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November 14, 2007

Women of Internet Marketing Wednesdays - Part 27

By Li Evans

Womenofinternetmarketing It is Wednesday again, and time for another interview with two amazing women from the online marketing industry.  Just a little housekeeping before we get to the interviews first.  There will not be an installment of this series on Wednesday December 5, 2007 due to my travel schedule.  Currently I'm trying to pull together an installment for the 28th, but again, that will be a surprise for you all if I can manage it.  There will be an installment next Wednesday, despite it being Thanksgiving eve.

So now, lets get to it.  On deck for today's installment we have two women who have both been in this industry for quite a long time.  One, I'm sure just about everyone in the industry is familiar with, and she's someone who's rather well respected, but also manages to raise the eyebrows every once and a while.  Our other lady featured today is an accomplished marathon runner and has been in the industry for 9 years.  Today, let me introduce you to Shari Thurow and Hallie Janssen.

Shari Thurow
Shari_thurow Shari has been in this industry for over 10 years now, and next to Danny Sullivan, Mike Grehan and Jill Whalen, there's probably not a more recognizable name than Shari Thurow.  I have had the privilege of calling Shari a friend and a colleague for the past few years now, and there's one thing I have always respected Shari for, and that's she upfront with how she thinks and feels about all sorts of subjects. From spammers to usability, people may not agree with her, but they cannot ever say they don't know where they stand with her.

Shari is probably one of the best know thinkers on how usability affects design and also affects SEO.  She is an accomplished author, who's very popular book, Search Engine Visibility, just released its 2nd edition and along with that she just launched her new company Omni Marketing Interactive.  She's also probably one of the most approachable people at the conferences she speaks at.  So now, let me allow you the audience to learn what makes Shari tick.

Q:  What brought you into this industry?
A:  I designed my first Web site in 1995. It was a school bus Web site. I worked for the VP of Marketing, and part of my job was creating print materials as well as multimedia presentations. The Web site sort of fell into my lap.

When the site was ready to be launched, I stumbled upon two people online: John Audette and Danny Sullivan. Basically, I did everything they recommended, with great success. I have always been a search-friendly Web designer/developer.

Oddly enough, I was a "search" person long before Google and Yahoo came into existence. For my first graduate degree, two library science classes were required (one in English, one in Japanese). In that class, I really learned to appreciate information retrieval systems and reference librarians. My first scholarly publication was actually a draft of one of my term papers. One of my professors submitted it and surprised me with the actual publication.

Q:  What do you consider to be your most successful accomplishment?
A:  Wow! There are so many. I love it when the "little guy" wins. So every time I am able to assist a genuinely kind person with SEO and search-friendly Web design? I consider that a success.

My favorite clients are ones who were able to not need search advertising at all (gasp!), the ones who had to buy more buildings because their companies expanded, and the ones who still retain me as their Web developer for new ventures. It was really cool when one of my clients told me I saved him from closing down his business.

Q:  Why do you love most about working this industry?
A:  See the above paragraph. I really do like it when the "little guy" wins.

Honestly? This whole search thing fascinates me because what I'm really studying is human behavior, how people act and react with interfaces. I am always learning, and that is what I truly love: always learning.

Q:  Why do you think the search marketing industry as a whole gets a bad rep?
A:  Oh, you are trying to get me into trouble, aren't you? I honestly believe that this industry gets a bad reputation because many SEO professionals do not take responsibility for their actions or blatantly lie about what their services entail.

If you want to be a black-hat SEO, fine. Then be one. But don't lie to your clients about the risks involved. I do not like being lumped in with that group because my methodologies are very, very different.

Q:  Can you give us a brief description of what exactly your company does, besides the Web site?
A:  Brief huh? Sort of like a meta-tag description?  My firm specializes in search-engine friendly Web site design/development and search usability. Even if we aren't the ones who create a site, we can test and evaluate the site for search usability best practices.

We also offer SEO and search usability training.  Heck, I even usability test my training materials.

Q:  What's a typical day like for you?
A:  My typical day consists of multiple projects and a multitude of software. I rarely have days where I only design/develop sites, only usability test or evaluate, or provide SEO services.

I try and group my day by software type. If I am going to be in creative mode, then I try and work in Photoshop and Flash projects during a 4-hour time span. If I need to be in a more logical mode, then Web development and usability analyses are grouped during a 4-hour time span.

