Mike Grehan says...

Random musings about search marketing, flying around the planet, networking and people watching.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Matt Cutts.

He is as honest and genuine as they come. And last week, at Webmaster World, Matt Cutts and I got together and recorded a wonderfully information packed interview for a new audio project I'm working on.

I played some clips from it at ad:tech and I had a huge number of requests for copies of them. But, there's more. I needed some more information from Matt, so he was kind enough to invite me to the Googleplex to do another hour and hang with him for a little while.

I have to say, he is just the easiest guy ever to interview. So relaxed, knowledgeable and... don't be offended by this, Matt - nice! I know some people hate nice, but there's no better word for him. For those who don't know Matt, I took this pic of him right after our interview at the plex.

There are links to clips from my "Matt sessions" in my ClickZ column. I'll write more about the column on Monday when it's published. The last column received a huge amount of response. HUGE! But I have to say, I was very fucking pissed off with some of the worthless criticism it received from a bunch of snide commentators with nothing constructive to contribute. I do wish some people in this industry would just grow up.

Thank you very much to a certain "class" lady who rectified a thread which went completely wrong. And also to the moderator of same forum who wrote and apologized for his own snide comments.

I'll comment more when my ClickZ follow-up is published.
Ad:tech - It's 10,000 !!!

Correct - ad:tech drew more than ten thousand people this time in San Francisco. It was an explosive show! Well done Sue Bratton and Warren Pickett for making it one of the most exciting events of the year, to date. Roll on Chicago, New York, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney etc., etc.

Yes, it's Bill Hunt in the picture below. Bill appears more in my blog than I do! However, our meeting was very important, as Bill has been the keeper of the stick since the Webmaster World conference.

So "sticky" and I were reunited and all was well.

I did a one-man-one-hour session at ad:tech, this time. Sue Bratton has to put a lot of trust in you to do the one-man show thing. And it was such a great audience. My pal, the one-and-only Kevin Ryan did the introduction and off it went. Feedback from the audience was fantastic because I played some exclusive audio clips from the interview I did with Matt Cutts at Google. Annnnnnd, here's the audience!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ad:tech San Francisco 2006

I have this dilemma of being torn between two lovers. It's a hard one. For many years I've been having two intimate relationships and can't let either of them go. I simply cannot be monogamous. I know I should choose between one and the other, but it's so difficult.

My two favourite cities in America to visit, are Boston and San Francisco. I know I should choose one over the other as favourite, but I can't do it. But having spent last week in Boston and arriving in San Francisco this week, I've decided to live a dual life by keeping both east and west coast love affairs on the go.

I dipped back into the UK for a couple of days to empty the suitcase, wash the contents and head off again. I did a great one day workshop in London, with my friend and new partner in SEM, Jim Banks. Tuesday morning I headed off to Los Angeles for a quick meeting and then flew up to San Francisco.

It's the truth that San Francisco is a city I absolutely adore. It has such a wonderful feel. The people are so friendly and laid back. And arts, entertainment, bars, restaurants and clubs abound. Plus, of course, there's also wine country. So my wife will be flying in to join me for a weekend visit to Napa Valley. Which, as you can imagine, for "Little ole wine drinker me", I'm very much looking forward to.

My room has a wonderful view of the city from the opposite direction of downtown. So I can see over the bay and I have the Moscone Center (the conference venue) right outside my bedroom window (the building with the flags).

The exhibit opened with the usual thunderous charge this morning. And it really is HUGE this year. Figures of 8,500 are already being bandied around.

And as you can see, in usual ad:tech style, these 888 booth babes give an indication of just how low key, quiet and sedate the show is :-)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Webmaster World Conference wrap up.

I took a red eye out of Boston on Wednesday evening. I'd completely forgotten what my family look like and where I live. So, I have exactly two and a half days at home before I head back across the pond again.

