Archive for March, 2007

Todd Friesen - AKA - Oilman - Interviewed

March 27th, 2007 by Richard Zwicky

It’s a funny world. Todd and I live less than 1 mile apart, yet we see each other more often outside Victoria than we do here in town. We do make the effort every 6 / 8 weeks to have lunch. The fact we see so little of each other in Victoria is a reflection of crazy travel schedules, and packed lives.

When we do get the chance to meet, I always appreciate Todd’s candor, and insight. Like is SEO Rockstars co-host, Greg Boser (aka webguerrilla), Todd is forthright in explaining what he likes, and what he does not like. I respect that.

Apart from his participation in SEO Rockstars, and his Oilman blog, Todd spends his time as head of organic SEO for Range Online Media.

Q. How long have you been working with SEO / SEM ?

Since 1999.

Q. What’s been your favorite technique that you can no longer use due to algorithmic changes at Google?

Everything still works to some degree. My shift in SEO technique was due more to my decision to move from blackhat indy status to whitehat corporate status.

Q. Has Google (or any other engine) ever made an algorithm change which made you very happy?

Back in the days of the monthly Google updates I was very happy very often. Today we honestly don’t even notice most algo shifts.

Q. If you could get Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask to each answer just one question about their algorithms, what would it be?

I honestly don’t know what I’d ask. I suppose I’d be curious about what’s next but I’m not sure they even know (see previous answer about how everything still works to some extent).

Q. Why analytics are important to you?

We use analytics to measure our success. Being able to tell a client how much money you’ve helped them make helps to ensure customer satisfaction and client retention. In a purely self serving view it helps show how SEO typically generates a much higher ROI than nearly any other online marketing technique.

a. how often do you look at them

We spot check on a regular basis and generate a comprehensive status report once a month.

b. how do you suggest your clients use them

Generally I don’t like clients to spend too much time in any analytics tool. There’s so much stuff in there that can be distracting and I’ll spend hours on the phone explaining and justifying stuff that’s not at all useful for what we’re doing. Traffic that converts to revenue is really what I’m after. If I can’t show a client that what I’ve done has made them money or accomplished a branding goal then I should just quit.

Q. What do none of the analytics tools do that you would want them to for you?

Rank checking I mean true rank checking. Enquisite is as close as we have it’s a major step forward.

Interview with Mikkel DeMid Svendsen

March 26th, 2007 by Richard Zwicky

In this latest installment of interviews with individuals in the Internet Marketing community, I’m very happy to share an interview with Mikkel DeMib Svendsen, Many of you may know Mikkel as the fellow in the bright orange suit at conferences around the world. That’s his branding, just like Rand’s yellow shoes.

Some people assail Mikkel as a massive black-hat SEO. Some admire his continuing success at “cracking the code.” No matter which side of the fence you sit on in the black hat vs. white hat debate, there’s no question that Mikkel makes valuable contributions to the debate.

My experience with Mikkel, regardless of opinions on the debate, is that he’s incredibly forthright; he is very honest in sharing his opinion, and I respect what he has to say. There’s a lot we can all learn from his experiences; (good and bad). Plus he’s a good guy to share a beer with during conferences.

Q. Mikkel, how long have you been working with SEO / SEM ?

Since 96/97

Q. What’s been your favorite technique that you can no longer use due to algorithmic changes at Google?

There are not any key components that I can’t use. Some just doesn’t work as well as they used to. Things change all the time. Many of the things Google have been claiming to fight have just been made more difficult leaving out the less competent SEOs from that part of the game. No filtering is perfect, no machine is without bugs, and creative human minds can always break an algorithm J

Q. Has Google (or any other engine) ever made an algorithm change which made you very happy?

All the time! In fact, that’s an important part of this job — staying ahead of development. I spend a great deal of time researching and trying to understand where search engines are going, so when they do go there I have been ready for it for some time and adopted my strategies to it.

Q.If you could get Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask to each answer just one question about their algorithms, what would it be?

Can I have a copy?

No, actually, I can’t think of one thing to ask. First of all I think I have a pretty good understanding of what I need to know to manipulate search pretty well. And that might, in fact, not always be the same knowledge that a search engineer has. He knows how to build it. I know how to break it down, so to speak. Even though we are talking about the same machine, the two trades are very different.

Also, remember, I used to manage a rather large local search engine before I went into SEO full time. Back then we licensed FAST and I had almost full access to all classified documents back then. Later I became the VP of Product Development for a very advanced enterprise search firm. So I have had a lot of time around some of the best skilled search engineers in my time. That helps too

Q. Why analytics are important to you?

Man! There are a million of different numbers that are important depending on the situation. Off cause the basics of how your visitors are super important. Next I want to be able to zoom into macro and micro steps of various action paths and be able to segment those users in various ways.Being an SEO I also like to be able to dig deeper into the best possible knowledge about my organic search visitors.

