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Spotlight on Search: Interview with Rebecca Lieb

Posted on Sep 8th, 2008
Written by Lee Odden
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    One of the fun things we get to do on Online Marketing Blog is interview interesting people we meet and get to know by being involved with the industry. This interview is with Rebecca Lieb, Editorial Consultant to ClickZ and former Editor for the past 7 years. In addition to previously offering sage advice on getting more out of marketing conferences here on OMB, Rebecca works as a consultant, is writing a book on search marketing and is often retained as a speaker for industry events.

    In this interview Rebecca shares tips on selecting interactive marketing vendors, shares her insights into upcoming marketing strategies and talks briefly about her upcoming book on search marketing as well as the MIMA Summit here in Minneapolis where she’s the keynote speaker.

    Your journalism and editorial background has taken you many places topically and geographically. What are some of your favorites?

    I was a Variety bureau chief based in Berlin right after the Wall fell, which was as fantastic as it was dissonant. One week I’d be at the Cannes Film Festival, a few days later I’d be attending the first film festival open to Westerners in Romania or Minsk. Often it’s not just the “where,” it’s the “when,” too. Interactive marketing has taken me many new parts of the world to speak, most notably my first trips to South America. But personally, my passion of the past few years has been Southeast Asia. I’ve been to Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and most recently, Burma. As you can probably tell from this list, adventure takes precedence over thread count every single time!

    You were so nice to meet with Dominic and I this hot summer. What do you like most about living in New York? It can’t be the heat! In an increasing digital world, do you think there are additional opportunities for someone working in the Interactive Marketing field to physically live in a large city vs. working remotely elsewhere?

    I have a good friend who’s currently making a great living in this industry from his home in idyllic and remote rural Vermont. It’s all red barns, cows and covered bridges — but he’s got satellite wi-fi in his sugar shack! You can be anywhere nowadays, and I’m often tempted to pick up stakes and move elsewhere (who isn’t?). And who knows? One day I may. But there’s still a whole lot of value on at least thee occasional F2F meeting, not to mention conferences, seminars, and in-office meetings. Of course, that whole metaphor can be applied to physical workspace as well. For years at ClickZ, I went into an office or sometimes, worked from home. Regardless, the majority of business these days is done via emil or IM these days — often with the person at the next desk! Physical location and proximity are a great social lubricant, which isn’t to be underestimated. But certainly Being There on a daily basis is no longer a prerequisite for success or indicator of ability.

    You’re writing a book on SEO for Pearson’s Financial Times imprint. Please share your high level view of the book. It seems quite a challenge to put something in print that changes so often.

    SEO changes almost daily on a tactical level, but that’s really not what my book’s about. (It comes out either late this year or in early 2009, btw). Its aim is to provide a bird’s eye view of SEO to a CEO, CMO, or small business owner who needs to get a grip on the overarching strategies, tactics, needs, and philosophies behind SEO. And that’s really necessary. I can’t tell you how many people out there aren’t even aware SEO exists as a marketing discipline. When I’ve told non-industry friends I’m writing a book on “search,” they’ve taken it to mean research, or even executive recruiting. It’s a seeing-the-forest-rather-than-the-trees issue – something people in interactive marketing, who live and breathe this stuff every day, often forget.

    We’ve run online marketing tactics polls with the usual suspects popping up in the top ten: Blogging, Email marketing, Search engine optimization, Pay per click, Social networks, Affiliate marketing, Blogger relations, Viral marketing, Corporate web site, Online public relations.

    Want to know what I think is big right now? Content strategy. Content as marketing, and marketing as content. Buinesses are finally realizing what’s long been true: if you have a web site, you are a publisher and you have to think like one. The same holds true for bloggers, of course, as well as in e-mail. This whole digital thing is about content. You can’t do SEO without fresh, original, frequently updated content. Since leaving ClickZ as a full-time gig, I’m working with all sorts or companies and organizations to get their content on track, both strategically and tactically. That’s what’s at the core of all things digital, as with any other form of media.

    For businesses newly exploring interactive marketing, what advice or tips can you give for evaluating tactics and vendors?

    Know what you’re shopping for. I spoke with someone today who knows he needs an ESP, but was unfamiliar with the term “deliverability,” perhaps the biggest concern in email right now. Yes, it’s time consuming, but as the local TV ads for the discount suit store have been saying for years, “an educated consumer is our best customer.” That works three ways, in fact. It’s good for the vendor, good for the buyer, and good for best practices. And don’t forget to vet. Talk to current and past clients and get their stories. Learn from experience.

    You’re keynoting at the MIMA Summit in October as is Ze Frank. Can you share an overview of what you’ll talk about and have you researched Minneapolis/St Paul yet? FYI, that doesn’t mean watching Fargo.

    Hey! Yo! I’m a midwestern girl – born ‘n’ raised – so don’t start! But admittedly, I haven’t been to MN since I was about 10 years old, so I’m counting on local industry friends to show me around. One’s Gayle Tesky, and maybe you’re another one, Lee?


    As for what I’ll be talking about: content is marketing, and marketing is content. I want to explore the effect this trend is having on different sectors in the digital space, as well as how it’s affecting media. Take the Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld spots that CPB just launched. They’re pure content and entertainment. And the media is roll your own. So what’s this going to mean for media buying when all these destination sites pop up? By extension, what will that mean for agencies? I think the landscape is in for another interesting shift, and that’s what I hope to get people at MIMA thinking about.

    With your deep and long time editorial background, I am hoping you can share some advice on what we could do to make Online Marketing Blog more effective at reaching client side internet marketers? BIG BONUS points for answering this one!

    Be a mirror. How about industry-specific case studies and profiles of top client side marketers, again, in a variety of verticals. My experience has shown time and time again that people need to be led to information they can identify with. You can write about email marketing best practices until the cows come home, but until you apply it to financial services, or travel and hospitality, you just aren’t going to get those folks to read it, no way, no how. Why do you think we’re seeing such an explosion or hyper-vertical and hyper-local online content? That’s why!

    What are some of the online resources you rely on for staying current with the interactive and internet marketing industries? Ex: blogs, forums, web sites, newsletters or social media sites. I see you’re on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Are those the social media sites you use most often or are there others?

    Bloglines is my homepage. I subscribee to over 200 RSS feeds, and have feed-ized many of my email subscriptions so they land there, rather than in my already cluttered inbox. Also, many of my feeds are searches for keywords and hrases that appear in news and blog posts, so I can keep on top of subjects I’m tracking. What to see what I read there? My user name is rebeccal. I’m pretty sure you can search for feeds by user on Bloglines, right?

    On the social front, I am signed up for more than the three services you name above, but more for research reasons than any real sort of functionality need.

    You’re now an editorial advisor for ClickZ after serving as Editor for over 7 years, writing a book, speaking and consulting. What’s next?

    Um, stay tuned? I’m doing a ton of speaking and content strategy consulting. But I’m also in late-stage talks with a couple of companies about full-time gigs. By the time this is published, I may have decided to remain a free agent…or not. The suspense is killing me, but life remains, as always, interesting. I may need you to run a reader poll on which choice I should make!

    What is one question that I really should be asking you? (and the answer of course).

    Boxers or briefs? Nah – I’m a chick. OK, what’s the single thing I absolutely, positively have to do or see in Minneapolis? And YOU have to answer that one, Lee!

    Unfortunately the Minnesota State Fair with its cornucopia of deep fried foods on a stick has already passed, so we’d have to be sure to either do a boat tour of Lake Minnetonka or check out the new Guthrie Theatre.

    Thanks Rebecca!