Todd Hooge of Metamend - Interviewed

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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.

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