Since I am a natural night owl, I do a lot of work late at night. The phone isn't ringing, and I find it easier to concentrate. My European clients are usually amused that I am often awake and alert when they contact me.

Q:  What's the most challenging thing you have to do deal with since you have launched your new company?
A:  My biggest challenge is making time for my own Web sites. Clients always come first.

Q:  What's the most surprising change in this industry that has happened that you didn't expect?
A:  Remember when Yahoo Search Marketing was called Overture? Well, I thought the whole Overture as a core search engine was completely flawed. Pay-for-placement does not clearly demonstrate quality. What surprised me is the quick transition to the advertising model instead of the pure search engine model. Impressive.

Q:  What advice would you give to a woman starting out in this industry?
A:  You need to study. And never stop learning. And when I mean study, I do not mean going on the Web and studying what other SEOs say because there are so many misconceptions about this industry. You should really understand the scientific method (junior high, anyone?) and being objective. A course in statistics always helps. I found that direct marketing courses are really useful to understand A/B and multivariate testing.

People with more technical aptitudes should study information retrieval, human/computer interfaces, human factors, and the like.  Can an SEO professional be successful without all of this studying? Sure, but I feel if you are going to excel above other SEO firms, you have to be willing to admit what you don't know and continually evolve your knowledge.

Q:  Who's your favorite blogger to read?
A:  Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman and Gary Price. I love the way they write.

Q:  What kind of effect do you think social media has had on the search marketing industry?
A:  Oh, you are really trying to get me into trouble, aren't you? I understand the pull of social media. It's an avenue to potential advertising income. But honestly? I find most social media sites irritating rather than useful. I think social media is terribly over-hyped.

When I numbers crunch and look at conversion rates, social media just doesn't pan out as much as all of the case studies want us to believe. Plus, it is so easy to game social media sites. You'd think that the people who create these interfaces would learn from others' mistakes, but they don't. And they do not really care about my opinion. The creators have considerable bank accounts, if you know what I mean.

I'm not saying social media optimization never works. It can work.

Q:  Which search engine do you like the most right now?
A:  It depends on the type of search I'm doing. Yahoo (at least the URL) was my first search engine and I still use it every day. I use Google to search individual Web sites because I find most site search engines are not very good. And I am quite fond of Ask. I've used Ask for years.  Don't ask me to pick. I like all 3.

Q:  When it comes to Linkbuying - needed, over hyped for its use, or total hysteria over PR Rank?
A:  I think some link buying is necessary. You cannot expect Web sites to maintain themselves without any income whatsoever. But is link buying completely exploited? I think so.

Now, are you all ready for some fun with Shari, cuz I know I am! 

Q:  What's the craziest thing that's ever happened at a conference in the Search Marketing Industry?
A:  I am not at liberty to comment about some conference happenings. Some of my colleagues can be rather naughty, much to my delight.

Q:  Mikkel, Fantomaster or Bill Slawski?
A:  Mikkel rules!  The fact that he found a Versace suit for less than $100 AND he can pull it off? The gods and goddesses of shopping bow to Mikkel. I am not even that great of a shopper. 

Smart, charismatic, no-b.s. attitude? And his wife, Pernille, is probably smarter than he is? Yeah, Mikkel rules!

Q:  You are in SEO Survivor - you need to pick 5 other SEO/SEM professionals to help you win the game, who do you pick to be on your team and why?

  • Alan Perkins – His technical skills are superb and he understands search usability. I personally would select Alan to do my Web sites if I had no time whatsoever. Alan has been at the top of my list for many, many years.
  • Mike Grehan – Mike also has multiple skills, technical and marketing. And he's not afraid to go directly to the source (search engine reps) and read technical papers, as I believe advanced SEOs should. Plus he's incredibly charming.
  • Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman – That would be a duh! Their knowledge surpasses everyone.
  • Hey! I didn't pick a woman yet. That just stinks. So let me move on to search engine advertising. I pick two of them: Catherine Seda and Dana Todd. They both have been in this industry for a very long time and understand the nuances that newbies might not catch. Plus they love hair, clothes, and make-up as much as I do.

    Well, maybe not AS much as I do, but they are a close second.

Shari... you forgot shoes, what woman doesn't also love shoes?  LOL  Thanks for letting me show your fun Shari, I think a lot of people will appreciate this chance to know you a bit better!  Now, let us get to know Hallie a bit more!

