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An Interview with David Harry, Sensei of the SEO Dojo

Many know David Harry as the whiz behind Reliable SEO, The SEO Handbook, and the Trail of the Fire Horse at

Knowing I was a fellow martial artist, he recently invited me to take part in his latest project called the SEO Dojo , a community for “SEO Warriors” to teach, share and learn the SEO craft.  I spend a lot of time at my dojo with my karate family, so the concept of bringing SEO to a dojo felt like a match made in heaven – I had to learn more.

What was the inspiration for the Dojo analogy as an SEO community?

Well, as you well know, a Dojo is a place that has a sense of family. Sure, on the surface it is a school of learning, ultimately we’re all students AND teachers in the martial arts community. I longed to have a place to play with others in SEO that were seeking to expand their knowledge and abilities.

My main blog ‘Huo Mah’ (or Fire Horse) was nothing more than a personal site gone mad. Why stop there right? After having a past obsession with martial arts for 20 years it seemed fitting that my new obsession had some sense of my own past and evolution. Besides, the ‘Ninja’ are always getting the glory, some Chinese representation was lacking :0)

Do you consider the SEO Dojo as handing down a tradition, similar to the traditional concept behind dojos? Is it about the basics and building a foundation? Or is it where a place where the knowledge shared is only valuable today, but may not necessarily be relevant in the future?

Oh for sure, it’s not all about snippets of knowledge; there is an element of respect and responsibility to the craft. If it is how SEOs conduct themselves or the techniques used, there is more than simply techniques. We hope to develop a community of individuals that are looking to evolve SEO as search itself does.

Much like any Dojo, users will only get as much out of it as they put in. I want the interactions to be the core of the community. By combining our thoughts and ideas (not to mention research) we can all develop into better SEOs. Building a foundation is easy – we want to go beyond that.

I’ve really cultivated as many relationships with the younger SEOs as I have with old timers and it seems only natural – passing along what we learn is mandatory for the obsessed search geek, oui?

You are obviously investing a lot of time and resources into the SEO Dojo – do you have a business model in mind?

It’s funny, that part has been troublesome. I wanted it to be accessible, but not entirely open. Sure, there are a lot of associated costs along the way, but the main thing is maintaining focus. People tend to pay more attention to things when it is costing them something.

That being said, there is no way I am going to go at it with the two headed dragon that is SEOmoz and SEO Book communities. Those guys are well entrenched as they should be – they have solid offerings (talked to current and former members). For the moment we’ll likely just have a nominal monthly fee to keep it real. As long as it covers its associated costs, it can grow itself.

Do you consider SEO a moving target? If so how so?

OM-friggen-G, now you’ve gone an done it… One thing I can go on about all day is the over-stated calls for the death of SEO. It is truly unthinkable if one has read even a handful of IR research papers. As long as computer scientist and search engineers are dreaming up new ways to serve up the world’s information, search manipulators… erm.. uh..I mean ‘optimizers’ will have plenty to keep their obsessive minds busy late at night. This target is perpetually on the move!

They go hand in hand, the evolution of search IS the evolution of SEO; as long as the search engines keep changing things (3-400/ year at Google) that target will be moving. Sometimes it is more subtle ongoing shifts and other times more prominent (such as the recent ‘Vince Update’ or ‘Orion’ algo). After that you can add in personalization, localization and verticals (image, news, blog, product and video search). There is plenty to contend with.

Imagine one the behavioural nut is finally cracked? WOW… I’m getting pumped just thinking about it. Organic search is a never ending evolution and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Who in the industry do you look to and consider as a primary resource?

Who? That would be a fairly extensive list. Obviously much of my respect is for the more technical search geeks such as Bill Slawski , who’s a great guy and helped me a lot in knowing how to approach search patents.

More recently, Marie Claire Jenkins has been huge in bringing me into the world information retrieval. She was equally puzzled that ‘search optimizers’ didn’t know more about ‘search engines’. She’s one seriously obsessed search geek (and name-sake for the badge).

Beyond that I have hundreds of feeds (adding and trimming all the time) that include the usual acronyms SEJ, SEL, SEW, SER and am always looking for interesting discussions on Sphinn. Ultimately my primary resources are likely actual work where one puts the rubber to the road. Blogs posts make me go hmmmmm… testing makes me go AH HA!

How do you think the recession will impact SEO business?

Well if it’s anything like the past ones (and tech bubble bursting) we’ll certainly see some consolidation and some companies die off. The way things are looking at the moment it seems inevitable.

On the flip side, we’ve seen a spike in business in the first quarter of ’09 in all areas ( we also own a web development company). In some cases it seems that pulling out of other media buys in favour of online property investment is at play. Will that hold up for SEO? Not so sure considering the front loaded position in resources that is often required. A lot of the companies seem to think it’s a ‘quick fix’ for desperate times. We’ll see…

As for the search engines, I would have to imagine it’s ‘algo lite’ time for them as well. This means that there could be checks and balances for processing and resources and new techniques need to get buy the boardroom not just the search quality team. This could stagnate search evolution during tough times or create a leaner and meaner search engine. It will be interesting to see how that plays out the next 18 months.

Monica Wright, Organic Search Manager at HMG Search Marketing in Portland, Maine, is an experienced Internet marketer specializing SEO, search marketing, social media and analytics with 12 years of media marketing experience. You can also follow Monica on Twitter.

Category SEO
Monica Wright

Monica Wright, SEO & Social Media Manager at VONT Web Marketing in Portland, Maine, is an experienced Internet marketer specializing ...

An Interview with David Harry, Sensei of the SEO Dojo

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