TechCrunch Interview of Paul Graham

Paul Graham was recently interviewed on TechCrunch, where he said:

The easiest way to make something people want is to make something you want. What do you wish existed that doesn’t?

Every market has a ton of those opportunities if you know the market well and are passionate about it.

Matt Cutts Talks German SEO Spam

Not in German, but a bit of a focus on Germany in this 29 minute Matt Cutts podcast interview.

Search Engine Cloaking FAQs: an Interview With Dan Kramer, Creator of Kloakit

I recently asked Dan Kramer of KloakIt if I could interview him about some common cloaking questions I get asked, and he said sure.

How does cloaking work?

It is easiest to explain if you first understand exactly what cloaking is. Web page cloaking is the act of showing different content to different visitors based on some criterion, such as whether they are a search engine spider, or whether they are located in a particular country.

A cloaking program/script will look at a number of available pieces of information to determine the identity of a visitor: the IP address, the User-Agent string of the browser, the referring URL, all of which are contained in the HTTP headers of the request for the web page. The script will make a decision based on this information and serve the appropriate content to the visitor.

For SEO purposes, cloaking is done to serve optimized versions of web pages to search engine spiders and hide that optimized version from human visitors.

What are the risks associated with cloaking? What types of sites should consider cloaking?

Many search engines discourage the practice of cloaking. They threaten to penalize or ban those caught using cloaking techniques, so it is wise to plan a cloaking campaign carefully. I tell webmasters that if they are going to cloak, they should set up separate domains from their primary website and host the cloaked pages on those domains. That way, if their cloaked pages are penalized or banned, it will not affect their primary website.

The types of sites that successfully cloak fall into a couple of categories. First, you have those who are targeting a broad range of "long tail" keywords, typically affiliate marketers and so on. They can use various cloaking software packages to easily create thousands of optimized pages which can rank well. Here, quantity is the key.

Next, you have those with websites that are difficult for search engines to index. Some people with Flash-based websites want to present search engine spiders with text versions of their sites that can be indexed, while still delivering the Flash version to human visitors to the same URL.

What is the difference between IP delivery and cloaking?

IP delivery is a type of cloaking. I mentioned above that there are several criteria by which a cloaking script judges the identity of a visitor. One of the most important is the IP address of the visitor.

Every computer on the internet is identified by its IP address. Lists are kept of the IP addresses of the various search engine spiders. When a cloaking script has a visitor, it looks at their IP address and compares it against its list of search engine spider IP addresses. If a match is found, it delivers up the optimized version of the web page. If no match is found, it delivers up the "landing page", which is meant for human eyes. Because the IP address is used to make the decision, it's called "IP delivery".

IP delivery is considered the best method of cloaking because of the difficulty involved in faking an IP address. There are other methods of cloaking, such as by User-Agent, which are not as secure. With User-Agent cloaking, the User-Agent string in the HTTP headers is compared against a list of search engine spider User-Agents. An example of a search engine spider User-Agent is
"Googlebot/2.1 (+".

The problem with User-Agent cloaking is that it is very easy to fake a User-Agent, so your competitor could easily decloak one of your pages by "spoofing" the User-Agent of his browser to make it match that of a search engine spider.

How hard is it to keep up with new IP addresses? Where can people look to find new IP addresses?

It's a chore the average webmaster probably wouldn't relish. There are always new IP addresses to add (the best cloaking software will do this automatically), and it is a never-ending task. First, you have to set up a network of bot-traps that notify you whenever a search engine spider visits one of your web pages. You can have a CGI script that does this for you, and possibly check the IP address against already known search engine spiders. Then, you can take the list of suspected spiders generated that way and do some manual checks to make sure the IP addresses are actually registered to search engine companies. Also, you have to keep an eye out for new search engines... you would not believe how many new startup search engines there are every month.

Instead of doing it all yourself, you can get IP addresses from some resources that can be found on the web. I manage a free public list of search engine spider IP addresses. There
are also some commercial resources available (no affiliation with me). In addition to those lists, you can find breaking info at the Search Engine Spider Identification Forum at WebmasterWorld.

Is cloaking ethical? Or as it relates to SEO is ethics typically a self serving word?

