Over the past year, Italian SEO and inbound marketer Alessio Madeyski (@madeale on Twitter) has been running a great series called Meet Your SEO. Every week, Alessio would interview an individual working in the SEO industry, usually asking them the same set of questions. For us working in the industry, it was interesting to get very personal insights into the best tips, biggest pet peeves and favourite drinks (caffeinated, alcoholic or otherwise!) of renowned SEOs based all over the world.
Before recently deciding to take a hiatus on the series, Alessio had accumulated 32 interviews: 31 Meet Your SEO interviews as well as one Meet Your Marketer interview. I approached Alessio and asked if he would mind if I analysed the interviews, basically consolidating all the answers and seeing what the ‘combined’ answers would be from this portion of people in the industry. I’m glad to report that Alessio gave me his blessing to do so, which is fantastic.
In addition to the 32 from Alessio’s site, I’ve also included Gaz Copeland of Stoked SEO’s ‘takeover’ interview, where he interviewed the interviewer over on his site. So it’s 33 in all.
Firstly, some general geographical information:
The US was the most highly represented country, with 16 (48%) interviewees. The UK came second with 8 (24%). Other countries included Canada, Germany (twice), Israel, Italy, Pakistan, the Philippines and Spain (twice).
Out of the US states, Pennsylvania was the most highly represented, with 4 interviewees (and I’m pretty sure most – if not all – of them are based in or near Philadelphia). Joint-second were California, North Carolina and New Jersey with 2 each. The rest were Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
The when wasn’t straightforward to calculate, as some people gave vague-ish answers – e.g. covering a range of years – or no answer at all, so it may not be 100% accurate, but here’s a graph roughly depicting 29 of the answers:
To put it another way, almost half of the interviewees entered SEO around 2006-8.
As an aside, it’s very encouraging how some of the industry’s best and brightest have only been in the industry for a few short years. For example, Jason Acidre (aka Kaiserthesage) has only been doing SEO since 2010, which I found truly astonishing given the quality and insight of his blog posts and his ranking on Inbound.org. It’s inspirational to those who are new to SEO – there’s nothing to say that you can’t join the industry now and be one of its best by 2014…
As for the why, that’s even harder, given that every response was personal and unique to each individual. Two things I picked up on are that some people discovered SEO after starting their own websites, while others stumbled into it purely by accident.
I accidentally became an SEO on February 26, 2010 – that’s the date when I was first hired to be an SEO by an Australian-based SEO agency, and I didn’t know anything about it, even what SEO means during that time! I needed the money that time (because of I have to, for my son), so I tried searching for a writing job, then I emailed this agency, as I saw their job posting on craigslist, then when they emailed me back, they asked if I’ll be interested to work as an SEO for them instead of being a writer (they thought/feel that I’m fit for the job), so I said yes.
A great tip about onpage optimization?
Optimising the title tag was given as the most popular onsite tip. Other honourable mentions include:
- Having a good internal linking structure
- Writing naturally (i.e. not forcing keywords into copy)
- Writing unique content site-wide
- Implementing rich snippets (e.g. Schema.org)
Title tag, everybody knows it’s important but very few people know the real art of crafting the right title that can help the website to get benefit from search engine and at the same time it looks really catchy to the reader.
The most stupid thing people believe about onpage optimization?
8 people (24%) mentioned keyword density as this biggest onsite pet peeve, regarding how people believe there to be a magic percentage and that they have to abide by it. The next most popular was keyword stuffing, with 4 mentions (12%).
A great tip on how you build links?
The most popular link building tip? Building relationships and networking. Other honourable mentions:
- Conducting outreach
- Planning strategy
- Encouraging natural linking
Network, network, network. I follow the PR approach to link building, build relationships with people. Search for the influencers in your niche who have the power to broadcast your message and get to know them.
The most stupid thing you heard about linkbuilding?
The answers here were very varied! Almost everyone gave a unique answer or spoke about a different aspect of bad/dodgy link building. However, a couple of people each mentioned the following:
- Automation is necessary (or that not automating is foolish)
- “Creating great content” is all that’s needed to succeed
- Link building is easy
- Link building is dead
If you have to explain what you do at a 10 year-old kid, what are you gonna say?
I’m leaving this one out, as the answers are all very different. Here’s my favourite answer though:
What do you drink when seoing?
Let’s start with the tame (read: non-alcoholic) answers first…
Do SEOs prefer Coke or Pepsi? Coke wins 5 to 2.
Do SEOs prefer regular or diet Coke/Pepsi? Diet wins, also 5 to 2.
