DETLEV: I was just saying it would be nice to see something like that to come out of Bend; “The bedrock of SEO,” with all the history.
MARK: My dream world includes how to roll for you, if I can just be candid.
DETLEV: Oh, ok, fair enough.
MARK: So, “The Origin of SEO.” I know you and I are both from Bend, so we have to be careful because we’re so slanted towards Bend.
DETLEV: Yeah, but even Andrew Goodman who’s from Canada, called Bend “The Primordial Soup of SEO,” in a recent article; Andrew Goodman from Traffic.com.
MARK: And it’s not a tough argument. So let’s go back to the year before you got into search, we can zoom through it, but then get me right up to the spot where the first idea of you, Detlev Johnson who’s just about a rock star in this space today, got into search. How the heck did that happen?
DETLEV: Well like a lot of people I came out of the web development crowd. I was there in the time when the web was first starting to take off, and working back then in Bend, a multimedia agency but not even the Multimedia Marketing Group, more of an agency that was doing multimedia for local clients in the Bend area, building their websites and stuff. We had a few clients outside of the area.
MARK: What was the name of that company?
DETLEV: Image First. They were doing a lot of QuickTime VR, which is Virtual Reality. We did CD Rom Development; I was involved in a lot of those projects.
MARK: What year was this?
DETLEV: 1996-97. Before that I was ultimately piecing together technology for music as a music studio because I came to development through music as a musician.
MARK: What instrument do you play?
DETLEV: Well my main instrument today is guitar. I can kind of play riffs like Jimmy Hendricks stuff, which is why my ringtone is Jimmy Hendricks. It was “Who Knows” and it was an unknown caller. The Hendricks thing actually, I was known in Bend before I ever became a rock star in search I was known in Bend as the “Guitar God.” Going back from the late 80’s through the mid 90’s when I started doing more computing than music, I was touring, I played the Drake Park festival; I played all over the place.
MARK: What was the name of the band?
DETLEV: I Jr. Johnson and the Mystics. I was the Johnson star. I played lead, and sang a few tunes, and sang backup, and yeah, I was the star of the band.
MARK: Where did you work before Image First?
DETLEV: I was purely in music. I started a recording studio so I was making a little money doing sound for festivals and shows and band, I made a little money teaching guitar at the local guitar shops.
MARK: Ok, so were you in Bend at this time?
DETLEV: Oh yeah, no question about it. I got to Bend around ’89, and I picked up a job teaching guitar at the local guitar stores and skiing.
MARK: Do you remember The Click?
DETLEV: Oh big time. Rod and Clay, oh you bet I know those guys? Actually, Clay I think was working at Music Village, which is now a wine bar, right? And that was the first place where I went to go teach. I taught in one of the rooms upstairs, and then I was quickly in a band, and we were playing the local Bend Scene and went from there, left Music Village, and then began doing the sound thing, and got in a different band where we did a lot of sound for a lot of festivals and stuff and would play the gig at the same time. So we would be the band that would show up and play the gig, but also provide the sound for all the other bands. Yeah, but The Click had the gear on the other side. They were the competitors to what we were doing.
MARK: Right, because Rob is big into gear.
DETLEV: Oh yeah, he even has a truck tricked out so he can drive it around.
MARK: He has forty Nexo Systems today.
DETLEV: I can only imagine he never stopped. I mean, why would he bother quitting?
MARK: This is really cool. This was an early connector point for you. Rob and I were neighbors for 12 years, one of my best friends in Bend, and somehow you and I didn’t meet. Clay and I have the same birthday, so we’ve spent a couple birthday lunches together just for grins back then when The Click was going on. They played at our wedding. My wife and I married in 1990. Anyways, so now Image First comes along…
DETLEV: They hired me because of my music background. But I was also programming by then doing some development and that sort of thing. So by that time they wanted to pull me in as their token windows guy, because they were an all Mac studio, with the image first; the image is that they were doing poster printing, video, and lots of stuff… Kahneeta Resort hired us to go out there and shoot the whole resort with QuickTime VRs and create a sort of virtual reality web-based thing; way ahead of its time. We’re talking about 96.
MARK: I think we were still dialing in back then.
DETLEV: I programmed in the lingo programming language for Shock Wave, and I was doing piece meal downloading in the background while you were viewing video, so it never stopped.
MARK: That was ahead of its time.
