Interview Fridays – Mais AbuSalah, eMarketing Manager of Maktoob.Com
It’s always great to know people within your industry. It’s even more interesting to share experiences with work with people who understand what you’re going through. Last week I’ve met an eMarketing Manager from Maktoob, one of the largest internet portal and Arab online community in the Mimddle East.
Ladies and gentleman, please help me welcome Ms. Mais AbuSalah.
Thank you very much for giving me the privilege for this interview. Please tell us about yourself and your current profession?
My name is Mais AbuSalah; I graduated from the University of Jordan – Computer Science as a major. I am currently the eMarketing Manager in Maktoob.com – Jordan.
How’s the online media industry of Jordan in the last 3 years, particularly that of SEO/SEM?
I believe that the online media (especially SEO/SEM) is still not on the basic checklist for many websites, not only in Jordan, but also in the Arab World.
From time to time, I check local websites (radio stations, newspapers… etc.) and most of them lack the basics of online marketing (especially SEO).
And if we want to talk about websites and forums owned by individuals, we will find that unfortunately most of them use black hat SEO. They also focus more on what brings traffic (series, songs, rumors… etc.) more than what brings value to users and online browsers.
Some people in the industry started as web developers, some as designers, while others like me started as content developers, what was your main background that helped succeed in being an SEO?
I started with Maktoob.com as a junior product/channel officer, then a project coordinator (still handling channels and projects including content deals and content management), then I started with SEO. So I guess being a coordinator among different teams helps understanding what should be done by whom and whether or not it’s doable, and how the flow of work should be especially with large organizations.
You’re a graduate of Search Engine College, a highly regarded institution for SEO/SEM certification. What’s your stand on industry certification? Would you recommend it be mandatory or is the industry not ready for that yet?
I believe SEO/SEM should start to be mandatory and by trusted institutes. You might find many people aware of bits and pieces of SEO, but many of them use black hat ways (especially in the Arab region). Online marketing in general is a rare specialty here. It’s very hard for example to find online marketers in Jordan with hands-on experience. It’s either that they have more than 7 years and very fresh and never had hands-on experience in online marketing.
The certification or training shouldn’t only be theoretical, but should also include actual implementation (and that was the case with Search Engine College).
Who are the SEO Rockstars you’re religiously following? I’d presume Rae Hoffman would be very well one of them.
Hmm, actually my favorites are Kalena Jordan, Rand Fishkin, Shaun Anderson and Rae Hoffman. In general, I am a big fan of Search Engine Land’s newsletter and its participants.
Tell us about your blog, Arabic Search Engine Marketing. What are the major challenges in blogging as an SEO?
My blog is still new, and my own challenge is in time. As well, shifting from only SEO into online marketing makes it a big challenge to make it a daily habit to blog about SEO. The absence of having an Arab SEO community with solid knowledge and experience is another obstacle. For example, many helpful tools can only work with non-Arabic words and characters, the fact that only 1% of the web content is in Arabic and at the same time the massive amount of duplication and spam is also another issue.
How important is SEO or online media in an overall marketing strategy for a company nowadays? Is it still a side dish? Or is it a must?
I believe it’s still a side dish, a luxury, though it should be a must as the number of people searching for products and information online are continuously increasing. Online marketing and SEO should not be on the side anymore.
Working in Jordan for more than 3 years, you now have a good sense of the search marketing in the Middle East. How do you see the industry? Would you agree that it’s still at its infancy stage? What do you think are the necessary steps for improvement?
Yes, I believe it’s still at its infancy stage, but I believe it’s in a better shape than SEO. I don’t usually see ads that are really relevant to what I am searching for (locally) on search engines, and this might tell us that even when we use search engine marketing, where not that into optimizing usage and budget allocated.
Where do you think Search Engine Optimization/Marketing & Social Media is heading? Any notable predictions that you might have?
Obviously, SEO, SEM and Social media are the hottest trends globally, and many companies started to collect followers on twitter, fans on facebook, members of groups, searchers, potential online customers… etc. They are less expensive, and ROI is accurately tracked not only in the last stage but also in each step of the conversion funnel. We shouldn’t also forget the continuous growth of number of users online.
What advice would you give to businesses out there who are starting to expand their marketing strategies to online channels?
My advice to them is to make sure that they are using online tools in a way that will not later have a negative impact on them and their brand, and to choose the right and trusted people to handle the online marketing strategy. I also in favor of doing this in-house if possible (and this would need in-house training).
Online marketing sometimes needs patience and persistence (especially in the case of SEO). Know your targeted customers, their behaviors, your products and plan well.
You can see more of Mais Abusalah online through these sites:
Thanks for being with us on this episode of Follow Fridays, hope to see you next week.