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Interview with Lisa Barone, Chief Branding Officer at Outspoken Media

This is kind of a different interview from the normal format your eyeballs are used to. When I designed the questions I had readers involved with the SEO industry in mind, so most of the interview will be focused on the search space and online marketing.

For those who don’t know who Lisa Barone is, Lisa is the Chief Branding Officer at Outspoken Media. She is also an active twitterer, you can follow her at Lisa Barone.

‘The Rich get Richer’ – do you think this applies to SEO and other Marketing forms? And if YES, then what are the key factors that one should keep in mind while starting?

Definitely! The marketing world is based on it. The search engines aim to return the most authoritative and relevant pages on a certain topic, thereby increasing their perceived relevance for those topics among users. Blogs with a lot of subscribers get new subscribers faster than blogs with smaller numbers.  Email marketing lists with huge bases pick up new readers faster through influence than newsletters just starting out.  Call it “rich get richer”, “social proof”, whatever. The theory is valid.  What that means for marketers is that brand becomes even more important. Studies show that people do buy and consume based on brand.  Work to create a brand that is based on consistency and excellence, and the social proof stuff will come over time.

Lisa, you are an amazing writer and you have a command over the web. But writing quality content every day and throwing out useful free tips that help businesses requires motivation, time and research. You are writing for your blog, you are writing for other industry-related blogs and you are an entrepreneur as well – so how do you manage it all? And more importantly how do you find time for non-industry friends and family?

As I get busier, time management has definitely become a greater focus in my life.  For me, that means scheduling out my weeks way in advance so that I know what needs to get done in a specific time period.  I’m a firm believer in Parkinson’s Law – that work will expand to the time you have to fill it.   By organizing my day, I’m always aware of what needs to be done and that helps me stay on track and motivation to get it done.  I’ve also had to make a conscious effort NOT to grab my Blackberry when out with friends and family.  When I’m off, I’m off.  That separation helps.

You talk a lot about SEO; sometimes it brings a smile to my face when you say you are not a SEO. Where do you see the industry headed in the coming years? And please share your opinion regarding ‘SEO is Dead’ 😉

SEO is definitely not dead.  As long as there is the Internet, there will be a need to optimize Web sites and the information on it. But that doesn’t mean SEO isn’t changing – it is. We had a conversation on the blog recently about whether SEO was about rankings or conversions.  That post talks a bit about how SEO has really become more marketing than mechanics. There’s so much more involved now than simply creating a structurally sound site. It’s about giving users something to engage with, getting them to interact with your Web site and creating a POD through brand.  As our responsibilities get bigger, so do our marketing hats.

In my opinion, the reason why most businesses fear jumping into social media is because it’s very quick and open. Anyone can post a positive/negative comments about a product or service or company, which is very annoying and sometimes dangerous for businesses (specially the new or small businesses) what is your suggestion to them? How should they use it?

There’s definitely a lot of fear involved in social media. Fear that if a business takes those first steps to enter the conversation that they’ll immediately be hit with people who hate their brand or who want to take them to task.  I’ve actually found that most customers of small businesses really want to promote the brand, not harm it.  There’s a certain amount of pride involved when it comes to the businesses we love, especially when they’re small mom and pops.  You also have to realize that the conversation you’re so afraid of? It’s already happening. If you’re not there, it’s just happening without you.  If people are expressing a negative comment about your company, you want to be there to offer support or assistance. You don’t want to hide from it.  These are your customers. They’re on these networks and they’re talking about you.  Get in there.

Lisa, you write some quality and valuable content on the web. Once a person is good at something, he can see why others fail! When it comes to blogging, what are a few key things that make you different (I really mean really unique) from the others?

I think there’s always been one thing that’s separated me from many of the other bloggers in the SEO industry and it’s that I’m a writer first.  Most people who write about SEO are (as you would imagine) SEOs by trade.  They live and breathe SEO and they write for other SEOs. The fact that I’m a writer gives me a big advantage when trying to connect with people because I know how to use language. It helps me break down concepts to their most basic levels. Because if I can understand something as someone who’s not an SEO, it means I can explain it to others in a way that they’ll understand, as well.  That’s something that’s helped me a lot over the years. I can also write content quicker than the average bear so, of course, that’s an advantage, as well.

I was reading your recent interview on Ross Hudgens blog and you said “When will Outspoken Media turn BlueGlass and start acquiring everyone? The short answer is never.” Don’t you think growing is good for business?

Growing is absolutely good for business.  We’re content to grow slowly and as makes sense for our client demands. We don’t want to add bodies simply to fill chairs. We want to grow with purpose.

Ok, I know that this question is not new to you but I’ll still ask because it addresses a problem of almost every single person in the search industry and Social Media. You have expressed before somewhere that your family doesn’t understand your job. How difficult is it to deal with that? Like what annoys me the most is when my brother tells me that ‘I have heard that your job description is to cheat Google?… I hate him for this anyway…

Ha. It can be a little frustrating.  It’s hard when you work so hard at something and then you’re called a “glorified secretary”.   At SEO does become more like marketing, I just tell people that I own a marketing company.  I try to avoid words like “SEO”, “search engine” or “blogging” at all costs. They just get me strange looks. 😉

What do you think what is more fun/challenging:  To work with brands and help them to maintain their success level or to work with non-brand companies and help them to grow and set themselves up as a BRAND?

We love our big brand clients, but there’s definitely a special kind of excitement that comes with helping a small business find its legs and voice on the Web.  Because so much of my job is about building brand, I really take to those types of clients because I get my hands a bit dirtier helping them to define a strategy, who they want to be, and crafting ways for them to attain that.  Really, both types of clients pose their own types of challenges, but I do find it a lot of fun working with the undeveloped brands.  They tend to be a bit gutsier.

Do you believe in experiments? And do you suggest experimenting when it comes to social media?

You definitely have to be testing things, whether it’s an SEO campaign, a social media campaign, whatever.  That’s what makes a good social media or SEO consultant and it’s where you see what works and where the line is for certain things. When it comes to social media, it often feels like a lot of it is testing. It’s testing to see how a user will respond to a certain piece of content, testing to see the best ways to interact, testing to see what gives the best results.  It’s all a bit of experimenting until you know what works best.

People talk a lot about this topic and everyone has different opinions, but should SEOs educate the clients or listen to the client?

This will probably sound harsh, but I think it’s up to the SEO to establish that they’re an expert and to make the client feel comfortable trusting them. If the client is questioning your recommendations than you probably haven’t done a very good job setting up expectations and allowing them to feel comfortable trusting you. Do your best to educate the client on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what they can expect to see. If after that the client still isn’t on board or you feel they’re going to be fighting you on every decision, it may be best to part ways.  SEO doesn’t do well when micromanaged.

Lisa, this is a simple question and I have no clue how you are going to respond! What is your next goal?

My goal for 2011 is to see Outspoken Media cross over a bit from the SEO community.  We’ve found a very loyal following here and made some great friends, but I’m anxious to see us spread our wings a little and touch some new areas.  The company is in a really great place right now and I’m excited for the next year.  We’re getting ready for a lot of internal growth – in size and scope.  The company is strong, healthy and posed for attack. 😉

One piece of advice that you want to give to professionals in the search and web industry?

Get out of your own bubbles. We do a pretty good job secluding ourselves into our tight little niche. But there are so many interesting conversations and things happening just on the brink of that.  Go explore them.

Category SEO
Moosa Hemani Inbound Governor at

Moosa Hemani is a strategist and a blogger at We also help our client get better online visibility using ...

Interview with Lisa Barone, Chief Branding Officer at Outspoken Media

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