Depending on what kind of work I am doing I may look at stats several times a day — at other times I don’t look for weeks.

The most important thing I tell my clients about analytics is the limitations of what they can do: All they can do is report data to you in a nice format — the rest is up to you! You have to understand the numbers and what is good or bad in them. Next you have to figure out how to use limit the bad you you find and the same time as you keep the good. Then implement that, track it and look again. If you do not analyze analytics and take some real actions on your findings you better not waste your money on analytics at all!

Q. What do none of the analytics tools do that you would want them to for you? (yes, this question is self-serving)

I usually just build what I need if I can’t find it

The biggest problem I have now, is really the same as I do with much on the web — it’s just not good enough! The web has to be better, faster, be more intuitive and have more easy-to-use features etc. But its understandable. The web is still so young. And it feels that way too. Like driving a car from the 20’s.

You participate in a lot of conferences worldwide. Which one stands out?

For the past several years it has definitely been SES. I’ve been loyal to this conference ever since Danny founded it and invited me to speak. WebmasterWorld’s conferences has also been good, sometimes, but the organisational team behind it has just never been as good as the SES conference team.

Q. How is optimization different in Europe from North America?

The main difference is that in the US almost everyone focuses and competes on just one market - in Europe we have to compete in many markets. This, and the fact that in each market there are a lot less companies competing, makes the biggest difference. This means that there are so many more “low hanging fruit” here — it’s up to you to find them. Also, it has been, and still is, a lot easier in Europe (especially outside the main languages) to get away with creative black hat SEO

One thing I’d like to say to your US readers, though, is one very important fact that a lot of Americans do not appear familiar with: There IS no Europe! Europe only exists on paper and in geography lessons. From a political or geographical point of view there is a Europe - but from a human, market and not the least marketing point of view there is no Europe, and there are no Europeans. Unlike the Americans we don’t “feel” European the way most Americans feel American. There are French, Germans and Danes - but no Europeans! We don’t share any common languages, religions, music, traditions, or laws. We are in fact very, very different, and distinct from one state to the next across Europe.

When I discuss this with Americans many say, yes, but the different states in the USA are also distinct. It’s not like the same. The difference between Greece and Denmark is more like the difference between Colombia and Denmark! And France is a chapter on its own

An example I often use to illustrate this to fellow marketers and SEO’s is a very simple situation I once had. I was the manager of the search engine in Denmark on Scandinavia’s largest portal (Scandinavia Online - SOL) covering Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Once, in Denmark, we produced promotional cigarette lighters, you know, like so many companies do (in Europe). It was a a lighter with our logo printed on it designed to be passed on to anyone. In Denmark, like most other countries, this is a very common promotional device. However, when they saw this at our main office in Norway they got furious! In Norway, apparently, no one do that. It’s like telling people to smoke, in their mind. Totally unethical in Norway, completely normal in Denmark! This illustrates differences that exist between Norway and Denmark, and we used to be one country up until not so long ago! Imagine how much more different we are to French, Spanish, Italians or Greeks .

Thanks Mikkel!

Greg Boser - WebGuerrilla Interviewed

March 25th, 2007 by Richard Zwicky

One of the really great things about Greg is he says it like it is. He doesn’t worry about offending anyone, he just speaks the truth as he sees it, and I for one, really appreciate this quality.
I could write a short Bio on Greg, but he’s done it much better at his site webguerrilla. The short of it: he’s the co-host of SEO Rockstars with Todd “Oilman” Friesen, he’s been around SEO for much longer than most, and has experience will all kings of SEO. He’s a true authority, and if you ever get a chance to hear him speak, present, or participate in a panel Q&A - jump. It’ll be informative and entertaining.

Q. How long have you been working with SEO / SEM ?

I began seriously playing with SEO in 1996. By 1997, I was squeaking out a meager living and by 1998, I was able to convince my wife I had a real job.

Q. What’s been your favorite technique that you can no longer use due to algorithmic changes at Google?

Wow. That’s a tough question. There has been so many over the course of 10 years. It was pretty cool back in the day when keyword meta tags actually meant something. If you want something a little more modern I’d probably say Google reducing their dependence on PageRank, and changing the way they handled internal links are right up there. Being able to take an extremely large site and have it shoot to the top by simply adding the proper keywords in the footer navigation and buying a couple well-placed text links was pretty cool. (and profitable).

Q. Has Google (or any other engine) ever made an algorithm change which made you very happy?

Sure. Every time they make a change and a client’s rankings improve. And for us, that happens far more often than the opposite. Being a good SEO isn’t just about figuring out what works today, it’s being able to predict where things are going to end up down the road. If you understand that, you can end up having the best of both worlds in terms of maximizing current algorithmic conditions and preparing for future changes.

