Search engine optimization and digital marketing have become -- and will continue to be -- key parts of any successful business. Vanessa Fox, former Googler and founder of Nine By Blue, is one of the individuals who pioneered these techniques. She spoke with CMSWire about her work and how she sees these fields advancing in the coming years.

From the Ground Up

After starting out in traditional print marketing, in the mid-1990’s, Fox gradually moved onto digital marketing when she was hired by Google. Around this time, the internet was just starting to develop as a way of connecting people with websites. Fox spent time building these sites and working on its marketing appeal.

With the web and search engines, you not only have to think about what the product looks like in terms of marketing, but what the infrastructure of the site is,” says Fox. “When I was working for Google it really became clear that these two pieces had an intersection.”

Fox realizes that although there was a niche for marketing within the online world, traditional marketing practices had to be to be adapted for a web-based setting. She says that with other forms of marketing, the promotional materials -- such as a press release -- were often very isolated and separate from the actual product itself. With online marketing, she wanted to make sure that people were more interconnected.

Fox says when she started at Google, they had a lot of tools to help advertisers, but the information and products available were still very limited. “There was nothing for content owners on the unpaid side of search, it was really a black box."

Fox realized this was a key area that needed improvement and that in order to provide marketers and advertisers with a more complete tool set there needed to be a way to combine data, analytics, search engines and optimization. With this thought, Google Webmaster Central was born. The collection of tools, now referred to as Webmasters, provides services and products, including blogs, analytics tools and a help center that can that can aid businesses who are trying to improve both their Google search presence and overall user experience.

After she left Google, Fox not only wrote a book about online marketing, but she also created Nine by Blue, a company that provides search analytics products -- such as Blueprint. With her company, she took what she learned at Google and pulled it together to create products that assist with the social engagement problems most companies have.

The Current State of Digital Marketing

From her initial involvement in search engine optimization and digital marketing, Fox says that how marketers use search engines is starting to change -- slowly -- but companies are starting to realize the value of search engines for attracting customers.

For the most part, advertisements do not show up in results at all, it never crossed advertisers minds they would cause people to search [their product],” Fox says. “The advertisers are starting to think, [for example] if we run this commercial this will not only cause people to hopefully buy the product and come to a our website, but also do a search.”

Looking to the Future

Despite the advancements in online marketing and search engine optimization, Fox says that technology is always changing and marketers and advertisers have to be more aware of how varied it is. People are not just sitting at their desks typing away on a desktop computer, they have tablet devices, smartphones and laptops that they can use anywhere and at any time.

You start to get a sense of how things are changing based on the fact that we will not always be interacting with the screen, we might not have a keyboard and a mouse,” she says “The question is what does that mean about how we interact with content.”

Fox says now content owners, website managers and advertisers have to be aware of where and how people are searching for information. They have to keep response design in mind by catering to the changes in technology. One of the most prominent changes that Fox has noticed is the use of hands free searching with voice search. People can be busy with one thing and still search something else, without having to stop and type it into the search engine.

In terms of data and feedback from customers, companies and businesses have to be aware that no matter what platform they are using to communicate, their audience is ultimately the same. While some customers struggle with online marketing, in order to survive, they have to be aware of not only how technology is changing, but who their audience is, what their competition is offering and what customer concerns and questions are.

In being able to pool the resources and pool what you know about those audiences you can get a clear picture of them and it will benefit everybody,” she says. There’s a lot more opportunity for advertisers to evolve and see what their audience is looking for.”