Some would say that cloaking is completely ethical, others disagree. Personally, my opinion is that if you own your website, you have the right to put whatever you like on it, as long as it is legal. You have the right to choose which content you display to any visitor. Cloaking for SEO purposes is done to increase the relevancy of search engine queries... who wants visitors that aren't interested in your site?

On the other hand, as you point out, the ethics of some SEOs are self serving. I do not approve of those who "page-jack" by stealing others content and cloaking it. Also, if you are trying to get rankings for one topic, and sending people to a completely unrelated web page, that is wrong in my book. Don't send kids looking for Disney characters to your porn site.

I have seen many garbage subdomains owning top 10 rankings for 10s to 100s of thousands of phrases in Google recently. Do you think this will last very long?

No, I don't. I believe this is due to an easily exploitable hole in Google's algorithm that really isn't related to cloaking, although I think some of these guys are using cloaking techniques as a traffic management tool. Google is already cleaning up a lot of those SERPs and will soon have it under control. The subdomain loophole will be closed soon.

How long does it usually take each of the engines to detect a site that is cloaking?

That's a question that isn't easily answered. The best answer is "it depends". I've had sites that have never been detected and are still going strong after five or six years. Others are banned after a few weeks. I think you will be banned quickly if you have a competitor who believes you might be cloaking and submits a spam report. Also, if you are creating a massive number of cloaked pages in a short period of time, I think this is a flag for search engines to investigate. Same goes for incoming links... try to get them in a "natural" looking progression.

What are the best ways to get a cloaked site deeply indexed quickly?

My first tip would be to have the pages located on a domain that is already indexed -- the older the better. Second, make sure the internal linking structure is adequate to the task of spidering all of the pages. Third, make sure incoming links from outside the domain link to both the index (home) cloaked page and to other "deep" cloaked pages.

As algorithms move more toward links and then perhaps more toward the social elements of the web do you see any social techniques replacing the effect of cloaking?

Cloaking is all about "on-page" optimizing. As links become more important to cracking the algorithms, the on-page factors decline in importance. The "new web" is focused on the social aspects of the web, with people critiquing others content, linking out, posting their comments, blogging, etc. The social web is all about links, and as links become more of a factor in rankings, the social aspects of the web become more important.

However, while what people say about your website will always be important, what your website actually says (the text indexed from your site) cannot be ignored. The on-page factors in rankings will never go away. I cannot envision "social techniques" (I guess we are talking about spamming Slashdot or Digg?) replacing on-page optimization, but it makes a hell of a supplement... the truly sophisticated spammer will make use of all the tools in his toolbox.

How does cloaking relate to poker? And can you cheat at online poker, or are you just head and shoulders above the rest of the SEO field?

Well, poker is a game of deception. As a pioneer in the cloaking field, I suppose I have picked up a knack for the art of lying through my teeth. In the first SEO Poker Tournament, everybody kept folding to my bluffs. While it is quite tempting to run poker bots and cheat, I find there is no need with my excellent poker skills. Having said all that, I quietly await the next tournament, where I'm sure I'll be soundly thrashed in the first few minutes ;)

How long do you think it will be before search engines can tell the difference between real page content and garbled markov chain driven content? Do you think it will be computationally worthwhile for them to look at that? Or can they leverage link authority and usage data to negate needing to look directly at readability as a datapoint?

I think they can tell now, if they want to devote the resources to it.

However, this type of processing is time/CPU intensive and I'm not sure they want to do it on a massive scale. I'm not going to blueprint the techniques they should use to pick which pages to analyze, but they will have to make some choices. Using link data to weed out pages they don't need to analyze would be nice, but in this age of rampant link selling, link authority may not be as reliable an indicator as they would like. Usage data may not be effective because in order to get it, the page has to be indexed so they can track the clicks, defeating the purpose of spam elimination. There best bet would be to look at creation patterns... look to see which domains are creating content and gaining links at an unreasonable rate.

What is the most amount of money you have ever made from ranking for a misspelled word? And if you are bolder than I am, what word did you spell wrong so profitably?

I made a lot of money from ranking for the word "incorparating". This was waaay back in the day. I probably made (gross) in the high five figures a year for several years from that word. Unfortunately, either people became better spellers or search engines got smarter, because the traffic began declining for the word about four or five years ago.

