Interview with Nathan Safran of Conductor, Inc.

Written by Nick Stamoulis

Interview with Nathan SafranRecently I had the chance to interview Nathan Safran. Nathan is Director of Research at Conductor, Inc, an SEO technology company in New York, authoring insightful research on trends in the natural search industry. He is a monthly columnist at SearchEngineLand and Search Engine Watch and a a former Analyst at Forrester Research. Nathan has been quoted as a subject matter expert in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fortune magazine.

Thanks so much to Nathan Safran for spending the time to answer all of my questions! 🙂

Question: As the Director of Research for Conductor, Inc., what kind of insights into the world of SEO are you hoping to uncover?

Answer from Nathan Safran: We look at the world of Search from a variety of angles at Conductor including:

1. Site Structure:  We’ve done research on things like how links flow in/out of a website, how SEOs implement anchor text, usage of newer technologies such as rel=author etc

2. User Behavior: This is one of my favorite aspects of Search as it gets into the mind of the online user and how they make use of  things like search vs. social, and what they think of SERP changes etc

3. Search Marketer Behaviors: How search marketers spend their time, their goals and problems they face, technology adoption, how they communicate inside their organization, jobs available in the industry etc

We try to be well rounded in how we look at the Search space, thinking about things from a few different viewpoints.  In doing so we are hoping to uncover insight into how SEO practitioners are thinking about and executing on their practice, and how searchers are interacting with search, social, etc.

Question: What is one of the most surprising things you learned about search marketing and search professionals from Conductor’s research efforts?

Answer from Nathan Safran: Coming to Conductor from the world of corporate research at Forrester Research 3.5 years ago, I did not have a background in the SEO world.  In learning more and more about the SEO industry, I was surprised to discover the variance of maturity levels in the practice from even one company to the next in the same industry—the disparity was unlike anything I had come across before.  This means that we’ve tried to create research and content that could appeal to both organizations and practitioners up and down the maturity spectrum.

Question: Do you really think 90 days is long enough to show the real value of SEO? How could a marketing manager turn a less than stellar 90 day “test run” around and still convince the CMO that SEO is worth it?

Answer from Nathan Safran: I think this question refers to the guide we published not long ago, “A 90-Day Plan to Get the SEO Budget You Need”. In this guide, we laid out a plan for the SEO professional looking for budget from Management, that encourages them to go farther than many articles of this genre suggest, and actually define (conservatively) and then execute on a 90 day plan of success in the search rankings.  From the article:

I’m going to take this a step further than many of the articles you may have seen in the “making-a-case-to-management-for-SEO investment” genre that typically stop at “show management the size of the huge opportunity in natural search.”  The truth is, (again, engaging our inner empath) from management’s point of view, seeing the size of the potential search opportunity, while well-intentioned, is little more than a promise, and these are often met with “I’ll believe it when I see it” skepticism (whether explicitly expressed or not).

The challenge SEOs face when going to management for budget is that by defining the size of the opportunity and stopping there, it often leaves management with an “I’ll believe it when I see it…” kind of thinking.  Actually executing on a 90 day success plan allows the SEO to put his/her “money where his/her mouth is” and show management that SEO is not just all talk.  Of course, one should be conservative in selecting long tail/low competition keywords they feel good about being able to achieve some movement on in a 90 day period, but I do think it is important to demonstrate at least some measure of success when making a play for substantial budget even if it does carry some risk.

Question: Is a bigger budget the best solution to all of a site’s SEO woes?

Answer from Nathan Safran: Not necessarily.  Of course more budget helps, but very often in SEO it’s about working smarter not harder.  For example, this article describes how to use technology to identify and target striking distance keywords (keywords on page 2 of the search rankings).  Moving a keyword only a few spots from the top of page one to the bottom of page 2 can have a substantial impact on CTR and traffic, so that’s an example of working smart rather than hard and that is not about just throwing budget at the problem.

