Interview with Alan Bleiweiss, search marketing expert and king of rant

Today we’re honored to share our interview with Alan Bleiweiss, the outspoken search marketing industry leader widely known for his unabashed views (and rants). A recognized author, speaker, and character, Alan is now the Director of Search Services at Click2Rank Consulting based in Lacey, Washington.

So what led you to the involvement you’ve had over the years with SEO copywriting?

It’s the core principle of my path in the work world.  Each aspect of whatever job I’ve done over the years that fits ideally with my passions in life has now built on each previous aspect of previous jobs long enough that it led me to SEO Copywriting as a core area of expertise in my life.

I was writing content (newspaper articles, radio spots, how-to guides, statistical reports…) 30 years ago as head of Crime Prevention at two different bases in the Army, then again managing a real estate company in the early 90s (house ads, agent bios, newspaper articles, company instruction manuals…).

When I got into web work, in 95, building sites, then later managing their development for companies big and small, I found it was faster for me to write the first version of content than it was to wait around for clients to provide it.

So from early on in my work life, I’ve been honing my own marketing communication skills.  Especially when, months after a site would go live, it would inevitably still have my writing.  Sometimes that was due to clients “never getting around to it”, and just as often, they actually liked my content!

Then around late 2000, early 2001, when clients started asking for SEO and I dove in with both feet, it was natural to integrate that into my own content work.

You’ve described yourself as an “On-Site Forensic” SEO consultant. What does that involve?

When I first came up with that catch-phrase, I understood what it meant in my own mind, yet I hadn’t taken the time to put actual words to it.  So I’ve had a lot of time to sit with it and each time I’ve been asked, I’ve gotten clearer at describing it.

Forensic SEO is the process of looking all the way into the bone structure of a site (the body) – evaluating all of the components, the environment within which that exists (the competitive landscape), everything that goes into it, and even the relationship each has to the others.

It’s then understanding what’s working as it’s supposed to, and where there’s disease or unnatural patterns that shouldn’t be there.

You recently joined Click2Rank as the Director of Search Services: What are your greatest challenges there?  In what direction are you heading?

Having come from being a consultant to working in an agency that also has in-house client needs (for our parent company), and also having a team that reports to me has been challenging in many ways.

It literally calls on all my years of experience – not just in SEO, but in project and team management, business leadership, crisis management, finance and budgeting… So many things that come up on a day to day basis that I hadn’t ever had combined all in one package this way…

Just one example of the challenges I face is how much I appreciate, more than ever, the responsibility I hold in my hands when it comes to people’s lives.  My team are humans, with families, and kids, and emotional/psychological/spiritual needs.

That needs to be weighed against the needs of the business – the mission, the budgetary reality, the team cohesiveness, all the tasking and deliverables…

That’s dramatically different than when I just had a part-time assistant, and I could take on work or not whenever I pleased, come and go whenever I wanted, work from home as often as the wind changed, and spend the money that came in any way I felt like in the moment…

And we’re growing as well.  We can’t hire fast enough.  Which is a good thing, and yet a monumental challenge given our goals. So I’m excited about our future.

To be crystal clear, I feel like this new leg of my journey is the most rewarding I’ve ever known.  And as radically different as my life was just six months ago, I still wake up and routinely thank God and at the same time, can’t believe I get paid to do this stuff.  I truly am blessed…

Have you any Search Marketing Wisdom to share with SEO copywriters as to what they should be paying attention to?

Always remember that no matter what other signals search engines use to determine ranking or relevance, or topical focus confirmation, it always comes back to the content.

And always remember that no matter how well you’ve molded the sites’ SEO factors, if the content is not first and foremost written for the ideal site visitor(s) and their unique persona(s), you’re not following best practices.  And you’re doing yourself and the company behind the site a disservice if that’s going on.

So ask yourself – do I truly care about the site visitor and the site owner?  Or am I just trampling and disrespecting them so I can make a buck? Or worse, am I colluding with the site owner to take SEO shortcuts and thus justifying my trampling of search quality just because we only care about money?

If that’s your path, go for it.  Enjoy it.  Just have the courage and willingness to admit it.

Have you any advice for search and SEO folks, in general?

As much as it truly needs to always come back to and factor in the content and the site visitor persona(s), realize that you’ll always need outside confirmation that “this page, on this site, really is about this topic”.

Links from other pages on the site, how content is organized within the site, inbound links, social signals, whatever “it” is, the days of having less than ten sites related to any given topic are long gone.  So there’s got to be a way for ten otherwise identical sites or even ten pages within a site, to be sorted as most relevant.

That’s where search engines are continually looking for “outside signals”.  And those ways are always evolving because the web is always evolving as an information sharing medium.

So pay attention to those ways.  Because when you do, you can stay ahead of the search algorithm curve.

What’s your take on all the Google Panda changes?

I love them.  Not just because so many site owners have come to me to perform an SEO audit on their site that got hammered by Panda.  And not just because I’ve now helped a number of sites to rebound after performing those audits.

No – I love the Panda changes because myopic SEO is now in Google’s cross-hairs more significantly and more consistently than ever.

And Panda, as good as it was, clearly wasn’t perfect.  So Schema.org had to come out.  They (the search engines) had to finally admit, publicly, and loudly, that they suck at figuring out the mess that is the web on their own.  That they really do need our help, and that we shouldn’t leave it to them to figure it all out. Which some of us knew all along but which the search engines denied before this year.

And Schema is going to be the next iteration of on-site optimization.  Which means myopic SEO is going to become even more of a target.  That in turn will clean up the SEO cesspool even more.  And that tickles me pink.

About Alan Bleiweiss

Alan is a widely-recognized leader in search marketing and industry speaker at various SMX, Pubcon and Blueglass conferences when his schedule permits.  And earlier this year, he wrote the wildly popular “Site Owners Guide to SEO for Content Writing” which just this week became available in a Kindle edition…

If you want to have your ear filled with industry and business related rants, follow Alan on Twitter