Spencer Helm – Internet Marketer Realizing His Father Was Right

Spencer was born in the metropolitan and international cultural capital of Billings, Montana. Desperate to show young Spencer ‘how the other half lives’, his parents put an emphasis on traveling around the United States and stopping in cultural backwaters such as San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and like ‘burghs and ‘villes. These sparsely populated outposts of civilization opened his eyes to the possibilities outside of the beautiful state he lived in.
Upon graduation from the University of Montana, he decided to ditch his burgeoning career as an assistant manager at a local Missoula grocery store, Orange Street Food Farm, and move to Portland, Oregon to sleep on a couch for a while. After four months on the couch, he was given the opportunity to apply his Marketing and International Business Degree at Amplify Interactive, a search engine marketing firm. This meant his father was right, once again.

Looking back on the advice his father, Rick, gave him over the years, he begrudgingly admits, “Yeah, my dad kept telling me to take computer classes in school, get an accounting degree and have enough &@*% you money. The older I get, the more I realize he was so right.”

He is a search engine marketer by trade. He considers himself an information junkie, coffee addict, professional nerd, broken Italian speaker, music snob and fantastic cook.

What are you working on right now?

Well, besides working on getting a girlfriend, I try to maximize web presence for the clients in Amplify Interactive’s stable. That generally takes up most of my time.

In terms of personal pursuits, I have kicked around some menu ideas with a friend of mine who wants to get into a typically Portland food cart venture. With an accompanying multimedia blog about getting a small venture like that off the ground. By no means would I help operate the cart on a day to day basis though. Good way to ruin a wonderful hobby.

Finally, I am working on getting back into a shape that is not round. My life has become increasingly sedentary since getting that first real job.

3 Trends that excite you?:

1.) I am going to steal from Jeremiah Owyang, social media aggregation. From a business standpoint, aggregation will help us manage social media presence for our clients from one interface. This would make social media a little more scalable which is one of its drawbacks for businesses. One person per conversation is expensive. From a user perspective, it is difficult to maintain more than 3 network profiles. Aggregation, especially an open sourced one, would open more platforms to users and developers.

2.) This is less of a trend and more of a move. The Microsoft-Yahoo paid search deal will have huge impacts on our business. I think Google is great (they help pay the bills), and their paid search platform is far superior, but they need some competition. Depending on how these guys handle this merger, and the subsequent 30% market share, I think it could be very good for search engines users in general. It may make Google focus on finishing products they start. Is everything still in Beta with them?
Amplify Interactive and like companies stand to gain at least 2 things. The first having the ability to reach almost 100% of the paid search market from two platforms. The other is our clients will be more ready to focus some attention away from Google which means, more billable hours! They could also screw it up, and cede complete control to the Big G. It will at least be interesting.

3a.) Social media for social movements. The short of it is that the internet is the printing press all over again. Which raises the question. Does that make Al Gore the 20th century’s equivalent of Gutenberg? In all seriousness though, it is my understanding that we have not yet harnessed the full communications power of the web. I think social media, starting with email, the original social network, is a step in the right direction. Just think if everyone from a congressional district sent their representative a message and told them that if they vote for X bill, they cannot count on a yes vote in the next election. The representative would have no choice but to do it. This is a little idealistic, but I think most politicians would rather be dead than lose an election.
The role social media has to play in this is the ability it has to spur debate and incite action. Plus, the user doesn’t even have to get out of their seat. It also places greater importance on friends and influencers. I don’t follow people on twitter who are not my friends or are ‘idiots’, so when they tell about something or ask me to do something, I usually listen and take action.

3b.) Local and slow food movements. America hasn’t really caught on to this so much (I’m looking at you Texas), but soon we will be forced to. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat bananas, use Italian olive oil and grab the occasional Taco Bell, but the facts are Taco Bell is really bad for me, and Italian olive oil and bananas generally come from different continents. We can’t continue to kill ourselves like this (planet will be here long after us). Businesses are already capitalizing just look at the farmers markets that are around the country. Farms are businesses. Also expect to see more seasonal menus in restaurants as locally sourced food becomes more in vogue.

The local food movement lends itself to the slow food movement because it is anyone’s guess where fast food sources their products, but fast food restaurants could capitalize as well (see Burgerville) because shipping materials from 100 miles is much cheaper than 1000 miles. Good for business, good for the planet, and not good for my banana consumption.

How do you bring ideas to life?:

Professionally, Amplify Interactive does a good job at identifying tools of the trade. The president, Ben Lloyd, has no problem paying for something that is worthwhile and will improve efficiency:

1.) Premium membership to SEOmoz.org Pro Tools. It is worth every penny. All of the tools that are in the package make my job easier meaning I can provide more value per hour. Plus, they are from Rand Fishkin’s company, and he is a mad scientist.

2.) Advanced Web Rankings Clients want to know where they rank for which search terms. This helps us know.

3.) Microsoft Excel is not new, not sexy and not pretty, but it gets the job done. Major efficiency boosts for reporting to clients, and making sense of exported data, so long as you know how to use it.

4.) WiseStamp plugin for FireFox, it allows you make your own email signature for any major email client. The bonus is you can promote you’re social media profiles, blog posts and website. It also allows you to create personal and business signatures that are interchangeable. I just think it is cool.

Personally, my productivity tools are as followed coffee and good music. Coffee is my favorite non-alcoholic drink, and music lets me escape the goings on in my sometimes hectic environment.

Is Search Engine Optimization dead?

I am asked this on a regular basis, and, actually, I am told that it is dead on a regular basis. (Pretty sweet to hear someone tell you that you are not going to be employed soon.) My answer is that it is changing, constantly. One only has to look at the rise of the semantic web and the growth of social networks for proof.

For now, SEO done correctly has a place in every marketing mix, as the fact still remains that hundreds of millions of people use search engines everyday to find and buy products and services.

If you so happen to be Nike, Apple or Starbucks, chances are your company is top of mind for athletic apparel, cool stuff and coffee, respectively. However, if you are Polygon Homes Northwest, SpringSoft Inc., and ID Experts, then you may or may not be top of mind for keywords such as Seattle home builders, electronic design automation and data breach prevention. Heck, you may not even know you or your company needed their services until you researched it on Google.
SEO gets a bad rap from its many detractors, but it works. It works for our clients at Amplify Interactive, but in the end of the day we want to provide comprehensive online coverage. Now our clients want to be on Google, and want to know the value of Twitter, but check with me in 2 years, and see where they want to be. I say this because when engines catch up with designers, and can effectively index flash, photographic data and video, the entire industry will shift.
So, pinning your hopes on a Google ranking is not a solid long-term strategy, and many, including the detractors, think that SEO is solely about achieving that #1 ranking on Google. THEY would be wrong.

You work on a computer all day, and are constantly on the web, how do you not bring work home with you?

Good question, I am a big believer of not taking the office home with you. I try to stay away from my home computer and cell phone for at least an hour after work. When I get home, I like to relax with a nice microbrew, and read a book for a bit and listen to some music.
Then I collect myself, and cook a meal. I have always found cooking relaxing. The act of it for me is a wonderful fusion of preparation, creativity, control and nearly instant gratification. Cooking is especially gratifying for me after a swim, or when I am cooking for someone else.

Once dinner is done, I reconnect. Usually, I check my email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Then I read BBC News, La Repubblica, The New York Times, and watch cartoons online. I love cartoons.
Oh, and did I mention, when I grow up, I want to be a spaceman.