DETLEV: I think so, yes. The functions were all there, I just had to exploit them, but I had to write it all out. And so, it was an interesting experience because I got into designing these web destinations for a variety of people, and also putting a lot of the contend on CD ROMs as well, back then which was new technology. I remember for one cardiac heart surgeon “rock star” in his own right, was using medical equipment that was ahead of its time, and the manufacturers paid for video of his surgery, and we produced that whole thing. So we went into the OR in Bend, St. Charles, captured the whole thing on video, produced video for him and I was the person who created the CD Rom that had multi-layers of video – all using QuickTime technologies, to click on hot spots in the video which would open up subsequent videos going four levels deep on videos, so that people could click the instrument and find out more information about it and see another video on it. And I wrote all of the music for that CD. That was in the mid 90’s a little bit later 96/97.
MARK: Is Image First still around today?
DETLEV: I imagine the folks Don and Maureen are still doing their stuff. I don’t really know if Image First is still around. I kind of lost touch because in that business it was sort of a feast or famine thing too, so what ended up happening was on a moment when it was literally a good sort of time that I could go into a different opportunity, take a big chance, and get into the whole marketing and agency world, I had somebody from Empire Net, give me a bug in the ear saying there was this multi-media marketing group that are looking for what you do, because I was developing websites and optimizing them.
MARK: Now let me back up, what was your first one? What did you do?
DETLEV: Clients asked.
MARK: They said, “We’re not showing up at the Engines.”
MARK: And this was with Image First?
MARK: So Image First got into the web and started using websites.
DETLEV: Yes, definitely got into the web, although a lot of what we were selling was outside of the web; the web was an extension of. Like those macromedia files and lingo that I was programming was downloading from the web, you put the CD into the tray and web content gets sucked down. So it would be live content that you’re looking at – the latest document. So if you’re looking at statistics for medical instruments, it would be good to have the latest information on that device available to you, so you’re doing it all CD Rom/Web combination and then just toss the CD and went straight web. We were even hired for the PC-Cillin anti-virus company.
MARK: Trend Micro?
DETLEV: That’s right. So we were doing that kind of stuff using all of these media. So, we had some good times, and when we hit a dry stretch I heard through I think it was Mike out of Empire Net… I think he was in a band called the Gin Blossoms…
MARK: Mike, he worked along-side of David Lindeman, right? Fair complexion, younger guy, I remember, I just can’t remember his last name. But it was Mike and Dave, and then of course Pat Oliver; and then Teek Mohill came on a little later on.
DETLEV: Yeah. Oh boy, fun time. So, I went and interviewed with Marshall and Adam Sherk at the Café Paradiso. What I showed Marshall were sites that I had optimized and gotten top rankings in Infoseek, AltaVista, Hotbot, all the hottest engines, and it was a frames-based site.
MARK: Get the junk off the I frame and put the meat right up front.
DETLEV: Well there was a little bit of code to it where you could see the landing page, but it would java redirect page to page so that it would re-constitute the frames in context for what got the ranking. The page that got the ranking wasn’t the frame set, it was the internal document, and then I wrote a little code that would detect what page it is, so that on the reload it wouldn’t be out of context, because the last thing you want is to get a ranking on a page and have it redirect to the home page, so it was basically a redirect; but ultimately back then it was how you did things.
MARK: Right. This is pioneer material here. This is very early.
DETLEV: I showed him that and I had the same rankings for Disney collectibles and sports autographs for a company called Mountain High Coins and Collectibles, which may still be there; we had done their website, and I got the rankings across Infoseek, AltaVista, Hotbot, you name it, all the search engines, Excite, for both of those keywords, and Marshall said, “That’s it. We’ve got to have this guy.”
MARK: So when did you start there at MMG?
DETLEV: I think it was 98.
MARK: And which building were they in?
DETLEV: They were still in the old building but I didn’t have to start there, I got interviewed and I did the tour there, and it was right at that moment when they move to the new building so for my whole MMG experience it was at the new building.
MARK: You were hired on during that big expansion.
MARK: Wow. So that was 98; ten years ago. This industry that we’re in is so very young. Its baby talk still; lots of work to do.
