In this edition of our monthly interview series, I talk to Vertical Measures project manager Ardala Evans about her newfound love of the Internet marketing industry, her Guitar Hero prowess and hula hooping.
Michael Schwartz: What has attracted you to the Internet marketing field?
Ardala Evans: This field keeps you on your toes, not unlike a pair of ballerina shoes. You must keep researching, experimenting and learning. You can never stop and slow down; otherwise the internet world will pass you and your tutu by.
Michael: When you were first hired at Vertical Measures, it was to help edit articles. Now you manage the internship program and perform on-site SEO reviews and keyword research. Tell us about some of the most fascinating things you’ve learned at VM.
Ardala: The intricacies of what makes a great site successful. I have truly enjoyed learning more and more about the hundreds of pieces of the SEO puzzle that, when put together correctly, create a terrific user experience and also help a site rank high in the search engines. I then enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with clients.
Michael: Before your Vertical Measures career started, you worked a number of years at a career college. What did you do there and how did that work prepare you for your current career?
Ardala: I spent 10 years at the college; first working in academics. We operated multiple campuses and I was in charge of checking the academic progression of the students and also made sure that they met all the qualifications to graduate from our program. I then worked for several years in financial aid, and became the Director of Financial Aid for all of our campuses. Compliance, audits and loan paperwork, oh my! In other words, every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted. Both of these positions required a keen attention to detail. This skill is well used with Vertical Measures as I make sure that all content placed for our clients is high quality and editorially correct.
Michael: When you came first started working here you weren’t exactly tweeting like Ashton Kutcher. But I understand you’re developing a growing appreciation for Twitter. What do you like about the microblogging site, @AZArdie?
Ardala: I had set up my Twitter account just before starting to work at Vertical Measures. You are correct; I didn’t get it at first. It actually wasn’t until a friend introduced me to Hootsuite, and then, bam! A little bird told me about things in France, the local food scene, SEO tips, whether Matt Cutts was bald this week, what my friends were up to, what other dog owners did when their dog……well you know. People started posting pictures, so I joined in. Then, wow, I started to get followers, which made me want to tweet more and follow more. I really enjoy the little snippets of info on all the things I’m interested in. It’s fun and it’s useful. I have seen how Twitter can be used for businesses; nothing works better to spread the word.
Michael: A fun Ardala fact is that you are an avid jump roper. Tell us about your jump roping exploits.
Ardala: Ah, excuse me, you mean hula hooping, right? Jump ropes are so yesterday (exasperated sigh)! I’m not talking about the Wham-O hula hoops you buy in a toy store. I use larger weighted hoops that are actually easier to use. I crank up Don Omar, Ozomatli, Shakira, Kat DeLuna and Pitbull and let it rip. Much more fun than the treadmill!
Michael: Like many people here at VM, you are a real lover of dogs (which you even display on your license plate!). Tell us about your animals and a little bit about your love for canines.
Ardala: I can’t imagine living without a dog. When there isn’t a dog in the house, it feels strange to me. When I was growing up, our family dog, a mutt named Jacob, slept on my bed, sat with me on the couch, ate my lima beans that I slipped him under the table, and was basically my best buddy. Jake was still alive when I got married and moved out and sadly couldn’t take him with me. When my son was born, his first word was not “Mommy” or “Daddy”, it was “Goggy” which he said very excitedly as he pointed at Jake. Evidently this dog loving thing is genetic. Like the Brady Bunch (work with me here), my life became the story of a lovely lady dog named Penny (Shetland Sheepdog) and two rambunctious boy dogs, Charlee and Elliot (American Eskimo Dogs). What fun; chasing, barking, growling and howling. I loved it! But dogs age too quickly; they are not with us near long enough. We now just have Elliot with us who is 15, and I cherish every day with him. Our dogs have given me joy and the biggest laughs; my life has been better because of them.
Ardala: These guys don’t care what other people think. They do want they want and what they like. They have a great appreciation for their fans, which they share through their awesome site and web presence. Their videos all have that “home made” appeal which make them so fun to watch. They are geeks in rockers clothing and they’re not afraid to let that shine through, or maybe it’s the other way around in the marching band video…… Anyway, I proudly display an autographed picture of them in the purple marching band uniforms above my desk here at Vertical Measures!
Michael: In the office we have heard rumors of your Guitar Hero prowess. What do you like so much about this game?
Ardala: Oh, office gossip….. I don’t know about prowess, but I do enjoy it. Sometimes I play until my fingers bleed! Well, until they’re numb anyway. I think maybe I was a member of Metallica in another life. I have a musical background and have tried to teach myself to play guitar, but it just never happened. So Guitar Hero is the next best thing. I live vicariously through a piece of plastic! After a stressful day at Vertical Measures …… a Guitar Hero performance is just the thing. There’s something so satisfying when you see “YOU ROCK” on the screen.
Michael: We here at Vertical Measures KNOW you’re a great baker because of all the little treats you bring in on occasion. What would you say is your favorite sweet to bake?
Ardala: I do like to bake. It’s like your kitchen is a lab and you’re doing experiments. You measure out all the ingredients, mix them together and heat them up. My favorite experiment is the Graham Streusel Cake. I’ve been making this cake for many years. I wish I had kept a tally on the recipe card for each time I’ve made it. It’s one of those desserts that is requested for every family get-together.
Michael: Many people think your name is Italian, but that’s not true. So tell us Ardala, how exactly did you get your name?
Ardala: From a comic book. When my Dad was growing up he was a huge fan of the “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” radio show and comic books. Buck, of course, was the hero. Killer Kane, with Ardala as his love interest and trusted sidekick, was Buck’s nemesis. So, yes folks, I’m named after a villain.
Michael: As mentioned earlier, you run the internship program at VM. How have you seen this program grow since we launched it in January?
Ardala: Our internship program has grown by leaps and bounds. Because colleges don’t provide classes to teach what we do, our program is such a unique learning experience. From the webinars, workshops, Lunch and Learns, staff meetings, Vertical Measures library, completing assignments and AZIMA presentations, interns can get fully immersed in the internet marketing and link building experience. Where we started with one intern, we have had as many as four and we recently saw our first intern become a full-time employee. That was exciting!
Michael: And finally, what do you like so much about working at Vertical Measures?
Ardala: We are encouraged to follow and expand on our interests. Everyone is always open to sharing his or her knowledge with each other. We each have our strengths and specialties, and when we all come together we make one heck of a great team. You know, kind of like on “Heroes.”