I recently had the privilege of spending some personal time with SEO and Performance Marketing legend, Rae "SugarRae" Hoffman of PushFire.
I wanted to get to know her more, having watched her over the last few years, reading her blog and admiring the woman she is, both as a mother and a business owner.
She was wonderful in answering my very personal questions and I appreciated her genuine answers and heartfelt replies.
Exclusive Interview with Rae "SugerRae" Hoffman:
Q. You've accomplished an incredible amount in your life and you have much to be proud of. What would you say are your top three most precious accomplishments either personally or professionally?
LOL, thanks. You know, it's funny – I really had to think on this one because looking at individual past accomplishments isn't something I do often – neither on a personal level or a professional one. I think sometimes I'm so busy moving forward I don't have much time to look back. That said… On a personal level it would have to be being a mom. Cliché, yes. Campy, yes. True, yes. I had nothing when my first child was born. My oldest son was severely multiply handicapped – both mentally and physically. By the time I was 27 (which was nine years ago) I was a newly divorced, single mom of 3 until I got remarried about three years ago. Being able to raise them on my own - without any outside financial support and without any financial struggle despite my oldest son's needs – while still being able to be an "active mom" to them is the thing I'm most proud of at the end of the day. I like to think I've shown my kids you can do anything if you work hard and don't see failure as an option.
On a professional level, it is so hard to pinpoint one specific event. I think for me, it's the entire gamut of going from foster kid to CEO and every single step that occurred between. It's very hard to pinpoint one individual thing because it was such a long series of steps, milestones and occurrences that got me from there to here. But, at the end of the day, I like to believe that never losing site of "who I am" through it all is something to be proud of. I've seen success ruin so many personalities over the course of my career. I'd like to think I'm the same personality wise today I was 10+ years ago – with a little more confidence, LOL. And I actually do my best to keep myself surrounded by people who have no problem "checking me" when needed vs. "yes men" so to speak.
Lastly, I think I'm pretty proud of making the decision to partner with Sean and build PushFire. Being able to create a company that is independent of relying on me as an individual is something I'm pretty stoked to be doing. I handle managing the SEO side of things while Sean focuses on the PPC side. We have the same values as far as our number one priority being to deliver ROI to the client. It's not about how much money we can make ourselves – it's about how much money we can make the client.
Q. From someone who specializes in Search Marketing what do you like and dislike most about the performance marketing industry?
The thing I like the most is the independence of it. As an affiliate, I answer to no one except my own bank account. I work when I want to and my revenue potential is directly tied to how hard I'm willing to work for it – but it's done on my own terms.
The thing I dislike to most is the negative opinion on our industry fueled by ignorance and some "bad apples" who will promote anything, in any way, honest or not, to make a buck. I hate that the legitimate, value add, honest affiliates out there are often undervalued and underrated for the benefits they bring to a merchant.
Q. What do you find are the greatest challenges retailers are facing today around SEO and PPC efforts?
Ha. The challenges are plentiful. Google removing the ability to track keyword referrals from organic search is a huge, huge issue in the SEO side of online marketing right now. It makes tracking the success and value of SEO campaigns so much harder – in addition to making it an uphill battle to identify and rectify SEO related issues on the keyword level. Their Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates – and the lack of transparency around them – creates a lot of collateral damage that seems to be ignored. Figuring out if any of the above is affecting you is easy. Understanding how to rectify it – not so much if you're not completely immersed in the world of SEO.
PPC isn't my specialty. But, from what I see relating to PushFire PPC clients, I think a lot of people simply aren't utilizing PPC to their fullest advantage. For instance, if merchants are running PPC campaigns but aren't involved in (smart) remarketing – they're missing out. Same goes for merchants who aren't running PLA when their target search results have big emphasis on those listings. Setting PPC and then forgetting it – instead of optimizing the hell out of it on a continual basis.
Q. What three recommendations can you make to retailers preparing for Q4 shopping season right now?
Understand the "SEO ship" has already sailed for Q4. You can't begin working on improving SEO efforts in late Q3 and expect to see any ranking miracles occur in time for Q4. If improving SEO for Q4 is a priority, it's one that needs to be addressed no later than Q2.
If you don't have your remarketing efforts for PPC integrated into your checkout process, get it done. Example: Someone put an item in their cart, but didn't complete the checkout process. This is obviously someone "warm" to you, but for whatever reason they didn't complete the sale – so maybe you decide to remarket them with an offer for free shipping or a discount code to sweeten the deal.
Get your affiliates updated creatives and create some sales increase incentives for your top affiliates to help them kick ass for you over the holiday season. Also, not specific to Q4 per se, but, if you don't have the ability for affiliates to deep link within your site, I'd heavily suggest considering it. My conversion rates as an affiliate are much higher when I can link to a specific product page versus merely linking to a homepage or category page.
Q. What are three things you'd absolutely love to do in your life that you have yet to accomplish?
You like making me self reflect, LOL!
I'd like to see PushFire on the Inc 5000 list when it's eligible company age wise. I have a side project I'm working on that I unfortunately can't release details on yet (sorry) haha.
Lastly, I'm chomping at the bit to get land and move more into the country. Like… 40+ acres with cows, chickens, horses, hay production and four wheeling in our "backyard" country. I am a redneck girl and suburbia isn't my thing. We wanted to wait until my older children were at or near driving age though before making that move. We're almost there!