DETLEV: There is no doubt about that. One thing I did in ’99 which people still do today, but I don’t recommend it because it’s an old trick from ’99, I was working with Marshall and we had I think it was Nordstrom or JC Penny, I don’t remember which, but I was looking at their template and it was nested table after nested table after nested table; and I had created this way of using empty cells and cell spans in an empty cell to sneak the center code all the way inside all these tables and have it appear at the top of the code ; the so-called empty cell table layout work-around. I snuck that in, in ’99. I was the first one to do it and we invented it right there on the spot. It was because I had this huge nested table Nordstrom code, and I had to figure out how to optimize and get this content up because it was literally buried in nested tables.
MARK: And it would just never make it that far.
DETLEV: Well it would be an issue where you would have navigation code and other kinds of bits of content that didn’t really belong further up and closer to the top. One of the things the search engines definitely use is the signals; when and how quickly do you mention the words that are important? Chances are it’s going to be above the fold. If it’s above the fold it’s the first thing users see after they land and after the click; so the whole point is to make sure they get that signal. Now tables can screw that way up because if the last cell you write is your content, and all of the other cells above it is your header and navigation and everything else, then you have these nested tables getting in the way of that signal, and it’s not that it’s this super duper most powerful SEO trick, but it’s definitely a good one and still has an issue today; although today I wouldn’t even design with tables because it’s an old trick.
MARK: But if you had an old table and you’re stuck with it, there’s your answer.
DETLEV: There you go. I did that in ’99.
MARK: That’s awesome. So there were definitely other people at this time doing search from all over the country, but here in this teeny town in Oregon, you were there, a gentlemen by the name of Marshall Simmonds, the guy who interviewed you and hired you was there, Adam Audette’s father John has an online agency, not many of those running back then.
DETLEV: Back then we called it Vonline Agency; that was the tagline.
MARK: Yeah, plenty of those here today. There’s more to Bend’s story. Derek Wheeler; he was involved. Was he already at MMG when you got there?
DETLEV: He was there and he was part of Bill Garnet’s team if I recall correctly. His desk wasn’t too far from mine, so Derek and I became great friends.
MARK: Bill Hunt and Jeremy Sanchez.
MARK: Any others? Who can you think of that was in it then, that is still in it today?
DETLEV: Well Adam Sherk is still in it today. It really got quite big while I was there, but the original crew, especially in search, would have been James Putney has to be mentioned. He was the guy who really taught me a lot of the code stuff. I’d say my SEO sensibilities were from Marshall, and I got my, “Ok how to we go about doing the code work for this?” from James Putney. Now I was doing SEO before but these guys were pretty important in my own sort of how I treated SEO from that moment on; because I had done this redirecting issue with the Mountain High Coins and Collectables, and I seriously might have gone one way or another, black hat would have been perfectly fine. Now for the record I can say that it was Marshall and James Putney who steered me away from Black Hat, and forever I’ll kick myself because I probably would have made a lot more money. Ha-ha. But on the better side, I’m not looking over my shoulder waiting for my last project to go poof, and I enjoy thoroughly that I do make money now and the fact that back then going up against cloakers was a pretty tough sale, but now…
MARK: Not cloakers like us because we were only doing the legitimate cloaking; I wanted to make sure I get that in there.
DETLEV: No, I mean literally, big brands. I always thought that big brands shouldn’t be cloaking, not for SEO. If they do IP redirection it’s a different story, it’s for GO or some other kind of reason it’s fine, but to actually do it for the purposes of optimizing code – that I think is inappropriate. So, literally I think that I can continue to do big brand SEO and I’m not off base where I think most black hatters are when they go in and consult with big brands, I think they’re off base more than half the time. I go in there and I listen to the stories and I go, “God, you heard what from who?” And I think, “Ok you have to erase that because XYZ…” I know I got it because you can accomplish those things white hat especially if you’re a big brand, for Goodness sakes you have an unfair advantage to start with.
MARK: Right. That’s cool. That was a great recap of your introduction into search, I appreciate it very much. There are a lot of people that come into this space, and I’m afraid, they come to a show and it can become intimidating, “How do I get started? How do I get started?” So one of the purposes of these series of articles as I interview these, I don’t want to say old timers, but some of the folks that have been at this for a long time, and we re-visit their first steps, it’s for everyone to realize that we just take our first step and we just get going.
DETLEV: Oh yeah, look for the low hanging fruit. I mean it depends on if you’re going to be an in-house or if you’re going to be an agency. If you’re going to be an agency you better know where to find that low-hanging fruit for any type of client that there is. And that is that you should know within ten minutes, I mean I’m talking conservatively, you should know within thirty seconds what the problem is going to be when you hit a site, because there is still so much opportunity out there, every site out there is practically garbage when it comes to search engines.
