SEO Guru Shares Insights for Magazine Publishers
Marshall D. Simmonds, chief search strategist of The New York Times Co., joined the publisher in 2005 upon its acquisition of About.com, where he had previously been employed in the same role since 1999. Simmonds is considered a search guru by many in the SEO field and a regular presenter at Incisive Media’s Search Engine Strategies and Webmaster World conferences. He specializes in educating large companies on bringing search marketing “in-house” and into their daily workflow.
Publishing Executive Inbox spoke with Simmonds for an exclusive interview addressing SEO-related topics including educating your employees, useful tactics and tips, challenges and more.
INBOX: With the talent pool of SEO experts being depleted by the many companies looking to hire quality professionals, how do you suggest publishers should train their own SEO employees to be the best?
MARSHALL SIMMONDS: It’s absolutely OK to have an SEO company come in and educate an individual on best practices to establish an in-house team or strategy. Our consulting company, Define Search Strategies, does just that. Not only are we the in-house team for all of About.com, The New York Times, Boston.com, The International Herald Tribune, etc., but we also consult for other Fortune 2000 companies to help them internalize the SEO process.
INBOX: What do you feel is the most overlooked tactic when it comes to SEO?
SIMMONDS: The basic blocking and tackling—meaning the execution of SEO best practices. [It’s important to choose] good title tags, meta tags and researched keyword phrases to define the target market.
INBOX: What tips can you offer magazine publishers looking to improve their SEO techniques and strategies?
SIMMONDS: Educate. Teach the editors and producers how SEO works. Be aware that not all SEO companies/consultants understand the publishing world and how threatening this may seem to content teams. A good company will be able to alleviate fears, work with the editorial process and produce exceptional results while changing the direction and paradigm of a traditional print publication onto the Web.
INBOX: What has been the biggest challenge for The New York Times regarding SEO? And how are you meeting that challenge?
SIMMONDS: Many processes in the publishing world have been institutionalized for many, many years. Altering those processes to incorporate SEO best practices can be difficult. We work to meet this challenge by diffusing the negative connotations that the voice of an article will change. Our approach is to educate [editors and producers] on how to reach the audience that is searching for the specific type of content we’re publishing. For example, we know that users search for “NFL” versus “National Football League.” Empowering the editors and producers with these tools and best practices helps people find our content through the major search engines, which is a good user/search experience for everyone involved.
INBOX: How will the increased use of mobile technologies affect SEO strategies?
SIMMONDS: Quite simply, it offers a new medium and entry point into a site. Sites that execute and optimize content will do well, those that don’t, will not.
INBOX: Do you think any search company will ever be able to compete with Google?
SIMMONDS: Google is definitely the strongest player we’ve seen in years. I think there is plenty of room for multiple players in this industry, and I do think others are competing well with Google. You see Yahoo! specializing in social media. Ask and MSN are offering great search services and tools. There is plenty of room in video and rich media to compete. For now though, no one touches Google Web search.
Editors Note: For more tips on SEO practices, read the cover story “Luring the Spiders: SEO secrets from the experts at Google, Yahoo! and more” in the current issue of Publishing Executive magazine (http:www.pubexec.com).