Learning SEO & Community Building with David Harry @theGypsy #VCBuzz

twchat-davidThis week we are chatting with the smartest SEO guy on Earth – David Harry @theGypsy

**To join us please sign in here -> Twchat.com/hashtag/vcbuzz

About David

David Harry is an avid search geek with a penchant for all things IR (information retrieval) related. He’s best known for his writings along the same lines; technical aspects of SEO.

He is an SEO consultant (to the stars?) that runs the SEO Training Dojo and can also be found on his personal blog, the Fire Horse Trail. See more articles by David Harry


Questions we discussed

Q1: A little background… How and why did you get involved in the game of SEO?

I was originally in the web design game back in 1998. Over the yrs a lot of clients start asking about the magical art. I ‘officially’ started selling it as a service around 2002. After a few years of study. It wasn’t until 2005 or so when I started getting more involved in the community.

That’s when things started to really get more serious for me and I found that @bill_slawski character around then as well. I guess the rest is history…. / story ?

Q2: SEO then and now… There have been so many changes since the beginning of search. What would you say are some of the most notable changes to the big picture of the search landscape from then till now?

Most notable change to search landscape? uhm… The dewey decimal system to computer binary? Information retrieval out dates the internet by a long way. So, that’s a trick question. So, let’s just go mid-nineties until now shall we? And for that one it’s easy to me; Personalization. Sure, there’s been a ton of notable and interesting changes over the years, but the use of behavioral metrics really did make a huge difference, and continues to this day. Demographic information, social graph information, temporal data, explicit and implicit feedback, geographic data and more. These are all signals that can be used to deliver personalization in search. Game changer. IR people have lots of ‘ideas’ but they needed the technology to implement. So, infrastructure changes are huge as well!

Q3 SEO and small businesses… This is a general SEO question.

With all the link warnings and updates (both incoming and outgoing) many small business are paralyzed with fear well more about link building and guest blogging specifically. It seems to some (especially those not in the know) that everything has the potential to cause damage.

For these small business is there a reasonably safer way to approach SEO without constant fear of the Big G slap? What advice would you give them?

How to stay safe with Google? Understand search and search history or hire someone that does? It’s all about not only knowing what is ‘safe’ today, but what might be frowned upon in the future. Future Proofing. Common sense doesn’t hurt either. If it seems too easy, too good to be true, then it probably is. Again, SEO isn’t always a “do it yourself” activity. You can cause as much damage as benefit. Enter at your own risk.

Do you hire other professionals in business? (lawyers, accountants, on and on). Are there risks to the DIY approach? At the end of the day, solid on site practices with smart and aware off-site marketing, keeps you safe. Know the risks. Avoid the edge. At the end of the day, become knowledgeable, or hire someone that is. Not much more to say.

Q4 Google, their many patents and becoming a super uber search geek… In your SEL post (a few years back) A Tactical Guide To Becoming An SEO Ubergeek You discussed the importance of learning about patents and information retrieval systems. We have a few questions along these lines.

These are two hot topics… Social signals and reactions.

Q4A What can you tell us about these patents? Would they indicate that social signals and reactions impacts SERPs to any degree?

For starters, there’s nothing really out there on social signals specifically. There’s nothing I’ve ever seen mentioning a given social network specifically or their own explicit feedback systems, ie; likes, retweets, shares, Plus 1s etc. There are no patents about signals like ReTweets and Facebook ‘likes’. And that makes sense. A search engineer can’t build algorithms based on an application that may or may not exist in the future. Or ones that send different signals. Just look how things changed at Facebook with ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ over the years. It’s not a scalable approach for Google. What we do see are papers/patents on; Entities, Demographic Information, Related topics, connectivity, Behavioural etc., they look more to the people, the companies, the relations and activities between them, and what that might mean

Q4B Author Rank: Please tell us about the patent regarding author rank?

No such animal. It’s a myth that was started by the SEO community. It seemingly comes from AgentRank patents and the eventual ‘authorship’ Google mark up and display. Sad but true: 2007 AgentRank patent coverage This is kind of like the social signals problem. The kinds of signals a search engineer might use that we’d understand as related to AuthorRank would be things like (potential AR like signals) Entities – Authority – Social Graph – Personalization – Authorship – Knowledge Graph – you get the idea, those would be some areas I can see being elements of a perceived algorithm that some might see as AuthorRank.

So, that’s where I’d imagine Google engineers/representative’s have a field day with that question. It’s a yes/no answer. SEO’s being black and white thinkers by nature, they’re trying to put it into a box…. and call it “AuthorRank”  in most cases, to sound important to clients and sell that next great service. You have to peel back the onion a bit more of the onion if you want to unlock where this is actually headed.


Q4C And is author rank real? Meaning is it being used now in your opinion?

Real??? Ha ha ha… trick question, so please see my earlier, even trickier, answer. I believe Google is using and looking at all the things I mentioned. But specifically? Do I think they’re using “AR”? That’s a flat NO. I’m sorry dear SEOs… no service to peddle here. This is where the rush to judgement in the industry starts. The desire to create cookie-cutter SEO services. That creates a need to see things in black & white and to ultimately, be ignorant to how search engines actually work.

Q5 Let’s talk about the SEO Training Dojo.

Q5A Why did you start the SEO Training Dojo?

To be honest at the time (4yrs ago) it was to have a private location to talk shop. Far too much is written in public. Some of the existing communities at the time were also ostensibly public. We wanted our own place to hangout. Then, we started adding content, chat rooms, brought tool vendors on board, and it evolved into a paid community.

Q5B What can a newer (or older marketer) expect to get out of the SEO training Dojo?

To be honest, I am not entirely sure if noobs will get a lot from it other than mentors really. We’re exchanging idea. We’ve recently changed things to that new members actually have an approval process. I want the best/brightest. We no longer just open the doors and take anyone’s money. I have a ‘real’ job… doing SEO. It’s about a strong community.

We found with the open door approach (gimme yer dough, yer in) it weakened the over all value. Bad ideas crept in. Again, it’s a clubhouse and not my main income. I can’t spend all day policing it. So, best to trust those in the group. We’ve become the secret society of SEO lol. We preach sustainable SEO strategies… not cookie cutter crap.

It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows” Epictetus (50-120) Greek philosopher. In short, don’t make assumptions and be open to new thoughts, make up your own mind from there.

But if you do not find an intelligent companion, a wise and well-behaved person going the same way as yourself, then go on your way alone, like a king abandoning a conquered kingdom,” “… or like a great elephant in the deep forest.” – Buddha – again, control your destiny. Be true to your SEO instinct!


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