MARK: And there is about a hundred million sites.
DETLEV: You know Google’s got 7 billion pages in its index, how many of those are sites? Yeah, a hundred million sites plus. And so the fact is that there is more than enough opportunity. This is an exciting space, and I would encourage anyone to get in the game, because there’s no end, there’s no glass ceiling; it’s just go go go. The fact is that you have to be able to know with just a blink of an eye, what is facing this site. It is very rare that you will have to come across a site where you have to blink twice where you say, “You know, on first glance that must be the perfect SEO site,” and actually have to dig for something? Ha, no. The fact is that you can find in just about any site, room for improvement; even those so-called optimized sites. I had a site consulting job recently where the site was quote un-quote, “perfect to the max,” and I did have to look, and I would say that it’s one of the first times in my career.
MARK: Oh my gosh.
DETLEV: Yeah, and I did find it.
MARK: I was going to stick you on our site, but maybe I should hold off.
DETLEV: Well, one thing that experience does buy me, and I’m lucky that way and it’s not experience that is unique to me and it’s not something that can’t be learned quickly, is that for the most part these things come naturally by focusing on knowing and this is what we used to say a lot in the old days, “What the search engines want,” not to say, “What I want from the search engine,” and literally that key unlocks a lot of doors. So you’re saying, “So the search engines want people to click on the results that are top ten,” I mean, you would be full hearty thinking that they don’t, right? So if they want people to click those results there is a simple little stat, when the keyword is in a title, clicks on that listing go up by fifty percent, I mean, duh. So alright, you get the keyword in the title because it’s going to appear in the search result, but if you look at the character space you’re allowed in a title that’s going to display count it and then look at your titles, and if you’ve got two hundred plus characters, and you go back and you look and see that there is only sixty two or sixty four characters allowed, guess what you should do? Just take a wild guess.
MARK: Make it smaller.
DETLEV: Bingo. So if your keywords are in the title where the title displays text to the user, do you not think that is where it should be? Now if people are thinking, “Ok, well I’ll stuff all of the keywords in the first sixty or so characters and then I’ll stuff the rest of the title with a whole bunch of garbage,” it’s like, “wait a minute, don’t you think they know that?” Is it so hard of a leap to realize that after sixty four characters the search engines, who know their own home page very well, they know that after sixty some characters nothing is displayed to the user. Why would they give those words any freaking weight? All you’re doing is really watering it down for the set that comes in front. So there is an “advanced SEO tip” quote un-quote, that is literally so obvious it should be smacked on everybody’s head, and that’s the place to start. If you’re in SEO, learn that. Learn what the search engines want. They want people to click on the results in the top ten. They want to know that those users who click and visit the sites are satisfied with the resulting sites. And they are going to be looking for these things, and sure there can be a top ten or a number one ranking in Google for a page that has a title that is five hundred characters long, but knowing this other fact doesn’t take away from that other situation, because that site with the five hundred character title could be miserable failure. It could be George Bush’s bio page with miserable failure, Google bombing, it’s there by virtue of some other fact. So if you want to SEO you want to fire on all cylinders, and that means making sure you get your ducks in a row, and getting your ducks in a row is paying very close attention to that title and making sure that you are going to do that right, because you want no only the ranking, but you want the user to click on your ranking, and Google wants that too, and so does Yahoo and everyone else.
MARK: Ask is another one I’ve heard about.
DETLEV: Yeah, the old Jeeves with the red tie. Ha-ha. So literally, that’s the key. Just know what the search engines want and that’s the key to unlocking all of this mystery of SEO. Keeping that focus will allow you, as a new person in SEO, to invent your own freaking tricks, your own table. I knew the search engines wanted to find those words close to the top of the copy, above the fold. I knew how to give them that signal, because it was there in the display, but the code didn’t make it obvious; so the table cell work-around was a simple, here is the signal, the text is actually above the fold.
MARK: Right; that’s excellent advice. It is fun to see a lot of new folks getting involved, whether they’re in-house, a future agency, or just someone trying to work on their own site. It seems like the conference attendee count just keeps going up, and half the people or a third of the people are relatively new. So, I have a couple more names for Bend, that’s excellent. Maybe I should take the opposite angle, and say, “Hey, I’m trying to prove that it wasn’t Bend, and end up…”
DETLEV: Well, if you did that you would find Danny’s name obviously; he didn’t grow up in Bend. He loves Bend, and he came to Bend, and MMG hired him to fly out and train in Bend. You would find a little group out of St. Louis, WGI now part of the Outriders, so they almost became what MMG became. And then you have Iprospect out there – a pretty early-day company.