If I wanted to start cloaking where is the best place to go, and what all should I know before I start? Can you offer SEO Book readers a coupon to get them started with KloakIt?

KloakIt is a great cloaking program for both beginners and advanced users, because it is easy to get running and extremely flexible and powerful. There is a forum for cloakers there where you can go for information and tips. I am also the moderator of the Cloaking Forum over at WebmasterWorld, and I welcome questions and comments there.

SEO Book readers can get a $15.00 discount of a single domain license of KloakIt by entering the coupon code "seobook" into the form on the KloakIt download page. I offer a satisfaction guarantee, and, should you decide to upgrade your license to an unlimited domains license, you can get credit for your original purchase towards the upgrade fee.


Please note that I am not being paid an affiliate commission for KloakIt downloads, and I have not deeply dug in to try out the software yet. I just get lots of cloaking questions and wanted to interview an expert on the topic, and since Dan is a cool guy I asked him.

Thanks for the interview Dan. If you have any other questions for Dan ask them below and I will see if I can ask Dan if he would be willing to answer them.

Blog Usability Interview with Kim Krause Berg

A while ago I contacted Kim Krause Berg for a usability review, but I threw a curve ball in on her. I asked her how I could make this blog more usable. I believe Kim is the first person who has ever offered blog usability review services.

Her feedback was why I made the changes mentioned here, and many other site improvements. I asked her if she would let me interview her about blogs and blog usability and she said sure. The interview is in the extended area of this post.

How long have you been a blogger?

Since July 2002, one month before Cre8asiteforums went live. My friend, Bill Slawski, had one and his enthusiasm and support gave me the incentive to try it. I started with two blogs, one for SEO news and another one for personal stuff. I removed the personal one quickly after realizing talking about myself was too depressing.

My SEO news buddies then were Andy Beal, Peter DaVanzo and Kalena Jordan. We were considerate of each other, so there was very little news overlap or stealing of stories. When other SEO news blogs poured in, I was ready to begin branching off into the field I was moving into, which is usability. Now I blog about both topics. I write for two other blogs besides mine - SERoundtable and Cre8tive Flow when I can squish out the time.

Which blogs do you find most interesting and / or inspirational?

SEOMoz is the one I visit every day. It's never boring. I hate to be bored. Jeff Zeldman writes creative post titles that lure me in like fishing from the creek. I always visit because I'm afraid I might miss something special, such as the birthday post he recently wrote to his late mother. His blog is an example of a Christmas stocking blog. There's always the promise of finding something in there to play with.

I like good teaching blogs, like 456 Berea Street and some of the larger blogs with staffs that supply a constant supply of research and articles, such as Putting People First and Boxes and Arrows. As you can see, I'm a boring bloggee. I read blogs to learn something, rather than be entertained. If I can be entertained, while I'm devouring research, all the better.

I scan about 150 blogs on an almost daily basis. If I know the person personally, as in someone from the SEO industry, I monitor their blog as if I'm waiting for a telephone call from them. I also hunt for examples of blogs that represent a segment of blogging, such as corporate blogging. For that, I like Debbie Weil's Blogwrite for CEO's . I'm not a regular at women-only blogs, though Blogher is a dynamite blog when I want a gender fix and LipSticking because of the honest writing. I don't have time for blogs outside my work interests, and yet when one of my favorite bloggers sets off on a tangent and goes off topic, I'm hanging on their every word.

I like bloggers who talk to me, not at me.

In the blog usability review you mentioned human emotional connection: What blogs do you see that do it well?

Very few. I have two memorable examples of how powerful the human connection is with blogs and how it's the best marketing tool of all.

I came upon two blogs that blew me away while aimlessly roaming around places like Technorati and Bloglines. Both initially caught me with their post title that appeared in the feed. Both had a first sentence that forced me in, against my will. The first blog example turned out to be a hilarious story written by a NYC male escort who had a disastrous date who happened to not be a client. She was such a screamer and so loud he was terrified he'd be ejected from his apartment complex due to the noise. What made this so fun wasn't the story as much as how well it was told in the blog.