Q. If you could get Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask to each answer just one question about their algorithms, what would it be?

Google — What percentage of total daily searches are done by logged in users? (They’ll never answer that)

Yahoo — What causes all the inconsistencies in your 301 handling? Just when it looks like you’ve got it figured out, everything flips out.

MSN — Why don’t you just buy Yahoo?

Q. Why analytics are important to you?

Conversion data. All the other stuff is great, but at the end of the day, I want to know what search phrases were responsible for conversions.

a. how often do you look at them

We look at various bits an pieces on a daily basis.

b. how do you suggest your clients use them,

Prioritize what core data is most important to them, and then build custom filters or dashboards that restrict the data to include only what they need to see. Otherwise, they end up getting lost in a sea of fancy looking reports that don’t end up helping much.

Q. What do none of the analytics tools do that you would want them to for you?

I don’t think anyone does a real good job of identifying and tracking rogue traffic. Bandwidth consuming bots can be a real problem. We ended up developing our own internal apps to track and notify us of bad bot behavior because we just couldn’t find any stock analytic product that really addressed our issues.

Todd Hooge of Metamend - Interviewed

March 21st, 2007 by Richard Zwicky

I have to admit, it was a bit strange emailing Todd Hooge from Metamend for this interview. A little over a year ago, I would have been the one answering the questions. Now, it’s no longer part of my job function: I’ve got Enquisite…

Q. How long have you been working with SEO / SEM ?

Since 1999.

Q. What’s been your favorite technique that you can no longer use due to algorithmic changes at Google?

Fortunately, we haven’t had to change any of our techniques because of Google’s algorithm changes. We have to put more emphasis on some and less on others, but we’ve never had to do an about face on a client’s site because of an algorithm change.

Q. What percentage of your SEO / SEM work uses tools vs. manual work?

At present, at least 75% of our work is done manually, and the rest through tools developed in-house.

Q. Has Google (or any other engine) ever made an algorithm change which made you very happy?

They all make me happy or sad depending on how I look at it. On one hand, if the search engines published their algo’s, being an SEM would be a much tougher business to be in because there would be less people coming to us for help. On the other hand, every algo update from Google or any other engine (good or bad or ugly) typically means a lot of extra work for our analysts and account managers, because we inevitably get calls and emails from our clients asking why their search engine position has changed. But if I had to pick a favourite, I would say the Jagger update of ‘05 made some last positive impressions on Metamend because they emphasized our philosophies that we’d been teaching our clients for years such as the value of internal/external linking, the amount of content, and the nature of sites linking to you. The staff at Metamend do a great job of anticipating what the search engines will do next - they think like a search engineer.

Q. If you could get an engineer at Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask to each answer just one question about their algorithms, what would it be?

What are the three biggest changes to come in your algorithms from personalization in the next 24 months.

Q. Why analytics are important to you?

Analytics show us the cold hard numbers that we can put on a business plan or in a monthly report to our clients. It’s important though to understand which numbers mean something, and which ones don’t.

a. How often do you look at them?

About 3-5 times per week.

b. How do you suggest your clients use them?

We teach our clients to read their web analytics like a financial planner would read the stock market - avoid reacting and use a pro-active plan to grow your website for human usability, as well as for the search engines.

Beyond actual bottom line ROI metrics that we don’t have control over (in most cases), web analytics are the only true way to measure our clients’ online growth.

Part of Metamend’s service is to cherry pick and convey the most relevant statistics to our clients. By relevant statistics, I mean visitor sessions/unique hosts, spider/bot sessions, and referrals from the search engines for the phrases we are targeting as part of their campaign. Most web analytics packages completely overwhelm our clients, so part of Metamend’s SEM service means teaching our clients what is important to understand about their statistics, and what is just fluff.

c. What do none of the analytics tools do, which you would like them to?

I would love it if web analytics programs showed me only the information that was relevant to my business. Yes, a lot of them have customizable dashboards, but even those are getting too complicated for the average user now.

Q. What’s one tip you give all your clients about Internet Marketing - SEM / SEO / Email / links, etc.?

At the end of the day, all of your sales and marketing efforts should be geared for “one” person. You are almost always going to be talking to one visitor at a time. The printing press, radio, and television are incredibly powerful tools for marketing to many people at the same time. The Internet allows us that same power as the other mediums, but we can talk to them directly now. That’s a paradigm shift in the way we market to people.

Q. Why is Victoria B.C. a hotbed of Search Marketing?

Victoria is a breeding ground for innovation. It has just the right conditions (climate, infrastructure, and OPM) to attract people interested in pushing technology forward. A lot of these innovators use the new technologies (the Internet) to communicate with the public. Search Marketing techniques are sought by these individuals to help expedite their message.