MARK: And then Bruce Clay?
DETLEV: Bruce Clay was doing his tools, and we used the Keyword Density Analyzer. He had developed that tool and had that tool going, and we were using it. The only time I stopped using that was when PositionPro and Position Technologies tools, which were content analyzing tools, went beyond Density. They were ones that were a little trickier because they were ones that were able to pull phraseology, so that was a good key, because it was a mental leap that I asked everybody I trained at MMG using Bruce Clay’s tool to make phrases out of those words that had high-density, and put them together and look for them on the page, and that’s how you optimize. Being able to get divorced from that, and going right to a tool that actually did the phrases itself – that was key, and that would be Jim Stob, Position Technologies.
MARK: Right, he’s on my list. I haven’t gotten an email replied from him; I don’t know if you still communicate with him, but it would be great if you did so you could let him know what I’m up to and that this is going to be a lot of fun. Right now I’m looking for the old-old; later I’ll be getting into the late 90’s early 2000 generation. Right now I really am focusing on that mid-90’s folks and on up to 2000. It’s not a very long list really – these names that people keep dropping – there’re not a lot of new names.
DETLEV: No, we used to say that there were only like five real SEO experts out there.
MARK: Name them.
DETLEV: Shari Thurow, Myself, Marshall Simmonds, Greg Boser, and I think we lumped in Danny for the celebrity. Ha-ha.
MARK: He’s such a nice guy; everybody loves Danny.
DETLEV: Yeah, so I think that would be a good version of the five. I’m sure someone else would give you a different version varying one or two of the names, but I think that would encompass Marshall, Myself, Greg Boser, Shari, and Danny.
MARK: I didn’t know Greg was around back then.
DETLEV: You know he definitely qualifies. I remember running into a common client back around 2000, so if he was new then you’d have to find out. I don’t really know, but I do know him from 2000. So he is considered first gen. You could definitely say Bruce Clay, but Bruce Clay at that time was known more of as a tool maker than an SEO, so that’s the only reason I didn’t bring out his name.
MARK: And no one heard of us, we were just silent, not quiet but silent.
DETLEV: You know, like Kevin Lee back then was doing cloaking, like you guys right. He created it and then did it, and it was a whole PPC game for him. No one really knows of his background as an organic cloaking SEO.
MARK: Interesting. What does the rest of the conference look like for you; are you done? Have you spoken your last?
DETLEV: Oh no, I have one more panel coming up in less than an hour, so pretty soon I’ll probably roll – link building from 4 to 5.
MARK: So what are you doing these days? What is your company all about?
DETLEV: Search Return. There was this I-Search list you’ve probably heard about; Marshall picked it off and I took it over for Marshall.
MARK: Yes, and I-Sales before that.
DETLEV: I-Sales before that was the thing that made John really, and I-Search is what kind of made it for us. And literally, the success and fun I had with I-Search was awesome. When John sold the properties over to…
DETLEV: No, he kept it separate which I thought was smart.
MARK: Oh, that’s right.
DETLEV: He sold it to the fellow who turned it into marketing Wonk which. He folded the membership into his own newsletter and it kind of killed the whole thing. I’m silly for not remembering because he’s a great name. But anyway, the I-Search list had that problematic demise, and it was such a cool resource, that what I had done with Search Return was when I got the domain and started putting a site up, I realized I’d love to do another list, and I would want to model it after I-Search, but the days of digest posting group kind of style I-Search thing, wasn’t really working. It works great for LED with Adam, for some reason Search Return never took off that same way. I don’t think people associated it with the same sort of style-interaction. So what I do now and again is put out my own thoughts. I have thousands of readers, so it’s great for me to just pontificate on something and put something out. Literally what I want to do with Search Return ultimately as a website is for it to be a destination for resources. Not just SEO and information, but other things that I might put in there, you know, media things and potentially tools. When I do this tool thing, a lot of the information at least will be available by Search Return and I hope to use the list then for a forum for that sort of thing.
MARK: So are you a sole proprietor? Or do you have a gang of folks somewhere or contractors or a company with employees?
