Q & A: John Anagnost, [email protected]’s director of search

John Anagnost, the new global director of search marketing services at search agency [email protected], took some time to speak with DMNews about his new position and how he sees trends in the search space affecting the agency’s strategy. He took the newly created position in January. Before joining Neo, Anagnost served as interactive marketing director of OgilvyInteractive’s Digital Strategy group. Some of Neo’s clients include American Express, IBM, Cisco, Coca Cola, TD Ameritrade, Six Flags and Louis Vuitton.

Why was there a need for this new position?

We have a big opportunity to do a lot of new things with search. That’s what we’re interested in pursuing. We all know about search from the paid and organic viewpoint. It’s very execution-based in nature and has been for the past 10 years. But the services we provide some of our clients are very promising and provide a level of insight into how people search. If you go back up the stream to market intelligence, a lot of groups use focus groups and surveys, which are the foundation of what they do. We have a lot of proprietary tools and people that can help synthesize how people search and what their intent is and how that intent can change. The whole idea is using the search volume and semantics to give marketers insight into what’s going on in their category. One of the big growth areas for marketers is getting their hands around that data.

How can marketers use these insights?

Market intelligence really informs your spending, value proposition development and what kind of sites you build for your customers. The insight carries it all the way though to your search execution model.

How is social media affecting search?

What’s interesting is you can do some tactical things, which agencies are doing. The goal is to really look at the way people are talking about a brand or a product or category in their social networks or product review sites and glean insights from that to change your search messaging. You have volumes of people saying volumes of things, so you should ask, “What can we infer from that? How should we message differently? Will that change our display?” We use it for competitive reasons.

How are marketers being challenged by universal search?

The importance of having a deep knowledge of how people search on your brand is not going to change. What we do know is everyone is making videos, posting photos and blogging, but the strategy and how you tag those assets lies in the domain of the search strategy. The game to win in search is having a strong meta tag and keyword strategy. The old game of owning the search engine results page is still the game. What’s making it more complicated are the multiple content types and the co-created content that the brands don’t even own — use social media to change messaging and keywords, and change strategies based on that.

Where do you see search headed the rest of the year?

Search is really seeing explosive growth. The reasons are obvious: budgets are moving from offline to online and the display business is slowing and refocusing. People are looking for more efficiencies there. There’s a constant trickle from offline to online. Offline can be direct mail and event businesses, not always just TV and print. It involves all sorts of choices. Some brands are giving search a second look in terms of efficiencies and if they can sharpen their use of it as a discipline. So there’s very good growth, and it’s not going to stop.

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