Yahoo Search Engine Market Share - Noteworthy Change

March 20th, 2007 by Richard Zwicky

I’ve promised this update to a few people. There’s been an interesting trend I’ve been watching since December 20, which I wanted to hold off on discussing until I had a longer timeframe to comment on.

I didn’t want to comment on a one week trend. I’ve got ~3 months of data since December 20 to work with, and now it’s time. You may remember from a previous post, we noted a strong jump in Yahoo’s market share around the date December 20.

We had seen other jumps in Yahoo’s market shares (and MSN’s) around major holidays, and attribute this to the type of user each search engine enjoys. Google users tend to spend less time searching online during major holidays. This may be because most home systems are configured differently from work systems, or it may reflect that students overwhelmingly favor Google (?); when breaks happen, they go home and spend their time catching with friends and family in person.

At some time in the future, we will provide some analysis showing search trend differences between users at work, and users at home. That will be interesting…
Here’s the data on Yahoo’s market share trend.

Jan 1 - 15

Jan 16 - 31

Feb 1 - 14

Feb 14 - 28

Mar 1 - 15






So - Basically, around December 20, Yahoo’s search engine market share surged. It’s reached it’s peak in early February, and now seems to be subsiding. I’ll monitor it over the next few months, and will report on the trends.

An Interview with Jim Hedger - Editor SiteProNews

March 20th, 2007 by Richard Zwicky

Jim Hedger is the Executive Editor of SiteProNews, as well as the host of the WebmasterRadio.FM show, The Alternative. Sponsored by the, The Alternatives tries to look at life beyond the major search engines.

I’ve known Jim for about 7 years now. I first met him when he was working at Stepforth, and over the years had the opportunity to read his writings, listen to his opinions, and discuss ideas with him. I’ve enjoyed (almost) all our encounters. Last year, as I transitioned out of a daily role at Metamend, I approached Jim about becoming a regular contributor to the Metamend blog. I’ve enjoyed his writings there ever since!

When I first decided to run these interviews, I thought that Jim, being a frequent interviewer, might enjoy being an interviewee. I hope you enjoy his contribution to this series;

Q. Jim, How long have you been working with SEO / SEM ?

Started doing SEO in 1999 or 2000. SEM. We started working with Overture back when it was so, 2001 or 2002.

Q. What’s been your favorite technique that you can no longer use due to algorithmic changes at Google?

Leader pages and networks of reciprocal links. In the late 1990s and even into 2001, it was easy to fashion a link network among the six to eight leader pages designed to meet the needs of the six to eight different search engines. The technique involved artificially inflating link counts based on links from other clients’ leader pages. The more leader pages per client, the larger the link networks became.

Somewhere around 2001, Google started lowering the boom on both techniques. Leader pages were eliminated with duplicate content filters and link analysis was starting to affect the usefulness of link networks.

Google’s link-analysis pushed the development of those networks in to a phase we called, relevancy based link networks. That was where the real fun was found. I remember spending hours in a semi-trance with a laptop on one side and a whiteboard or flip chart on the other, mapping out link networks among clients and contacts.

This technique happened to arrive at the same time as the early-summer move of the company I worked for from a one room space to an office with a large deck that wrapped around the front of the building. I would take a laptop (with a long cable) and a flip chart out to the patio table and work in what I figured was the best of all possible conditions.

Q. Has Google (or any other engine) ever made an algorithm change which made you very happy?

Eventually, every Google update has made me happy. I don’t see algorithm changes as one-time events. They are built upon each other. I was particularly pleased with what I think are the overall effects of the shift has come from the Jagger Update but I am positive we have not seen the end of changes in relation to the scalability of the index.

Q. If you could get Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask to each answer just one question about their algorithms, what would it be?

Google: How much a factor does document history play in one document’s relationship with other documents? How important is this to overall rankings?

Yahoo: Do ideas or technology developed by AlltheWeb play any factor in Yahoo’s ranking algorithm?

MSN: Is MSN in any way interested in personalization?

Q. Why analytics are important to you?
a. how often do you look at them
b. how do you suggest your clients use them,

I think analytics are extremely important though, in my current line of work I have less need to examine them. For clients, knowing where your traffic comes from and what visitors do when they hit a site are critical. While clients or SEOs should not have to obsess on analytics, they should review them regularly and should (on average) always have a sense of how their web documents are performing.

I am most interested in measuring conversions. As the definition of conversion is different for every document, it is hard to suggest exactly what should be looked for. I think it is important to cut the number of steps site-users need to take to get from point A to point B on a site. If point B is a sale, the faster and easier it is for the consumer the happier that consumer is. The best analysis is the one that tells me how to make moving through a site simpler for site-users.

Q. What do none of the analytics tools do that you would want them to for you? (yes, this question is self-serving)

Show me how similar visitors (not specific site visitors) use competing websites.