DETLEV: I definitely have a Gang, and I have them in Oregon believe it or not. Not far from Bend… Halfway… I’ve got a gang of PPC folks in Halfway that are handling operations of PPC from day-to-day for me, and tucked away in Halfway is perfect for them, because they can literally manage the accounts 24/7. I’m still utilizing Oregon talent, and I’m partnered with Heather who lives in Portland, so I plan to frequent Oregon quite a bit.
MARK: How do I know Heather?
DETLEV: When I was working at Position Tech, Heather and I banded together and we created a combination that really can’t be beat. So starting in 2001 when we got together and for several years there-after, I moved up to Washington where she is and we conducted our business there with Success Works. She’s still doing Success Works, and ultimately even though we’ve decided to move on in our separate ways, we still do a lot of business together.
MARK: What’s her last name?
DETLEV: Heather Lloyd Martin.
MARK: I should know that. Is she involved with SEMpdx?
DETLEV: Yes, to a limited degree she has been out there. Heather had invented in the 90’s sort of SEO copy writing and sort of re-tooled that whole copy writing for the web space to include search engines; the first one to really do it. She wrote about it. She had the Rank write newsletters with Jill Whalen, and when she and I got together we had our own Success Works and we really built out a brand for SEO copy writing, largely on her writing and her gaining ground, because copy writing content is such a huge part of SEO, that I was lucky to be able to follow along and catch a little ride on her coat tails, which was great. I learned that side of things. I was too geeky and technology focused before 2001, two years of SEO, going up against the likes of Greg Boser did that to me. What ended up happening was that I came back out of this relationship with Heather firing on all cylinders content wise too. So what I like to do is continue to partner with Heather because we finish each other’s thoughts, we finish each other’s sentences, so she and I have a number of things planned for continuing that relationship.
MARK: Are you looking for new clients, and if so who is a perfect fit for your organization? Or are you pretty much booked out?
DETLEV: Well I have a lot of booked-out time. The things I like are things that seem like an interesting challenging puzzle, and something where the success would be great fun to watch, so I look for that type of new business, and I would certainly take them on. The ability with Heather in partnering with her on content and myself doing all of the technology, that partnership and that arrangement, and the other people that I pull into the mix, you know Link Building – Eric Ward – I can assemble a dream team of folks to work on a client, and I love doing that. I have a couple of those projects going now that I just thoroughly enjoy. So if another one came along that was like that I wouldn’t turn it away.
MARK: What’s like a minimum engagement?
DETLEV: A minimum engagement…
MARK: Where does it get started for someone? You wouldn’t want to get the wrong kind of phone call.
DETLEV: Right, well, in terms of minimum engagement, if it was somebody who for instance like you and I are getting together to do this, there is some time that I can sell which is fine. You know it would be an hour engagement, but that’s it. If they want more than an hour, then we’re talking about something where they are going to want to buy into some kind of consulting package, and there are various levels of that, or employ me for an actual engagement on a project… now that carries with it some minimums.
MARK: Ok. And then if you were going to get involved in a project that was going to last 12 months, would you need to see x numbers per month, or what get’s you warmed up?
DETLEV: Well, what gets me warmed up is when people are willing to spend on a monthly basis. And it could be PPC spend where they allocate most of their dollars, but even for managing that we’re going to be talking about a few thousand dollars per month for the entire 12 month engagement. I’m not quite as high a bar to jump over I say in Iprospect where their minimum engagement is 12 or 20 thousand dollars per month. But for me I’ll do shorter term, and I’ll do a few thousand bucks if it’s something that’s interesting and can be done at that level. See I always scope every engagement on a custom basis. I don’t want to sell somebody something for three to five thousand per month and their problems really necessitate 10, 15, or 20; you know that’s a huge problem that we both face. I can’t be effective, and they don’t get the value. If they’re willing to spend three to five thousand per month, their project has to suffice for that. And that could be a big brand. It could be a big brand that says, “We’re just looking for the finer edges here. We’re already working with agency xyz. We want you to watch them.” I’ve been hired in that capacity. That’s an interesting job, and something that I don’t need, a minimum of 10k per month.
MARK: Cool. Well, yeah, there’s lots of work out there that’s for sure.
DETLEV: Tons of work out there.
DETLEV: I can think of three projects that I have going right now that are consulting, and at least two of them are huge major brands, and they could use a better CMS system – one that has what they are looking for and isn’t going to eat it with search engines like they are today.
