Target Audience: Blake Pinto, Associate Vice President of SEO Content at Synchrony
Welcome to Target Audience, Perfect Search Media’s new marketing interview series.
This month, we spoke to Blake Pinto, Associate Vice President of SEO Content for Synchrony, an industry-leading consumer financial services company.
Blake Pinto’s Marketing Insights
How did you become the Associate Vice President of SEO Content at Synchrony?
Bit of a long road. I originally came of out the Navy and went to school. Wanted to do journalism – sports journalism, specifically. But I ended up helping start up a lifestyle magazine in Long Branch, California. That was actually my first interaction with SEO, on accident, because we had written a list during the craze of Pokémon Go about top spots to find Pokémon in Long Beach. It shot our site traffic through the roof, and everyone was kind of like, “What happened here?” because nobody was really familiar with [SEO]. So, I started getting more interested in how does the way you run a website and great content actually affect the way traffic comes there?
Sadly, I ended up losing that job because journalism is not the most stable of industries, but realized, “How can I translate writing into a more stable field?” I came into marketing in higher education at TCS Education System. Started out as an advertising copywriter, went to writing content on their blogs but was still very in the mind of analytics. I rose through the ranks there, became a digital strategist, and then migrated from TCS to where I am now. They were looking for someone who could blend that background in writing and journalism and content with the kind of analytical mindset of how it performs and really bringing their content to the next level, from an SEO perspective.
It seems to be a pattern that people don’t intend to get into marketing but sort of end up in it.
You can get a degree in marketing at school, but I think a lot of it is trial-by-fire because a lot of what marketing is is testing. If you have a curious mind and you’re willing to test out different things and see how people respond or see how different strategies and tactics affect people in different ways, that’s what you need.
I don’t think you’d necessarily need a degree in the field to do that; it might help you get in the door with that resume scan, but I know plenty of people who don’t have that educational background who excel in the field.
What industry updates should we have our eyes on right now?
I think there’re three main things that I would point out. One – and especially coming from where I was, which was touching more of the paid aspect and organic aspect – is the iOS updates and heading toward a cookieless world, because a lot of marketing involves targeting and that’s going to affect that. Everyone’s still trying to figure out how drastically it will affect things. I think that’s one to keep an eye on over the next two to three years.
A more immediate one that really affects my job is Google’s MUM update and the various new search results they have displayed. [Google’s] trying to enhance the user experience by giving more content available within a search result, but it has the potential to negatively impact what we’re trying to do. We want somebody to click through that search result, we don’t want to appear at the top spot if no one’s clicking through to that top spot because there’s too much content displayed [on the SERP].
From a broader perspective, something that hasn’t immediately happened but I see it happening next election cycle, is legislation. I know that various government officials aren’t fond of Big Tech. A Big Tech company that many of us rely on is Google, as well as Facebook, so if there’s any major legislation that changes the way those companies operate or change the way their search results are displayed, that immediately rolls downhill to us.
What’s a piece of recent marketing that caught your eye?
I think the most recent one for me is for Domino’s. They have their new special where basically they’re giving you random side orders. They’ll give you a random side of the volcano cake or random side of breadsticks and things like that. I thought that was a great little promo because it actually impacted me. I didn’t know that it was a promo until one day I got a free lava cake, and I was like, “Oh, they messed up. Sick!” And then my wife’s like, no, you get free stuff. That’s clever because, if you like it, you’re not guaranteed to get it next time, so you may order it on your own.
This one was three years ago, but I loved it: If you ordered a Whopper on the Burger King app from a McDonald’s parking lot, you got the Whopper for a penny. It’s the fast-food wars. The way they do it specifically in that sector, they are just so much more cutthroat and going after each other, but also comical and humorous in the way that they do it. I thought that was really clever from Burger King’s standpoint. Cause again, it’s McDonald’s, so they’re punching up, but that’s a clever way to kind of try to poach some customers.
Advice, Social Media, and Fried Oysters from New Orleans
What is the best advice you have ever received?
