Adam Audette, Chief Knowledge Officer at digital marketing agency RKG, is one of the undisputed SEO mater-ninjas in today’s online marketing universe. Before joining RKG, he founded AudetteMedia, an SEO firm with a star-studded client list including Zappos, Amazon, Gannett, HSN, University of Phoenix, Michelin, and UnderArmour. Adam’s experience and professional insights, gathered over a decade in the biz, are showcased in noteworthy trade publications including Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, ClickZ, as well as the RKG blog.
And like many fellow industry master-ninjas, Adam’s a familiar face at mainstream events a la Searchfest, BlueGlass, MozCon, LinkLove, and Pubcon – just last week, we enjoyed his Getting Ahead with Google+ session at SMX West, and next week, we’ll be front and center for his SEO Diagnostics for the Skilled Search Mechanic panel at SES New York.
In addition to his smarts, Adam is a straight-up likable dude. aimClear had the pleasure of sharing a casual Q&A with Mr. Audette on the advent of SES New York. Discussion topics ranged from “Hi, howdidya get here?” to parental words of wisdom, and, of course, a sneak peek at his upcoming presentation. Read on for the full effect .
| aimClear: Hi there and hello, Adam! Thanks for being with us today. Tell the folks at home a bit about yourself. Who are you? Where did you come from? How did you end up here?
Adam Audette: Professionally, I’m the chief knowledge officer at RKG. We’re a performance digital marketing agency, most known for paid search, SEO, and attribution, but we also do display advertising, comparison shopping, content and social media. RKG is about 150 people strong. Our offices are in Charlottesville, VA, in Boston, San Francisco, and Bend, Oregon. I work out of the Bend office.
Personally, I’m a father and a husband and a brother and a son. I have two daughters, 7 and 5, and a most wonderful wife. When I’m not on a plane somewhere I’m snowboarding or skiing, mountain biking, playing golf, and spending time with my friends and family in Bend.
| aC: Well that sounds pretty dang lovely . To start, let’s explore the professional side of things. You’re steeped in SEO, been so for over a decade. You must have seen some interesting evolutions over the years. What about SEO is different than it was 2, 5, 10 years ago? What will always remain the same?
AA: In a lot of ways things keep revolving. What works in SEO today is not that much of a departure with what worked 5 years ago. There are all sorts of new things in the details, but the big picture is oddly consistent. Compelling content works. You need to know a lot about technical SEO these days, but the big picture is the same: make sites accessible to spiders. In link building, relevant links still work best. Social media is a big change, to be sure. I wrote about some of this recently in my article, The Paradox of New vs. Old SEO.
| aC: Right on. Now… let’s blend the professional with the personal. You’re the second generation of Audette marketing rocket scientists. Please, would you mind sharing an overview of the lineage and how having marketers in the family helped you become the online marketer you are today?
AA: I guess being an online marketer was always in my destiny, even though I rejected the idea for many years. You tend to reject that which is most obvious, at least at a young age.
My father John Audette started a company in 1996 called MMG that did online marketing. When he sold it in 2000 (re-branded as Outrider) it was about 85 people strong. Some notable industry folks came out of that company: Marshall Simmonds, Adam Sherk, Bill Hunt, Jeremy Sanchez, Disa Johnson, Derrick Wheeler, Andre Jensen. I was a contractor living in California at the time (MMG was based in Bend, which is why it’s a big center of SEO to this day). Global Strategies is here (owned by Ogilvy), RKG is here. Derrick heads up SEO for Microsoft and lives in Bend. Until recently, Marshall kept a home here.
Through MMG I formed a connection to Tony Hsieh and his team, and in 1998 I started helping Zappos. The email discussion list we started then is still going strong today! That led into SEO with Zappos and other companies.
| aC: Awesome. Now… top 3 best pieces of advice your dad ever gave you about business:
AA: I’m so glad you asked me this question! My dad is a treasure trove of wisdom. Here are my top three:
- Give, then take. Reciprocity is a fundamental tenet of marketing, whether online or off. He taught me how to do this well and the right way to think about giving. When you do good things and make connections with people, great things can happen.
- All work is honorable. Obviously, not ALL work is honorable (selling crack, for example), but the point is that hard work – no matter what it is – carries with it a value, and that value can be a reward in itself. The janitor or the CEO can take purpose to their work and find fulfillment by doing the best they can and treating the job and themselves with respect.
- You don’t quit. Failure is learning from a mistake and then pressing on to do better. We must all accept responsibility for our actions, we must be accountable. Instead of pointing fingers at others when we make a mistake, we need to own it. It can be painful, sure, but it’s the only way to grow beyond your own (self-imposed) limitations.
AA: Thai food! Bourbon! Mountain lions! (We’ve got a lot of them here in Bend.)
| aC: No, thank *you*! It’s been a pleasure, Mr. Audette. Safe travels from Bend to the Big Apple. We’ll be seeing you there!