The other find was more amazing because the post title was simple, and yet I was compelled to click on it. It turned out to be this searing, touching piece written by a father whose little girl had just died. I was an emotional wreck when I finished reading it. So much so that I had to write about it in mine. "The Extreme Human Power Behind Blogs Is Not For Sale" It had a true impact on readers. Even now, as I re-visit the post that I found "Dear Elena" I get choked up.

Blogs unite the humanity of us. Even business and corporate blogs. It can be pleasant to discover the CEO who has feelings or business that has time to talk to us. Not every blog wants to reach out for a group hug, but I have a soft spot for those that do. Web sites can be empty holes on the Internet, where you wonder where their people went.

Is an emotional connection more of a requirement with blogging than other types of web publishing?

No. I look for the emotional connection on all sites I evaluate. We're social creatures. We're translating this to the Web in many ways, like MySpace and Linked in. The latter is dry and as thrilling as a rolodex until you start reading what people have to say about people they've worked with. Humans are the ones with the credit cards, not search engine bots. Humans go to the Internet when they're lonely. Political blogs thrive on the emotional connection. Character blogs may be failing, however, because of their nature. One of the actors from the TV Show "Invasion" had a blog, written from the perspective of his character. The blog has been removed. Steve Rubel notes the demise of other character blogs, saying, "Character blogs are a waste of time because a character is not and never will be human - unless it's Pinocchio."

What types of blogs are ok to host on free blog hosting servers like Blogspot? When should a business decide it is worth it to place a blog on their own site?

For credibility, I support blogs with their own domain. However! Credibility and authenticity can be just as well displayed on free-hosted software. One example is one my new favorites, Rosie Sherry. I think she's awesome in that she's a woman in QA who blogs, so I have someone I can relate to. But, she writes clearly and has earned my loyalty, not because of her blog host, but because of the quality of her blog.

Businesses who want to blog need to consider their target reader and interests. I like Target, but doubt I'd ever want to read a blog by them. Businesses need to carefully consider who they let author their blog as well. A poorly presented and written blog can drive people away. People can spot a huge ego for miles away. Check motives.

What are the biggest usability errors that seem to be built into most blogs or blogging platforms?

The number one usability error bloggers make is not explaining to the reader who you are and why you have a blog. If you are a Splogger, admit you're only purpose is to steal other content. (Just kidding.)

The second biggest is poor planning and pathetic software that makes poor planning possible. Archives and search are my pet peeves, especially for established blogs. Good bloggers wrote GREAT STUFF 8 months ago, but good luck trying to find it. Categories and tagging are band-aids. No solutions are universal for all blog software, and therefore, not accessible to all bloggers. Instead of putting a map to my house online, I wish Google had worked on Blogger's archives and blog search problems. (By the way, their map is wrong.)

Does design play a key roll in blog usability?

Yes. If readers can't use it (find old posts, fill out comments) or read it (i.e. small font, doesn't render in Firefox), they may not return. How many blogs blow up in handheld devices? User centered design requirements shouldn't end as soon as the site is called "a blog". The same user interface problems that are seen in web sites are seen in blogs.

Design for revenue is being explored now as blogs participate more and more in the realm of ecommerce and marketing. The million dollar question is "Can we be paid to share information?" Sure. I'd buy a book from someone who has a blog that teaches me and keeps me informed. I figure their book is probably good too. How profitable are blogs with auto-ripped off content packed with Google Ads? We're exploring this too, unfortunately.

Are the default templates usable? When should a blogger consider professional design services?

Templates are excellent places to start with. This is both a curse and a blessing. It's a blessing because new bloggers can get a feel for the whole blog thing, the secret code, how to post, how to put up ads, etc. A curse because you no longer need to hire a webmaster. You can just go get a free blog template to sell your beaded toe rings, and keep an ongoing dialog going about the next big bead fad (just to be able to say its still a blog.)

Corporate and business blogs will be considering brand and identity. For example, Cre8asiteforums has a blog that is moving to a new home and new software. The blog staff has changed how it looks and is re-working the purpose for having a blog. (Why would forums have a blog?) It is intended to look like it belongs to the forum but is not smothered by it. This has taken a staff of designers, writers, programmers, arguers, artists, and someone to make sure the blog editor doesn't quit in sheer frustration. (It's not me. I get to watch.) We did start with a template offered up by Wordpress, but in the end, it will be our own look and feel.