I’m sure Ian Lurie would approve on both counts.
And somewhat unsurprisingly, 23 interviewees (70%) drink coffee. There were a few tea drinkers in there, too.
Now onto the fun part…
The ultimate question: what is an SEO’s favourite alcoholic drink?
The answer? Beer! Beer was mentioned by 10 interviewees (30%), followed by whisky, which was mentioned by 7 (21%). The fact that beer came first and IPAs were also mentioned confirms Emma Still’s suspicions that many of us SEOs are fond of our beer.
Red wine was favoured over white wine, plus there were mentions of gin & tonic and cocktails. And of course, let’s not forget Chris Dyson’s list…
- Mouthful of red wine
- “Lighter fluid”
- Double gin
- Finger of cider (with ice)
- Finger of cider (with ice)
- Finger of cider (with ice)
- Glass of sherry
- Two big chugs of sherry
- [30 other bullet-points containing alcoholic drinks]
or diet coke.
I should point out that at the end of Peter Attia’s interview, Alessio had started to become worried that “SEOs seem to drink quite a lot when SEOing” – given Chris’ response, I’m not surprised!
What do you think about SEO community?
It’s tough to do a proper analysis on this one, too. Generally, the sentiment is positive, although a few people feel that the industry may be too nice insofar as it is not challenged enough.
I do get a bit frustrated at the rubber stamp part of the community. I wish we’d be more committed to testing things out ourselves instead of taking ‘expert’ opinion (even my own) as gospel.
I’d also like to see a higher level of intellectual honesty in evaluating what’s really valuable within our industry regardless of who or where it was published. I want more quality, more authenticity and less ‘me too’.
Make yourself a question and give an answer…
An odd one to include perhaps, but I was curious to see if multiple SEOs asked themselves the same question. But as it turns out, every question was unique.
The majority of them were related to SEO, but a couple were general, including a few to do with music.
Here’s my favourite though… 😉
(Sorry, can’t think of any other question haha). Yeah, there are some that I do admire in the industry like Steph Chang of Distilled, Hanna Poferl, Lauren Litwinka of AimClear, and Joanna Lord of SEOmoz.
Who is your biggest SEO influence?
Our 33 interviewees mentioned a total of 94 people that they’ve considered an influence on them in terms of SEO. That’s nearly 3 influencers per interviewee, although it varied, with some interviewees only offering one (or not specifying anyone individually at all), right up to the likes of Jonathan Colman, who referenced a total of 19 people.
Two people had 5 mentions/votes each:
The following had 3 or 4:
- Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan): 4
- Rand Fishkin (@randfish): 4
- SEOmoz (@SEOmoz): 4
- Distilled (@distilled): 3
- Ian Howells (@ianhowells): 3
- Ross Hudgens (@RossHudgens): 3
Of course, it’s not always necessarily our industry’s leaders who can be influential…
New link builders. They’re some of the most creative SEO’s I know. Some of the out of the box ideas I’ve heard from new talent has been quite incredible. When you’ve been doing SEO for a while you start to get some tunnel thought. New folks still don’t know what is and isn’t doable, so they come up with some really clever concepts.
If you weren’t an SEO, what would you like to do?
If Google were to collapse and SEO were to disappear tomorrow, we’d have:
- 5 writers/authors
- 3 chefs
- 3 musicians (one being a rock star)
- 2 teachers
- Multiple brick-and-mortar property/shop owners
- An astronaut
- A fireman
- A gardener
- An assassin/hacker
- One would catch up on sleep
- One would eat pizza (ideally professionally)
- And finally… 2 would be superheroes
When I was younger, I had aspirations to be a surf bum/counselor, hanging on the beach, surfing all day while ‘talking with and inspiring thoughts’ in others. Psychology, “the why of people,” has always been a fascination of mine and was one of my college majors. In my shallowest moments, I thought about being the pool boy at the Playboy Mansion; but, those girls would probably just gawk at me…not appreciating my beautiful insides… As I’m getting older (33! Man, wasn’t I just reading Shakespeare during high school Math class a little while ago?), I’m learning it all starts inside you. I just want to be someone better than the dude yesterday in the mirror each morning…I think the ‘what’ is not as important as the ‘who.’
- …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Lost Songs
- Bellowhead – Broadside
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Also, if anyone has any “who said that?” moments based on the above (where I haven’t specified a name) but you’re struggling to find out for yourself then please feel free to tweet me or leave a comment below and I’ll find out for you. I have some info saved in a spreadsheet – I’d share it publicly, but it’s in one heck of a messy, note-filled state!