Hallie Janssen
Hallie_janssen Before the women of internet marketing lunches started, I hadn't heard of Hallie, but let me tell ya, since then I have, and everything I hear is just great stuff!  This is why I wanted to have Hallie featured in our series.

Hallie is the Vice President of Anvil Media, Inc. and  started in this industry about 9 years ago, and like most of us, kind of just "fell into it".  It usually starts with having to take care of a website, and that's how it started for Hallie.  So now, lets get to know Hallie a little bit better.

Q:  What brought you into the Search Marketing Industry?
A:  Started in the marketing department and asked to update and optimize our website. I just really got into it and went to work for an agency in less than a year after starting.

Q:  Most successful industry accomplishment?
A:  I've been pretty behind the scenes, helping to build our team, so I haven't been in the spotlight. But I would say my recent blogging for Search Marketing Standard and covering a few events was pretty cool.

Q:  Why do you love most about working this industry?
A:  I like the fast pace and the constant change. I also like that everyone is so open and willing to help each other.

Q:  Do you think we should get rid of the terms "White Hate/Black Hat"?
A:  Nah, that's what keeps it all interesting. Trying to crack the code, right?

Q:  Can you give us a brief background on the services Anvil Media provides?
A:  We are a full service SEM agency and when I say full service, I mean that we like to help clients with everything that relates to search wether it be to optimize a web page, press release, ppc landing page, conversion funnel, or even consult on a marketing campaign. We specialize in online reputation management and SEM PR.

Anvilmedia_logo Q:  What's a typical day like for you?
A:  I don't think I've had one of those....but I wake up at 5am every morning, run 6-7 miles, get my son ready for school and I'm heading to work by 8:30. I'm usually flooded with emails for a good 2 hours, then I meet with my team about projects they are working on, I talk to new clients, pitch a few prospects and of course catch up on the news in my feed reader.

Q:  What's the most challenging thing you have to do deal with as a woman being and executive at a Search Marketing Firm?
A:  I really haven't had a challenge being a woman...I think I had challenges in the beginning being so young.

Q:  You've been around in this industry quite a while, what changes in the search industry have really amazed you?
A:  I think web analytics has been the coolest thing that has amazed me. The fact that we can get so granular in tracking our traffic.

Q:  What advice would you give to a woman starting out in this industry?
A:  Same advice I'd give any newbie - network like crazy and read even more.

Q:  Who's your favorite blogger to read?
A:  I like Andy Beal's blog

Q:  Link Baiting, think it needs a different name?
A:  Yeah, maybe a new name since everytime I say this to a client they have no idea what it means.

What's your opinion of Digg?
A:  Totally fun on a personal note, but very frustrating as a marketer trying to use it for promotional reasons

Now for a little bit of fun with Hallie!

Q:  You're an accomplished marathon runner, and have even qualified for the Olympic Trials, tell us, have you seen any of those "diva like" tamtrums that some athletes are known for?
A:  I've never seen a tantrum, but have heard of them for sure! Hungry, over exercised girls can be a bit crazy.

Q:  Andy Beal, Danny Sullivan or Jim Boykin?
A:  For president? I can't pass up that funky accent Andy has acquired.

Hallie I gotta agree with you there, that accent is something that make all the gals just want to tune into Andy's weekly videocast (although it's on a brief hiatus you can still listen to past broadcasts!

Thank you to both Shari and Hallie for letting me step into their lives and bring you, the audience, the chance to get to know them better.  Stop back next week for Part 28 of the Women of Internet Marketing Series, but until then check out our Women of Internet Marketing category for all of our past featured women.


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» SearchCap: The Day In Search, November 15, 2007 from Search Engine Land: News About Search Engines & Search Marketing
Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.... [Read More]


OK, that's one vote for president. I just need around 50 million more. ;-)

Thanks for reading Hallie!

Silly Andy! You should have come to me, your constitutional advisor, first!

Now, Li, if you were asking me that question, I would definitely point out that Andy is ineligible to be president, being foreign-born (hence the accent, eh) and not old enough (aren't you happy to hear that there are still things you're too young for, Andy?). There may be issues with Danny, too, since you have to live in the US for at least 14 years, and seeing as how he's off living in Europe, I don't think they'll count the first 14 years of his life as enough.

But I join Andy in saying thanks for reading, Hallie!

Hi Li-

Now now now...people who know me know that I am not a shoe whore. I am a bag lady.

Chris Sherman gave me that nickname on an escalator in Toronto years ago. It kind of stuck.

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