference. In 2004, Beyond Ink made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and 3 years later, here I am!
Q:  Most successful industry accomplishment?
A:  I’m very proud of working with Zillow before they even started building their site to design a completely bot-friendly architecture.
Q:  Why do you like/love this industry?
A:  Oh boy! Where do I begin?
      • It’s both an art and a science.
      • Degrees and background experience do not define the potential for success.
      • Sometimes I get to be a hero.
      • The genuine camaraderie of our community is uncommon (in my experience).
Q:  What aggravates you most about this industry?
A:
      • Web developers that retain clients by holding using hostage tactics such as proprietary CMS systems or domain name ownership. 
      • Territorial, short-sighted IT staffers. Jeez, can I just get 5 minutes to state my case? I swear I’m not stoopid.
      • Corporate clients where marketing, IT, and accounting or completely silo-ized so that your great ideas just get swallowed into a black hole of oblivion.
Q:  What’s the next big thing you see happening in this industry?
A:  Marketing budget allocations continuing to increase for web while decreasing for other types of media.
Q:  What’s it like co-hosting the Daily Search Cast with Danny?
A:  Easy! For the most part, I just have to stay out of his way. I throw in the occasionally yep, mmmm, uh-huh, or an attempt at a sophisticated hahaha to make myself sound wise and clever. The real trick is to watch out for Danny Rants that have show-extension potential. Specifically orange-level rants destined to draw our segment well beyond 45 minutes. Now, let me be clear! I’m sure there is a statistically significant percentage of our audience who ardently appreciates the finer nuances of Danny’s spontaneous compositions; but I see myself as an advocate of our Power Users. I’m referring to our listeners that still have another 7 podcasts to hear, 54 blogs to scan, 16 Google alerts to review and 4 forum threads to monitor before they even open their email! That’s when I have to crack my virtual whip and step up to take control. NOTE that this is not the official WebmasterRadio description of the hosting job, merely my own interpretation of it. ;-)
Q:   Do you feel that doing SEO as easy as baking a cake?
A:  You’ll have to be more specific about your definition of “SEO” as well as the type of cake!
Q:  Who’s your favorite blogger to read?
A:  Why do you ask for only one? I’ll have to throw my top 10 into a hat and make a random pick…… and the winner is…. Stuntdubl.
Q:  Right now, how many women bloggers do you read?
A:  Rebecca Kelley, Lisa Barone, Vanessa Fox, Dazzlin’ Donna
And now for a little fun with Alex....
Q:  Andy Hagans or Aaron Wall?
A:  This one is easy since I haven’t yet met Andy. During the last couple years, Aaron has certainly earned my respect and admiration. He is the ideal example of how far determination, persistence, and inquiry can take you.
Q:  Which do you prefer, the Danny Rants, or the Danny Songs on the Daily Search Cast?
A:  It really depends on the day. Danny’s rants are always amusing and occasionally thought-provoking. The songs provide a surreal diversion.
Q:  Craziest thing you’ve ever had happen to you while you have been in this industry?
A:  Hmmm….several incidents spring to mind but they all involve a certain Ms. Osmeloski who already dodged that question!

Oooooh these gals and dodging the fun questions ... maybe I can do a live on the spot interview in NYC?  What do you all think? :)   Thanks Alex for being such a great sport and letting us learn more about you.

As always, visit our Women of Internet Marketing category to read all about the prior features we've had here at SMG!  Next week, we'll have week 12 and two more great women.

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