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Interview with Todd Malicoat

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with [Todd Malicoat]( at the [Search Engine Strategies conference]( in San Jose. Todd is a well known expert in the field of Internet marketing who has worked both for himself as well as marketing firms. Because of his experiences and knowledge in Internet marketing, I decided to do an email interview with him.

  1. You’ve obviously had great success in the SEO field, but how did you first learn about SEO and get into the industry?

    In retrospect, what ended up peaking my interest in SEO was the failure of a website with a friend. He had some great products, and strong expertise, but we were never able to gain traction on the web. This was in ’97, and went for several years, after the frustration, I took some time off from creating websites, but the experience inspired me to figure out what went wrong. Shoemoney’s great list of failures reiterated this idea to me. I think failures are where you have to really look for your success.

    I really stumbled into SEO after that when I was working between a VP of marketing, and a network administrator when I became the “webmaster” of a website. I realized that search rankings were very valuable asset to the company, and wanted to figure out how to get them. As a network admin’s assistant I had a lot of down time to do research which I spent voraciously reading through webmasterworld and asking a ton of questions. This was only about 5 years ago, and the fact that I now considered an “expert” by folks is still pretty amazing to me.

  2. Is there any specific advice you would give someone looking to get into SEO?

    There are few BIG pieces of advice that I would offer for learning SEO:

    • Learn who to listen to – the importance of learning biases and who to trust for which topics is key to learning in this industry
    • Learn HOW to learn – You don’t need to know EVERYTHING. Learn to “meta learn” the memory systems and organize and archive information effectively
    • Experiment – Try 10 things. One will work. Try 10 variations of that. Rinse. Repeat.
    • Don’t Chase Algorithms: Experiment to learn, but you’ll never know the secret sauce. Develop a best case methodology use your experimentation to refine it over time. Don’t mix client work and risky experimentation.
    • If you’re going to be a consultant – Manage client expectations effectively
  3. You’ve been working for yourself for roughly 6 months now, how would you compare working for yourself VS working for an SEO firm? Which one do you prefer?

    For me, it’s a quality of life thing. Part of me knows I could go to work in a 9 to 5 job and make more money and not have to worry about benefits and such. The tradeoff, is that I can go for a bike ride on a Wednesday afternoon, watch television, or cook and elaborate meal anytime of the day. I can take more vacation time without worrying about my job security. I can work late when I’m inspired, and sleep in if I stayed up too late the night before.

    I’m sure at some point I’ll want to join a company again, but right now I’m having too much fun traveling and working from my living room on the projects of my choosing. The main drawback is that I like working around smart people that push me to my limits, and complement my skill set.

  4. What advice would you give to an SEO that is thinking about going solo (freelance)?

    Mainly, I would say to make sure you’re prepared to make the jump. It’s a lot of work doing billing, accounting, and getting stuff done right. The hardest thing about going solo is the preparation. I spent a long time doing “side work” and “side projects” nights and weekends while I was working a day job at WeBuildPages and SAMSA. I’m very thankful I was able to do that. Spend time cultivating relationships that will last you a long time…it’s much easier to keep a customer than it is to sell a new one as the oft-quoted saying goes.

    There are different types of pros and cons to the security and rewards that go into working for yourself versus working for someone else. It’s really an individual choice to the type of lifestyle that will be most rewarding to an individual person in my mind.

  5. Every freelancer has their share of great moments and tough moments, what do you find to be some of the hardest things about being a freelancer?
    • Accounting
    • Billing
    • Occasionally motivation and inspiration
    • Finding good contractors to outsource and send fulfillment work to.
    • Finding time for research and development, and experimentation
  6. You have been in the SEO industry for quite a while and have seen it change over the years. Where do you see SEO going in the next 5 to 10 years?

    SEO is really marketing. It’s just a marketing that requires a familiarity to highly technical applications that will get easier over time. I see SEO becoming fairly saturated the same way web development has, but still having a lot of potential. It’s funny, when WE say SEO, we see it as an all-encompassing school of thought. To the outside world, it is black magic. The truth is SEO is just marketing that has raised the barrier to entry low enough for a period of time that many of us were able to gather insights into how successful businesses really function. For a company to do SEO properly, they need to educate their SEO provider on very in-depth information into their business model, revenue model, value propositions, marketing methodologies, customers, vendors, partners, and more. This information is “real world” experience and learning that is immensely valuable to build expertise towards becoming an entrepreneur. This is why SEO’s are able to succeed without a college education, and why so many of them have a strong entrepreneurial spirit. It’s much easier to have confidence in creating a successful business, when you’ve seen “behind the curtain” of many successful businesses.

    SEO is both a noun and a verb, and has such a dynamic and ambiguous definition that I think we really need to start embracing some better terminology within the community. I think some of the jargon and vernacular will evolve into better ways to communicate the ideas of those who truly appreciate and value of the “SEO school of thought” over time.

    SEO will always be the gap between marketing and technology as it applies to search. The methodology and technology may change. The marketing principles may change. Probably the most significant changes will be in the areas of mobile information availability and improved relevance and personalization. These will both create new problems as well as opportunities.

  7. You recently wrote “12 Different Types of Links and How to Get them“, is there any specific technique that you feel is the best to building link popularity?

    The best LINKS are the highly trusted ones. I don’t think there is really a specific technique that helps you to get those. If there were, everyone would use it, and it probably wouldn’t work much longer. I think the combination of lots of different types at the right time is the best approach. Trusted links is the name of the game these days. They are HARD to get, and that’s what makes them such a good indicator of relevance – and also what makes them so valuable towards higher search rankings.

  8. Linkbaiting has been a hot topic for a while and there is a lot of buzz around it, is there any components that you feel make up a successful linkbaiting campaign?

    Something remarkable. Linkbaiting is really Seth Godin’s idea of the “purple cow” or even further back, the “idea virus“. We just make sure to maximize the value of the inbound links, and leverage the value of those towards search rankings is the main difference. The easy part of link baiting is setting up the campaign to maximize the value of the links for the search rankings. The hard part is coming up with the remarkable idea that will become a viral phenomenon that people will spread.

If you would like to learn more about Todd, here is his bio:

Todd Malicoat has been creating websites since 1997, and started doing SEO and Internet marketing in early 2001. He is a moderator at the World’s largest webmaster forum, and maintains an Internet consulting journal at Todd has recently been a speaker on topics such at both Search Engine Strategies and Webmaster World’s world of search conferences on link development and search engine marketing. Todd offers a variety of search engine marketing services – for more information on Todd, please see his about page.

 Interview with Todd Malicoat
Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. Neil also blogs about marketing and entrepreneurship at Quick Sprout.

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