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Interviews

An Interview with

Scott Buresh, Roger Janik, Hugo Guzman, Alan Rabinowitz, Milind Mody, Brian Reiff

November 14, 2008

Second Roundtable Feature:

Best Kept SMM Secrets and Strategies Revealed by Marketing Experts

Social media has revolutionized personal communication and changed the way of doing business, marketing products, and branding. This huge shift requires new approaches and reconsideration of the current marketing strategies.

If you want to be on the crest of the social media wave, then read on the opinions of 6 well respected SEO and Social Media Marketing professionals who share insights and their best kept secrets on how to pave the road to Social Media success.

Here are the questions we asked:

1. How would you explain the huge interest in social networks?
2. What is Social Media Marketing? What social media tools and tactics do you usually apply?
3. How does social media affect SEO?
4. Which are the common misconceptions about conducting social media campaign?
5. How do you measure success in social media?
6. Could there be negative consequences for the companies that don’t have a presence in social media?
7. What are some of the opportunities in social media that marketers are not taking advantage of?
8. Do you think social media is sufficient to be the only marketing channel used?
9. If you could only give one social media marketing tip, what would it be?

To start off, let’s introduce our participants:

Scott Buresh

Scott Buresh is the founder of Medium Blue, which was named the number one organic search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld in 2006 and 2007. Mr. Buresh has contributed content to many publications including MarketingProfs, ZDNet, SiteProNews, WebProNews, DarwinMag, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide.

He was also a contributor to The Complete Guide to Google Advertising (Brown, 2008) and Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004).

Medium Blue's award-winning services include search engine optimization, visitor conversion, and online public relations.

Roger Janik

Roger Janik is the President and Founder of ServerSideDesign – Website Design & Website Promotion Company.

ServerSideDesign was founded in 2004 and over the years has grown to a staff of well-rounded professionals that handle tasks such as SEO copywriting, SEO programming, link building, social networking, pay per click management, web design, and reporting.

ServerSideDesign is a proud member of the BBB, SEMPO and many other prestigious organizations. They were named as a top 10 company in 2007 for both Organic SEO and Link Popularity by Promotion World.

Hugo Guzman

Hugo Guzman is Director of SEO for Zeta Interactive, an Advertising Age top 50 digital marketing agency based in New York.  Currently, Hugo leads SEO and social media programs for over 25 Fortune 1000 clients and manages a team of 16 specialists and analysts at Zeta Interactive,  developing SEO and social media best practices documentation and acting as subject matter expert for clients and prospects. An active and recognized blogger in the SEO community, Hugo previously held several senior marketing positions at CBS Interactive and Real Football 365, Inc., where he was responsible for managing and growing their organic search initiatives.

Alan Rabinowitz

Alan Rabinowitz is the CEO of SEO Image, Inc. an award winning and recognized search engine optimization firm based in New York, NY. Alan has been active in the search marketing field since 1999 and has worked on design and marketing projects for small firms and fortune 500 companies.

SEO Image specializes in natural search engine optimization and link building services. With an average client retention rate of two to five years, SEO Image is able to work closely with its clients to assure accurate communication and success.

Alan has been a resource for SEO information for the Wall Street Journal, Monster.com, Inc. Magazine and Business.com and has written articles on TopSEOs, PromotionWorld, Visibility Magazine and Search Engine Journal.

Milind Mody

Milind is the founder-CEO of eBrandz™ who grew the company to more than 250 employees and profitability. Milind is currently on the Advisory Panel of Search Camp (This event is conducted by The Knowledge Foundation) and speaks frequently at SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) events. Milind has also conducted SEO workshop for the Digital Marketing Institute. Milind has a "Bachelor of Science" Degree from Mumbai University and a GNIIT (Globalnet Curriculum of National Institute of Information Technology) Degree in Computers.

Milind's current responsibilities include business development and interacting with increasing number of eBrandz partners. A crucial part of business development is charting out growth opportunities for eBrandz and predicting the next big money making opportunities in Search marketing.

