Adam will be in the audience at Searchfest which will take place on March 10th, 2008 at the Portland Zoo. Purchase your Searchfest 08 tickets now.
1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living?
I’ve got internet marketing in my blood. I started in 1997 working for my Dad’s company, doing link building. In about ’98 I was hired by one of our clients, MSN, to manage the bCentral community. I learned a lot about search marketing and web strategy by reading hundreds of posts and articles every week and interacting with other marketers. That experience springboarded my career. I’ve been involved in a few other companies since then: Adventive which published discussion lists for marketers (such as i-Search) which we sold to the co-founder of Clickz in 2002, and Zappos who I still work with today. Zappos is a great company. I also publish the LED Digest, an old-school SEO discussion list and I moderate the SEM 2.0 list with Andrew Goodman.
I’ve always loved doing SEO, but I take a slightly different approach than some I think. I’m more of a marketing strategist than pure SEO; to me search is a component of good internet marketing (a big one) but it’s not everything. Back in the bCentral days I was doing a lot of consulting on the side because of my job – I got tons of leads every week. That consulting evolved over the years into AudetteMedia, a web strategy company. Our site needs love – we’re too busy to finish it! I have a business partner, Meg Thompson, and 4 employees. We’re a boutique shop and work with mid-sized businesses, corporations, and traditional agencies doing search marketing, social media, conversion analysis and community strategy. We’re really focused on analytics. It’s so essential to have good analysis that can drive campaigns. Our other big focus is on optimized site architecture.
2) You might be the only second generation search marketer. Can you tell us about your dad and his contributions to the industry? How did growing up around the search industry prepare you for your current career?
It’s pretty amazing to look back on how much the search marketing landscape has changed. My Dad, John Audette, started one of the first pure online marketing companies in about 1995 – it was called Multimedia Marketing Group (MMG). Outrider bought us in 2000. He was really visionary. Back in the late ’90s he was pushing SEO a lot, he saw great potential there. MMG was one of the first companies to offer SEO services. Many of his hires got their start in SEO and went on to do great things in the industry – Marshall Simmonds of NYT, Bill Hunt and Jeremy Sanchez of Global Strategies/Ogilvy, Detlev Johnson, Adam Sherk, and Derrick Wheeler of Microsoft to name a few. They’re almost all still in Bend, too. Bend is a SEO hotspot – Paul Owen of Marketleap (now Acxiom) is also here. Andrew Goodman said it best – Bend is like the “primordial soup of search.”
Back in about 1998 or so, my Dad flew Danny Sullivan to Bend so he’d train MMG on SEO. He had Shari Thurow and a bunch of others come to Bend as well. I remember Danny stayed at my Dad’s house. It’s funny to think how much the industry has changed. Recently Danny wrote that Marshall Simmonds is the SEO of the moment – meaning he’s a great example of SEO having a positive impact on a large company, and his work betters the industry’s public reputation. I couldn’t agree more – he’s done great things and he’s a great guy, very smart and he’s earned his own successes. But everyone starts somewhere, and it’s nice to think that my Dad had a small part in this when he hired Marshall in the late ’90s to start the SEO department at MMG. Marshall was working at CompUSA in Portland at the time I believe.
You can read about John’s philosophy of business in his Sweet 16:
Principles for Building a Successful Internet Business. As someone mentioned to me at Pubcon, that page contains “golden advices.”
I couldn’t avoid search marketing. I tried to, I really did! I had other aspirations – to be a doctor. I prepared for medical school for several years, but finally succumbed to my fate. The work was always there, and it didn’t make sense to waste the knowledge I had learned over the years. After we had our first baby, I knew it was time to put everything I had into this career. I’m so glad I did, because it’s very rewarding and really pushes my creativity – it’s always changing and makes me feel like I’m continually growing and learning. Plus the people in the SEO industry are great.
3) For somebody who grew up in the search industry, how do you feel about the trend towards SEO classroom education?
I think it’s great, really a positive sign that things are maturing, becoming more standardized. I don’t think it’s possible to totally standardize SEO – there are so many variables and so much creativity in each situation – but there are general guidelines that definitely need to be better documented. I’d love to see search marketing become a part of college curriculum as well, either as a special focus for marketing majors or a degree on its own. Courses on offer today such as Bruce’s SEOToolSet and Jill’s Highrankings series are really valuable, especially for businesses who want to bring SEO in house. The future in my opinion is getting search integrated within companies – it’s much more cost-effective and scalable, and it’s a better investment in the company than outsourcing. SEO classes are an early step in the right direction, and judging by the attendance levels they’re in pretty high demand.
Thanks to Todd and SEMpdx for this – I’m really psyched to be going to Searchfest and connecting (ie partying) with other search marketers. SearchFest baby!