My own blog is based on a template that I destroyed after years of playing in the code and I have no idea what the original template used to look like.

I would recommend professional help if changing an established blog. This is because there is a history there to consider, including back links, feeds, and readership based on the status quo. One of my longtime favorite sites had a re-do and I'm bummed because they said goodbye to the liveliness and humor the old one had. Was this a conscious business decision or an oversight?

You mentioned some of my offers (like the newsletter offer) were a bit weak in nature. Do you think it is easy to mix commerce and blogging? Are there any friction points? If so, how do bloggers typically mess this up?

This is something I know you care a lot about. It's also new, this idea of mixing business with blogging. The kinks aren't worked out. is one such site that is willing to keep looking at this, even the mistakes. Problogger covers making money with blogs extensively.

When blogging and business combine, the reason for the blog has immediately changed. It's morphed into a sales tool and already being exploited to death with splogs and auto-generated theme-blogs.

Bloggers mess up by deceiving their readers.

With Seobook, I suggested offering regular readers a choice of whether to get the version with the big book ad in the middle (first timers), or a version that is just posts (those who bought the book or decided not to and don't want to be bombarded with the ad every time they come to read your blog.) However, the no-ad version can still convert by prompts like "Have you read my book?" or "If you're on this site, you may have read my book. Here's how to tell others about it" or "I wrote about this in my book" inside a blog post on a particular topic and you present a non-invasive link. In other words, you have a product and there's no reason to ignore it just because you are "a blogger". You are a blogger with a book for sale, and services to promote.

I look for these 6 points on every blog start page: who, where, what, why, when and how. There are different ways to answer these questions but they must appear quickly and be forthright and visible. Tell me how long you've been blogging, and this may influence your credibility. Show me the blogs you link to, why you blog, what you blog about and when you think you might not be blogging for awhile. Communicate. If someone puts up five blogs, on different themes, and can honestly write original posts for all of them, they're likely not from the planet Earth, and definitely not married with children. Those bloggers are doing this because of the ads stuck on these blogs, and heck, if they keep writing really good stuff, who cares?

The mistake is not being original and doing it for the supposed revenue. I'd like to see bloggers earn their revenue with clever blogs worth reading. If they sell something I want, I'll buy from them. Many bloggers are book writers and a blog is perfect for marketing their knowledge and style. They do need to be considerate for those who aren't coming for the book (or any product/service), however. These are the user centered design issues bloggers now face as they move into the competitive mainstream.

The inline ads on my site are probably a bit aggressive and annoy repeat visitors. Are there other ways that would be easy to add a call to action without lowering the conversion rate?

I'd like to see some programming genius's come up with ways to tick them off. To pursue blog commerce, we need more options in blog software. For example, in my blog, inline ads repeat down the page. I don't want that, but don't know how to turn if off. Other blogs have the same problem, and its compounded with ads in their feeds. This is, again, how ads got in the way of a good thing.

End user options like "View with ads", or not, is one of my dream ideas. "Skip to content" is the basis for this, only it would be "Skip to posts - no ads please". Can you just imagine what screen readers are reading back to their users, with all the ads mixed into blog entries?

Conversions are like sneaky word games. They rely on their relationship to the value proposition. It's easy to get distracted from the value proposition in a blog that's intent on telling stories or sharing news. It's easy to completely forget to put in call to action prompts, especially if you don't want to interrupt a great story. One word can make a difference between a click, or not. It's not the big bulky ad or the repeated text ad that grabs them. It's how you persuade them to try something for free, or how your service will improve life for your reader. It's also when you tell them about your offer. Move ads around. Change ad sizes. Experiment with above the fold and below the fold, text ads or image. Avoid distractions. Build momentum but don't bombard. It's the same as any web site, but a blog with a following has to know when to stop selling and just sit quietly so visitors can read what you wrote.

You mentioned something about backwards vision in your review of my site. What is a backwards vision?

It's adapted from software testing practices like "backwards testing" and "requirements gathering". I look for several things.

