Organic SEO, Strange Encounters, & Tigers! Simon Heseltine Sit-Down

Posted in Interviews, SES Chicago

You might say Simon Heseltine, Director in charge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) at AOL Inc., knows a thing or two about organic search. In addition to managing all organic search and training across AOL and Huffington Post Media Group properties, he and his team do SEO consulting for the AOL team across the pond in the United Kingdom. He’s been at the forefront on development and implementation of successful organic and social strategies for an array of clients spanning a variety of verticals. He’s also a familiar face on the search marketing conference landscape, speaking with tip-top knowledge on SEO, social search, and even reputation management. Did we mention he teaches SEO (yeah, that’s a course, now…) at Georgetown University? Oh yeah, and he a regular contributor at SearchEngineWatch.com. So… yeah. He knows a thing or two about organic search.

I met Simon last year at SES New York, and in addition to being a seriously smart dude, let me tell you – he’s got a super magical accent. On the advent of SES Chicago 2011, I got to share a casual Q&A with Simon over tea and crumpets (well, I imagined that’s how it went down, anyway), with topics including favorite animals to the overlap between search and social, even a sneak peek at his upcoming #SESCHI preso on Strange Encounters of the SEO Kind. Read on for the full scoop.

| aimClear: Give us in the inside scoop, if you please — how didja end up in the online marketing industry in the first place?

Simon Heseltine: In my previous life I was a developer, working for a firm that got into the local IYP space. We had four of the top five telecommunications companies as clients at one point. One product that we developed was an online, searchable yellow pages, the actual print book online and searchable. Smaller telcos used this product as an upsell to their print book. After a short while we realized that our search traffic was pretty static month over month, that’s when I first heard the term “SEO.” Within a month I was put in charge of SEO & PPC for the company’s product, and have been in the industry ever since.

| aC: You’ve been speaking on the conference circuit for years. What keeps you going? What keeps you coming back year after year?

SH: I like to share knowledge (I also teach at Georgetown University), and I like to hear from others in the industry. Speaking means I get a free pass to the shows, and entrance to the speakers room where you can have some interesting discussions with other speakers.

| aC: Indeed you can. What about the online marketing industry scares the living daylights out of you these days? Put another way… what are the unique challenges of being a digital marketer in this day in age?

SH: I don’t know that there’s anything in particular that scares me that much, but this is such a fast moving industry, with changes that can have huge impact on your company if you don’t keep on top of them.

| aC: Truth. Does being an SEO expert qualify one to be a great social media marketer, and vice versa?

SH: Does being a great soccer player mean that you’ll be great in the NFL? Both require being athletes, being fit, and there’s some overlap (NFL teams have used soccer players as kickers), but I don’t think you’ll see Becks playing for the Vikings next weekend. Now, before I’m reported to the analogy police, there is more overlap between social and SEO, and as time moves on that overlap is going to become larger and more pronounced, but the way you currently approach social and SEO requires slightly different mindsets, sure there are people who can and do do both well, but not all.

| aC: Favorite animal, vacation spot, and adult beverage, GO!

SH: Tiger (I’m a Hull City A.F.C. Supporter, couldn’t be any other animal), Reykjavik, a nice pint of west country cider.

| aC: Lovely. The afternoon of SES Chicago Day 1 will find you speaking on the Strange Encounters of the SEO Kind session. What can audience members expect from your presentation?

SH: This is the first time this session has been presented. We’re going to be talking about all kinds of different strange issues we’ve encountered over the years, an how we noodled through them. This will give the audience an insight into how they should approach different types of weird and wacky issues that they’ll undoubtedly encounter over their SEO career.

| aC: BONUS QUESTION: What is the absolute strangest SEO play you’ve ever encountered during your time in the industry?

SH: For that you’ll just have to attend the session and find out :) .

| aC: Blast! You clever Trevor, you. Fair enough. Thanks for your time today, Simon. See ya in the Windy City!