Brian Reiff

I was born and raised in Chicago in a middle-class family; hence this is where Direct Hit Solutions was founded. I have a college education from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and over ten years of sales/marketing experience. Prior to starting Direct Hit Solutions, I was an Account Executive for Citysearch.com which is where I initially began my career in Search Engine Marketing. I Founded Direct Hit Solutions in November of 2005 and we are currently celebrating our 3rd anniversary. Initially I began this journey with only Search Engine Marketing in mind, and today we offer several additional services including Viral Marketing / Social Media Optimization, Web Design and Web Development.




Question 1: Social networking is amongst the most popular online activities. An estimated 300 million people worldwide log into social networks on a daily basis. How would you explain the huge interest in social networks?

 

Scott Buresh

In the past, social networks have primarily been used to connect to or meet people with similar interests as it was free and immediate access to a wide group of individuals who, ideally, share your views. Nowadays, its popularity has made social networking almost indispensable to companies themselves. Social networking is a fast and efficient way of sharing media, promoting your company and services, and keeping in touch with changes in technology, people’s likes and dislikes, and approaches and strategies to what works in the marketing arena.

Roger Janik

As web 2.0 took off and continued to build steam, social networking has benefited greatly from many interested web surfers looking to contribute on the web.  If you think about the internet and the web linearly, it seems like a perfect evolution that social networking sites would be extremely attractive to web users and become a powerhouse they are today.  

For the most part, the early internet up until just a few years ago was a one way street.  Individuals created a web site and while they requested feedback from others it wasn’t either instant or a discussion.  Today, you see a shift in how web content is created and commented on.  With today’s social networking sites, it is its members and not individual or small group creating site content and in regards to comments, web users can now instantly comment on content which can take a life of its own. So many experts agree that social networking is popular because it gives individual users the power to create their own comments and get involved in the discussion.

In regards to SEO, social networking has also become hugely successful to web developers and marketers because when individuals are creating their own content, showcasing content found on the web or commenting on content, there is an inherent value that what ever the content is- it must be valuable.  For search engines, this is in a way a holy grail of sorts of finding content that has already been voted on as being relevant and of high quality and this is why sites or content that do well on social networks are usually ranked higher in the search engine rankings.

Hugo Guzman

It’s really quite simple if you think about it. The reason behind the success of social networking is the simple fact that social networks and communities simply mirror the real world. What do you do every day? You socialize with friends and family. You meet new people. You form groups. Social Networks cater to one of the most basic human traits; the desire to socialize.

 

Alan Rabinowitz

People are always looking to connect and grow their businesses and their relationships. Social Media gives people the ability to have that type of interaction. It works on both personal, business and niche topics so many different aspects to social media exist.

 

 

Milind Mody

Some of the major reasons are:

1) Convenience.
2) Ease of use.
3) Easy to meet new people online.
4) Find old friends and contacts. I personally have found many school and college friends (with whom I had lost contact) on Social Networking websites.
5) Feeling of a community.
6) Social networking is addictive. If you have a business profile on LinkedIn, you would like to connect with more people, ask others to recommend you.
7) Media coverage of Social networking sites has also helped new people join these networks – so that they can be in touch with their friends.

Brian Reiff

It’s definitely very true that social networks have changed the lives of everyone not just on the Internet, but in the overall culture of the world. I believe that social networks are a major success for several reasons. Probably the biggest part of this phenomenon is the “six degrees of separation” principle. Now not only can we interact with our neighbors and people within our local community, but we can very easily interact with someone across the country or even someone on the other end of the World. Social Networks have brought the people of the World closer together and that’s why I foresee this area of the Internet to keep growing as more Social Networks hit the Internet and as future generations are raised online.




Question 2: What is Social Media Marketing? Are your clients asking you to provide them with a social media optimization strategy?  What social media tools and tactics do you usually apply?

