Interview with Andrew Goodman, of PageZeroMedia

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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!

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One Response to “Interview with Andrew Goodman, of PageZeroMedia”

  1. [...] Meanwhile, over at the Enquisite Blog, Richard Zwicky posts another of (what I’m calling), his Enquisitive Minds interviews, this time with the brilliant Andrew Goodman of Page-Zero Media. [...]

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