Beloved Analytics Tools, Stupid SEO Fads, & Panelist Heckling: Richard Zwicky 360º

Posted in Interviews, SES New York

Richard Zwicky is a true blue online marketing veteren. Active in the industry for over a decade, Richard’s recognized as a thought-leader in many areas of the SEM spectrum. Gathering deep hands-on experience as co-founder of Metamend, a top marketing firm serving Fortune 100 behemoths and small biz sites alike, and developer of Enquisite Search Analytics technology with clients from around the globe– he’s a guy who knows his stuff. Currently, Richard’s got a sweet gig as Chairman of the Board at BlueGlass. It’s there he’s responsible for, among other things, overseeing the organic and sustained growth of the company. <good-hearted sarcasm fueled by respect> No big deal. </good-hearted sarcasm fueled by respect>.

On the advent of Search Engine Strategies New York, where Richard will lend his expertise as moderator on a healthy handful of sessions, aimClear had the chance to share a candid cyber-interview with the man who’s Twitter bio (@rzwicky) simply yet poetically reads, “Entrepreneur, strategist.” Questions ranged from basic backgrounds to inspring bloggers to favorite foods. Read on for the full effect.

| aimClear: Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you, where do you come from, how did you end up here?

Richard Zwicky: I always find this the hardest question to answer! We all have interesting and distinctive backgrounds, and upbringings. My parents are immigrants, and I was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. Although Montreal is in a predominantly French-speaking region of the continent, I only learned to speak French properly in college. It was sink or swim, and although I came close to drowning, I’m now completely comfortable in both languages.

After university, I moved to the West Coast, and shortly thereafter started my first business. There, I built a small chain of retail stores in the luggage and leathergoods vertical. In 1998, I decided that this Internet thing was both interesting and likely to matter, and I built what was at the time one of the earliest pure-play etail operations, and was one of the first drop-ship operations around: I built a retail operation without any inventory when Amazon still had warehouses full of books! Pretty basic today, but virtually unheard of back then. At the time, Internet Marketing was really basic, and almost unheard of, but I found it consuming. I realized there were opportunities around scaling which needed to be addressed, and started Metamend Marketing, which dealt with an incredible array of clients. That started me on the path to where I am today.

| aC: Inspired! Now, with the advent of social, encrypted keywords, the big personalized Panda and Google+, etc. this is a particularly difficult time in the lives of many SEO analysts. What advice do you have to avoid being left in the dust?

RZ: Don’t chase the latest fad. Worry about building great content, and the visitor experience. Worry about the fundamentals. These don’t change, but edge case optimization will always leave you chasing your tail. You may get a short bump, but in the long run it’s the people and sites which focus on delivering value that succeed.

I spent years building Enquisite so that search marketers would have better information to draw insights from. The reality is most people fail when they don’t concentrate on value delivered, and don’t carefully examine what works, and the reasons why. Most sites that got whacked by Panda were affected by sub-par content, that’s a given. But the reasons go so much deeper than that when you consider why so many sites became so cluttered with poor content which delivered so little value to visitors.

Best ways to not get left behind?
  1. Read a lot of high quality blogs.
  2. Attend some conference to keep up with / get refreshed with everything that’s going on in the industry.
  3. Ask colleagues for help. People in this industry share a lot of great information, if you just ask nicely!
  4. Think about what you’re doing, and whether whatever you’re doing is going make for a positive user experience. (Think before you jump.)
  5. Contribute new, meaningful content to your site daily. People come back to see what’s new, not to re-read what they’ve already learned.
| aC: Just killer. If you were marooned on a digital desert island and you could have only three analytics tools to measure SEO, what would they be? Why?

RZ: I sure hope I’m not marooned alone!

As far as analytics go… I’d want Apache logs with full refers turned on, a parallel logging system running over a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like Akamai with network, session, and persistent cookies turned on, a massively scalable DB system (like Aster), and Excel.

Really simple reasons why: Apache logs don’t miss any transactions. The CDN with a network cookie lets me identify users as they bounce around the network. The DB allows me to pull all the data in and run individual site, and aggregate queries across everything. Excel is a simple and powerful reporting system which allows me to manipulate raw data easily, and extract meaningful insights.

| aC: Love it. Who are your top three favorite bloggers in the world? Why?

RZ: I don’t have three. It would depend on the topic: news, search, marketing, personal interests? The “why” part is easy – people who share meaningful and interesting information are worth paying attention to. People who write for their own edification are boring. I’m not interested in their egos, I read to learn, and form my own opinions based on good, clear information.

| aC: Well put. You’re a moderating monster this go-round at SES NY. On Day 1 you’ll be leading the SEO Competitive Analysis and on Day 2 it’s all about SEO is Dead. Long Live SEO!. What’s your favorite thing about moderating such sessions? What do you try to achieve as a moderator? How badly will you heckle the panelists?

RZ: A moderating monster? Hmmm…. could be worse.  I love moderating at the conferences because I get to share perspective, and sometimes editorialize without all the prep work that everyone else has! Actually, that’s not true. One of the hardest parts about moderating is sometimes you have to over participate in a session, which means you need to know the subject matter cold. If a presenter misses something, or doesn’t know the answer to a question, you need to be able to step in, and provide assistance. Will I savagely heckle the panelists? We might both find out at the same time.

| aC: Muahaha, looking forward to it. Let’s wrap up with the important stuff. Lightning round: Favorite adult beverage, ethnic cuisine, and outdoor activity – GO!
RZ: Wine; All cuisine is ethic to someone! Today, I’ll choose Swiss; an exclusively outdoor activity? Anything with water.

| aC: Thanks for your time today, Richard! Safe travels to the Big Apple, we’ll be seeing you there!
  • Mary Page

    Great interview showing that basics count, that fads are icing and good balance between the technical aspects and customer relationships in the Internet marketing world. I noticed on your bio at Blue Glass your philosophy is win/win. Maybe the next interview someone will explore what exactly that is. :)

  • Mary Page

    Basics count, fads are icing and balance between the technical aspects and customer relationships in the Internet marketing world. Great information and helps my understanding of the business.Your bio at Blue Glass states your philosophy is win/win. Maybe the next interview someone will explore what exactly that is. :)

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