1. If you took away all the fluff and stuff from the site, would I be able to still determine its purpose and/or the blog owner's priorities for the blog?

2. I report my first-time impressions on what I think the site's purpose and objectives are. I also report the market and reader I think the blog is targeting. If I am wrong or miss something the blogger thinks should be obvious, then the site didn't communicate properly to me what the site owner had wished it to. If I list things they didn't consider; well, I don't think that's ever happened.

3. The types of functional and non-functional elements the blog includes and how or if they support the blog's requirements. This includes "chicklets", plug-in applications and non-functional like legal items like a Creative Commons statement.

It's a discipline - one that bloggers may not have considered. Listing objectives and priorities for a blog is like laying the foundation. It's done before the information architecture stage. This list helps determine and narrow down blog requirements. Every element that is placed on the blog MUST be traceable to a requirement, which is traceable to a business or personal goal or set of priorities. If it does not connect, it is not offering support. If it can't be traced, it is a stray addition that causes risk to the design and in the longer term, success and life of the blog.

The functional and non-functional requirements should be traceable to blog priorities and goals. What sometimes happens is the blogger tosses in something because it seems cool to do. It should offer support, not serve as a distraction.

When does a blog start to need a privacy policy or a comments policy?

When it asks for anyone's name or email address, such as for comments or when it has any type of form that requests personal information.

What are your favorite usability books and resources?

All of them. Honestly, I read EVERYTHING. I'm shopping for a new bookshelf. To pick one? The Eisenberg's "Call to Action" book. For the web, Functioning Form. And UX matters. I read Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, of course and I enjoy Jared Spool and his staff's blog, UIE Brain Sparks. One more; Marketing Experiments blog. I like to read their latest findings.

What are the biggest differences between trying to improve the usability of a blog as compared to an ecommerce site?

The ecommerce site is about persuasion, creating desire and need. Some can influence decisions (Amazon is good at this.) The focus of this is usually lost in the design for blogs, or somewhere in the lack of understanding for how to market from blogs online. The blog is the wild child of the web family. It's still figuring out what its doing and it never intended to conform to anyone's standards. I can make suggestions for improving usability but I'm also well aware that the blog owner may not be interested. It's like talking to my own teenager. Same sort of resistance. Same "I already know what to do and don't need you." Sooner or later, they do.

What is the biggest surprise you came across while doing blog usability reviews?

How different blogs can be from each other and how compelling writing trumps bad design. Blog readers are patient, loyal and surprisingly tolerant. The second surprise is how many blog owners drank the funky kool-aid and thought blogging would be easy, or make them tons of money in a month. A usability review can offer reassurance that they are doing the right things and to be patient, or they are not doing the right things and let's fix that. Many people never considered they could set goals for their blog and guide their ship with a plan.

If I wanted to get a blog usability review how would I go about contacting you for one?

Send a limo to my house and take me to a health spa and we can chat during our massage. Or, visit Blog Usability Reviews to read more or order one. I also have a page called Blog Usability where I'm gathering resources to support bloggers interested in the usability side of blog life.


Thanks Kim :)

If you are thinking about improving the usability of your blog I highly recommend hiring Kim. She is exceptionally thorough. Her deep understanding of the web from doing so many usability reviews and her heavily participation in the social aspects of the web make her the perfect person to offer blog usability reviews, as she is excellent at balancing conversion considerations and the social aspects of blogging.

Seth Godin Interview

I recently interviewed Seth Godin. Seth is a well known marketing guru who's blog and books have helped me become a more holistic marketer. I read everything he writes. He also did a video interview on AuctionBytes recently.

Here is the interview:

In Purple Cow (one of my favorite books) you stress the importance of being remarkable. How does that relate to linking or internet marketing? Can a company succeed on the web without being remarkable? What should I do if my business or field generally is not remarkable?

By remarkable, I mean only, "worth making a remark about". So, if you want your idea to spread online, you only have three choices:

a. buy a lot of ads.

b. do really good SEO so that people who have already decided to search for what you have, find you

c. have the community that knows about you tell their friends, their blog readers, etc.