Question: If a marketing manager only had 5 minutes (no time for flashy slideshows or evangelical lunch meetings) to sell SEO to their C-Suite, what are the best metrics to pull out to plead their case?SEO-opportunity

Answer from Nathan Safran: At the end of the day, the C-suite cares about revenue (not rankings and usually not even traffic).  Again, from 90 Days to Get the SEO Budget You Need”, this graphic shows how SEOs should convert a market assessment from being about the traffic that rank improvements would generate to the revenue it would generate so as to speak in the language that the c-suite cares about.

Question: A lot of sites struggle with measuring the ROI of their SEO program, especially if they have long sales cycles. What’s your advice for those companies struggling to connect the dots?

Answer from Nathan Safran: True attribution is a thorny issue and although there are attribution systems out there, my understanding of them is that they will only bring you part of the way there at best.

However, as a starting point on this, I’d say make sure you are looking at the metrics and observing the elements of the purchase path that that you can control. That means making sure analytics are set up to capture conversion behavior on your website, and that you are observing the conversion path from the top of the funnel (market share and keyword rankings) all the way through the path they take on your website, finally through to the conversion path.  Then, if you are not already using them, make use of some advanced reporting in your analytics package to understand how natural search is impacting your website’s traffic and conversions.  Technology like Conductor’s Searchlight enterprise SEO platform now has ranking data together with traffic and conversion data in one place, making it easier to tie ROI to SEO.  These steps will go a long way to helping the search marketer measure ROI.

Question: How do you feel about SEO being positioned in its own dedicated department in the enterprise? Do you feel SEO deserves its own department or should it stay under Marketing?

Answer from Nathan Safran: We wrote about this trend in our research, “Why 2013 Will Be the Year of the SEO”. We found that 26% of organizations now have SEO positioned in its own department.  Among other supporting findings of the study, we think it is indicative that organizations are now recognizing the value of SEO both on its own merit and in regards to the return it brings relative to other channels.

The question of whether it should be in its own Department or stay under Marketing is less important than the question of how enabled SEO is to empower and equip other departments and stakeholders in the organization to succeed:  How able is SEO to equip Product Management with insight into their product line? How closely can they work with PR to craft content that will be favored by search algorithms?  We think this—organizational enablement—rather than where exactly SEO is positioned–is key to moving forward with SEO success in the organization.

Question: What exactly are “striking distance keywords?” What makes these keywords so valuable for SEO?

Answer from Nathan Safran: We use the term “striking distance keywords” to denote keywords ranking on page 2.  They are valuable because they are already within sight of page one, and because of the millions of potential results in “striking distance”, you are almost relevant. They are often overlooked as low hanging fruit to go after out of the gate while implementing a longer term plan for keywords farther down the search listings.

Question: How should a website divvy up their SEO efforts to ensure each striking distance keyword is given the help it needs to improve?

Answer from Nathan Safran: Not 100% sure what is meant by this, but the efforts needed to move striking distance keywords onto page one include on-page optimization, content creation, reporting and analysis.

Question: Do you feel an enterprise would be better off outsourcing their SEO to a full-service firm or hiring an in-house team? Why?

Answer from Nathan Safran: I think there are different setups that work differently for different organizations and can vary from one organization/culture to the next.  Outsourcing to a firm or agency can work very well, although I’d recommend that those that do outsource work with the firm as a partner rather than as a blind outsource. 

Bringing SEO in-house means you are likely to be well equipped to enable stakeholders throughout the org.

Question: If they do decide to outsource their SEO, how can a marketing manager make sure they are working with a good SEO firm and not being tricked by an SEO conman?

Answer from Nathan Safran: By using Searchlight themselves to monitor their SEO progress J. In all seriousness using a platform like Searchlight will keep the marketing manager in the drivers’ seat by giving them a chance to see for their own eyes the progress their firm is (hopefully) making.  Data can be segmented, automated reports can be established etc.  Think about it—you don’t get your site analysis data from the company that manages your A-B testing, so why do the same with your natural search data?  And, the marketing manager can be an active participant by helping to identify opportunity the SEO firm can pursue.

Question: What sets Searchlight apart from other SEO software products?

Answer from Nathan Safran: The depth of insight, the flexibility of reporting, and the intuitive user interface.

Question: Aside from Searchlight of course, what are some of your other favorite SEO tools?

