Our special guest for episode 337 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast was George Nguyen, Associate Editor at Third Door Media. Host Erin Sparks spoke with George as part of the new EDGE Contributors Series focused on some of the great journalists and reporters who keep us all informed on the latest digital marketing developments. Here’s what we learned:
George Nguyen: His Background and Experience
George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media, which runs several popular digital marketing news pages, including Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. George covers breaking search news for Search Engine Land, and breaking news about podcasting for Marketing Land.
George moderates a number of conferences organized by Third Door Media, including SMX East and West, as well as SMX Advanced conferences. SMX West, by the way, is coming up on February 19-20 in San Jose. He’s also got a long history in podcasting and spent nearly nine years in Korea. He was working for a content marketing firm and happened to see a job posting for Third Door Media on Indeed. He was already familiar with their Search Engine Land site and knew they published great articles, so he applied and landed a position. They needed someone with one foot in journalism and one foot in marketing, and George fit the bill. His advice is if you keep doing things that interest you and keep developing and progressing at them, eventually an opportunity will come along that allows you to pull them all together professionally.
The Challenge of Reporting on Digital Marketing
Keeping people up-to-date on the extremely rapid pace of change in SEO and digital marketing can certainly be a challenge. One of the first challenges reporters and journalists face is deciding what to cover. There are, of course, certain topics the entire industry wants to know about, such as a core algorithm update at Google. But there are lots of minor topics, some of which pan out into something significant, and others that simply run their course and go away. The challenge is finding the sweet spot of where the audience is at and what interests them, what they care about, what size of agency they are, the kinds of clients they serve, the tool sets they use – you have to tune in to all of that as a reporter.
Another challenge is what level of writing to use. After all, not everyone has ten years of experience SEO, so sometimes you have to write for people who are novices or beginners. Because George has less technical experience in these areas than many of his fellow journalists and reporters, he tends to write in a way that works for others with less experience as well. And sometimes writing in a way everyone can understand without having to look things up can be a real challenge. He notes writing about BERT for a broad audience was pretty much a nightmare.
If you’re not already an “expert” in what you’re writing about, then you have to get up-to-speed as quickly as possible on any given topic, and that’s a challenge journalists and reporters face that most readers don’t realize. It can take a lot of time just to get ready to write on a topic. But once you get up-to-speed on a topic, then you’ve got that base of knowledge for the next time you have to write about it.
One of the main reasons Site Strategics has the EDGE of the web podcast is because it’s enormously helpful for the staff to be involved in producing it because it’s how everyone gets educated and informed about all these different digital marketing topics, and that translates into better service and results for the digital marketing agency’s clients.
Another challenge is keeping the writing neutral and objective, which is harder than it might sound. Why? Because the journalist of digital marketing is writing content that will be consumed by agencies who need to get results for clients. They react so strongly about changes and so forth by companies like Google because it affects the results they get for clients. This makes objectivity very important, so marketers and SEOs can make informed decisions about what to do based on objective coverage that covers both pros and cons, costs and benefits, and so on.
Each journalist and reporter also faces the challenge of identifying their own biases and making sure those don’t creep into their writing, which can happen very easily and subconsciously.
2019: The Year in Review from George’s Perspective
You can read about what George highlighted from the past year in his SEO year in review 2019 article on Search Engine Land. But there are really important stories that didn’t make the list:
Subdomain Leasing: Some big brand-name sites have leased out subdomains to other companies. An example is a coupon site, such as coupons.cnn.com. They’re effective because they’re cashing in on a well-established brand’s reputation. Because of this, they can quickly one-up other established coupon sites such as Groupon. Does this kind of subdomain leasing create an unfair advantage? There’s something that feels unfair about it, but why? How is it really different than any other kind of advertising CNN already books? Why shouldn’t companies leverage the visibility CNN has to get in front of readers? But something about it feels not totally white hat to George. Something about it feels more illicit. Did that come through in his writing on this topic? Some people thought so and said his article was biased. It can get very tricky. To keep himself out of it on longer feature pieces, George tries to bring in the voices of others who have a diversity of opinions so it doesn’t seem like he’s giving his own opinion.
Spam Listings on Google: Then there are times when you simply have to call a spade a spade. When local business owners have their local listings pushed down in the rankings because of so many spam listings, they have no choice but to spend more money on Google Ads to regain their footing. This sets up a situation where Google has no monetary incentive to fix the spam listing problem. They win either way. And that’s clearly just not right. There are times when you have to call a platform out for not fixing a serious problem that hurts local business owners like this.
Digital Marketing Conferences
The different conferences coordinated by Third Door Media are an important piece of the puzzle. There’s all the SMX (Search Marketing Expo) conferences, including SMX West, SMX East, and SMX Advanced, along with MarTech East and MarTech West.
Who should attend these conferences? They’re definitely not geared to novices or newbies. To get the most out of them, attendees should have at least a couple of years of solid experience. That’s not to say people new to the industry won’t get anything out of it, because they will, but they’ll get a lot more out of them with a bit of experience under their belts. And, of course, SMX Advanced is definitely more advanced the new folks would want to try to handle.
These conferences also offer people in the industry a chance to “jump lanes” so to speak. All too often people get put into silos in their work, such as some people might only do SEO and other people might only do PPC. One of the best things people can do is attend sessions that are outside their normal day-to-day purview. Wil Reynolds of Seer Interactive is a speaker who is very adamant about this. There are huge opportunities when you start combining data from these different silos, and the results can be very good for clients. It’s a chance to broaden your horizons and take on new skill sets.
And for those in the industry who want to get on the conference speaking circuit, a word of caution: If you’re in it purely for yourself, you won’t be successful. The people who run these digital marketing news sites and the conferences see right through that every time. You’ve got to spend some time writing, posting, and sharing your wisdom with the community for non-selfish reasons before you’ll be acceptable to step into that spotlight on the stage. And, of course, your presentation skills have to just be off-the-charts good.
In an industry that can make people pretty cynical, these conferences also bring the cream to the top. You realize how many good people there are who are great at what they do and are willing to share their knowledge and experience with others. It’s very heartening to experience.
Connect with George Nguyen and Third Door Media
Twitter: @geochingu (https://twitter.com/geochingu)
George on Search Engine Land: https://searchengineland.com/author/george-nguyen
George on Marketing Land: https://marketingland.com/author/george-nguyen
Third Door Media Twitter: @thirddoormedia (https://twitter.com/thirddoormedia)
Third Door Media Website: https://thirddoormedia.com
SMX West in February: https://marketinglandevents.com/smx/west
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