Q. A question from Andrew Goodman Why does Victoria produce so many fantastic Search Marketers?

Though there are less than 400,000 people living on Southern Vancouver Island, the tech community has produced an extraordinary number of well known search marketers and Internet marketing companies.

Victoria has long been a center of innovation in Canada. The region has a civil, intellectual culture, three very strong post-secondary institutions, and is uniquely situated between powerhouse cities Vancouver and Seattle. With the mildest climate in Canada, abundant recreational activities, a supportive business community and amazingly strong telecommunications infrastructure, Victoria is a natural choice for tech firms and independent entrepreneurs. It almost never snows here and I was only unable to golf two weekends this year.

Organizationally, we should note the Chamber of Commerce and Viatec for their support. Successful cities support high-tech industry and Victoria has punched far above its weight building the local tech sector.

Thanks Jim!

Interview with Dave Davies of Beanstalk

March 19th, 2007 by Richard Zwicky

In this round of interviews, I invited a number of people around the world to participate. I also asked a few local individuals to participate. This week kicks of with this interview with Dave Davies of Beanstalk, and is followed by his former co-worker, Jim Hedger, who is the Executive Editor of SiteProNews. We’ll follow that up with Todd Hooge from Metamend.

Jim and Dave were at one time co-workers at Stepforth, and of course Metamend is where I cut my teeth in SEO & Internet Marketing.

Dave began his Internet career with WeDoHosting in sales and marketing. This led to his employment with a search engine positioning firm as their VP of Marketing. He since left to pursue his own objectives and later started Beanstalk Search Engine Positioning. I’ve only met Dave a dozen or so times, but since we both live and work in a small community, I have of course been aware of him for quite some time. When I decided to run this series, Dave’s name immediately sprung to mind.

Dave was kind enough to not only agree to the interview, but complete the short questionnaire in record time. Based on a question from Andrew Goodman, I subsequently asked him one follow up question about the hotbed of SEO.

Q. Dave, how long have you been working with SEO / SEM ?

Since 2001 for myself and for specific companies. Beanstalk was launched in 2004.

Q. What’s been your favorite technique that you can no longer use due to algorithmic changes at Google?

Heehee. Good question but there aren’t any tactics I’ve used on client sites that I wouldn’t keep using. On our test sites however, that’s a different story. Test sites are used to check the effectiveness of pretty much any tactics from interlinking, redirecting and cloaking so over the years there have things that stopped working. Interlinking is the biggest I’d say but again, I never used that on a client site (due in part I’m sure to the fact that it became a useless tactic before Beanstalk was launched).

Q. Has Google (or any other engine) ever made an algorithm change which made you very happy?

Many (mainly by Google). I try to take a philosophical approach to this question. The better the results, the more people use search engines, the more important the SEO industry becomes. There have been times when our site and/or client sites have dropped but when I look at the reasons I still have to view them as solid for the SERPs overall and adapt. When they make bad calls and clients drop we generally hold steady and wait, they always return to where they should be within a month or two.

The latest round of algo update on Google have gotten the thumbs up from me. Good for the SERPs, good for our clients.

Q. If you could get Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask to each answer just one question about their algorithms, what would it be?

Could you write that down for me?

More seriously, I would ask them what the weight distribution is for onsite vs offsite factors.

Q. Why analytics are important to you?

Analytics provide the tools that allow us to determine how successful a promotion is and where adjustments need to be made. If we find phrases that aren’t converting well we can use analytics to determine this and adjust the targeted phrases as necessary.

When I first read this question I read it as, “What analytics are important to you?” The answer I wrote was: Search referrer numbers, query distribution, path through site, path by referrer, conversions, conversion by referrer and by referring search query if applicable.

a. how often do you look at them

Depends on the site. For our own site I look at them once or twice a week.

b. how do you suggest your clients use them,

Our clients rarely have the know-how to properly analyze their stats. I’ll generally provide them in a straight-forward format with explanations about what they mean.

Q. What do none of the analytics tools do that you would want them to for you? (yes, this question is self-serving)

LOL - good question. There are solutions to do anything one needs, just not well in most cases. I would like to see a realtime tool that can analyze conversion data and provide and easy-to-understand (i.e. clients can login to it) reporting on which phrases are converting, which PPC campaigns and phrases are converting, and at what levels. An ability to detect A/B testing would be handy as well.

As I said, there are tools that claim to do it but I’ve yet to find one that does it with the accuracy I’d like to see. For every sale I want to know the referrer, for every conversion from a search engine or PPC campaign I want to know the phrase.