C, naturally, is a neat way to get to B. That's part of the genius of Google... that being remarkable is the easiest way to improve you Google ranking.

If what you sell is boring, it's probably because your organization WANTS it to be. Which is fine, but then you shouldn't expect fast growth or high Google ranking most of the time. They can make coffee and charity and political candidates interesting. Only by treating what you do as a commodity do you make it a commodity.

In All Marketers are Liars you stress the importance of telling authentic stories. What are the easiest ways to judge how authentic a story is? How can you tell if outsiders perceive the story the same way as you do?

Authentic means that it's real, it's true, it holds up to scrutiny.

It means you don't have to check a script before you make a decision. Nice people do nice things, so if your story is "we're nice", it's a good idea to hire nice people!

And yes, of course, people are going to misunderstand your story. Happens all the time. But if you tell it long enough and consistently enough and in all the right places, sooner or later, your authentic story will sink in.

When I tell people to be remarkable I often link at Purple Cow. When I tell people to sell a story that helps build their brand I often link at All Marketers are Liars. Like your books, many of your blog posts also seem like they are very good at sticking to a single topic, and are very easy to understand. How do you know when something is a blog post, an ebook, or a physical book? What do you think about when writing, or what things do you think about that help keep your narratives and blog posts so well focused and easy to understand?

This is a great question. It deserves a great answer. I don't have one. For me, alas, it's intuitive. I worry that if I studied it, it would disappear.

When should a new author consider getting a book physically published?

A published book tells a story before it's even opened. A published book is about credibility and portability and substance. So, if you need those things--if it will help your idea, or your career, or help you to reach people in a different way, then yes, do it. But be prepared for it to take a year or more, and to not make you any money at all. (Not the book part, anyway).

I believe that in most cases, for most people, it's not necessary.

I also believe that in most cases, for most authors, a "real" publisher is not worth the hassle. It's very easy to 'self publish' a book that looks and feels just like a traditional one, and to sell it on Amazon just like a traditional one.

I think you were a book publisher before you became a well known author. What sparked you to change course?

Actually, I was a successful book packager and an occasional and failed book publisher.

Publishing is truly difficult. It's about taking financial risks in a fundamentally broken business. Packaging, on the other hand, is a fantastic gig and I commend it to anyone who is creative and sleepless.

Some of your blog posts have been fairly critical of the SEO industry. I tend to think of SEO as being as much about viral marketing and creating and spreading good ideas as it is about gaming engines. What causes you to believe in and understand viral marketing so well without having much faith in SEO?

We have a semantic difference here. What you describe is totally in line with my thinking. I have never criticized that. My criticism has been reserved for two sides of one coin:

a. lazy companies that think they can buy web traffic by tricking search engines into sending them more traffic than they "deserve" by modifying sentences or code of their site without changing anything else, and

b. companies that will take money from these sites in order to do some mysterious thing for them.

Basically, I'm pushing people to dig deep, to work hard, to make stuff worth linking to.

SEO, as an industry, seems to have a bit of a black eye. I think part of that comes from many people not learning about SEO until a scammer posing as an SEO contacts them. I also think many people who sell high end consulting services make more by claiming that others are unethical, etc. Is there an easy way to fix the industry reputation problem? Or is it just something that is part of the game?

I agree with you 100%. I think the good guys should change the name of what they do. Traffic Leverage or Engines of Revenue.

As much as SEO is about gaming engines, for most companies it is more about ensuring the right contents are indexed and the wrong ones are not. How can the image of SEO be shifted from blog comment spammers, guestbook spammers and the like to people who help make content accessible?

The challenge here is the game itself. As long as we define the game as doing something to a site that makes it worse for a human and better for a computer, it's always going to be dicey. I visited a site today that rents vacation homes. It was superclear from reading it that they had rewritten their site to be engine friendly. I have no idea if that part was successful, but I'm certain that it wasn't working on the humans.

What is your favorite marketing related book that you are 99%+ certain I have never read?

The Republic of Tea, now out of print, but findable.

What is the best marketed candy bar in the world?

This is hard because if you mean "more than 20 years old" then it's got to be Hershey, because they had a remarkable product decades ago, they went to TV early and often at just the right time and they have great distribution today.