This comes from a very sweet mother figure I had in my life. She said, “Don’t forget to enjoy the journey. It’s not all about the destination, so make sure you take time to stop and enjoy the journey.” I think that’s something, even with the advice, I still forget all the time. If I could tell myself that this is going to be my position 10 years ago, I’d have been ecstatic! If I could tell myself that I’d be working 100% remote, I’d be ecstatic. And here I am, but now I’m like the dog that caught the car. Like, what do you do now? I think it’s important to remember that it’s not always about looking at that final goal, but taking the time to stop and enjoy family, enjoy friends, and those other things that you have along the way that kind of sometimes grow apart.
What do you follow on social media for inspiration? What do you follow for distraction?
Man, I don’t know if anything on social media inspires me. I think it’s all just distraction. Back when I was at that start-up magazine, it was like, you gotta have all these followers and you’re constantly on it monitoring stuff and I got so sick of it that I barely go on it anymore.
I read a lot; news, magazines, pop culture websites, things like that. None of it’s necessarily for inspiration but I think it kind of impacts my job. People try to focus on gimmicks like, “Hey, this is how you got to do the content in order to rise up ranks.” But if you think about what you read just in general and you think about the way those things are formatted and you think about how big that audience probably is, it’s probably not super niche. That inspires me whenever I think about different ways to do stuff with content that we’re writing because a lot of the places we’re reading are actual media outlets, they’re not necessarily relying on SEO for their views. I work at a bank, you know, we’re not a major news outlet. But if you can take context from things that you read day-to-day, I think it’s really helpful.
For distraction, food. I look at a lot of food for distraction. I also eat a lot of food for distraction.
What’s one of the best meals you’ve had recently?
It was a couple months ago, but New Orleans! New Orleans oysters. If you think you like oysters or you don’t think you like oysters, if you’ve never had fried oysters from New Orleans, go. Go eat fried oysters in New Orleans and then just go eat at every other restaurant around there. It’s all good.
Michael Scott, “Bandwidth,” and Pump-up Songs
If you lived in the 18th century (1701 – 1800), what do you think your job would have been?
I’m terrible with my hands (luckily, I work on a computer) so I couldn’t be a blacksmith or anything dealing with hands. Sports? I think I could have been a competitive athlete back then. Modern-day? No. But if we’re going to the 18th century, I think I could have had a chance.
Which fictional workplace would you love to work in?
It’s so cliché but I don’t care – The Office! Love that show. And it’s weird because I’d love to work there mostly because of Michael Scott and Steve Carell, he’s hilarious. But then I think about it and if that was real life, I’d probably be pissed every day coming into work if that was my boss, so I don’t know. I think that I’d want to work in The Office, but I don’t know if I’d actually want to work in the office.
Would you rather handwrite all your emails or text them using T9?
It’s almost like a philosophical question. I’m going to go with handwrite all the emails because it’s still slower than T9 and I’m just thinking about things like Twitter and snarky emails and stuff. If you handwrite it, there’s a lot of effort that’s got to go into it. It better be important, right? If you have something that’s going to come off snarky, it’ll give you extra time to think about it before. Because then you got to mail it. Even if you mail it, you might be able to show up and actually get the letter before someone receives it so there are fallback options.
What’s your least favorite work lingo?
I don’t think “bandwidth” belongs in the workplace. If you look at the definition, part of it’s like something dealing with literal technology, like bandwidth of data. And then the other part is just mental capacity to do something, and I feel like most times that people apply it, there’s a shorter word for it. I just don’t have the time and I don’t know what’s wrong with saying that. I don’t know why people say, “We don’t have the bandwidth.” Say we don’t have the time currently. We’re busy. That’s another one that simplifies it.
But I’m not going to lie, I use bandwidth all the time. It sounds professional.
What’s your pump-up song?
If I’m in front of a computer and I got to get a task done, I can’t pump myself up too much because then I’m just jamming and I’m not doing the work. So, I’ll just throw on like a classical music playlist. If I got to get something done out in life and I need a song, it’s going to be Eminem’s Till I Collapse. Those are vastly different situations where I need to get amped up.
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