Rhea Drysdale, CEO of online agency Outspoken Media, Inc.,is one of the most respected go-to resources for top-shelf advice on reputation management and SEO, among many other things. She’s been working both in-house and agency-side for nearly a decade, helping brands realize their full potential in the online marketing universe.
If you’ve attended a mainstream online marketing conference in the past, odds are you’ve encountered the venerable force that is Rhea Drysdale. She’s a familiar and friendly face at a wide range of industry events, from MozCon to SearchLove, Pubcon to Search Engine Strategies. Next week she’s skyrocketing over from the East coast to sunny San Jose just in time for SMX West, where she’ll serve up serious insight on two rockstar panels. The morning of Day 1 you’ll find her on the Essential SEO Analytics: What SEO Performance Metrics Are Truly Important? session, and in the afternoon she’ll be back on stage for How To Groove To The Google Dance (actual dancing not included… or is it?). If you’re attending SMX West, these are not-to-be-missed sessions!
aimClear shared a virtual fireside chat with Ms. Drysdale prior to the show, to learn more about her background, professional reflections, and a few other golden nuggets. Read on for the goods!
| aimClear: Rhea – welcome! Tell the folks at home a bit about yourself. Who are you? Where do you come from? How did you wind up in this industry?
Rhea Drysdale: Thanks for having me! I’m the CEO of Outspoken Media and we’re a boutique SEO consulting firm based out of upstate New York. While the company and my family are now located in New York, I’m originally from Atlantic Beach, Florida. Let me clear about that… beachfront Florida. Moving to the Northeast was a huge change and everyone thought I was insane!
I never had “own an SEO company” on my list of dream jobs as a kid, but it’s what I’m most of proud of today. In school I knew I wanted to do something that was a mix of science, creativity, and social responsibility. At the time I was torn between a career in primatology and film. Similar, huh? Yep, I had diverse interests. I wonder why I was ultimately attracted to a career where things change daily and you’re never really in control?
My first job was in college as a “web designer,” but it turned out to be an “SEO” position they just didn’t know how to advertise, yet. I walked in proudly carrying my portfolio just to be grilled on HTML, how a search engine works, what a link is, etc. I’m a rare breed of SEO who has quite literally grown up in the industry. Seriously. I’ve made some public mistakes, but have had far more positive experiences as well. The SEO industry is now a significant part of my life, it has documented the biggest moments in mine! I remember when Barry Schwartz gave me a congrats on Sphinn for my wedding and of course, I announced my pregnancy on the blog, which happened to fall at the same time as our rebrand. The community was also there after the SEO trademark battle when they raised over $17,000 to help recoup the cost of that precedent-setting win.
Basically, I owe SEO a lot and my path to where I am today has been in the making for almost a decade with incredible mentors and connections along the way.
| aC: How supremely awesome. You rightly described our industry as one that changes daily. Specifically in the realm of reputation management, what’s completely different now than it was 2, 5, or 10 years ago? What will always be the same?
RD: When I wrote the online reputation management guide back in 2009 there were a lot of differences. To start with, I have tips in the guide on how to setup your MySpace profile! Naturally, as networks fall in and out of vogue, the tools change, but the approach remains the same–the best defense is a good offense! Businesses (and individuals) need to responsibly grow, protect, and manage their brands online. This extends to all areas of their business from a CEO’s personal brand to the customer service and social media teams, to legal and a company’s terms of service or return policy.
We’re operating in a much more visible world today than ten years ago. Now we have real-time news, reviews, and social updates. One angry customer, sneaky competitor, or breaking news story can cripple a brand for years to come if they don’t take the steps needed to proactively manage their search results and develop a listening and response strategy.
From a search engine standpoint, we’re dealing with a lot of changes over the years, mostly algorithmic–from the subdomain update back in 2011 to limiting SERPs to less than ten listings, Knowledge Graph inclusion, query deserves freshness, and much more. There are many technical changes that have occurred with the search engines, and now social networks, and almost every industry has a unique set of online reputation management considerations.
