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» Exclusive Interviews » An Exclusive Interview with Rochelle Sanchirico of Washington Post Digital

An Exclusive Interview with Rochelle Sanchirico of Washington Post Digital

SemGeek is proud to present an exclusive online interview with Rochelle Sanchirico, Senior Director of Acquisition Marketing for Washington Post Digital. This interview is brought to you in cooperation with the Search Engine Strategies’ Pre-SES Chicago 2009 Blog & Q&A Coverage.

Interview Questions:

Question #1: Can you tell our audience a little more about your role as Sr. Director of Acquisition Marketing at Washington Post Digital? What does a typical day consist of?

Answer: In my acquisition marketing role, I manage the team that is responsible for driving traffic and conversions to and its product verticals.  Methods include online paid media, e-mail marketing, social media, paid and organic search, as well as grassroots marketing and leveraging our own media properties.  The day can really vary—I enjoy thinking strategically as well as being very hands-on.  Some days I’m really heavy into our site or search data and analysis, while other days I’m brainstorming with my team on contest ideas.  Other days we’re working really closely with our editorial staff to train them on search engine optimization (SEO) best practices.  I find the variety to be one of the most rewarding parts of my job.


Question #2: What are the biggest challenge(s) in deploying SEO, PPC and Social Networking across such a large organization as the Washington Post?

Answer: Prioritization of resources is probably the biggest challenge when there are so many different content areas and products to cover with limited resources.  Organization is key to running a successful PPC campaign—if you do the upfront work to make sure that campaigns and ad groups are properly aligned to match your organization’s goals, it can save a lot of day-to-day work in analysis and optimization.

SEO is an area that still requires a lot of time and ad hoc analysis from our team—one of the exciting elements (and challenges) of working in the news industry is that today’s top keyword terms may drop off the radar completely next week.  It’s important to be able to prioritize the SEO work that will provide long-lasting benefit to the company.  Social networking is something we’ve really embraced over the past year, and the biggest challenge there is determining the social channels that have the most potential for our brand and how much time and effort we should spend on integrating them with our site.

Question #3: With more and more consumers going online to get their news, how has the “Brick & Mortar” side of the Washington Post dealt with this migration? How has it affected your role in acquiring new customers and keeping existing ones?

Answer: While our digital and print sides of the business used to operate completely separately, now we have an integrated newsroom; several other functions within the business have also come together to provide a holistic approach to providing news in the way that people are most likely to consume it.  The Washington Post is heartily embracing the growth of online and mobile news consumption, from the senior executives to the reporters in the newsroom.  My role remains very digitally-focused, although my team works closely with the print marketing team to make sure that we’re aligning resources and making “2 plus 2 equal 5” as often as possible.  Our ideal scenario would be a customer that reads the newspaper first thing in the morning, checks the website throughout the day for updates and breaking news, and turns to our mobile site when they’re on the go.  We strive to support all of those goals.


Question #4: With the emergence of Social Networking, especially blogs and now with public eyewitness videos being published immediately on sites such as YouTube, how has this phenomena affected your acquisition strategies? Who do you consider your biggest competitors?

Answer: Social networks, blogs and video sharing sites have created a great, complementary information source for today’s consumers.  We leverage these destinations to further engage with our own audience as well as reach new potential consumers of our content.  Social sites and blogs can be a very powerful marketing tool, as they know a lot about their consumers and can help marketers hone their reach to the most attractive target audience.  We also look at these tools as a brand extension—our presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites allow us to speak and engage with our core audience in a different way than we do on our site.

The dynamics that are specific to our industry make it difficult to define competitors.  The newspaper industry has, in the immediate past, been very cooperative rather than competitive.  We understand that we all face challenges that will be better addressed if we work together rather than against each other.  We do benchmark our performance (on several fronts) against all the major news sites, as well as others that are smaller and growing quickly.


Question #5: Since the Washington Post website is currently using Google Analytics, can you tell our audience what Metrics are considered most important (pageviews, bounce rates, etc…) and what “usability-type” steps have you taken to improve your Acquisition efforts?

Answer: We primarily use Omniture SiteCatalyst for our internal site metrics.  We look at different metrics to measure and analyze the various elements of site performance that are important to us.  Unique visitors is the best indicator of our reach, while pageviews/visit and visits/visitor are core engagement metrics.  Pageviews are important because that determines our inventory for display advertising.  Combining all of these elements with others provides a comprehensive picture of our site performance.

We have incorporated tracking codes into our marketing program elements so that optimization on site visits, pageviews, and conversions is an on-going part of our marketing process.  On-site, we have done multivariate testing on elements of the site that help us acquire more users through social media and other tactics to make sure that they are as effective as possible.


Question #6: Since is a blog that focuses a lot of attention to PPC Marketing, can you tell us how the Washington Post best utilizes Paid Search? Do you perform A/B Landing Page Testing? Text Ad Multivariate testing? Is it used as a branding tool or for prospecting?

Answer: We put PPC marketing in two general buckets:  those campaigns or ad groups that must return a positive ROI on the first visit, and those that are strategically important to the organization and pay out over a longer timeframe.  We manage all of our paid search in-house, and currently have over 11,000 ad groups across 4 search engines.  We perform A/B landing page testing where appropriate and feasible, and utilize text ad multivariate testing across all of our ad groups and keywords.  As the organization’s goals change, we keep our PPC campaigns in lock step with them.

We use PPC as both a branding tool and for prospecting, as well as for eliciting particular actions on the site (this is usually within our classifieds verticals).  We are always taking a hard look at both to determine if they are the most effective use of our marketing dollars.  Are we paying for branded terms that are cannibalizing our natural search clicks?  Are those people who come into the site on news-related terms ever returning?  It’s a constant refinement.


I would like to thank Rochelle as well as the folks at Washington Post Digital for her cooperation and time to provide this exclusive online interview.

About Rochelle Sanchirico: Rochelle is responsible for growing the audience of by delivering traffic and quality leads. With a special focus on B2C marketing, Sanchirico looks to drive traffic using various channel marketing strategies including paid and organic search and direct marketing campaigns—such as e-mail, mobile marketing and social media marketing.

Sanchirico brings an extensive marketing background from her two years at Kaplan Higher Education. Just prior to joining Washington Post Digital, Sanchirico served as Executive Director of Marketing Strategy at Kaplan. In this role, she managed all strategic marketing activities for the online university as well as 70 campus locations. She was a point person for the launch of localized marketing efforts, utilizing advertising elements like television, radio, direct mail and e-mail. Prior to this, she was a Business Associate for the Leadership Development Program and worked in the publishing industry for many years.

Sanchirico received her M.B.A. from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 2004. She earned her B.S. from the University of Michigan. Sanchirico resides in Arlington, VA with her husband Joe.

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