There are two conferences next week. Killer search marketing strategies in London. And then when ad:tech San Francisco finishes, I have to head straight to London for Jim Sterne's Emetrics Summit, the week after. I felt certain that I had some time at home immediately after that... And then realized that my buddy Jim Banks has the official opening of our Hong Kong office right between that and SES London.

So, I'll be back on the road for weeks again by the way it looks.

Webmaster World Conference was a lot of fun, as ever. And you may not believe it, but it's absolutely true. Who was the first person I bumped into as I entered the conference venue?

I think Bill Hunt is on my blog more than I am!

The night before the conference started I got together with my long standing buddy, Fredrick Marckini. He's not only one of the most seasoned and successful search marketing gurus in our industry, for me he's also the funniest.

At some point during the event, Fredrick and I ended up back at his city apartment. Here (along with a very cute cat) he has his musical room with keyboards, guitars, the lot. So inspired by a mixture of Merlot and Cabernet we attempted to tune the guitars. Fredrick was much more successful than I was and even managed to blast out a Beatles number (and not too badly, either). Personally, my fingers could only find a long series of misshaped chords which sounded a lot like Fredrick's cat walking up and down the keyboard. Merlot one - fingers nil!

On the first day of the conference, I was due on the organic panel, as usual. It was supposed to be moderated by Jessie Strichiola but for some reason she couldn't attend. So Captain Brett asked me if I'd stand in and do the honors. I was more than happy to do that and it gave a chance to get some fresh blood on the panel as stalwart Bruce Clay was joined by Aaron Wall and Todd Malicoat (AKA Stuntdbl).

It was a good session. No photo's though as my camera and I were separated a couple of times during the show. I did get a nice surprise when I was introduced to Andy Hagans (AKA Mr Angry for a short period). We had a couple of drinks and a chance to catch up on stuff. Mainly current happenings in China and the developing market place. Here's Andy with me and Aaron Wall.

I met a new friend who was speaking for the first time at WMW (I think). Elisabeth Archambault runs her affiliate business up in Canada. She certainly knows the affiliate game inside out, that's for sure.

It has to be said that, the highlight of the first day was eventually getting my long overdue interview with search engine superstar, Matt Cutts. He and I chatted for just under an hour covering a lot of topics. Matt is such a nice patient guy and has time for everybody (even if it takes almost two years, in some cases :-)

He's an absolute natural when it comes to being interviewed. I've listened to the rough cut of the interview and it sounds really good. But it's not going to be available for a couple of weeks. I still have part two to complete with him. And I won't be back in the UK to edit and package it until I get back, a few days before heading to China again. Which reminds me. I also have two good interviews with Thomas Bindl and Alan Webb, respectively, with their views on SEO from a European perspective.

I did my usual basic links session on day two, ably supported by the "Moses" of linking, Eric Ward. As well as Jim Boykin and Bill Hartzer. Jim's presentation was jam packed with actionable do it now data which I thought was just great. And really well presented. And similar from Bill, even if he did start with a joke even cornier than I would come out with! Having said that, there is no doubt I'll probably use it myself at... er... all right Bill, I was just yanking yer chain a bit ;-)

And after that it was a special birthday lunch with Search Engine Watch forums editor, Elisabeth Osmeloski, not looking a day older than the 21 she is ;-)

I sat next to her in the restaurant and insisted that she did the full thing. A huge lobster followed by a huge dose of chocolate desert washed down with a few Bloody Mary's and the odd Pinot Grigio or two. Elisabeth used to work up in Maine with Anne Kennedy and the Beyond Ink crew. And so it was that the "deliciously slinky" Alex Bennert, very kindly took care of the bill. I left the restaurant with Alex who seemed to get sucked into Sephora (next door to the restaurant) and hasn't been seen since I understand :-)

It wasn't until got to Logan airport I realized I'd left my wooden stick in the restaurant as we'd gone there directly after my session and I was still wielding it. What wooden stick is that, Mike.

Well... You'll just have to come to a conference to find out.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Textbook SEO - naff!