Answer from Nathan Safran: We’re more on the Research side of things than the practitioner, so we use Excel a lot, SEMRush, Google Trends, Soovle for keyword research, Topsy for social insight and bitly for url data.  We also love coming up with interesting data sources to mine such as Linked-In and for SEO jobs data.

Connect with Nathan Safran on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.


This non-paid interview is designed to give the Brick Marketing audience insights and different perspectives of SEO, link building, social media and web marketing. Past expert interviews include: Ann Handley, Eric Ward, Mike Moran, Andy Beal, and Jordan Kasteler to name a few.

If you would like to be interviewed by the Brick Marketing team please contact Brick Marketing here:

Categorized in:

Like what you've read? Please share this article

Read What Full Service SEO Clients Say About SEO Firm Brick Marketing

"focused on getting you results"

“Brick Marketing is a no nonsense SEO company focused on getting you results. I really appreciate their patience, insight and going the extra mile to help Gold Lasso better understand the intricacies of the SEO discpline and how we can be more successful with our SEO programs. I would recommend Brick Marketing to any of my clients.”

– Elie Ashery, CEO Gold Lasso

"Brick Marketing is levels above all integral part of my team"

“I have formed an invaluable marketing partnership with Brick Marketing. Nick Stamoulis and the rest of the Brick Marketing team are professional, timely, thorough and take time to, not only succeed at the tasks, but also educate myself and my team on the strategies in the process. Since my first encounter working with Brick, I’ve changed organizations and have taken them along with me…they are that good! In my experience in working with many outside agencies who over-promise and under-communicate, I can truly state that Brick Marketing is levels above all others and vested in our relationship. They are not just an SEO consultant, but an integral part of my team. I highly recommend Brick Marketing for any company looking to significantly increase search engine competitiveness and internet presence.​”

– Jodi Murphy, Marketing Director EUXmedia

"We’ve seen unbelievable success & owe much of our online lead generation to Brick Marketing’s efforts"

“I didn’t realize how much we were missing from not having an online presence until I started working with the SEO firm Brick Marketing. The Brick Marketing team took the time to guide us through the SEO process and helped bring our company into the online world. We’ve seen unbelievable success with our new website & owe much of our online lead generation to Brick Marketing’s efforts.”

– George Athanasiadis, CEO, Somerset Industries

"I would recommend Brick Marketing to anyone looking to enhance their online business"

“I have been very pleased with the responsiveness, diligent work efforts and creative ideas Brick Marketing has shown me since we started our organic SEO optimization campaign. My account executive has provided great support and has written relevant and timely articles for our website blog. Her willingness to go above and beyond to achieve the best possible results is very evident. I would recommend Brick Marketing to anyone looking to enhance their online business profile.”

– John V. Donovan, Director of Leasing & Marketing, Devionshire

"I couldn’t give a stronger recommendation; they are simply great!"

“When we came to Brick Marketing initially, we had a small subset of challenges we didn’t have the bandwidth to tackle in house. Our idea was simply to send out the work and be done with it. A one-shot deal. What we found mid way into the first project, was that Nick Stamoulis and Brick Marketing had a depth of understanding and approach to solving our Search Engine Marketing problems that we had not considered; solutions that dramatically improved our search engine ranking position on terms and improved the overall size of our index listing (by more than 25% in the first two months). In short order we expanded our horizons and enlisted his talents to take on refining and improving ROI on our rather expensive Pay Per Click campaigns, as well as having him consult on microsite projects and blogs. Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing helped us understand what works and why, and helping us maintain our dominant position in the SERPs, despite the markets constant resetting and ever-changing drama. I could not have gotten through this year without Brick Marketing’s assistance and advice. I couldn’t give a stronger recommendation; they are simply great!”

– Connie Childrey, DataDirect Technologies

"Brick Marketing is "solid" when it comes to support for SEO marketing advice"

“I had been impressed for a long time with the content that Brick Marketing was sharing in their informative blog posts and articles. I chatted with Nick Stamoulis a couple times and decided that he was the expert I wanted to work with. I have worked with Brick Marketing for about six months and they have helped us resolve several SEO related issues pertaining to our website. Our account rep is always just an email away with answers to any questions I have and suggestions for how we can improve what we’re doing. Brick Marketing is “solid” when it comes to support for SEO marketing advice. I definitely recommend them if you want to feel more secure about how your website is performing in searches and have the confidence that everything being done to improve your rank is white hat and legit.”

