Interview Alert! It's Wordstream's Elisa Gabbert!

Elisa Gabbert is the content manager at WordStream, where she runs the WordStream Internet Marketing Blog and helps market the company’s AdWords software, PPC management services and keyword research tools. She also writes poetry and perfume criticism. She currently lives in Denver. You can follow her on Twitter at @egabbert (but expect tasteless jokes and bad puns).


1. Can you give us a summary of your SEO experience thus far? What is your current niche?

I got into the SEO industry about five years ago, sort of by accident – I was working as an editorial assistant on a website at a big media company. Their model was to run a bunch of highly targeted websites (each aimed at a slice of the technology market, mostly B2B but some B2C as well – stuff like Oracle, Linux, server storage, etc.) and sell advertising against those sites. When I started, no one even knew what SEO was, but it slowly became a bigger and bigger part of our strategy company-wide. Most people hated it – the company employed a lot of journalists who were coming from a print background – but a few people saw how important it was and some (crazy nerds) even found it interesting (oh, hi). So I moved into an “SEO specialist” role, making recommendations for a group of websites.

Now I work as a copywriter for a venture-backed startup that offers search marketing software and services, including a PPC management platform and various SEO tools (free and paid). We like to say this is the Olympics of search, because we’re competing to rank on search marketing terms with other companies that, like us, really know search marketing. So it’s very challenging, and VERY META.

2. How do you feel about the recent Google privacy changes that will now prevent us from seeing logged-in Google keyword data in Google Analytics? It’s apparently not the case for PPC. Fair or not?

I actually just blogged about this news. I tend to side with the “privacy schmivacy” folks – clearly other motives were driving this decision. I think it sucks because that’s such useful data. The worry is that it will eventually affect all organic referrals, as opposed to just a fraction as it does now. Then keyword research/optimization for SEO officially becomes total guesswork.

3. Any tips on how to use PPC data for organic SEO and link building?

Especially now that Google is taking away some of your organic search query data, it’s super important to keep an eye on your search query report if you do PPC. Assuming you’re using broad match and modified broad match (and you should be, in concert with negative keywords), you’ll be able to discover all kinds of new keywords that you can then incorporate into your content strategy. If you manage pretty large, complicated accounts, you might want to take a look at Chad Summerhill’s tips for search query mining – he includes a link to an Excel download that can help you sort through the data. You can download the full series in PDF as part of our negative keyword e-book.

4. Besides Wordstream tools, what else do you use?

I usually use our own tool for keyword research, but I sometimes consult the Google keyword tool for comparison. I also use Google Analytics. Otherwise it’s mostly me and a Word doc. And Twitter! I’m on Twitter all day. As a writer, I can focus on content strategy and leave most of the hardcore geek stuff to our SEO guy. I avoid Excel whenever possible.

5. What are the best resources available for someone with a small budget, new to PPC?

How small is small? If we’re talking really tiny, Google offers “AdWords Express” which requires very little effort on the advertiser’s part, but you give up a lot of control, so that’s iffy unless you’re talking a budget of like $100 a month and no experience with PPC. Beyond that, I’d recommend reading a lot of blogs to keep up with PPC best practices and the constant changes and additions to the AdWords interface. Tom Demers is my point man for keeping up with AdWords. And here’s a big list of awesome PPC blogs from BoostCTR. (Speaking of which, BoostCTR is an affordable way to get help with your ad copy.) Attend webinars, download white papers – take advantage of all the free resources that PPC companies offer in order to get your email address. The amount you can afford to spend on getting help with PPC will depend on your monthly budget. If you’re spending $1,000 a month or more, you can probably afford to invest in some tools.

6. What’s a typical day like for you?

The first thing I do every morning – after checking my email and putting out any fires – is publish a new blog post on the WordStream blog. We try to do at least one new post every week day. The blog is my baby. Then I push it out through Twitter and poke around on TweetDeck to see what people are talking about. The rest of my day is some combination of meetings (talking strategy with the rest of the marketing team, planning for new features or product launches, etc.) and writing and/or editing (articles for our own blog, guest posts and contributed articles, email marketing, white papers, and so on and so on), with a little social media and link promotion sprinkled in for good measure.

7. Name your dream client and tell us why.

Anthropologie, because maybe we could work out some kind of discount? (Editor’s note: you and me both, sister.)

8. What’s the best piece of SEO advice you’ve ever received? Ever given?

I think the best advice I got was from Larry Kim, who told me to copy Wikipedia. Who else, aside from Google itself, enjoys first-page rankings for such a wide array of keywords? So we try to emulate them on a smaller scale – create encyclopedic content on a topic (for us, that’s search marketing); organize it taxonomically; interlink heavily; use the keyword in the URL, title, first sentence, subheads, image file names and alt text; build anchor text links; etc….

As for given? My favorite piece of advice is: When you don’t know what to blog about, consult your analytics. Inevitably, you’ll find a traffic-driving search query that you don’t have a dedicated post for yet. So write it, duh!
9. Write an SEO haiku. Just kidding!! Who’d win in a fight between Martin Amis and Ian McEwan?

I don’t know, they’re both pretty namby-pamby, wouldn’t you say? I think the ghost of Kingsley Amis, annoyed by their bickering, would hangover-vomit on them from above. (Editor’s note: I think Amis is less so than McEwan but McEwan is creepier, therefore he’d win. However that 9/11 book by Martin proved that he’s a bit scary, so…ok Amis would win.)

10. What’s the biggest bullshit SEO advice going around today? I’m quite annoyed by all of the “must do” items being pushed about. We didn’t have freaking wordpress tags in place and we still ranked, damn you all!!

The perpetual thorn in my side is the obsession with getting into Google News. Sure, it can send lots of traffic, but I think evergreen content is more useful for our business model.

11. If you were not working in SEO, what would you be doing, besides staying home watching Oprah reruns and eating moonpies? Or is that just me?

I’m a writer, so I’d spend my days writing about one of my other interests – mostly frivolous things like perfume and outfits, but I’m also into lofty pretentious stuff like poetry and women’s rights and “culture.” So if it weren’t for this SEO gig I’d probably be our generation’s Joan Didion.

12. Who are the most fun SEOs you’ve met and why? For the sake of not having to arsekiss this cannot include any of your bosses.

Can it include you or does that count as arsekissing? (Editor’s note: I’d have accepted that HAD YOU MENTIONED ME.) My former bosses, Tom Demers and Ken Lyons (who now run Measured SEM), are a laugh a minute. I’ve met a lot of great people through WordStream. If Twitter counts as a “meetingplace,” I’m a big fan of Dr. Pete.

13. What’s the ickiest search you’ve ever stumbled across? When I was researching the types of chickens I wanted to get (shut up) I accidentally searched for “black sex links” instead of “black sex link chickens.” Yeah. Unfun. Luckily it was a web search, not an image search.

I’m totally impressed that you have chickens. Please invite me over for breakfast. (I mean to eat eggs, not the chickens.) I don’t think I’ve ever “accidentally” searched for kinky sex tricks, but one of the common keyword referrals for my blog is “dave matthews band tattoos.” How icky is that? Also “emo gay sex blogspot,” but that’s just cute.

Now this is Julie talking…I realize there are a lot of links to Wordstream here so before any of you start thinking they’re giving me free stuff or in any way influencing me, let me say that I WISH THEY DID. They don’t. I just think Elisa is three hoots and I like to see literate folk in our industry. Thanks for the interview Ms. Gabbert!!

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