Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tips from Jennifer Shinn on Search

A weekly conference with Jennifer Shinn allows me to get a better understanding of the search world and how to effectively manage my divisions search campaign. Jennifer has enriched my knowledge of search engine marketing (SEM) and how to apply these best practices to various projects. That being said, I eagerly asked her to do a Q&A for my blog since she has an extensive background in this field. Jennifer is the VP of Client Services for The JAR Group, a strategic and creative agency with its foundation in SEO intelligence. “Big agency thinking with big search marketing services” is the JAR promise. She began her career in the Finance and Investment vertical working in marketing, reporting and sales which quickly evolved into management. Her strong desire to find quicker and better solutions for her clients brought her to the Internet. For the past 11 years, Jennifer has been using the Internet to solve problems for her clients.

Jennifer Shinn has a Bachelors of Business Administration from Western Michigan University focusing on Marketing and Finance. Since traditional educational institutions don't foster the in-depth knowledge needed to keep up with the ever changing Internet, Jennifer turns to industry conferences, online web casts and social media groups to keep pace. She has worked on both big brand international sites (Novartis, Fairmont) and small local ones. Her knowledge covers online Market Research, Analytics, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Content Strategy crossing many industries and verticals.

Below you’ll find some key insights on how Jennifer and her team tackle the digital world when it comes to SEO and SEM.
Although most of us know why a search campaign is so important for companies and brands, can you please remind us why conducting research and using search are crucial tools for brands today?
You bet. Research is the backbone of every online marketing project. Without research Brands won’t really know how people search for their product or service. In order to connect with people you need to know how they search, specifically you need to know what keywords they use to try and find what you offer. At The JAR Group we start every engagement with online market research. Research will tell a Brand how to connect with their customers.

Searching via Google or Yahoo is not a new activity for many people. However, it seems as though people think about SEO and SEM differently now then they might have in the past. What are some of the new ways that people think about search now?
Many people see Social Media as new way to connect with people online. It is still a big buzz word that seems to change meaning depending on the person discussing the topic. Since there is no clear definition of what Social Media is, so many of our clients struggle with how to capitalize it. They think they have to have a Face book page or Twitter account because their competitor has one. Honestly, without clear marketing goals for setting up these strategies they often fail. Since online marketing is measureable. It’s important to spend a little time setting up clear goals before jumping in.

Do you think this will change in the future? Likewise, do you think more companies and brands will be mandating that search be included in their marketing campaigns?
Oh yes! The only thing certain with online marketing is change. It changes everyday. The internet never sits still and brands have to be ready to adapt. We’re seeing more and more brands committing dollars to online campaigns. Given the current state of the economy, overall marketing budgets are shrinking, so the total dollars going into online marketing are decreasing. But, from what I’m seeing with our clients, search is getting a good percentage of the overall budget.

Let’s say that a new client comes to you for help with SEO and SEM. What are your first steps?
Our first step is to understand the client’s problem. Do they want to increase online sales? Do they sell advertising space and need more visitors? Once we understand the client’s challenges we can start looking for solutions to help them. We also do a free site review. Our SEO team reviews the site to understand the organic search opportunity. Then, we pull in the Market Research team, Affiliate and SEM specialists get involved. This is so we can outline a clear go forward strategy for the client. It’s really a collaborative team effort at The JAR Group. In the end, we offer our client’s the best solutions to meet their goals, yet stay within budget.

Can you tell us the secret sauce behind JAR’s Methodology when it comes to market, keyword and competitive research?
The secret sauce is really no secret. People are very open and incredibly honest when it comes to the information they seek. They use specific keywords to find what exactly what it is their looking for. Our research taps this data. We organize the keywords people use to search, look at how many of them use the same types of keywords and draw conclusions on how to best connect with them. It’s really that simple.

Can you give an example of how insights gleaned from market research and SEO can help to create a powerful strategy?
Sure. One of The JAR Group’s current clients is Dollar Days International. They’re an online wholesale distributor and closeout company helping small businesses and entrepreneurs compete against larger enterprises. We are doing in depth keyword research for Dollar Days and have optimized over 850 pages for them. Dollar Days is seeing a 95% increase in year over year organic search visitors and search traffic now drives over 33% of Dollar Days total online revenue. Marc Joseph, the President, is extremely happy with the results and has extended our engagement.

Can you give a few guidelines or best practices when trying to figure out the best SEO or SEM strategy to use in this fast-paced digital world?
Test, test, test. It is fast paced. What works today might not work tomorrow. You have to constantly be testing new ideas to keep pushing your web presence forward. There is no one right answer when it comes to your online marketing strategy. You have to set a budget and blend SEO with SEM and other online strategies to reach your goals.

To learn more about how The JAR Group can help you with your online marketing efforts check out their website at http://www.thejargroup.com/. You can also contact Jennifer Shinn directly at jennifer.shinn@thejargroup.com or call her at 602-820-5534.

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