Today, I spoke with Mike Moran, who is a SEO/SEM expert, author, speaker and employee.  As many of you know, through my posts on Google being the centerpiece for your personal brand, this topic is extremely important.  In the interview, we go over some basic fundamentals, key terms, and strategies for success, so that you rank high for your name and maintain it.  In the age of Google, if you don’t show up for your name, someone else can.  It’s time to learn more about marketing your personal brand in bits and bytes, with the goal of showing up first!

A lot of people don’t know the difference between SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing). What are your definitions and how do they differ?

I call SEO the techniques you use to influence organic (natural) search rankings, while SEM covers both organic and paid search. To me, any company with a Web site should be working on SEO. If you are spending time and money to create and maintain your site, why wouldn’t you make the effort for more people to see what you did? Paid search is a different matter–many companies can return more than they spend with paid search, but many others can’t.

In our book, Bill Hunt and I show search marketers how to place a monetary value on each visitor that search brings the their Web sites, so that they can tell whether the money spent on paid search brings a return worth the investment.

How can you use social media to impact search results?

Organic search results depends on strong content–content that appeals to search engines and searchers alike. Social media depends on content that customers find so compelling that they pass it along to others. You can see how creating interesting or entertaining content that meets a need of your customer is the key to both search marketing and social media, so they reinforce each other.


What’s more, the use of good search marketing techniques helps searchers find your social media, and social media techniques pass along your content to others, so that they link to you. Those links then improve your search results. If you’re doing it right, search marketing and social media should reinforce each other. That’s why we added a new chapter in the second edition around social media.

Does Google own our personal brands? Should we even care about and Yahoo! anymore?

I don’t think anyone owns brands anymore. The Internet has, more than ever, forced everyone to rethink how they are portrayed in public, whether you are talking about personal brands or a bottle of Coca-Cola. But it’s far more than Google.

All social media platforms give people a place to provide opinions on people, brands, or anything else–the public owns your brand and you can merely engage in conversation to influence that perception. And certainly you should care about search engines beyond Google–Google isn’t #1 in every country, and even in countries like the U.S., where it is #1, it has just 70% of the market. Who among us can afford to ignore 30% of our potential audience?

What are 5 tips to having a successful SEM campaign (paid/natural search) for individuals or companies?

  • 1) Know what searchers are looking for. If you don’t know what words people search for when they should find you, you can’t do much else with the rest of these tips. Whether for organic or paid, you start by understanding the language of the searcher.
  • 2) See where you stand. Understand the conversation going on out there, through reputation monitoring tools, Google Alert, current search rankings, and other methods. If you don’t know where you are now, you won’t know whether what you are doing is making things better or worse.
  • 3) Know how to keep score. It’s not enough to get high search rankings–you need to know your purpose for getting high rankings. Is it to further your career? Get a job? Sell more product? Get more customer leads? You need to know how you’ll track your success. Once you know that, you’re ready to try some things to see how they work. With paid search, especially, you must know what the return is for what you invest–that’s the only way you know your paid search tactics are profitable.
  • 4) Make sure you are in the game. For organic search, your content must be in the search index. For paid search, you must have your ads running–not just in Google but in every major search engine. If the search engines don’t have your content, then you’ll never be found.
  • 5) Make sure your content is worth finding. Ensure that your content appeals to both search engines and searchers. Yes, optimize your organic search titles and content so that it is found, and make sure your ad copy is well-crafted to garner clicks from searchers, but remember that you have a larger goal, too. Don’t stop with search success, but instead test that you are selling more or generating more leads or getting called for more interviews. What those searchers do after they find you is just as important as finding you in the first place.

What are some tactics you recommend to ranking high for your name and subject matter on Google?

All tactics flow from your strategy to make yourself an expert. If you are clear on what you want to be found for, then you should do everything around creating content that the right people will be looking for. Write a blog, do podcasts, videos and anything else that you can. Write articles for your own Web site, but for other sites, too, always with a link back to yours. Attract a following of people and the search engines will notice. Use social media or any other tactics you want, but most of all, do the things that mark you as an expert. If you don’t think you’re an expert on anything, that’s the place to start.

Don’t be afraid to narrow your expertise if necessary. When I first started working in search marketing, I emphasized that I was an expert on search marketing for large companies, based on my IBM experience. Later, people didn’t need to modify my expertise as pertaining only to large companies, but it was helpful to get attention for a more limited expertise at the start. And don’t worry that it might take awhile—if you keep at it, you’ll find your place in the sun.

Mike Moran is an expert in Internet marketing, search technology, Web personalization, and Web metrics. Mike’s previous appearances include Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, DM Days, the Internet Strategy Forum Summit, and the Enterprise Search Summit.Mike is the co-author of the best-selling 2005 book Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (along with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), which is now in its Second Edition (2008).

Mike is a freelance consultant and public speaker who also serves as Chief Strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing agency based in New York City. Prior to this position, Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position.