Get to know Ryan Edwards, Vice President, Integrated Search at The Tombras Group

July 8, 2023 | Interview

Ryan Edwards began working at The Tombras Group in April 2017 and has over a decade of search engine marketing experience.
A North Carolina native, Ryan began his digital marketing career as a digital strategist for Internet startups while a student at Wake Forest University’s School of Business in Winston-Salem, NC. From 2006 to 2013 Ryan helped grow several startups, including and by leveraging search engine optimization.
From 2016 to early 2017, Ryan served as lead SEO and paid search manager for national brands like TOTO, Levolor and Moen at Wray Ward, a full-service Charlotte advertising agency.
He moved to Knoxville, TN in April 2017, and assumed his role as Associate Media Director, Paid Search at the Tombras Group. It was here that he helped grow the agency’s search engine marketing program by focusing on ROI-driven results for clients like LPL Financial, Education Loan Finance, Home Federal Bank, Orange Theory Fitness, and Carolinas HealthCare System. In January 2018, Ryan was promoted to Vice President of Integrated Search and is now responsible for leading the agency’s search engine optimization, paid search and YouTube efforts for clients in across all verticals, with a particular focus in the financial services, multi-unit retail, healthcare, and tourism industries.

Please introduce yourself and where you work.

My name is Ryan Edwards. I’m the Vice President, Integrated Search at The Tombras Group. We’re a 270-person, full-service advertising agency with a digital mindset.

How do you think SEO has changed over the last 10 years?

How hasn’t SEO changed? From unethical link practices and society’s role as a ranking signal to mobile and voice search, SEO has come a long way to delivering users more relevancy and more value. SEO transformations over the years have been about link practices, on-page optimization techniques, site speed and more. Typically this transformationcame from algorithm changes forcing webmaster and SEOs to react. I’d like to focus on what hasn’t changed.
At it’s simplest form, the Internet is composed of two things: content and links. SEO has always been about, and always will be about, delivering the best information to a user’s search. The tactics and strategies that go into the discipline will change. The technologies we use will change. The way people consume information will change. But, the goal of delivering user’s the best information for their search won’t ever change. The way we go about accomplishing our goal is the ever-evolving question. As technology in the form of machine learning and Google’s advances in deep learning hurtles forward at a dizzying rate, we shouldn’t be reacting to changes. We shouldn’t be thinking about how we are going to stay ahead of Google. Instead, we should be thinking about how we can deliver amazing brand experiences.

How did you get introduced to digital marketing, more specifically SEO?

I was always a bit of a mad scientist and entrepreneur. As a kid growing up near Virginia Beach, I figured I could probably make a better surf wax than what was on sale in the surf shops I was always hanging out in. Turns out that wasn’t true. But, what I did discover is that I could absolutely create a website that could rank higher than the websites’ of those surf wax companies. I fell in love with SEO in high school and the rest is history.

What are the services you provide to your clients?

As a full-service agency, The Tombras Group has been in the brand-building business since 1946. Beyond SEO, we have some of the best creative, media, digital, social, PR, and analytics minds in the world. As it relates to SEO specifically, we’ve discovered that integrating SEO and SEM under one department allows us to leverage and share data in a way that separates us from other models. Our paid search specialists work hand-in-hand with our SEO managers to create unified search strategies that are greater than the sum of their parts. The A/B test results from our paid campaigns and focused keyword-level conversion data helps us build more informed and ROI-driven SEO strategies.

What strategy according to you will prevail in 2018 for SEO?

The exponential growth of technology in the form of machine learning will be the focus in 2018 and beyond. We’ll begin seeing machine learning play a more prominent role in SEO, specifically using forms of Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) in content strategy and customer assistance. I want to be clear in saying, there is no such thing as automating SEO. Custom scripting technology and deep learning technologies will be used for content strategy, content creation, and content outreach. If Google is using RankBrain machine learning to enhance search results, it’s a logical step for brands and websites to use machine learning to improve their content offerings, content creation and even chatbot assistance. Of course, playing a major role in content consumption is the rise of voice search and the importance of mobile. Spawning out of mobile is the importance of AMP (accelerated mobile pages) and Local SEO. Users have high expectations and page load time and locally-relevant results are two of the most important things. Driving brands towards adopting practices dedicated to making sites faster and more relevant is a no-brainer.

What would your advice be to people who are looking to take up digital marketing as a career choice?

Just jump in! Read voraciously and find a digital marketing niche that you gravitate towards and let that natural passion drive your momentum. Ask questions and seek out mentors. We’re all busy, but at the end of the day we love sharing our passion with other like-minded individuals. If you’re passionate about search, please feel free to reach out to me personally!

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