Next up on my list of interviews and another SEO that I look up to is Jeremy Dearringer aka @PapaSlingshot who is the co-founder and Chief Research Officer at Slingshot SEO, an Indianapolis based agency.
I began following Jeremy and his work a few months back and consider him an expert in the field and a must follow for any emerging digital marketer. In my brief conversations with Jeremy leading up to this interview, I was impressed by how willing he was to participate and even more impressed by his great taste in music (further down the interview)…
You can find some of Jeremy’s blog posts here.
(photo above courtesy of Purdue University: Dearringer, left, meets with Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniels)
Craig: For those that don’t follow you or your work, let’s kick this off by having you describe what your role as Slingshot SEO’s CRO entails:
Jeremy: With a fancy title like Chief Research Officer you may think I run a top secret lab with statisticians running correlation studies, regression analysis and unlocking the deepest secrets of SEO. In reality that’s the C level title I took to ensure we left the legitimate C level titles for key hires such as our new CEO, Jay Love, and our COO, Don Kane. I do have a passion for everything Internet marketing and originally I was the guru SEO of the three founders. Today we have individuals with SEO knowledge that surpasses my own. We actually do have a R&D team with a developer, statistician and thought leader that reports in to our Director of SEO Performance. I sit on the board of directors that our C levels report to. My partners and I focus a lot on vision. We’re actually on a vision charter mission right now and are not in the office on a daily basis.
Craig: I know the answer but have to ask, SEO or inbound marketing, and why?
Jeremy: That’s easy, SEO. It’s all semantics really. Inbound Marketing is a term that’s been adopted and made popular by Hubspot. I have no problem with the term, but I bleed SEO. It defines me. Our organization witnesses the value of organic search traffic every single day. At the end of the day it’s our job to optimize any given clients’ ability to drive targeted, relevant organic search traffic that creates business impact. Anything and everything we consult on or produce that helps achieve that goal we do in the name of SEO. At Slingshot SEO we focus not only on site architecture recommendations and link building, but we also recommend and engage in social media, content production, topic modeling, ROI tracking, conversion rate optimization, public relations, content marketing and more. For us, today, that is SEO.
Craig: What do you enjoy the most about the SEO industry?
Jeremy: I would have to say the fast paced nature of our industry. There is something new happening EVERY SINGLE DAY. Our SVP of sales, who previously worked for ExactTarget and Compendium, was shocked after working at Slingshot SEO for only a few weeks. He mentioned that “no one watches the grass grow around here.” It’s inspiring to watch everyone on our team work. We’re over 110 full-time employees large now. The people that work at Slingshot SEO thrive in this fast paced environment. The only constant at Slingshot SEO is change. I remember back to my college education at Purdue University. I had a class that covered change management. We brought in manager after manager from old-school organizations. Employees would get so use to the same old routine that it was a complete shock when the company would make almost any change. The team at Slingshot would laugh if they were forced to go through that class after experiencing what it’s like to work at Slingshot. In summary, the fast paced industry that is SEO keeps me feeling alive every single day.
Craig: How do you think small businesses / small budgets can incorporate something like Coca Cola’s “Content 2020” into their marketing campaign?
Jeremy: The short answer is that I honestly don’t think 99% of small businesses can. They’d likely fail even if I spent three hours per week consulting with them for free. My father owns a small business, NewProContainers.com. I meet with him and his team for two to three hours every Friday. I try to bring the lessons I’ve learned working with mid-market and enterprise organizations to his company. We try to cover the basics like optimizing content, email marketing, retargeting, branding, blogging, conversion rate optimization, etc. They can’t afford the services my company offers, so I do my best to provide consulting on how to best use their limited resources. Don’t get me wrong, my father’s business is very successful and grows based on their SEO success. They still have a lot of work to do to be where I’d like to see them from an SEO perspective even. Most small businesses are lucky to have two or three people dedicated to marketing in general. You almost never see anyone with a high level of expertise in even one area, such as SEO or Social Media. Small businesses often can’t afford marketers that will grasp Coca Cola’s Content 2020 video, let alone be able to implement it with such limited resources and support staff. The most competent marketers often find their way into an agency, start their own businesses or become part of a large company’s in-house team. The only way I’ve seen this work is when the owner of a small business makes it personal. The owner dives in hard and studies marketing. They take on the role of CMO. With this level of involvement a small business owner will be confident enough to seriously invest in marketing, well beyond the 5% of revenue that’s typical with small businesses. I always laugh when my father tells me I need a better understanding of accounting now that I own a big company. I remind him that I set the curve in my cost accounting class at Purdue. I then proceed to tell him that he needs a better understanding of marketing.
Craig: Where do you see this industry in 5 years? What about 10 years?
Jeremy: Search is forever. I may not be able to predict exactly what devices we may be using to search in the future or what the input/output may look like, but search will never die. Mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad will continue to evolve how we interact with the search process. Assistants like Apple’s Siri give us a taste of what the future of search may look like. Organic search traffic of some sort will always be valuable to organizations that have something to sell, so SEO won’t go anywhere. It will never die, no matter how many bloggers decide to write “SEO is dead” posts. If anything mobile devices will enable people to search anywhere and everywhere all the time. You see it every day. Your friends and family are searching for stuff mid-conversation or mid-TV commercial on their iPhones.
I think we’ll start to see content marketing in the name of search continue to become a big deal. Creative agencies will be combined with technical SEO experts to craft content strategies around search. Big companies will spend big money to simply market amazing content to create long term search benefit. Right now a lot of companies are still creating entertaining mass advertising with the end goal of brand awareness associated with a few core benefits. Brands will learn to leverage those budgets to promote search ready media so they can experience lasting benefits beyond brand awareness.
The industry will also continue to mature and consolidate. As SEO becomes more of a marketing household term larger agencies will either develop a competency or acquire companies with the “will to rank”. We’re already seeing most enterprises hiring in-house SEO talent to manage SEO agencies.
Craig: What do you like to do or what are some of your hobbies when you aren’t busy marketing the interwebs?
Jeremy: I’m a movie and concert/show buff. My wife and I see most movies and attend most shows that come through town. Recently we’ve attended the Pink Floyd experience, a Puscifer concert (project by the lead singer of Tool), the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show and will be attending Roger Waters “The Wall” in June. They’re of the few ways I can actually shut my brain off and detach from work. I’m also a car nut so I spend time watching shows like Top Gear, reading car magazines, shopping for cars on the Internet and modifying the vehicles I have. I also like hanging out with a few close friends to play cards, video games, cookout, etc. I’m not really into big crowds and you’ll rarely find me at a bar or club. Finally if I have any time left over from that I’m likely to build another business. I run a couple eCommerce projects, blogs and a community forum.
I would like to thank Jeremy for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions and hopefully enlighten SEOs, both up and coming and the more experienced. Here is where you can connect with Jeremy: Google+ | Twitter | Linkedin.
Thank you for reading!