60 Seconds with… David Rodnitzky

DavidExecutivePhoto_thumb_400 “60 Seconds with…” features leading experts in Word of Mouth marketing, social media marketing, customer experience, and related areas. Today’s guest is David Rodnitzky, Founder of PPC Associates.

60SecondsWithHow is the Groundswell of Word of Mouth and social media changing search engine marketing? First, I think WOM and social media is gradually replacing search results as the go-to source for answers to specific types of questions. Consumers and businesses have always relied on word of mouth to find service providers, for example. If you needed a good lawyer B.I. (before Internet), you asked your co-worker or your next door neighbor for a recommendation. But as our society became more transient, it became harder and harder to find that trusted resource for a referral. As a result, I think a lot of people saw the Internet and search engines in particular as the next best thing to a trusted referral. The rise of WOM and social media, however, is helping people create trusted networks in a transient society. So while I may not really know my next door neighbor well enough to know on his door and ask for advice about legal services, I can now go online and post a question on a site like Yahoo Answers, or ask my friends on Facebook, or even send out a tweet on Twitter. I'll get a lot of responses, and I will likely value those responses more highly than the results I might find on Google.

The other interesting aspect of social media for me is the level of demographic honesty. Search marketers are always trying to infer intent from a search query. If someone types in "buy email marketing software" we assume that we should market email marketing software to them. But there are a lot of queries on search engines that aren't nearly that specific and we are left guessing about what the user really wants. With social media like Facebook, users tend to be very honest about who they are and what they want. Users tell you their birth date, location, marital status, age, gender, and even their interests, occupation and title. In many cases, there's no inference required to target the right people - the user has already told you who he is and what he wants!

Can you give us an example of a company that is doing a good job of integrating search with Word of Mouth and Social Media marketing? I have a client called Robbins Brothers - they are a jewelry store in LA, San Diego and Dallas that focuses on engagement rings. They have a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, and of course paid search campaigns. They also run TV ads and have some great, potentially viral TV ads. They are using paid search to attract people who have expressed specific intent (e.g. "purchase engagement ring") and then using YouTube and TV to evoke an emotional response through their TV ads. And the Facebook page is sort of a hybrid of the two - it allows fan to interact directly with Robbins Brothers, but it also is a great entry point for people surfing Facebook who are specifically looking to learn more about their engagement ring purchase options.

So I think that a company like Robbins Brothers gets the fact that you have to market to people differently based on the consideration stage and the medium. Plastering their Facebook fan page with direct response ads invoking fans to buy an engagement ring this instant would only alienate users, but a subtle branding message on paid search wouldn't get a high enough click through rate to drive much traffic.

What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to companies that want to improve their SEM/SEO results? I can only really talk to the SEM aspect of the question. When I take over a new client's SEM campaigns, the two things that almost always need immediate tweaking are their tracking and their landing page. Tracking needs to be very granular - from the keyword all the way to the final conversion, even if that conversion occurs offline (such as through a sales force in the case of an enterprise client). Landing pages need constant testing and need to tell the user exactly what you want him/her to do. You can get a great landing page developed by a freelance designer for around $1000-$1500 and you can literally double your conversion rate in the process. It's amazing to me how many companies refuse to allocate any budget at all to improving the performance of their landing pages.

What brands and products do you advocate to your friends and colleagues? - great customer service, great shipping. Freshbooks for small business invoicing. EchoSign for online signatures. There's also a great book called "Four Steps to the Epiphany" that I recommend to anyone thinking of starting up or in the midst of starting a business. And, of course, Zuberance to create a volunteer salesforce!