SES Chicago Michael Gray AIM Clear Interview December 2008
AIM Clear: I’m here with Michael Gray. Michael Gray, known as is a bona fide celebrity in the search marketing universe, known for challenging authority especially Google while deftly playing well with others. Gray Wolf, it’s a pleasure to be here with you this afternoon.
Michael Gray: Thank you. Thank you.
AIMClear: Without further ado, we’ll get right into the questions.
Michael Gray: Okay, sure.
AIMClear: So how did you get into search in the first place?
Michael Gray: Pretty much like everybody else. It started out as kind of an accident. I was working in-house developer for a local specialty retailer. And we kind of stumbled into search. We started ranking for a bunch of terms and we started to put a little time and energy into understanding what it is that works, what are the things that are making us rank and then basically it just sort of grew into an internal search position. That’s just where I went from the programming and then after doing that for a number of years, I just basically went out on my own.
AIMClear: All right. So do you think Google has too much power?
Michael Gray: I think they do. It’s very close to being a monopoly at this stage. There are other search engines but their market share is so small, it’s a Google game and if you’re not in Google, basically you’re not anywhere. And that’s a really bad spot for people to be. It’d be really nice if we had a 30/30/30 blend but I don’t know that that’s ever going to happen. But even if there was something where it was close. Like some sectors, like tech, any of the tech stuff, the computer stuff, it’s so Google dominated, it’s almost impossible if you’re not there.
AIMClear: Alright. So what steps should marketers take to diversify their traffic referrals?
Michael Gray: If you’re a marketer, you really want to try to be as un-dependent on Google as possible. Using things like a blog with RSS, using email lists so you’re getting people subscribed. Make it so that people are coming to you. You start looking at alternative engines. I know like there are web appliances out. I’m a big fan of a thing called a Chumby. Basically it’s a little application you develop and you can send content out there. And a lot of the bigger new sites are doing it. I know like In Gadget’s doing it. Anything you can do to get people loyal to whatever it is your site is about. That gets them coming and not using Google. The term is defensible traffic. And that’s a really good thing for people to start building. Again, you never want to ignore search but you want to have as much of your traffic not dependent on Google as possible.
AIMClear: Great. So do you think it’s possible to be removed from Google for being publicly critical in comments about Google?
Michael Gray: If you’re publicly critical and you’ve got a point, then you’re fine. If you’re just out there saying this is a bad thing, this is something they shouldn’t be doing, you’re talking out of your butt so to speak, you’re in a bad spot. The one thing I will say is if you are going to be critical, make sure your house is in order. Don’t be calling other people out for something, especially Google, if you’re doing something very similar because at some point someone’s going to look into you and if you’re not comfortable with what they’re seeing, you’re probably going to end up with a world bit of trouble later on.
AIMClear: What’s your philosophy about buying links?
Michael Gray: I don’t think that it’s bad. I think Google’s made it worse than it actually is. Google’s tried to make it like it’s a crime so to speak. And it’s really not a crime. It just goes against what their engine is relying upon. And that’s why they’re trying to keep people from doing the particular practice. Have they done a really good job at scaring people out of it? Absolutely. Is there some risk associated with the behavior? Yes, there definitely is so you’ve got to be kind of careful about what you’re doing. If you’re going to be buying links, do it smart; don’t be doing a lot of silly things. You know buying five hundred links tomorrow is probably not a smart strategy, whereas buying ten, fifteen links this week, ten, fifteen links the next week, then that’s going to be a different story.
AIMClear: So where do you think search is headed and what should marketers do to hedge their bets?
Michael Gray: Multimedia’s going to be a really big thing, like video, pictures, and audio, that sort of thing. Anything that you can do that diversifies where you’re going. Universal search is going to really be big. A lot of the engines are looking into doing that now. So that’s something that I’d be looking into doing.
AIMClear: Okay. So last question: What sessions are you speaking at here?
Michael Gray: Speaking today at 4:15 on advanced link development. I’m going to be talking about some of the darker elements.
AIMClear: Alright. Well, thank you so much for your time, Michael, and looking forward to hearing that this afternoon.
Michael: Thanks for having me.