 

Scott Buresh

Social media marketing can be two things – 1. marketing on the social media website itself, such as with your company’s banners and other similar advertisements, or 2. performing and implementing strategic marketing for the social media website as one of your clients, i.e. highlighting what it can do for a user. Most clients inquire about social media marketing, wondering what it can do to boost their rankings. Medium Blue is currently exploring its value to SEO, and we’re devising potential tactics that may help clients receive the results they are looking for.

Roger Janik

I think that many people in our industry would define social media marketing as using social networking sites and user content created sites for purposes of creating brand awareness, to increase visitors to their site and become overall more relevant in the search engine rankings.  While social media marketing is fairly new- even to our industry, it has become quite successful.  In fact, savvy companies outside of SEO and the web are becoming aware that it can be an effective strategy for certain companies looking to market their products or website online.  

While there are a wide variety of tactics that a search engine marketing company can employ, I would first recommend a comprehensive SEO strategy with a social marketing component.  Alone, social media marketing right now is not enough for long term growth and higher rankings.  However saying this, I would suggest anyone considering a social marketing strategy to first dive in and learn about the many social marketing sites.  Even the largest social marketing/networking sites grow and change at light speed and since the web is always changing, its important to keep track of the trends.  It should also be noted that each social marketing site has its own personality, own biases and own themes.  I would also suggest using social networking sites for growing links.  Since most sites allow you to post a link, make sure you post your company and its links.  Finally, if link building is part of your focus, make sure that you are posting on Dofollow sites.  These sites allow “juice” to pass through to the search engines.  The opposite of Dofollow sites are Nofollow sites, and these sites can in some cases stop a search engine spider from following the link to your website and effectively ignoring it.

Hugo Guzman

When I’m asked this question, I always bring up a funny little analogy. Asking for a social media optimization proposal is like asking for an “online marketing” proposal. What’s the mean? Email, SEO, SEM, display, creative, development?

In other words, the term “Social Media Marketing” is way too broad and generic. What we’re doing for clients is identifying very specific needs, Social Network media buying, social media data mining, reputation management, corporate blog development, etc. and then delving down even deeper into those sub-categories to identify very specific goals and deliverables that focus on ROI as well as brand affinity.

Alan Rabinowitz

Social Media to me, is a very broad term and can mean anything from dating, rock band promotion, chatting with friends, and even a way of promoting yourself or your firm to a group of active people looking for something similar or who basically do the same thing.

We get very little call for social media optimization strategy because many of our clients are focused mainly on their rankings from a Search Engine perspective and to us, the two mix well but are not 100% necessities.

We offer all our clients blog education, user (meaning employee) account marketing and guide them to using some tools to their benefit. We believe that the firms should consider doing this actively so they can personalize it and put the right message online.

Milind Mody

Social Media Marketing is promoting a business by interacting and engaging with people using social media channels. Yes. A lot of our clients are interested in Social Media optimization. For example one of our clients is a New York based laser surgeon. He had a video which showed how he can reshape your nose without using a knife. We started promoting this video in YouTube. Due to universal search, this video also started ranking on few surgery-related keywords on Google. The result was increase in requests and more importantly an increase in number of people opting for this surgery. We also create viral videos for our clients.

Other strategies include using Social Networking (MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn), Social Bookmarking (Delicious, Furl, StumbleUpon), Social News and community websites (Digg, Yahoo Buzz), Presentation websites (SlideShare), Creating Social Hub sites (Squidoo Lens, Hub Pages). But each client and business needs separate strategy. As for tactics, before starting any campaign, ensure that you have friends in each of the communities you want to target. This will make it easier to start a viral campaign. Respect rules of each of these communities and avoid sales pitch and marketing jargon. Not sure about tools, but we do use TubeMogul to track statistics of client videos.

Brian Reiff

Social Media marketing is best defined by Wikipedia as with most of their definitions. According to Wikipedia “Social media marketing is the process of promoting a site, business or brand through social media channels by engaging and interacting with existing consumers or potential consumers.” This is the hottest service that we are offering to our clients today and approximately 35% of all new leads and business has some form of social media attached to it.

 


 

Question 3: How does social media affect SEO? How much weight do the search engines give links from social media sites? Do some sites have more weight?

