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Q&A: Cathy Salazar, senior partner & search practice lead, MEC

Cathy Salazar, senior partner and search practice lead at global media agency MEC, talks search, social, and the next big thing.

Q: What are the benefits of Pinterest, if any, from an SEO perspective?

A: In an ideal world Pinterest would show up in organic results. The collage that is created in a Pinterest board is curated by consumers and that’s something you can’t replicate anywhere. I do think Pinterest is a viable way of driving traffic, but searching within Pinterest is difficult. Having the right links back to a website is a key component of making Pinterest traffic drive for advertisers.

Q: Social and search: a match made in heaven or hell?

A: Marrying the two might be difficult at the moment, but my theory is there can be a marriage. Look at Bing, with its tabs, “What Bing Knows,” “What the Web Knows,” and “What Your Friends Know.” They’re trying to incorporate the social graph in a more relevant way so consumers can be accustomed to receiving social input when they search. Right now it’s in its infancy, but it’s only going to get better.

Q: What do you see as the next big search marketing trend?

A: Category search, because all of search is moving to mobile, in my opinion, inclusive of smartphones and tablets. The entry point is going to be searching on applications on mobile devices, and the reliance on Google or Yahoo/Bing is going to change. People are going to be more apt to do specific searches on Amazon’s app or on the WebMD app, for example, and that’s going to make search engines more generic in terms of results.

Q: What kind of impact will mobile have on search in the next two years?

A: Google will argue that mobile isn’t cannibalizing desktop search, but we’re probably at the point of the paradigm shift. All of those desktop searches and queries are going to go to mobile. There will also be a proliferation of tablets, which is going to diminish the emphasis on desktop search. I’m not saying the PC will go away, but its usage is going to go down and PCs are going to be replaced by more functional, portable devices.

Q: How can smaller brands “beat” bigger brands at the search marketing game?

A: It’s an equal playing field. Search is the one place where everyone can play. If you’re a small brand, you need to figure out what your goals are and then align them to a strong strategy. Companies can get crafty using data—and data is available to anyone. Marketers with small budgets can often maximize the data they have to the greatest extent to get the most bang for their buck.

Q: How has the digital space changed from 1999, when you entered, to today?

A: There always has been a constant gravitation toward the next big thing, and I’ve seen marketers fall in and out of love quite a lot over the years: banner ads, email marketing, paid search—and now there’s data and it’s driving every decision we make. At the moment, people are in love with data and I think that’s going to last a very long time.

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