Seven Things I've Learned in a Year at a Search Marketing Startup


Anniversary CupcakeToday marks my one-year anniversary at WordStream—happy anniversary to me! When I started, we were in a temporary space with stained carpets and terrifyingly temperamental elevators, and only about 12 full-time employees coming into the office every day. We've come a long way since then, and I'd like to think I've evolved a little too. After all, at a startup, one year under your belt practically makes you an old veteran.

Here are a few things I've learned in the past year about search marketing, business, and—that's right—myself.

1. Everyone at a Company Is Important

Working at a very small company—perhaps especially a new company—really throws this fact into relief: Everyone matters, from the CEO down to a lowly copywriter like me. With less noise and bureaucracy, it's quite obvious when someone isn't invested in their job, and when they are. Either one can have a big effect on important outcomes. Larger companies would do well to remember their startup days when this was the case. A few bad nuts may be less obvious when there are more people around, but that doesn't mean they're any better for the company as a whole.

2. Twitter Is Great for Promotion (And More)

I joined Twitter a week or two after I started at WordStream. It hadn't really caught on fully at my previous company, but the whole marketing team here (all five of us!) was actively using it to make connections in the industry. So I signed up and gave it a whirl. Roughly 5,300 tweets later, I can honestly say I'm a fan of Twitter. For one thing, it's awesome for pushing blog posts and other content to your followers (and thanks to retweets, your followers' followers); many people use Twitter and/or Facebook as a kind of RSS feed, so it may be the only way they find out you've written something new.

But a few more page views isn't all I get out of Twitter. I also like the pointers to good stories, the conversation, and the feeling of being connected to the outside world—it's something like having talk radio on at low volume all day. Whatever's going on in the world tends to filter through Twitter. No one I know would have pinned me for a Twitter person before I got this job—as I'm so fond of bragging about, I'm not even on Facebook. Go figure.

3. Good Writers Read More Than They Write

This is probably true for poets and novelists too, but I'm thinking specifically of blogging. My favorite bloggers aren't writing in a vacuum. They share their knowledge but they also respond to what's going on outside their own office and headspace. Even if seemingly everyone is already talking about something that's going on in the web marketing industry, an overview or opposing viewpoint from a good writer can be really valuable. Tom, Ken and I all spend a portion of our days reading industry news and blogs. I always enjoy time spent with Google Reader.

4. At a Startup, You're Never the First One in in the Morning

No matter how early I get into the office (occasionally pretty early, when insomnia strikes), someone's always here before me, usually the bosses. Tom is an especially early riser. I, for one, think this is a good thing—part of the bonus of getting in early is that somebody notices, of course!

5. Link Building Is As Important as the Content Itself

I've spent hours on posts that no one read because they didn't know the posts existed. Conversely I've seen fairly crappy posts get tons of page views with a good title and lots of promotion. Personally, I'd rather see the traffic go to a quality post, but the lesson is this: If you have four hours total to devote to a blog post or article, set aside some of that time for off-page factors. Also, don't underestimate the power of a strong title! It's like a trailer for your content. It should excite and intrigue.

6. The General Public Knows Less About the Web Than You Think

Ken told me a great story, shortly after I started, about the job he held before moving to WordStream. His coworkers knew so little about the Web, they thought that underlining a word and changing the color of the text to blue would automatically turn it into a hyperlink. (I mean, wow.) Then there's that video of people on the street who don't know what a browser is; most regular people, when asked what browser they use, answered "Google." Some of our most basic, beginner-level posts get shared the most on Twitter. (It's always good to remember that your peers and colleagues in the search marketing industry aren't your ultimate audience.) The lesson: Almost nothing is too basic for everybody. Some of your prospective clients may be true beginners.

7. Search Marketing Is Kind of a Man's World

How is WordStream like a Beach Boys song? There are two guys for every girl here, and from what I can tell, this isn't unusual—most of the search marketing blogs I read are dominated by male voices. But it's certainly not the case that there aren't brilliant and successful women in the industry, and there's certainly no reason there couldn't be more. I hope to see the proportion of women in the field grow over the next decade and beyond.

Thanks to all my coworkers at WordStream (not to mention our fans and clients) for making it a great first year!

Photo credit: Theresa Thompson

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Ken Lyons
Apr 27, 2010

Happy Aniversary, Elisa!
You're definitely one of the "good nuts" and I'm lucky to work with you each day.
Here's to another year.

Apr 27, 2010

Congrats! It is my one-year anniversary today as well. :)

Tom Demers
Apr 27, 2010

Happy first year Elisa!
For anyone who doesn't know Elisa's responsible for most of the copy written by WordStream, for attempting to get Ken to write about what's on the editorial calendar, for getting me to come within 3 weeks of my deadlines, all while being responsible for working down a never-ending list of priorities that get shuffled 2-5 times a day and she does an excellent job with all of it.
Great job this year, Elisa: thanks for all the hard work!

Made Sukahatya
Apr 27, 2010

Happy first year aniversary
I'm new in marketing. I'll follow you.

Elisa Gabbert
Apr 28, 2010

Thanks to Ken, Tom, and everyone who wished me a happy anniversary! Let's see what I learn in the next year!

Apr 29, 2010

I agree with you. Twitter has been a great promotional tool. It helped us alot in getting us recognized in arenas of internet marketing

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