 

Scott Buresh

Social networking site participants organically generate content through conversations and postings, such as through blogs which are fully indexed and searchable. Content is created by the users, which, in turn, supports targeted keywords over time. Social media sites hold more weight to the major search engines since the information is viewed as unbiased. As a result, content from social media websites and/or forums will often show up higher in search engine rankings than many other websites.

Roger Janik

Social Media has had an enormous affect on SEO and I think this is just one of the reasons that it has become quite popular.  There are quite a few positive benefits of using social media for SEO purpose.  First off, social media can definitely have an impact on your site’s linkability.  Where as paid linking can cost you page rank and is frowned upon by Google and other large search engines, linking from social networking sites are almost always seen in a positive light.

Another big benefit of social media on SEO is that these sites help you showcase your content, product, brand, etc and help you spread the word around.  The content on one social network site can usually easily migrate to other sites and other viewers with ease.  This is why many items go ‘viral”.  When one individual finds some kind of value in a piece of content he or she shares it with a few people and so on and on until it grows exponentially to millions of people in a very short period of time.  

Social media also helps the large search engines on targeting what is relevant and quality content.  The more people that vote or view a piece of content can be viewed as being relevant and quality helping the site that the content is hosted on to be ranked higher and viewed more.  Finally, social networking sites help SEO companies target a specific community easily.  While some networks focus on a broad range of people (MySpace and Facebook) others can be focused on very niche ideas and hobbies.

Hugo Guzman

That’s a very tricky question that has a potentially long and complicated answer. Here’s the short version: most social media sites pass no direct SEO benefit because their outbound links are discounted via the use of no-follow tags for search engines. The real SEO value is the secondary affect that occurs when a social media site features a specific piece of web content. A good example is when a piece of web content makes it onto the front page of Digg.com. The link on Digg doesn’t pass any SEO value, but when bloggers and other webmaster see the content on Digg’s homepage, they will link to it from their own sites. Typically, a homepage mention on Digg.com results in hundreds of inbounds links.

Alan Rabinowitz

Most social sites allow linking, although many are adding the nofollow tag, which defeats the marketer from using it for Google SEO, it still holds weight in other search engines and can still impact SEO because it offers visibility to a group that is generally blog active, meaning they are looking and writing on what they associate with in their social media circles.

How much weight do the search engines give links from social media sites? Weight is speculative, we can only guess. Many changes in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) make it hard to determine "exact" ranking factors, but we have seen increases in ranking when combining social media with strong on-page SEO methodologies.

One thing to keep in mind with SEO is the control of the off-site optimization, meaning targeting keywords from offsite. While the Search Engines will respond to any link, they respond to what the link says or in technical terms the anchor text. Social media tends to point to deeper pages of sites and with the reputation of the full title rather than a related keyword. So sites do not get the full SEO benefits of all social media campaigns, specifically those that target posts or the blogosphere.

Do some sites have more weight? Again, this would be a consideration we would expect based on popularity and traffic. I also assume some we might expect to have more weight would actually have less as spam will surely be added by the flooded SEO market.

Milind Mody

Blended search is a great example of how Social Media can directly affect SEO. Search engines use blended search to include social media content in their search results. Studies show that blended search has changed how users interact with search results. It has changed linear scanning pattern of users and as a result indirectly reduced importance of first few positions in search results. Apart from this, links from some social media websites do carry more weight and help in SEO.

 

Brian Reiff

Social media can have a tremendous amount of impact on a client’s SEO efforts. Most companies, especially when being researched by future prospects and or customers will go to a Search Engine and search the company by name and try to find any dirt they can before spending $$$ on a product or service that they’re not sure about. Having as much possible positive feedback will only help the company targeting social media to win that prospective customer. Search Engines value social communities very highly as they are visited so often and information changes so frequently much like the blogosphere. I’d say that your more mainstream sites like Myspace and Facebook have a higher value than for instance IVillage.com, however since most of the information on Social sites are fresh, Search Engines know to keep their spiders around at all times.

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