Q. What do you see as being the biggest change coming to the search industry over the next 18 months?

I believe we’re also going to see some new ways for search results to be displayed with more options and types on information showing up for specific types of searches (perhaps related to personalization, perhaps related to query type, perhaps both). Either way SEO’s are going to have to stay on their toes and keep flexible in the coming months. I think lighter SEO firms will have some advantages here in their flexibility however the bigger SEO firms will probably fare better based on their exposure in SEO communities and their broader base on backlinks).

From Andrew Goodman Why is Victoria BC such a hotbed for Internet Marketing?

That’s a very good question and I don’t know if I have a great answer for it. We’re definitely a tech community and a disproportionate number of SEO’s herald from here. If I had to guess it would be that Canada breeds some pretty smart people and those that hate the cold and can work from anywhere choose Victoria. Thus, all the techies that don’t need to be tied to a major metropolitan area head here and that would be the SEO community given that we can do business pretty easily from anywhere in the world. An ironic setup since most of us rarely see the light of day.

Thanks Dave

Interview with Andrew Goodman, of PageZeroMedia

March 15th, 2007 by Richard Zwicky

I’m really happy to share this installment of the interviews with you. Andrew is one of the most educated SEM’s out there. If he’d just finished off those last few courses we would HAVE to call him Dr. Goodman!

Andrew is the co-founder, and Principal of, and author of the industry standard guide to Google Adwords “Winning Results with Google AdWords” He’s also extremely knowledgeable about the broader Internet Marketing industry, and a frequent presenter and moderator at Search and Internet Marketing Conferences around the world.

It’s always a pleasure to elicit and receive Andrew’s opinion, and I’m pleased to share his thoughts here with you today.

Andrew, how long have you been working with SEO / SEM ?

I launched in 1999, so in the sense of working on content about the industry, it’s been over seven years now. I started consulting in earnest in fall 2001, but paid search consulting picked up after the 2002 release of my Google AdWords Handbook. Like many in the field (colleague Anne Kennedy comes to mind), I read a whole bunch of books including Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited. Another favorite was Anatomy of Buzz; and of course all of Godin’s stuff. So I focused on building structures and repeatable processes. Like anyone else (or maybe more so due to an academic career path), I had to learn how to become an entrepreneur with practically no formal training. Now, I love it. (And hate it sometimes.) Most of all, it’s in your blood, so the concept of “liking what you do” is nonsensical. It’s what you are.

You speak at a lot of conference around the world. Of all the conferences you’ve done, which one has been your favourite, and why?

Cool question. At the end of the day, I’m still the most enamored of the core show for us search marketers, Search Engine Strategies. Then it becomes a debate about what city is the most fun one. Maybe Chicago? But there are several honorable mentions: mesh (Toronto); User Experience (Nielsen Norman Group); Pubcon (Vegas). You also have to factor in location. I’m still hoping to hold a conference at the Four Seasons Nevis. That’ll kick things up a notch. Anyway, the reason SES still rules for me is really the community and the audiences. So for example in London recently a number of old friends and new in the speaker ranks were able to get together in face to face, cordial ways (we’re a family and all). Even trying to avoid the SEO party, relaxing in the bar, my wife and I were suddenly surrounded by Danny Sullivan, Elisabeth Osmeloski, Vanessa Fox, and company. Poor Rand Fishkin, man of the hour, was suffering through a major flu and getting some medication delivered to him from a German SEO who shall remain nameless (I mean, he’s an SEO - why give him a link)… Then, Rand’s colleagues Rebecca and Scott, and Greg Boser came in, returning from their impulse trip to Paris, and Danny made believe that Rand had run up to the room to chew them out publicly on the blog. And all of that fun sort of mayhem, after a full day of meeting attendees and exchanging ideas in sessions. The list of people who amaze me in the business in their own ways would be very long. I recall never having really sat down to talk with Rebecca Lieb until last year’s London show. That sort of thing. Don’t try to mind your own business at SES. It won’t work!

Although you don’t really do organic work, has Google (or any other engine) ever made an algorithm change which made you very happy?

Sure, I think Google erred badly at one point in over-rewarding bolding and some other features within links, even internal links. This was really before on page factors were being exploited to the nth degree on Google. I got a relatively small company up to #2 on the phrase “domain names.” It was around that same time that I lost all respect for that approach to SEO. The company gained short term benefit from this, but that was all. Their whole scheme was a link farm before there were link farms, so eventually it lost traction. I’ve done quite a bit of SEO work for free. The fallout isn’t as bad when you lose rank.

It’s funny to watch how long some of the beliefs linger when a loophole works for 3-6 months, isn’t it? I mean you still have pages stuffed with tiny text at the bottom of the page. Legacy SEO tactics and those funny SEO consultant sites with “all those engine logos” (AltaVista??) persist. It’s past the point of being nauseated by it - I, like most of the buying public, am indifferent to old-school manipulative SEO and SEO sales tactics.