My Clickz column is over here:

I'm just so sick to the back teeth of having to answer questions at conferences and events that have so little to do with getting a decent rank at search engines. And I'm convinced that a lot of SEO type forums (no, not all of them) are responsible for perpetuating a lot of this nonsense.

I was having a conversation this weekend with some smart people in the industry about textbook SEO and forums. And all agreed with me when I said, there are only two types of information in SEO forums: very useful and complete crap!

It's the trying to figure out which is which for new online marketers which is the difficult bit.

This year, I'm on a mission to eliminate any unnecessary tasks that don't affect the ranking of a page profoundly. I mean really get rid of any of the superfluous nonsense frequently preached about meta data and well... any other such waste of time 1999 nonsense.

Of course, I only have my own data to go on. But as we have clients in the hundreds, it means that we have a lot of data to judge performance on.

It'll be interesting to see what useful feedback I get.
The road to hell and back.

There is an artiste in the UK, by the name of Chris Rea. He's from my part of the world and I have every single piece of music he ever released. He is one of the most incredible slide guitar player you're ever likely to hear. Except, you most likely won't get the chance now, as he is just completing his farewell tour in Europe.

His first hit, in the UK and in the States was way back in the 70s, with a song called "Fool if you think it's over." I met Chris many times during my years as a radio DJ and always enjoyed interviewing him.

I attended his last concert in my home town, last week. It was simply wonderful. The tour is tagged as "The road to hell and back" which references his biggest ever hit.

So, I bought the tour shirt. And it was this shirt I was wearing, when I popped up to Portland, Maine, to meet a friend I love dearly, who really has been to hell and back.

My friend Jenn, is well known in the SEM industry. And for almost the past year she has been recovering from the most horrendous accident she was involved in.

Now she really is on the way back. And it's thanks to the support that she's had directly from Alex Bennert (another wonderful person and dear friend) and her boss Anne Kennedy at Beyond Ink, who took her under their wing up their in Maine.

So I was delighted to see her looking beautiful and radiant like her old self. Now, it has to be said, she still has a long way to go before she's back on top of everything. But she is a remarkable lady with strength, courage and determination (and my "Road to hell and back" shirt!).

This is a wonderful community. I think I can quote (badly, probably) my mate Dave Naylor, who said something along the lines of "in this industry, what you have is friends first, and you stick up for them." Well, I'm proud to be a friend of Jenn's.

Onwards and upwards Jenn. And know that I'm supporting you 100% girl ;-)

This was my first trip to Portland, Maine. And certainly, one of the first ladies in search, Anne Kennedy, is one of the first ladies of Portland. She has grown her business to the point that she's moving everyone into a plush new executive floor downtown. Beyond Ink is a thriving business and that's no surprise, when you have someone as hugely smart and perceptive as the "deliciously slinky" Alex Bennert running the enterprise.

Anne and her husband Gerry, treated us all to a fabulous night out at one of Portland's leading restaurants. Before that, we downed a few Martini's in an excellent Euro trash type bar. Here you can see me with my arms around both Anne and Alex. And yes, judging from my look, either I have my eyes closed... or I'm very much focused on Jenn's cleavage! Hey, whatever - I'm a guy!

Over to the right you can see Gerry, Anne's extraordinarily friendly hubby. And behind Jenn is Alex's husband, Huck. And they make such a great pair also. He's a bit of a rock star type with his band up in the North East and she's... Nuts!

I'm back and firmly ensconced in Boston again, now. It's a big week this coming week. What promises to be Brett's biggest ever Webmaster World conference. The place is buzzing already and the conference doesn't start until Tuesday.

I think Brett Tabke is going to be one very happy guy at the end of this one. The Webmaster World conferences started mainly as a complete piss-up for the webmaster community (there's still a great deal of that) but now it's growing up to be a force to be reckoned with in the search conference space.

