Staffing Up Search

Hey, hey! Kevin Ryan is moderating with speakers Frank Watson (Kangamurra Media), Kendall Allen (Incognito Digital), Mike Moran (IBM) and Nell Thompson (Full Sail). Wait – Frank Watson speaks at sessions? I thought he just came to, well…never mind. We love Frank.

We’re starting late, which means we’ll end late, which means the 15 minutes I have between sessions is likely gone. My stress level is coming out my ears right now. Yey four day conferences!

Up first is Kendall.

[Kendall’s slides have the date on them. Is it really March 20 already? When did that happen?]


What’s your organization about? Are you a bid agency, a boutique full-service agency, a straight up SEM firm, a client side agency, or a free agent consultant?

Dialing into the role: Weigh different attributes and roles like practice lead, media department or NSO department, client services professional, production, sales engineer, marketing coordinator. How your professionals orient to the work, or which talents and skills they need to apply, will depend on their role within the search delivery mix.

Values and flaws personified – 6 profiles

Polly Pedantic: She’s gets the value of strategy, but stays on her high horse. She doesn’t collaborate with the client. Her ideas are static platitudes but they never make it all the way to tactic or learning. She’s basically outdated.

A strategic mindset is vital, but intelligence must evolve with the industry, the media and market at hand, and within the team and/or through strong organic collaboration. Strategy should be a marketing-tuned dialogue, not a canned replayed marketing speech.

Hamish the Hair-trigger Quant: Rightly views data and analytics as key. Keeps his head in the console and fingers in Excel at all times. He’s obsessed with stats and spikes. He fails to give a campaign enough time to perform. He is quick on his feet but outweighed by his head.

It is essential that even your shrewdest quant knows how and when to pace, evaluate and optimize.

Let’er Rip Leonard: He knows how to play, scopes out the opportunity, picks the most appropriate search engines. He knows how to build a KW list, landing pages, etc. It’s a repeat formula for him – regardless of client business or industry. Puts it up, checks the performance once a week or less, and quickly moves on.

The practical ability and skill to eventually analyze and optimize, working the tools to make the campaign GO are not enough. You have to have a spark and curiosity for the livelihood of the campaign and the promise of the media are essential. Search is very accountable media, give its nature. We want professionals who get this principle.

Dirk the Dilatants: Obsessed with the news. Tries to hang out with industry pundits and gurus. He wants to be rich and jumped into paid search in 2003 after an entrepreneur showed him a copy of "The Golden Search". He can’t really explain the different between natural and paid search, he just knows he’s in search "media’. He stays at the junior level but goes to all the parties.

You want professionals who are going to dig in and dedicate themselves, nurturing an expertise and integrity over time.

Trina the Tools Addict: Obsessed with constant training, prides herself on the ability to quickly adopt new tools. Constantly testing. Stays pretty shallow and doesn’t really understand the tools because she doesn’t use them at their full power.

Tools are integral to search efforts and are at an extremely advanced state right now. Your professionals should come with or seek mastery but always push thoughtful application.

Real Deal Ronny: Has roots in the search industry but he’s also got a broader perspective, as well. He honors the full equation and always sees it through. He is thoughtful and clearly connects when he talks to clients. Collaboration and communication are his clear strengths. You can see the spark in his eye, he’s really into Search. He’s always bringing value.

Ronne is who we want!

The drivers of talents

  1. Roots: Pure-play search roots, with an eye on SEM, SEO, search engine or role in industry. Plus some level of broader media, especially integrated digital media experience. A true personal client base and case history.
  2. Intelligence: Ability to synthesize strategy and method. A current and progressive point of view. Business and emotional intelligence. An understand of consumer intent.
  3. Ethic: Dedication to the full equation. Devoted to principles of smart optimization, packaging. Attends to the balance of respond to data but giving a campaign room.
  4. Style: Exuding curiosity and tirelessness. Ground and obviously smart both on ideas and on the details. Clear client focus. Comfort speaking on business and marketing picture at each and every turn. A telltale spark in the eye when they talk about what we do.

Mike Moran is up next.

If you look at the set of skills people are looking for, you see they are very broad. These people are hard to find, hard to pay and hard to keep. It’s always hard to find every trait in the size team that we usually have. The teams are usually only 1-2 people.

How are you going to find the people you’re looking for?

Your first decision: agency or in house?

It’s usually not an either/or decision. Some things are best done in house (getting pages indexed, optimizing content), others are best done by an agency (diagnosing problems, consulting on strategy).

How to Choose an Agency:

Examine what you need and what is out there. You may need people with paid search experience. Or you may need someone with keyword research or some other tactic. Forming a relationship with the kind of agency that will help train your team will smooth over some of the experience you’re not able to get.

A sure way to spot the spammer (no ethics) is to act like you are looking for one. They’ll be happy to brag about how smart they are. Ethical agencies will talk you out of it.

You find in-house talent by looking at direct marketers, metrics analysts, linguistics, librarians and translators. It may be easier to train someone than to hire someone with search engine optimization experience listed on their resume.

You need folks who can do the numbers. They need to understand about conversion rates. Direct marketer and Web metrics analytics know the marketing material and you can teach them the rest.

You also need people who can do words and who think in terms of language. These people will help you tweak your message. IBM brought in technical writers. Look for a writer who’s bored or a librarian who’s bored. These people will be very interested to jump to someone else.

Don’t overlook the people you already have on board. Sometimes there are people in other divisions who you can move over, like writers, product managers, Web developers, etc. They don’t know SEM, but they already know your business.

Nell is up.

Challenges of acquiring talent:

  • Colleges and universities are just beginning to deal with the topic
  • No standardization in academic approaches
  • MBAS and Marketing Degrees do not cover specific Internet Marketing topics
  • Two areas that need to be addressed – IT considerations and Web Design principles
  • Every company has a different approach

Challenges with the Search Industry:

  • Mixed messages with hard skills
  • An abundant wish list of soft skills
  • Wants fresh perspective
  • Want everything or wants total conformity

Specific hard skills to look for: Strong writing skills, fundamental understanding of Web design, introduction to Web interface and usability, basic IT understandings, Internet business models, and Web metrics and marketing math.

Soft skills: World perspective and cultural studies, Internet consumer psychology, social media intuitiveness, viral marketing understanding, and emotional intelligence (self awareness, self management and relationship management).

For the Student: Look for educational opportunities that balance both marketing and technical considerations. Study technological trends. Know the players in the field and read their blogs.

For the Employer: Conduct think tanks at colleges and universities. Contact Career Outreach departments at colleges and work with them. Join Advisory Boards and give input to the curriculum (Lisa likes this one!).

Apparently Frank Watson isn’t giving a presentation. Kevin does ask him about his own experiences hiring for his new agency. What’s the first thing that you did?

Frank spent five years working in financial services and took the department from 3 people to 32 people in the marketing department. When you’re starving, you’re going to develop very skillful people who are eventually going to move on. They start pushing up on that top end. It’s an ongoing educational process. You’re going to find people at very rudimentary levels. You want to find very creative people and people who can drink. Heh.

Look for the right kind of person. Don’t look for a search person. Look for someone with intelligence and ambition. The stuff search people do isn’t that hard. If you bring the right people in, you can give them that focus and let them go.

You can train someone to do analytics. You can’t train them to be enthusiastic about what they do. Frank recommends hiring journalism students. I totally agree with that. ;)

Frank reminds us that we all work in an exciting industry. He says the fact that we’re all "up at this hour" is proof of that. Kevin Ryan politely reminds Frank that it’s almost noon.


Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

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

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