– Paul Rarick,

"Brick Marketing helped us meet our goals"

“We turned to Brick Marketing to assist in driving traffic to our website and we weren’t disappointed. The flexible approach of the SEO firm Brick Marketing helped us meet our goals, drive traffic to our website, and increase the number of calls we received regarding our services. Thank you!”

– Ken Burt, Marketing Manager Affiliated Physicians

"our goal for better presence on the internet has been achieved!"

“I had worked with at least three other SEO companies before I was introduced to Brick Marketing. But when I met Nick Stamoulis at Brick Marketing, I knew that I was working with an honest and reputable company that would guide me through the world of SEO. In the six months since working with Brick Marketing, our goal for better presence on the internet has been achieved!”

– Peter Feinmann, Feinmann, Inc.

"went above and beyond to help us with any SEO issues"

“We hired Brick Marketing to manage our SEO, but they ended up also managing our company blog, social media marketing, helped us launch a pay per click advertising campaign, migrated our website to a new domain and so much more! Our SEO Specialist is always quick to respond whenever we had a question and went above and beyond to help us with any SEO issues.”

– Mory Creighton, CEO, Pinpoint Laser Systems

"Brick Marketing has been a tremendous resource for our business"

“Brick Marketing has been a tremendous resource for our business. Through their expertise with the ever changing world of SEO, our web presence is as strong as ever. Our working relationship with Nick Stamoulis and Danielle Bachini has been outstanding. In collaboration with web designer Chris Roberts, we were also able to develop the perfect responsive website that truly reflects our business. Thank you Brick Marketing!​”

– Ellen Parlee, Parlee Farms

"Love working with the team at Brick Marketing!"

“Love working with the team at Brick Marketing! They are always available to answer my questions and assist with any concerns. I am very impressed with their thoroughness and ability to stay organized. Their passion and energy is always shown during conversations on our account.”

– Corey Savage, CEO, Suncoast Identification Solutions, LLC

"Brick Marketing has gotten me results"

“I have been working with Brick Marketing for over 4 years now. Brick Marketing sends me the reports every month, but I don’t need to read them. I already know what he does is extremely effective because of all the web requests I get, phone calls from customers when they see their page come up on the first page of Google! I have worked with many other companies that made promises they could not keep. Brick Marketing has gotten me results and that is why I continue to work with them. I don’t have to micro-manage anything they do. I know that they always do what they say they are going to do. If you are looking for an SEO company, I would say, look no further as you have found the one that will do the job right! In addition to doing an excellent job, Nick Stamoulis is a pleasure to work with.”

– Alan Cline, 1-800-PLUMBING

"dependable, professional SEO company"

“Brick Marketing has been a dependable, professional SEO company that has helped us get results. In the last 6 months of using their services, visits to our website have increased by almost 30%. Our dedicated SEO Specialist was pleasant to deal with. Her suggestions for articles and press releases were industry specific. Brick Marketing always answered our phone calls and emails within an hour which made us feel valued as a client. I would recommend Brick Marketing to all businesses to handle their SEO needs.”

– JoAnne Loftus, Archival Designs, Inc.

"Our keyword rankings have improved and traffic has increased"

“The Brick Marketing team, was critical to ensuring that our new Web site is optimized to drive maximum traffic. Our keyword rankings have improved and traffic has increased thanks to her assistance and advice. In addition, they executed a strategic link building program that helped further increase Web traffic.”

– Lauren LaFronz, Director of Marketing, enChoice, Inc.

"highly recommend Brick Marketing to all of my clients"

“After working with many other SEO firms and not being satisfied I finally was introduced to the Brick Marketing President and Founder, Nick Stamoulis. Nick Stamoulis has educated me about SEO and has provided me with a well rounded SEO package, not only does he offer top quality services he also educates his clients and spends the time to explain everything and their SEO pricing is competitive. I will highly recommend Brick Marketing to all of my clients. Brick Marketing is an A+ for SEO services.”