For me, it's a joy to come back to one of my favourite cities in the US. I adore Boston in the same way I love San Francisco (and I'll be in SFO next week!). During my iProspect days I spent a lot of time here hanging with my great friend, Fredrick Marckini.

One of the bars I love here is a real cheesy touristy place, called Joe's American Bar and Diner. But the food is great and it's so nice to sit outside at Long Wharf when the weather is good.

Just across the road, you have Faneuil Hall.

And Quincy Market.

And this may look like any ordinary street. But this is Newbury Street. One of the greatest streets in the whole world!
Okay... let the conference begin. And if you've been struggling with whether you should attend this one or not... believe me when I tell you it's going to be a cracker!

Friday, April 14, 2006

My second home.

Monday of this week, I met my great friend and colleague, Jim Banks, at Gatwick airport and we flew to Raleigh in North Carolina where my head office is. Jim and I have a lot of business going on together and I'm supporting him with the opening of his new office in Hong Kong in May. So there's lots to do.

I love to come to my second home here in Raleigh. It's so great to be in gorgeous sunny weather. And when I walk through the hallowed portal that is the home of internet marketing...

I make my way to my way directly to the seat of resident blogger and big buddy of mine... Misssteeerrrr Garret French! Woohoo!

And I make a point of fraternising with the enemy too. My closest geographical competitor is legendary industry pundit Andy Beal. And I love Andy and his wonderful wife Sheila as I do my own family. So it was fantastic to pop around to the new Chez Beal (a mansion of considerable beauty, I have to say) and have dinner out on the patio.

Of course, Andy invited Jim around too.

And a wonderful night was had by all. Sheila cooked the most fabulous dinner. Andy kept the wine flowing. And we all indulged in a little marsh mallow toasting to finish. Thanks to Andy and Sheila for such a warm welcome and such an entertaining evening.

Eugene Onegin.

My wife, Tatjana, is a true culture vulture. And long has she wanted to visit the famous opera house in London.

However, like many people around the world, she had no idea that the opera house in London is actually, the Royal Opera House, in an area called Covent Garden. She always thought that Covent Garden was the name of the opera house.

So, I decided that she needed a special treat in the form of a night at the opera and a more extensive tour of London so that she could better acquaint herself with the capital. Last year, I was lucky enough to be on the opera house list for best seats in the house, for the famous Russian opera, Eugene Onegin.

I kept it a secret until last week when I told her about my little surprise treat for the coming weekend.

She is a huge fan of the work of Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin. There's not a scribble he made she doesn't know about. She can almost recite his life story backwards! And like many Russians and lovers of poetry worldwide, one of her favourite Pushkin works, is the poem, Eugene Onegin.

Famously, the poem was used as the basis for an opera by one of Russia's most esteemed composers, Tchaikovsky.

So, we had a night at the opera, with my wife saying a little thank you to me with a bottle of my true favourite tipple. The Royal Opera House has the most wonderful champagne bar!

The opera was, in a word, sublime (although a little difficult for me to follow at times, as my Russian is dreadful). But the champagne bar was a dying-and-going-to-heaven experience, for me :-)

As we were in town, we had a little touristy type walkabout so that Tatjana could get a better feel for it. She took control of the camera as we started our walk around the Serpentine.

Somehow, my wife managed to find her way to the store in the picture below. I waited outside trying to fend off the anxiety attack I felt coming on around my wallatus creditcardus region.

We popped around to, what the Queen and I affectionately refer to as "Buck House".

I rang the bell a few times but she didn't answer. I think she was round at the Duke of Wellington pub having a traditional Sunday lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, washed down with a pint of London Pride bitter.

We had a stroll around Westminster, where I explained that, much like the Covent Garden thing, Big Ben is actually the bell inside the clock tower, not the tower itself, as my wife thought.

Earlier this year we were in Milan and went to see the famous Duomo cathedral. However, when we got there it was covered in scaffolding for maintenance work. This time, we went to Trafalgar Square to look at Nelson's Column and the famous Lion statues and guess what?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

SES Munich.