MARK: Could you rattle off a few things, to get behind this CMS, it needs to have… we already talked about title tags…
DETLEV: You have to have control over those issues, but you still want to have the ability to do dynamically generated. So if you could have rules based dynamically generated titles, if you’re dealing with a site that has millions of URLs you need that. Who’s going to go in and optimize one million titles? You can hire out to Indiaford if you like, but even then it’s not efficient, because dynamic there’s nothing like a machine doing it, in that case scenario, so there’s that. Architecture is huge, so the architecture needs to be smart, or you have to pyramid the three things.. I think I was talking about that in the last session… think of it like the top level page, the category levels, and the page level. So that architecture needs to be smart, and then if you’ve got find tools which would be great because right now as SEOs some people (and it’s a perfectly valid technique) somebody actually recommended this to someone following that discussion on stage… where you can go into a search engine and find a page that has x words on it simple, just refine by site and look for those words, duh right? So you get that list and then you can go in there and edit those words to be links to other pages and that’s how you can distribute page rank down to the page level from category level pages and other important pages. Because if it’s in the search index it’s important, if it shows up at the top of a list of a search like that, it’s important, that page you can target for a deeper link if you want to lift that page in a deeper site. You make your choices by keyword research. So I mean, things like that are part of the process of SEO today, so anything that you can do to say, find me the words that match my keyword research in the content I have today, so that I can go work on it.
MARK: In a rules based title tag automated system, what kinds of things do you want to see in terms of a list of rules?
DETLEV: Well I would make sure the rules hit with the importance of decision making, because writing a title is half decision making and half art; decision making because you have limited space, you have to make choices and you have to decide; the art comes in with what kind of flare you are going to put into it that is going to include your keywords, and write copy that is going to get somebody to click. So the first decision is do I include the brand? Now if you’re a brand, you’d be foolish not to unless you’re International Business Machines, that’s fifty characters alone, but if you’re IBM you better have it at the front of the title of every page in your entire site, because if you don’t you’re blowing it. On the brand itself, on a brand that size, is going to increase the clicks on your result out of everything else. So if someone just types in laptop, and IBM is number five, even if Dell is number one, if they are inclined towards IBM because they’re hit by that other brand marketing they can click number five and you know that’s a win for IBM hugely over Dell, right, so if Dell doesn’t have Dell at the front, if they just have laptop, Dell is blowing it. If Dell is at the end of the title, they’re blowing it. HP? HP better have HP at the front of every title of every page across the entire site.
MARK: So if we went down on the fortune fifty thousand, when would that rule…?
DETLEV: Run out.
DETLEV: Yes, because it does.
MARK: Yes, and all of us would love to think, “No, no, no, not my brand.”
DETLEV: But if you’re Joe’s Fish and Tackle out of San Jose, CA…
MARK: “Everybody knows me I’m Joe.”
DETLEV: “I’m Joe, yeah; I want to brand my site!” That’s the other question, if you want to increase your brand. Well, if you’re Joe’s Fish and Tackle and you’re not Joe’s Crab Shack, which is a brand, right…
MARK: Yes, are they in the top thousand or two thousand?
DETLEV: Probably top five thousand, I don’t really know, I mean you’ve got Red Lobsters… So I mean, you have an issue if you’re really Joe’s Fish and Tackle and you’re just one store operating out of one area branding is not that important, and so you can include it or not include it; I recommend not including it and making sure if you don’t include it to put it in the description.
MARK: Right. Great place for it.
DETLEV: Great place for it, and if it appears great, if it doesn’t so what. So, in-between are sites where you may think, “well I want it, but it’s not important to put it in the front. Can’t I just include it at the end?” The answer is, “No way Jose!” you put it at the end, you’re blowing it, because if you put the brand at the end, first of all it doesn’t display unless you keep it within the 64 characters and if you do that you’re really reducing your character count for the other stuff, and if it’s not important enough to put it in the front you’re making the wrong decision, so that rule you can write out in text when they start writing their tags as a little helper.
MARK: And after 64 it’s just dilution.
DETLEV: After that, yeah. You’re just throwing water into the mix. If you want a strong solution… water is fine, and it’ll work, but it’s not what you want.
MARK: Cool. This has been good. You’ve been very generous with your time, thank you.
DETLEV: Yeah, and I have to roll now because it’s getting close.
MARK: Thanks again, I appreciate it.