– Mike Cardella, Integrated Computer Services

"traffic has increased over 80% year-over-year"

“When we started working with Brick Marketing, we had just been subjected to a Google algorithm update and our websites both took substantial hits to traffic. Within a few months, Brick has taken both of our websites to pre-algorithm traffic and conversion levels, and for the CallFinder site, the traffic has increased over 80% year-over-year. Their expertise in SEO, responsive design, and content marketing helped us turn the situation around, and we could not be happier with the results we’ve seen in just our first four months of working with them. The team we work with at Brick Marketing is always available for off-the-cuff consultations and are at the ready to provide recommendations and suggestions to improve our site’s appearance and performance. They are truly a hands-on partner, which is immensely valuable to our business.​”

– Jeanne Landau, Director of Marketing |

"Brick Marketing is rock solid and essential in building a strong marketing foundation."

“Brick Marketing is extremely valuable for feedback and advice in many aspects of marketing, not just SEO and I look forward to continuing to work with them over the long term to continually improve our business and increase sales. That’s what it’s all about. Just like their name implies, Brick Marketing is rock solid and essential in building a strong marketing foundation.”

– Jeff Nicholson, President Freely Creative, Inc. /

"When I think of Brick Marketing I think Thank You!!!"

“When I think of Brick Marketing I think Thank You!!! We had previously used another SEO firm and although I think they were doing their job, it never felt right. But we didn’t quite know why. I did a lot of research and was drawn to Brick Marketing because of their customer feedback, white hat philosophy and TRANSPARENCY. Once we started working with Nick I realized that what didn’t feel right about our previous SEO company was that everything was veiled in mystery. We never knew what they were doing, why or when.

Nick walked us through the process in detail, answered all of our questions and educated us on what SEO really is and how it works. Not only that, but he and Katherine provided us with a schedule of actionable items that we could follow along with. At no point were we in the dark.

After our excellent success with SEO (regular on first page for important search terms) we enlisted Brick’s help in creating and running some Adwords campaigns for us as well. The results have been tremendous! Tim helped us launch a new service and we quickly went from perhaps 1-2 organic search leads a week to 5-8 PER DAY.

Brick has become the trusted and efficient digital marketing department our company needed to get to the next plateau. From SEO, to article writing, to social media and Adwords campaigns they literally do it all for us. And honestly, Brick marketing keeps us on track for our marketing goals, not the other way around. We could not be more pleased with the job Brick is doing for us.”

– Adam Reed, Foundation Support Specialists

"superior knowledge of marketing on the internet"

“I have had the good fortune to work with SEO expert Nick Stamoulis and his team at Brick Marketing and it was clear form the get go that Nick had superior knowledge of marketing on the internet. The SEO campaign and technical writing that Brick Marketing provides has been impressive, where in the past we struggled to find the high levels of competence in these two skill sets. Were only just beginning with Brick Marketing and look forward to growing with their expert guidance. Thank you Nick Stamoulis and the Brick Marketing team!”

– Craig Raubenheimer, President, Roan Solutions, Inc.

"cost effective “answer” to creating a viable web presence"

“From the beginning, our new company, AA Global Printing, has provided a superior global service, backed by a solid operations team. What we didn’t have were marketing resources to support the growth of our client base and to build a strong online presence. Fortunately, Brick Marketing has given us a structured website development process/solution and a cost effective “answer” to creating a viable web presence. Moreover, our account rep has been a professional and knowledgeable resource at every turn. Thanks to Nick Stamoulis and the Brick Marketing team, AA Global Printing is marketing with all the right tools ranging from SEO, strong content, a weekly blog, and easy site navigation for our visitors.”

– Adam Gould – Cofounder, AA Global Printing

"helped propel us forward organically"

“We implemented all the valuable suggestions and together we definitely saw amazing results over time. Other SEO companies may leave you in the dark but Brick Marketing kept us in the loop during the entire time, educating us about ALL the strategies being used that helped propel us forward organically.”

– Maura Statman, Everyone Loves Buttons Inc. ®

Contact Us about brick marketing Industries We Serve Case Studies

Need Assistance? Please Contact Us Below: