Nathan Safran is currently the Director of Research at Conductor, a widely used SEO platform – empowering enterprise marketers to take control of their search performance. Safran was recently selected to be a part of the Board of Directors at SEMPO. The Makegood recently spoke with Safra about this appointment.
The Makegood: Congratulations on being appointed to the board of directors at SEMPO. As the largest nonprofit trade organization, SEMPO provides a foundation for industry growth with strong relationships, awareness and education. What does it mean to you to be on this board? What will your role as one of the directors entail?
Thank you! It really is an exciting honor to be named to the SEMPO board. On a personal note, it’s one of those career accomplishments that you value because it says you’re respected alongside other industry leaders who are innovating in our space. I’m really looking forward to working with such a smart and talented group.
On a professional note, what’s most exciting about joining the SEMPO board is the timing. Search has been the backbone of digital marketing since its inception. But right now, search is evolving. It’s no longer a game of buying keywords or optimizing your content so that a search engine can find you, but a much larger picture. It’s about transforming organizations so that every team understands the power and potential of inbound marketing. It’s about earning the audiences and customers paid media can’t buy. That’s the future of our industry, and as a SEMPO board member, I’m thrilled for the opportunity to contribute to that future.
The Makegood: As the global leader in search and technology, Conductor has thousands of brands that utilize its cloud-based SEO platform. What is your role as Director of Research and to what extent is the company reliant on your direction?
Our clients come to us for results. I’m sure a lot of organizations say that, but when you look at who our clients are, the proof really is in the pudding. My job as research director is to make sure that our teams and our technology represent the very best insights out there. Knowledge really is power, and in that sense our research department impacts every single account we have. Of course, there’s also a theoretical aspect to what we do in terms of research, and that’s a big part of what makes working at Conductor so exciting. We’re not just asking the questions our clients need answers to today, we’re thinking about the questions they haven’t asked yet. We get to explore where digital is headed, and the better we are at discovering new trends and uncovering new insights, the better off Conductor and its clients will be.
The Makegood: What is the relationship between Conductor and SEMPO? How have the companies benefited one another?
Conductor has been involved with SEMPO for a number of years and the relationship has been mutually beneficial. Conductor has participated in numerous SEMPO events and collaborated on webinars and research reports. Personally, I have served on the SEMPO research committee and worked on numerous SEMPO research studies.
More broadly, the two organizations have benefited each other by working together to contribute to industry insight and knowledge. Specifically, through our work with SEMPO, for example, we’ve been able to expand the role of search in every organization. Previously, search was a specialty skill that was handled by one team or even one person in the marketing department. But through our work with SEMPO, our industry has taken significant steps toward weaving itself into the DNA of all marketing departments across various enterprise organizations.
The Makegood: You are also involved in Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch, where your research on digital marketing has been widely covered. Could you discuss some of this research and how it adds to your positions as Board of Director and Director of Research?
Both publications are top resources in our space, and as someone who likes to contribute and consume information, I’m glad that we have these platforms for our industry to discuss, debate and refine our thinking.
In a general sense, what I like to do with both Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch is to further our understanding of how enterprise organizations should think about their customers and their competition. I’ll give you an example of what I mean:
Currently, we read a lot about social and paid media, and if we were to judge the efficacy of these channels compared to organic search by degree of coverage alone, we would conclude that they produce far greater ROI than organic search. In reality, while they each have a place in the Marketers toolbox, both the hype and investment in those channels isn’t warranted considering their performance. In fact, we have a saying about paid media that it’s an addiction. That may sound harsh, but how else do you explain why brands continue to spend more and more money on paid media when they know that consumers are ignoring their ads at increasing rates? The research we do at Conductor and what I often share at Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch is a reality check to that kind of broken thinking. But we don’t just say it, we prove it. That’s where the research and data comes in—it’s how we know that more than half of all website traffic, for example, comes through organic search.
When you think about it, that drive to know what’s really happening is also one of SEMPO’s primary missions—to better understand search and its role in marketing. And as it turns out, search’s role is a lot bigger than most marketers realize.
The Makegood: How do you plan to use both your positions to influence the industry? Is there anything you have found in your research that you are particularly excited to share?
Great question. For me, the exciting thing about all the research we do is that it happens in a larger context of what’s going on in digital right now. All of the research we do serves a larger purpose, which is to illuminate and understand the bigger forces that are shaping digital. If we can do that we’re thrilled because it means marketers can take those insights and put them into action. Of course, when they do put those insights into action, our world changes yet again and we discover new questions that the industry needs answered. What I’ve found throughout my career is that good research is part of a virtuous circle of analysis, insights and action. Participating in that circle and sharing what we’ve learned with the industry is always exciting.
One of the most interesting things I’ve uncovered in our research is that informational retrieval is contextual. That is, users turn to different sources based on the context of what they are looking for. As an example, they use search for nearly all information retrieval scenarios but employ social primarily for content discovery.
The Makegood: Thank you, Nathan.