Still reeling with jet-lag after China, I popped back home for a couple of days to empty my suitcase, wash the contents and head off again.

And as I arrive in Munich, who's the first person I bump into?

Yes, my great pal and world-touring counterpart, Bill Hunt. It's only a week since we were having lunch in China!

Actually, Bill was the first person I bumped into when I got downtown. But Danny Sullivan and I had agreed to hook up in Munich airport and share a ride to the hotel. So it was really Danny that I bumped into first. It was a great opportunity for the two of us to have a proper catch-up.

Although we see each other at every SES, sometimes we don't even get a chance to have a beer together, let alone have dinner. So we yakked for a while in the cab and then had a chance to get together again for dinner with a small group, later on.

Bill Hunt is being hidden (almost) by his colleague Sara, who runs his Swedish operation. Opposite her, on the right is Jonathan from Commission Junction, also based in Stockholm, but he's a home grown Geordie, just like me. Behind him is Danny's brother-in-law, Gernot. And the great man himself, Danny sits next to my empty chair. Well somebody has to take the pics!

Anybody notice, there's a distinct lack of pictures of international man of mystery, Thomas Bindl.

SES Munich is one of the smaller, more intimate shows. I remember thinking last year what a great atmosphere it has. And certainly not disappointed this year.

Also, these smaller shows have such great lunches. Hot buffet on the 20th floor this time. So much nicer than the lunch boxes at the major shows.

One thing that really stuck out this year, was how much more advanced the audience was to last year's show. I did my usual link basics presentation which was attached to my German team mate, Alan Webb's more advanced tactical presentation.

We had some very good questions I thought. And yes, here's a pic of the audience to give them something to link to!

Thomas was on the big spam debate session with Danny and Stefan Karzauninkat, from Seekport. There's a friendly hug going on there, but it did start with Danny faking beating Thomas up!

Munich is Thomas' home city. And Thomas is one of the nicest guys in the business. He's very proud of his city and makes a most excellent host. Everyone agreed (the English speaking contingent, that is) that his selection of bars and restaurants was absolutely wonderful, yet again.

However, for me this time, the highlight was lunch in a real Bavarian beer garden. The English Beer Garden, no less! Thomas had arranged a kind of, German SEO roadshow for the Saturday afternoon after SES. And before he and I went along, he treated me to lunch in true Munich style.

The atmosphere was wonderful, with people just chilling and eating... And doing what you do in a beer garden - drinking great beer!

The whole thing was topped off with the sound of a real German brass band up in the tower in traditional dress giving it oompah, oompah all the way!

And so we headed downtown to yet another wonderful location chosen by Thomas. It was a huge restaurant/ bar with cavernous rooms, lots of people and plenty of good cheer.

Upstairs, there was a section set aside for Germany's finest (spammers, that is) to get together and talk about their... weapons of spam induction!

This was a really great crowd and I only wish I'd had more time to spend with them. However, it was my daughter's 18th birthday at the weekend. And if I hadn't made it back home for that... You have no idea how miserable my life could have been made!

One thing I couldn't figure out as I headed back to the airport. Why is Munich littered with multi-colored Lions?

Speed pitches!

Whoops! Almost forgot about this on my travels.

My buddy Chris Ridings, in the UK, dropped me a note about a new prospecting service he's involved in. Many people will know Chris from the white papers he's written, in particular on PageRank and also from his SearchGuild forum.

Speed dating is nothing new these days. And the principle has been applied to sales before. But I don't that it's ever been tried in the SEO/SEM sector.

There's an event coming up in London on May 18 which provides an opportunity to meet up to 30 potential suppliers and have informal meetings with 15 over a period of a couple of hours.

So, if you're on the lookout for new suppliers/vendors, then this could be the ideal event to cut straight to the chase and no time wasting.

There'll be speed pitches in other industry sectors too. But the SEM event is at the City Golf Bar in London, May 18th. Details here.