It’s important that businesses and individuals with a public brand take the time to develop an online reputation management strategy just like you would a marketing strategy. It’s insurance. You hope you don’t need it, but what happens if you do? In the meantime, that insurance isn’t just a waste; online reputation management strengthens your brand online, builds community, and drives authority and relevance.
| aC: Alright! I’m sold that online reputation management is of great import. But not everyone can afford to pull out the big guns. How would you undertake “listening” past Google Alerts for a client who has no budget for a tool like Radian 6 or Sysomos?
RD: Quick plug–you should head over to Outspoken Media’s blog and subscribe, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, add us on Google+ (whatever you prefer), because we’ll be releasing an updated version of the Online Reputation Management Guide soon. I know I’ve said that for awhile, but I kept trying to write it in my spare time and that’s simply not going to happen (six months pregnant, growing a business, just bought a house, traveling to conferences like SMX West… um, I might have bit off more than a sane person should!), so the entire team is tackling sections and we’re closing in on it. We’ll go into detail about this very topic and it’ll be written for every situation and budget you can think of. For now, check out this giant list of social listening tools, which includes everything from the freebies to enterprise-level tools: http://wiki.kenburbary.com/
| ac: Right on! Thanks for the resources 🙂 . Moving on, do you believe it’s in the SEO practitioner’s sphere to handle Facebook Graph Search Optimization?
RD: It’s the responsibility of an SEO to follow search behavior. Back in my day (let me put on my grandma voice), there were dozens of different search engines (who remembers this sexy chart?) and while not all were of equal importance, the landscape was more competitive and we had to get our clients visibility through every possible channel. It’s our responsibility to drive visibility regardless of the platform and if users begin to adopt Facebook Graph to locate information, seek recommendations, and connect with each other, then yes, it’s our responsibility as search marketers (not “search engine optimizers”) to be there.
| aC: Noted. Looking forward – you’re hitting the stage twice at SMX West, first on the morning of Day 1 at the Essential SEO Analytics: What SEO Performance Metrics Are Truly Important? session and then in the afternoon on the How To Groove To The Google Dance (Yes, It’s Back) session. Can we readers get a sneak peek as to what you’ll be sharing during your SEO Performance Metrics preso?
RD: I’m really proud of this session and not just because I pitched it, I’m coordinating it, and I’m speaking on it. I know, that sounds super selfish, but what makes me excited isn’t that I have my hands all over it (actually, yes, I like to be in control, so that helps), it’s that I brought together three brilliant speakers who are going to be taking a subject attendees think they know well (analytics and SEO metrics) and challenging their perceptions. We debuted this topic at SMX East 2012 with a fantastic turnout and a mixture of actionable and provocative content.
I know, we’re talking about performance metrics, what’s so provocative about that? Well, for starters, there has been a lot of news lately about Google going after ranking tool providers like Raven. We’re going to have Raven on the panel as well as STAT Search Analytics to cover two very different methods of reporting on SEO performance metrics, how to choose what’s right for your organization, and how these metrics should be informing your SEO and content strategies. You’ll also get actionable advice on how to track performance metrics online and offline, the latter will be super interesting, because tying SEO to offline conversions is always a major hurdle.
If you’re heading to SMX West, you don’t want to miss this one and you probably won’t because we’re the first session on the first day! Be there. Even better, let us know you’ll be there, we’d love to meet you, tweet us–Jon Henshaw, Will Scott, Rob Bucci and myself.
| aC: 6. Chyeahh! Consider me front and center for that one. Okay, Rhea. Last but not least. Lightning round! Favorite adult beverage, wild animal, and travel destination – GO!
RD: Booze: I’m 28 weeks pregnant, so in a few more months, I can’t wait to drink a strong chianti (hold the fava beans).
Animal: anything squishy that comes from the sea. I know, that’s unpredictable with my primate studies background, but I’m a beach bum at heart and there’s nothing better than a tide pool I can poke around in.
Destination: Clifden, Ireland. My husband and I fell in love with the area during a summer trip in 2006.
| aC: (1) Congratulations!…!!! (B) Love the Doctor Lecter reference. I made the horrifying mouth-sucking-in-noises immediately after reading your response. Does that make me a creep? Whatever. (3) Clifden looks totally gorgeous. I think I may book a boarding pass right now. Thanks so much for spending some time with us today, Rhea. Safe travels out west, and we’ll see you next week!
There’s still time to register for SMX West 2013! Grab your ticket and join the fun!
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