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Interview with Ryan Jones: Big Brand SEO, Social Media & More

Can You Tell Us About Your Current Job?

I’m the Senior Search Strategist at Team Detroit. We’re a full service agency owned by WPP. I spend the majority of my time working on Ford, Lincoln and Ford’s other online properties. Our team deals with everything from high level strategy down to creating META data. In addition to working on Ford, I spend a great deal of time evangelizing SEO within the agency as well as looking for ways to better integrate SEO into other departments – like paid search, social media, etc.

Can You Give Some Tips on Getting a Job at a Big Agency/Brand?

It all comes down to experience and passion. I’ve always believe that if you do what’s best for your client you’ll succeed no matter where you are. When I look around at the people in the SEO industry who are doing things I notice they all have a passion for search. SEO (and marketing in general) isn’t something you can turn off at 5pm when you go to the gym or the bar. Some of my greatest ideas have come up in random 11pm cross country calls with friends where we just talk about search, the auto industry, and random stuff.

I think the mark of a good SEO is somebody who not only does it for a living, but runs their own sites as well. Having a personal stake in the game is key to developing that passion. The first question I like to ask job applicants is “tell me about your biggest SEO success?” Not a lot of people have ready answers for that.

What Mistakes Do You See Big Brands Making in SEO and/or Social Media?

I’m definitely a social media “something” but I don’t think that something is “expert.” By far though the biggest social media mistake I see is when brands try to treat social media like a press release. I also hate when brands overly censor their comments and remove all negativity. Everybody has problems of some sort, it’s just not reasonable to expect me to think everybody loves your product. Another thing I notice with most large brands is that there’s little interaction between the social media and SEO teams. I think that could be a big growth opportunity for a lot of companies this year.

What is the Best Part of Working With a Big Brand?

I hesitate to say this because people might take it the wrong way, but what I like best about big brands is that I don’t have to do any link building. I take it for granted sometimes, but with a big brand, we don’t have to do much to get links. As long as we produce good content and make it easy to share the links usually take care of themselves. I know I sound like a Google blog post here, but it’s true. It’s also probably why I think a lot of SEOs hate link building. It’s just not as easy as it was a few years ago. I think that’s why link building is always a popular conference topic too – we’re all looking for quick fixes that just don’t exist.

Speaking of Conferences, Which Upcoming Conferences Will You Be Attending or Speaking At?

In Feb. I’ll be speaking on a panel about meaningful SEO metrics at SES Accelerator in San Diego. It’ll be my first time speaking at a conference and I have to admit I’m feeling kind of nervous. It should be an awesome session. I’ve also been told I need to try Phil’s BBQ while in town, so if anybody wants to meet up and get some ribs let me know.

I’m also going to be speaking at SMX West in San Jose. I’ll be giving a case study about moving domains on the domain migration panel, and I’ll also be moderating the Q&A for the “ask the search engines” panel doing the SEO site reviews panel. I’m not sure how submissions work for either of those, but if you’re going and want us to review your site or have a question for the search engine reps let me know and I’ll try to work something out.

I’d also love to attend SMX Advanced and Pubcon this year but we’ll see what happens.

Any Suggestions For New Conference Attendees to Make the Most of Their Experience?

Hang out at the bar, go to the dinners and meetups, and don’t be afraid to talk to people. I’ve made a ton of awesome friends at the bars/parties that accompany conferences. Just be friendly and don’t constantly ask for advice about your site – unless of course you’re buying the drinks. Also if you get a chance to attend one of Alan Bleiweiss’s Epic Dinners, you have to do it.

Which Industry News Items Have Irritated You the Most Lately & Please Tell us Why.

Oh boy…. A complete list of things that irritate me is usually readily available on my Twitter or Facebook – and updated by the minute. Right now mobile is a fun topic. There seems to be genuine disagreement in our industry on whether mobile and desktop search will converge or diverge and what strategies should be employed. I also just read a Webmaster World thread where SEOs were questioning whether on-page factors actually mattered in ranking. Don’t even get me started on that…

What Knowledge Do You Feel is Crucial if You Want to Do Well in the SEO industry?

Somebody’s going to disagree with me in the comments for this, but I think all SEOs should have some programming experience. Knowing the basics of HTML, JavaScript, PHP or .NET and the basic workings of Apache can help you anticipate SEO issues before they come up – especially when you’re working with developer teams. I’ve seen a ton of redirects/url structure problems pop up simply because the SEO wasn’t familiar enough with the concept of mod_rewrite or .htaccess to steer the developer in the right direction. Having been a software engineer in a past life I’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating how somebody might code something and being able to fix problems before they even happen.

The second biggest thing would have to be the ability to think like Google. It’s easy to get stuck in the webmaster mindset and forget that Google’s priority is to make search more useful to their customers. If more people designed their sites with that goal in mind the web would be a much better place. Think less about about “how can my site rank for this term?” and more about “what would a searcher want to find when they type in this term?” – then go make that site.

You Have a Feisty Social Media Reputation. How Important Is It to be Truly Yourself in Social Media?

Feisty is a good word – probably more tame than I deserve though but thanks for keeping it family friendly. I’ve pissed off a few people over the years, but now I regularly engage with most of those people online and at conferences. My new years resolution this year was to be more positive on social media – one that I’ll most likely fail at,  but I like to think I’m a better person for trying. I think being yourself is essential. It reminds people that you’re human and helps you make connections. The biggest piece of advice I can give: You’re going to screw up. When you do you’ve got to own it, apologize, learn from it, move on, and then work on making sure you don’t make that mistake again.

Personal Questions

  • Mac or PC? Both. I use a PC for work because that’s what I was given. At home I have a macbook and an iMac for normal use, and a PC that I use when I code. (Coda on the Mac is nice, but I prefer editplus and SQLyog on my PC.)
  • Tweetdeck or Hootsuite? Tweetdeck – although lately it’s been kind of sluggish for me and I wish it handled conversations better.I have to give the Twitter iPhone app an honorable mention too.
  • iPhone or Droid? I love my iPhone. I wouldn’t ever go urban camping to get one, but I’ll continue buying iPhones for the foreseeable future.
  • Favorite drink/beer? Drink? Bourbon. Preferably Makers Mark or Basil Hayden’s. Beer? It’s got to be Shiner Bock – which is quite hard to get here in Detroit.
  • Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars
  • Favorite Sports Team? Red Wings, Tigers, Lions, and the University of Michigan – and since we get CBC here in Detroit, the sport of curling has really grown on me. It looks like so much fun. Anybody want to go try it with me?

Find Ryan on Twitter @RyanJones and thank you Ryan for taking the time to do the interview!

Category SEO
Melissa Fach SEOAware

Melissa is a Sr SEO Analyst at Cox Enterprises, a marketing consultant and the owner of SEO Aware, LLC. Melissa ...

Interview with Ryan Jones: Big Brand SEO, Social Media & More

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