An Interview with Michael Martinez of SEO Theory

In my brief time as an SEO I have visited hundreds of SEO blogs, however there is one that I keep going back too, like an addict I need to check out the latest posts or even re-read previous articles that have struck a chord.

Michael Martinez is the author of SEO Theory a website that provides a deeper look at search engine optimisation methods and techniques. In case you have been living under a rock or in a cave for the last decade here are some highlights of Michael’s career so far…

  • Michael Martinez entered the world of SEM in 1998 by joining one of the early online communities.
  • Michael’s research helped launch several SEO methodologies and tools that were widely used for several years.
  • Michael has served as a moderator for the Search Engine Forums and Spider-food Forums.
  • He has written for several SEO blogs, including SEOmoz, SEO Theory, and Best SEO Blog.
  • Michael is currently employed as the Senior SEO Manager for a company in California.

After a brief discussion Michael has kindly agreed to answer a few SEO questions 🙂

1.       You’ve been in the SEO industry for 13 years and continue to produce unique content about areas in SEO that no-one else appears to be writing about. Do you feel that other people are holding back and where do you get your new ideas from?

I do feel other people are holding back.  There are some kinky things going on behind the scenes, or off the community radar.  I get my ideas from a variety of sources but mainly from having to do this stuff day in and day out, planning ahead.  I don’t want to have to keep tweaking Websites so I look for long-term processes that entail low risk and offer some payoff.I have also done some wild and crazy experiments through the years.  Things I don’t write about because no one else is writing about them.  At least not in the blogs and forums I read.

2.       The SEO industry is currently booming in terms of jobs with brands looking for SEO consultants in-house and agencies constantly bringing in new business. With this increase in competitiveness online do you see a bright future for the web?

I wouldn’t call it a bright future.  We still lack standards and that means just about anyone who can bill himself as a “guru” can sell junk ideas to thousands of people.  I have continually had to de-educate people for years after hearing their ridiculous SEO expectations.  There are simply a lot of unrealistic ideas being perpetuated on SEO blogs and forums today.  The “brands” are being spoon-fed a lot of this junk because the news media pick it up and regurgitate it.But neither is the future dismal.  It’s filled with challenge, but the challenges we SHOULD be facing are being displaced by the challenges we would not be facing if people in the industry adopted standards, real standards.  They need to stop confusing standards with certifications.

3.       I enjoy and often come back to your post on The Theorem of Four SEO Influences. What checks do you do to work out whether ranking fluctuations are down to algorithm changes?

I tend to scan about a half dozen SEO forums.  If I see people yelling and screaming about lost rankings, I know something may be up.  A few SEO tools can also provide some insight into algorithmic fluctuations.  The more agreement you see from different sources of information, the more likely you’re seeing an algorithmic event.  That’s also the basis of Deep Web Interferometry, which can be useful for analyzing trends and identifying stuff that is happening on scale.One common mistake people make is that they log in to Google Analytics, see all their traffic is gone, and immediately assume that Google just banned them or something.  Most Websites get at least SOME Direct and Referral traffic, even if most of their traffic comes from Google.  If your Direct and Referring Sites traffic has flatlined, more likely you munged your analytics code.

4.       If you worked at Google how would you advise they improved their relevance scoring for content?

I doubt I could help them with improving their relevance algorithms.  I would certainly love to help them (or Bing) develop a true 3-D user interface.  The technology and bandwidth are there but the search indexes don’t organize their data very efficiently. Cramming more links onto a page isn’t the answer.  Let the user group listings together and divide them into “more like this” and “fewer like that” categories.  And let the user pull up an annotation interface that reveals more information about the listing.  Google’s SERP Preview is a crude implementation of what I would really like to see.

5.       What does Bing have to do to get closer to Google in search engine market share?

Give people a reason to link to their search results.  More than anything, Google became popular because people kept linking to their search results.

6.       It’s well publicised that Google has 400/500 algorithm changes a year but how do you try and minimise the effects of larger algorithm tweaks?

Plan ahead.  Rely on long-term SEO strategies.  Never publish any content that MUST rank today, that MUST have traffic today, that MUST pay for itself today.  A good Website is a pipeline that produces results 2-3 months down the road — 2 years ahead if the content is truly “evergreen” and not “everfake”.  Oddly enough, many spammers do just this.  They set up autoblogs and leave them alone.  Substitute good content for the autoblog and its low-quality backlink profile and you have an SEO strategy that should be good for 5-10 years.That means ignoring all the SEO gurus who are out there selling you their tools, their rapid success courses, their secret formulas, and their nonsense pseudo-scientific case studies that “prove” whatever it is they are selling is worth the money you pay.  That means concentrating on the basics: Publish interesting content, monitor your analytics, and make adjustments as required.  Grow your content base.  Explore new topics (not keywords, TOPICS) on a regular basis (quarterly is ideal but most people may not have the bandwidth to do it more than once or twice a year).

7.       Why do you think Google hit sites with Adsense in the Panda update?

I don’t believe they were looking at AdSense.  I think they simply put a bunch of badly designed sites into the “fewer like this” category and they happened to share a lot of attributes with the AdSense sites that were slammed.  Some AdSense site operators (I cannot verify this) claim their sites are still working just fine.  It’s the site design that is killing people.

8.       I often get the feeling that you are “negative” towards link building to get people to understand that SEO isn’t all about links, is this the case?

People need to look up the meaning of the word “optimize” about twice a day when they are out “building” links.  It’s one thing if you’re part of a team and your job is to bring in links; it’s quite another if you’re confusing link acquisition with search engine optimization.  Every powerful SEO team has at least one stellar link acquisition specialist.  But people need to look past the links and realize that they are compensating for poor optimization and weak competitive strategy if they are depending on links for search (rankings and traffic).

9.   What is the foundation of an effective link building campaign? 🙂

Good content that makes people link to it regardless of whether they actually like it.  In any gold rush, it’s the guy who sweeps up the saloon floor at night who gets the most gold.  You’re not going to get links with every article but you can get enough links to leverage your site into performing consistently well.

10.   Who is the one person in the SEO industry who always impresses you with their posts/general SEO knowledge?

You mean…besides ME?  🙂  Barry Schwartz.  I don’t always agree with his conclusions but there are few among us who have seen as much stuff in this industry as he has.  His is the first SEO site I read every day.  Has been for years.

Thanks for your time Michael, was awesome to get your thoughts! Any questions, thoughts or comments don’t hesitate to get involved below!


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