iPullRank’s Mike King Talks Persona Research, Lead Gen & High-Stakes SEO

iPullRank founder Mike King joined me for a lively interview this morning, sharing key insights into digital marketing including:

  • Interview-With-Michael-King-with-Christy-KunjumonWhy thinking about keywords is “a distraction”
  • The value of persona research
  • His favorite lead generation tactic
  • Challenges in working with high-stakes brands

This morning’s 13-minute interview is jam-packed with SEO goodness — and it’s just a taste of what’s to come when King delivers talks at Pubcon Las Vegas and SMX East later this month. Watch the interview and/or read the transcript below!

Kristi Kellogg: At SMX East, you’re delivering a talk on “Perfect Starts: How to Get More of the Right Traffic” — that’s an important distinction — more of the right traffic. What does that start with?

Mike King: One of the first things that we always do in any campaign is market segmentation, so we create personas for our clients, but what we want to do is apply those personas to their existing content — so we do a content audit. Part of that qualitative review is looking at what stages of the user journey the existing content falls into — and who are the personas that are most likely to want that content. Also, we pull the quantitative metrics to see how content is performing as far as conversions and traffic, etc. and based on that, we’ll make a lot of determination about what types of content should be made more of and what can be repurposed.

Editor’s update: Here’s the liveblog of Mike King’s presentation: Content Audits Are Worth It

KK: I have a great quote from you here. “You can’t even start thinking about keywords until you think about the people that will use them.” That seems to be an important part of finding the right traffic. Let’s talk more about that. 

MK: When we think about keywords, it’s a distraction. There are 400,000 searches for the word ‘TV,’ but really those are 400,000 people trying to figure something out through search. So really you have to figure out who are the people behind this search so that you can match them up with the right page and do things that will resonate with them.

And another key distinction is the fact that keywords are very ambiguous. Take ‘Asian Holiday’ for instance; does that mean going on a trip to China or does that mean Chinese New Year? Understanding the people behind these searches helps you put the ambiguous keywords into perspective.

KK: At Pubcon, you’re talking about lead generation alongside Alex Harris. What is your No. 1 preferred way to generate leads?

MK: I like doing everything organically – I love creating a cool piece of content and then having a landing page for that content where we grab the user’s email address or pay with a tweet so they effectively have to promote your content to get your content. Or we’ll do a guest post on a high-end website like Forbes, Business Insider or Moz and then link back to that landing page – that way we capture a lot of leads from the audience we’re trying to get to without having to pay for it. Then we just nurture those leads over time and eventually they become sales-qualified leads rather than just marketing-qualified leads.

KK: You’ve provided digital marketing services to some very important clients, including ABC, Johnson and Johnson, General Mills, and Citi Bank. What are some of the rewards and challenges that come with working with such high-stakes brands?

MK: The struggle and the reward are two sides of the same coin. The struggle is that it’s very difficult to get these types of brands to do something. You come up with these ideas that you’re very passionate about, but the companies can have structures that make it difficult because everything is so siloed – people don’t know each other on different teams because they’re so big. It’s really difficult to push things through for those types of brands.

KK: iPullRank seeks to do work that is: Proactive, Reliable, Outstanding, Useful and Dedicated, which forms the acronym PROUD. How do you live that out on a daily basis?

MK: When I came up with that value set, I thought about what I really wanted this company to exemplify – what do I want to do better than other agencies?

  • Proactive: every day we actively try to bring new opportunities to our clients before they ask for it. We’re not waiting for algorithm updates. Internally I try to make sure I’m always letting my team know new things that they can be doing better or we try to proactively provide feedback to each other.
  • Reliable: we want to be on time with the work that we do. It’s very difficult as an agency with a number of clients to always be on time, but that’s something we really strive for. Internally it’s all about helping out your team. No matter your job description, if there’s something you can do to help your team so they’re not overloaded, you can step up and help, and that’s being reliable and proactive.
  • Outstanding: we always look to do things that are awesome. We don’t take projects that we don’t think we can do a great job. Internally, everyone here tries to bring something new to the table, no matter what level you’re at as far as experience.
  • Useful: In marketing and ad it’s really easy to just keep thinking about what we should be doing in marketing to meet business goals. I like to say that we fight for the users – we want to make things that users will actually want that will also help these brands with their business objectives.
  • Dedicated: We just get things done, no questions asked. We’re often all in the office until sometimes seven, eight, nine at night because we want to be able to deliver on everything we say we’ll deliver on.

KK: You have a background as an independent hip hop musician — which is not surprising, given your intense stage presence and clear creativity. How did you go from hip hop artist to SEO mastermind?

MK: There are a lot of parallels as far as what it takes to stand out. I look at things and try to figure out how can I put this together creatively so that it stands out above what other people are doing. In some of my first blog posts for Moz used a lot of extended metaphors, which is something I do a lot in my lyrics —explaining search robots using Pacman or explaining personas using Smurfs.

You have to understand how to make a message stand out. As a rapper, convincing someone to buy your CD is one of the most difficult things in the world but it teaches you a lot about marketing. And when you have an actual budget, everything is a lot easier.

To your point about stage presence, that definitely makes the jump. It’s not difficult for me to connect with people in a crowd. And it’s a lot easier because I don’t have to make it rhyme anymore — I just talk.

Many thanks to Mike King for joining Bruce Clay, Inc. for this awesome interview. We’re looking forward to liveblogging your sessions at SMX East and Pubcon.

Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Kristi's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (6)
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6 Replies to “iPullRank’s Mike King Talks Persona Research, Lead Gen & High-Stakes SEO”

The value of keywords can’t be argued however choosing your keywords is most important. I find that the real value today is the long tail keywords and agree with Michael about how you first must understand how people with use them before choosing them.

people still search using keywords.. when we speak and use voice search.. what we say is keywords.. i agree with persona development and using persuasion architecture to intercept the buyers journey in the purchasing cycle… figuring out the “need states” of these personas is DONE.. using search volume.. with.. keywords…

to me it seems like you are doing it backwards.. but my way is probably backwards to you. keywords will always be important.. until we have implants with bluetooth.. etc.. then it will be thought based.. so for big brands.. (fortune 5) the keyword opportunity is KBO based as the Google learning computer learns more.. concept based object oriented classification, creating it’s own taxonomy and ontology… content may be KING.. (lol.. so punny.. King.. content.. hahahah ) but keywords are the kingdom..

@Sam A – I agree.. keywords are indeed the soul of the website whether it is for SEO purposes or social media marketing.

Apparently I need to work on my rap skills in order to improve my SEO. I appreciate Mr. King’s perspective however. It’s good to keep your mindset correct in order to do the job correctly.

Key words are the soul of web site. So in SEO of particular site you need to get sure that your keywords are included in meta so it is easy to make index in search engine.

Is SMX the best SEO conference to attend?

When choosing your keywords use specific stuff like
samsung 42 inch tv for sale. AKA longtails.


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