But of course, it's not the best marketed TODAY. If they keep up what they're doing, it'll just slide away.

So, what's the best marketed bar today? Well, if I describe "best" as fast-growing without a lot of investment (read: profitable) it might be Scharffen Berger. It might be Vosges, even though I don't know how to pronounce it.

What type of people should have a blog?

People who

a. have an idea they want to spread

b. have an idea worth spreading

c. are willing to tell the truth


d. are willing to do in consistently, over time.

What type of people should not have a blog?

People who need to be in control over the flow of ideas, who are impatient and not willing to stick with it, and who can't tell a story. Those and the ones that try to sell us a line of bs.

What is Squidoo? How does it differ from other content management or information retrieval systems, like blogs or search engines, for example?

Squidoo is a user-generated card catalog, a bunch of signposts in close proximity to each other, a way to find a few handpicked matches, not a million. Squidoo for the lensmaster is a place to point to your blog or your company or your organization. It's a place to assemble RSS feeds and links and stuff to buy. It's a cheap and fast way to increase links to sites that ought to get them.

For a surfer, it's more direct, more trusted and easier than a search engine in some ways. It's a place to start, a place to leave, and easy directory.

And for me, it's a way to raise a lot (I hope) of money for charity.

What are 3 things I should do differently on to make it a better website?

It's a great website. Everyone should read your book. I did. I'm glad I did. I'm jealous of your site.

Wow! thanks for that Seth. What are the biggest errors you tend to run into with most ecommerce websites?

They're selfish. They don't reflect the user experience. They're too slow. They're no fun. They don't get permission to followup. They're still no fun.

How does online marketing differ from offline marketing?

How much time do you have?

Offline, you get one conversation with a homogeneous and anonymous world.

Online, you get thousands of conversations with people you can learn about.

Search engines teach publishers to blend contextual ads in content to gain higher clickthrough rates. Do you eventually see people trusting link citations less, and perhaps growing to ignore them like banner ads? In margin based industries how does one remain profitable without blending when the blend can increase income per pageview by 300%?

Do you mean how will media companies make more money by integrating the ads? I think they shouldn't. The yellow pages and google adwords are both the greatest ad mediums ever because every person using them KNOWS that they are ads. So advertisers get productive traffic. You can goose income for a while, but soon, advertisers will be able to tell the difference.

Earlier you hinted that publishing might be a flawed business model. If publishers are losing out to independant types how do they stay relevant if they typically are not allowed to be as biased or opinionated, and do not integrate ads as heavily as some independant publishers?

Book publishing is in trouble for a different reason (actually, more than one).

The guaranteed return policy at bookstores means that most, almost all, books lose money the glut (175,000 titles a year) of new titles makes it the noisiest market in the world and the big authors get huge advances, sucking much of the profit out.

There are doubtless very profitable niches, but the mainstream guys have troubles...

What's so good about Pop Tarts?

I haven't had one in forever, but I remember them being gooey, crisp, sweet, crunchy, soft, hot and proustian, all at once.

And then once, I ate six and had to stop, forever.

If I wanted to learn more about Seth Godin where do I go?

Lee Odden Interview

I will probably start doing a few more interviews in the coming months. I recently interviewed Lee Odden, who is a well known blogger, SEO and public relations expert.

Recent SEO Interviews, Etc.

Lee Odden interviews Stuntdubl and Lee gets interviewed here

John Battelle speaks to Google NYC

While I have grown to hate SEO contests I currently am the only advertiser for the phrase on Google AdWords and here is a free link for my brother v7ndotcom elursrebmem, although he is going to have to be a bit more innovative than that if he actually wants to win. I really would like to see Graywolf win the v7ndotcom elursrebmem contest.

Stuntdubl Interviews Martinibuster

Interview of Greg from BOTW

I recently interviewed Greg from BOTW. He chats about directories, blackjack, and running some of his other web based businesses.

He also offers a discount for BOTW submissions at the end of the interview.

Andy Hagans - Not Haggis - Interviewed...

Andy Hagans recently swore to the importance of his accessible white hat SEO techniques, and I asked him about his love for haggis.

Tips on blogging, outsourcing, link building, and other goodies in the Andy Hagans interview.