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Elena Terenteva

SEMrush Pro Talk with Mike Moran

Elena Terenteva
SEMrush Pro Talk with Mike Moran

Hello, SEMrush blog readers! This year, we are going to continue our SEMrush PRO talk series of interviews with SEO pros.

Today, please enjoy this interview with Mike Moran. He is an expert in Internet marketing, social media and SEO, and senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City.

Mike gives great advice on avoiding SEO mistakes, and talks about agile marketing and the differences between working with big and small businesses.

You left a large company for a smaller one. How did your background benefit you in a new field?

Well, working at IBM for 30 years was a great experience. It taught me everything I know how to do for other large companies now.

Although it is nice to have more flexibility and independence, what I learned at IBM as a Distinguished Engineer, product manager and leader of ibm.com helped me put myself in the shoes of my clients at large companies who have problems that I really understand.

In a big company, it isn't enough to know what to do to succeed in digital marketing. You need to know how to do it and how you can get others in your company to help you. It isn't easy to do these things, but it is a lot easier than failing, which is what happens if you don't do them.

Can you tell us more about your book, “Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules”?

Try to find an author that doesn't want to tell you about one of his books. I think this was really the first book about agile marketing, but I wasn't clever enough to use that term – or I would have sold more books.

In the book, I am not trying to get you to do things wrong. (If you are anything like me, you are really good at that without reading any books.) No, the idea is that you need to get used to the fact that most of what we do in marketing really is wrong. It's not the best. If we had three more tries at it, it could be better. So what we really need is a process that lets us try multiple ideas and to have a feedback loop that tells us which ones work better than others. And the "quickly" part of the title is really important – otherwise you are just doing it wrong. The faster you can try things, the faster you get to a good answer.

Going back to big and small companies, is SEO for small businesses more difficult than for big ones?

I mostly work with large businesses, but I find that both large and small businesses complain about how hard search marketing is, just for different reasons.

Small companies think it's hard because they don't have the budget and the people to create all the needed content, analyze all the metrics and buy all those fancy tools. Big companies think it’s hard because they have to coordinate so many different specialists to do the right thing, and every time they train them half of them change jobs and everything is screwed up again. Who's right? They both are. Spoken like a true consultant, huh?

The truth is that search marketing isn't easy for anyone. How big or small you are just changes the particular problems that bite you.

For business owners who don’t know how to track their return on investment for SEO, what do you suggest?

I don't really approach this as a problem specific to search marketing. I believe that all companies – big and small – need to have a consistent approach to ROI across all of digital marketing.

The right approach for your company depends on where you are now. I know some pharmaceutical companies that would be thrilled if they could track which marketing led to new prescriptions being filled. They use couponing and studies and all sorts of approaches to test that.

I know some small e-commerce companies that find that to be terribly unsophisticated – they are moving away from attribution modeling for transactions to tracking lifetime value across all of their customer segments. To me, exactly what you are able to do – how sophisticated it is – pales in importance to what you do with the data. Using an agile, data-driven approach to making decisions is so much more important than whether you can perfectly calculate that value.

Make sure you are constantly improving your marketing against your metrics – and make sure you are constantly improving your metrics at the same time – and you won't go wrong.

What are some of the most common SEO mistakes, and how can they be avoided?

The biggest mistake is not hiring our team to help you! All right, all right. The biggest mistake is an approach that focuses on the artifacts of SEO instead of the substance.

Some folks spend all their time building links and optimizing titles and stirring up social activity because that is what Google wants. Except that isn't what Google wants – and it isn't what searchers want, either. What Google and searchers want is high quality answers to their questions.

It happens that Google uses those things to measure whether content is high-quality now. But next week they might use something different. If you truly focus on providing content that deserves to be shown at the top of the results for a particular keyword, then you are focusing on the substance of SEO and you have a good chance of ranking at the top no matter how the ranking algorithm changes. I don't want to say that none of these tactics matter anymore – they still do make a difference – but if that is all you focus on, you are missing the point.

I am about to go missing now myself. Thanks for the great questions, and best of luck to all of your readers.

Thank you, Mike!

Elena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush.

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