Book Interview: Optimize by Lee Odden from TopRankMarketing
One recurring theme in our book – Pioneers of Digital – centres around providing real value for customers on the web. More often than not, that value comes in the form of great content, but too many business owners and brands forget (or are unaware of) the nuts and bolts that, when put together, can do so much to surface that value to their target market. Integrating your SEO (search engine optimisation) and social media efforts along with great content, can increase the visibility and garner additional reach for longer periods of time. For some people, the kind of thinking you need to assemble a strategy like this comes naturally, but for anyone who needs a leg up, look no further than Lee Odden’s new book Optimize. I’ve know Lee for many years, and in that time he’s done amazingly helpful work on his blog and at conferences helping marketers solve problems through an integrated approach. Now (thankfully) he’s jotted it all down in what is set to be a sure-fire hit in the industry.
Lee took time out from his busy book promotion duties to answer a few questions about his career, the process of writing the book and how he sees Optimize (available on Amazon and B&N and all good book stores) being a useful addition to marketer’s library.
Mel and Lee at PubCon in 2007 (Stripes were in back then!)
You’ve been pioneering education around integrating PR, search marketing and social media on the TopRankBlog for a while now. How did it all begin and what have you learned?
Our company began in 2001 as a PR agency and I came on as a contractor to optimize the website. Then we began including SEO with media relations and PR pitches, winning some sizable accounts. I became an employee, then a partner and after a few years. CEO. During that time the agency evolved from a focus on PR to online marketing. I’ve been advocating the integration of search and PR as well as SEO, content and social media for as long as they’ve been around.
A holistic approach was a natural evolution with content at the center of how people communicate, persuade and socialize online. I started blogging late in 2003 and that evolved into a fairly popular marketing blog plus robust networks on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and several other social sites. I’ve learned that by having a blog as a hub and social networks as spokes, we can create meaningful content for our target audience and achieve substantial reach. When I talk about the size of our agency, people assume we’re 200 people because that’s the footprint we have online.
At the core, the approach we take is to best understand the customer relationship with content and information that can lead a prospect on their journey from awareness to purchase. SEO, Content, Social and PR each play interrelated roles in creating thought leadership, trust and “shareability” of content amongst networks as well as sales. By understanding how customers discover, consume and share content, we can optimize in ways that transcend standard search or typical social media marketing. We optimize for customers first, then keywords, links and other tactics. One of the most important things I’ve learned is to not only be adaptable, but to make adaptability a part of a process.
A fellow author, your new book Optimize comes out soon. What was the premise behind it and why should business people read it?
Optimize will help change the discussion around what optimization means. It’s more than keywords and links. The emphasis is on a holistic approach to continuously making our online marketing better and more customer centric. By better understanding customer segments, we can empathize with the pain points and goals of the most desirable customers and design content marketing strategies accordingly. Optimize answers one of the most important questions missing from many online marketing books and that is “Why”. It goes from 30,000 foot strategy quickly into practical, actionable tactics that will help readers develop their own content marketing strategy that’s optimized for search and social media.
How did you find the process of writing the book?
Insane. 🙂 I didn’t approach Wiley with any ideas about a book, they contacted me. Through their persistence, I finally decided to write a book after about a year. I decided that I wanted to go through the experience of writing a book because I felt it would force me to become smarter and more organized about adaptable marketing on the web. At the same time, writing Optimize created many opportunities for me to connect with old and new industry contacts that has been beneficial in other ways. With the help of Ashley Zeckman for project management and several of the TopRank team providing insights, the book was written using Evernote and MS Word. Not a single piece of paper was printed during the writing of the book. At least not by me!
You’re an accomplished speaker. Where can our readers find you talking about marketing next?
My upcoming events include: 4/18 ionSearch – Leeds, UK. 4/24 Social Media Club Webinar, 5/3-4 Fusion Marketing – Antwerp, Belgium. 6/5 BlogWorld – New York. I will likely be doing a number of regional events in between for associations and groups. We’re currently seeking a book tour sponsor.
Pioneers of Digital is about inspirational leaders who have done amazing things in the online space over the last 20 years. Who’s inspired you most in your career and why?
That’s a toughie – so many people have been a inspiration. I started out in web dev, then SEO and PR, then focused on blogging, content and social. Now I spend most of my time consuming information, meeting with our consulting teams, writing, speaking and always – experimenting. I see what others are doing but I do my best to not copy or emulate but to take risks and do what I think will help our clients, agency and myself advance. My inspiration comes from my kids, because anything I’ve ever done that is good is because of them.
Thanks to Lee for his time. We’ll be reviewing the book here soon, so keep checking back and here you can see an interview Lee did with Abby Johnson via the WebProNews YouTube channel.