If you could get an engineer at Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask to each answer just one question about their algorithms, what would it be?

Probably it would be a question about what they plan to do about reputation (links and otherwise) in the *future*, so I could plan my client PR (not PageRank) strategy. And in the paid field I’d love to know the secret to the *ad copy* component of quality score, so I wouldn’t waste time testing ads that are just going to rank me worse.

Why analytics are important to you?Analytics can be shallow or deep. For the majority of accounts, analytics are in front of me all the time - basically daily. A real study and drill-down might require a few hours, and would be a thing that is done from time to time. Looking at the characteristics of user behavior on various ad groups and sources, beyond just ROI. Tied to this now is the concept of multivariate testing, either with ads or landing pages, or both together. In that sense, if you’re doing sophisticated analysis rather than just working on the plumbing (also important), it’s all about analytics.

I guess I’m comfortable with clients having full access & transparency with analytics reports - unlike some, who would prefer to package up a canned report only, monthly or weekly. Both approaches work. But I do believe that day-to-day nitpicking is detrimental to any strategy. Not letting costs run wild is certainly basic tablestakes for any campaign. But advertisers who are setting aside a budget for testing should be comfortable with what is being tested, and not let emotion sway the test too much until the testing period and budget are complete.

As with any other business you need both trust and comfortable collaboration/sharing if this is going to work well.

What do none of the analytics tools do that you would want them to for you?

Hehe. Well, they’re getting better. I do like that Google Analytics now gives you a wealth of data about your paid campaign without a huge effort on your part. They even give you conversions by ad position - and we’re talking about a free tool here.

Most of the services do a poor job focusing on search referrals and the characteristics of those referrals. So yes, I am thankful for Enquisite and its ability to show me more about just (organic, in particular) search.

I’ll take an ad hoc tool any day - one that offers me some interesting info without costing too much, or locking me into anything complicated. Interested in low cost heat mapping? CrazyEgg. Some path and visit info for organic referrals (other than Enquisite)? GetClicky’s fun, and free. I’m really not sure what’s in it for me sometimes when I look at some of these “analytics monoliths” costing huge amounts. In my experience, people at large agencies often opt for the big time analytics packages, but then don’t really use them to any great extent.

Probably, the world is heading in the direction & spirit of that whole open-source, lower-cost, ad hoc, type of movement. Users of analytics are constantly voting with their feet, as they are with any other type of software or development type tool.

What do you foresee as the biggest change coming in paid search over the next 24 months?

I believe that Google will finally offer advanced rule-based bid management. This will be disruptive to third parties, needless to say. Many of the other “future” things are already here! Custom ways of buying more local search listings; video ads; Yahoo releasing a new platform that offers everything from better geotargeting to a quality index; more transparency in click fraud; more control over contextual listings; free multivariate landing page testers, you name it, it’s here. Now the question is, who has enough depth in the industry to be able to lead you strategically and tactically through the minefield?

What’s one tip you give all your clients about Internet Marketing / SEM / SEO / Email / links, etc.?

I think a lot of people mistake the task at hand for the whole of their existence. It’s OK to do well at this, modestly, while still fulfilling yourself and being as cool or grandiose as you like *doing something else entirely* in your spare time, or in your next life or next career. I work in search, and while I am keenly aware that it’s growing rapidly (I wrote a book, Winning Results with Google AdWords, in 2005, making quite bullish and bold claims about growth in some of the background chapters, and the industry surpassed them easily), I think we need to understand what subset we’re in. It’s a finite marketing discipline with x number of bucks and tasks to deal with. And yes, there are other interesting things to work on outside of our not-so-little realm. So I basically remind people that execution (Jim Collins’ “Hedgehog Concept”) is the way to make big results from a seemingly ho-hum little universe. All kinds of things flow from this Hedgehog revelation; let’s begin with overcoming the misguided apprehension and excitement many advertisers have around “launch”. Launching with a big bang won’t happen in SEM — there are x number of searches for what you have, and they aren’t all going to happen on one day — yet many persist in the belief. I guess old habits die hard. Search wants to be sexy, but pssst… it isn’t. The long term “good to great” results are sexy, but search’ll never get the credit when you achieve breakout. Such is the life of the hedgehog.

Andrew asks: Why is Victoria, BC the hotbed of search marketing?

I’ll put that question to some local search engine marketers…

Thanks Andrew!

The Lead-off - Chris Sherman, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land

March 14th, 2007 by Richard Zwicky

I’m very pleased to present you with our lead-off interview in this series; Chris Sherman, the Executive Editor of and President of Searchwise:


Q. How long have you been working with Internet Marketing ?

I started a company building web sites in 1992, and though banner ads and search marketing were in the future, I marketed my clients’ sites primarily by link building campaigns, and trying to get the attention of “what’s cool” sites that were the Google’s of the day.

Q. You’ve spoken at many conferences around the world, and interviewed a broad variety of guests. Which stands out as your favorite?

That’s a hard one! The recent London SES conversation I had with Matt Cutts was fun. I’ve known Matt for years, and even still learned some things about both him and Google that I didn’t know before. The conversation I had with Yahoo China CEO Jack Ma last year at SES China was also fun - he’s not one to pull punches, and several times got right back in my face when I asked him about controversial topics.

Q. With the transition for yourself and Search Engine Strategies, what’s your biggest challenge?

Keeping up with all of the email! Seriously. I spend so much time responding to email that it’s hard to find time to focus on the various other projects I’m involved with. To protect my time, I tend to only check email a couple of times a day so I can have blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on the important projects we’re trying to move forward.

Q. If you could get an engineer at Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask to each answer just one question about their algorithms, what would it be?

Why can’t you understand me?

Q. What do you foresee as the biggest change coming to the search industry over the next 18 months?

Personalization. It’s going to change everything, and I don’t think most search marketers will realize how big an impact it will have. Gord Hotchkiss has written some great columns on the coming impact of personalization on search results for SEL, and as good as his analysis is, he’s just scratching the surface of this massive sea change.

Q. There’s quite a debate on the value of personalization in search. Some argue its easier for the habitual users, whereas others believe it makes search less relevant. What do you see?

It’s one of the holy grails for both search engines and searchers. Who could say that personalization makes search “less relevant?” If a computer understands your needs and wants (even if only on a basic, limited level) it can find stuff that you wouldn’t have a prayer of finding, no matter how skilled a searcher you are (and I teach people how to search, so I’m not just taking the devil’s advocate position here). Personalization is something that’s going to benefit everyone — even search marketers who are frightened of it now. It’s simply going to raise the bar on relevance, and make it harder for spammers to pollute our experience.

Q. What’s one tip you give all your clients about Internet Marketing / SEM / SEO / Email / links, etc.?

The most important thing is to understand your goals before you do anything else. Search marketing needn’t be rocket science, but it can seem that way if you’re not sure what you want to accomplish. That said, there are no formulaic approaches even when you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. You need to find the approaches/techniques/services that help you achieve your goals, and then work at making them happen, day after day. Listen to advice from gurus and the search marketing community, but don’t be afraid of charting your own course if that will help you get to your own goal. And don’t get discouraged - search marketing takes time and effort - but if you’re clear about what you want to achieve, it will pay off in the long run.

Thank-you Chris.

A short bio on Chris Sherman -

Chris Sherman is the President of Searchwise, a Boulder Colorado based Web consulting firm. From 2001 through 2006, Chris was Executive Editor of and is the Conference Chair of the international Search Engine Strategies events in Canada, China, France, Italy, Sweden and the U.K. With over 25 years experience in interactive technologies, he is frequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Business Week, USA Today and other publications, and has appeared on CNN, NPR, CBS and other television and radio networks.

Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, and is a Web Search University faculty member, and is an honorary inductee of the Internet Librarian Hall of Fame. He is the author of “Google Power: Unleash the Full Power of Google” from McGraw-Hill. His previous books include “The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can’t See” (with Gary Price) from CyberAge Books; The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook, and The Elements of Basic, The Elements of Cobol and The Elements of Pascal from John Wiley & Sons.

Chris holds a master’s degree in Interactive Educational Technology from Stanford University and has been unsuccessful in his attempts to persuade Stanford to strip his degree so he can join the founders of Yahoo and Google in boasting about *not* graduating from the university.

A Series of Interviews

March 13th, 2007 by Richard Zwicky

A couple of weeks ago, I invited a number of associates, colleagues, and assorted individuals I know and respect in the Search Marketing Industry to participate in a series of short interviews. I was very pleased, and surprised when almost everyone very quickly agreed! Over the next four weeks , I’m going to post the interviews.

You’ll no doubt recognize most of the names in the series. Some will possibly be unknown to you; they all have a lot of stories to tell; we’ll only scratch the surface here.

We’ll kick off on Wednesday morning with Chris Sherman, Executive Editor of Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Strategies fame. We’ll follow that up with an interview with Andrew Goodman of Page Zero Media. At the end of his interview, Andrew poses a question to Victoria B.C. based Internet Marketers. There’s way too many of us here for it to be possible to reach them all for this series, but I did reach a few. Later in the series, we’ll hear from top seach marketers in the U.S., and get contributions from Europe, and Asia.

Some of the interviewees will specialize in Search Engine Marketing (PPC), but most will be best known as SEO’s. Some, like will be known as “Black Hat SEO’s”, another will be the whitest of the white… All are individuals I respect.

I hope you’ll enjoy the series.

Richard -

Richard Zwicky