Craig Kilgore | @ckilgs

  1. Interview with Gary J. Nix (@mr_mcfly), Marketing Specialist at Blue Fountain Media

    When it comes to digital marketing, branding is often overlooked and can easily hinder a marketing campaign without proper strategy in place. This is where Gary J. Nix, a marketing specialist with Blue Fountain Media comes in. With a passion for branding and ambassadorship and a wealth of marketing experience, Gary is a must follow for digital marketing and business professionals.

    I was first introduced to Gary at #brandchat, a weekly Twitter chat for branding/marketing minded individuals and have since been intrigued by his work.

    Craig: Gary, for those that are unfamiliar with you and your work, when did you become interested in marketing and more specifically, digital marketing? What do you enjoy most about this line of work?

    Gary: My official entry into the world of marketing took place in college. I was DJing here and there; suggesting the music people should buy and on the staff of the campus music video show. When I found myself reading books about how to perform those tasks better, I realized I should be in marketing. The digital part just came naturally with my affinity for being active in the online space. *Cue AOL dial-up SFX*

    Craig: You show a high level of interest and expertise in branding, what is one of your favorite brand success stories?

    Gary: Besides Apple – as I’m old enough to remember when they were a somewhat fledgling company trying to find themselves – any company smart enough to create a culture within makes me smile.  Kanon Vodka is the latest to do so, but any brand that looks at Lifetime Customer Value as an important metric and does it well is a success to me.

    Craig: Do you feel that branding is often overlooked by businesses, marketers and agencies as a strategy on the web? If yes, why?

    Gary: From what I’ve seen, agencies as a whole concentrate the most on branding. With that being said, businesses are often so focused on quick ROI and marketers are forced by their bosses to do the same. I believe it’s partially panic and partially a byproduct of this now, Now, NOW society in which we live. The issue with that is the brand is essentially the heart of your business. It’s not only a logo or company colors. It’s the thing that draws (or repels) people to (or from) your business. That’s a fact that should never be overlooked.

    Craig: In your opinion, is increasing brand awareness as important for smaller businesses as it is for larger corporations?

    Gary: Increasing brand awareness is very important for small businesses to grow and make their mark. Sustaining one’s brand awareness is important for larger corporations because the little guys could be coming for their market share. Put all of this together and you can easily conclude that effective branding is important for ALL business.

    Craig: What is one piece of cost effective advice would you give to a small business looking to increase their brand awareness web?

    Gary: Look at free tools and take advantage of social media. Virtually every company has some sort of digital presence these days – because it’s necessary. If you have a website (which you should in 2012) installing Google Analytics to look at traffic, trends and conversion data is very simple to do. Social media channels can help you keep in contact with potential customers, present customers and, most importantly, you can monitor what’s being said about your brand. Keep in mind, you can’t control what people are going to say. Whether it’s good or bad, you should know how people feel about you and act accordingly. 

    Craig: What are 3 of your go to marketing tools? 

    Gary: Google Analytics for measurement, MailChimp for marketing and my brain for (weird and wild) ideas and strategies.

    Craig: What are some things you like to do in your spare time to help get your mind off of the fast paced nature of marketing and branding?

    Gary: I’m a sports fanatic. Always have been, always will be. Sometimes I like analyzing teams’ brands too (like The Yankees) but I like the competition even more. By the way, J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS!

    I would like to thank Gary for taking the time to participate in my interview and for sharing some key, sometimes overlooked digital marketing advice. Other than the fact that Gary is a New York Jets fan (Go Bills), I highly recommend following him and his work if you are in the digital marketing industry or are interested in learning more about branding / marketing. Here’s where you can connect with Gary: Google+ | Twitter | Linkedin.

    I do have one last question for Gary though (answer in the comments if you wish).

    Will your colleagues catch you “Tebowing" around the office this upcoming NFL season?

    About the Author: Craig Kilgore is a digital marketer with Mainstreethost and currently heads up their R&D department. Craig’s interests include SEO, paid search, content marketing, social media marketing and business development. You can find Craig on Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin.

  2. Craig Kilgore Interviews Local Search Expert Mike Blumenthal (@mblumenthal)

    When it comes to local search, there aren’t many names bigger than Mike Blumenthal. Mike is the co-founder and presenter at Local University and author of the well cited blog, Understanding Google Places & Local Search – Developing Knowledge about Local Search.’s Local University is a nationwide series of SEO seminars targeting small business owners. Below is a photo from one of their events:

    I was honored to have the opportunity to interview Mike and ask him some questions about local search and best practices for business owners and consumers. See his answers below:

    Craig: For those that don’t follow you or your work, how long have you been doing local search?

    Mike: I have been doing local search since 2001 when I closed my retail storefront and started devoting full time to my web development business.

    Craig: How did you become interested in local search and what do you enjoy the most about it?

    Mike: Running a web company in a very rural town, I quickly realized that very few of my clients and potential clients would ever have a national reach and thus would be unable to take advantage of the “world wide web” other than locally and perhaps regionally. Even in the early years of this decade I realized that it was imperative that they be found on the few local organic searches that were made and I set out to learn about SEO. 

    In 2004 when Google released what was then known as Google Local, an online local business directory, I had an epiphany. I was able to throw away the 9 Yellow Page books that I needed to prospect in my market. As I studied and played with Google Local and its successor, Google Maps, I realized that it was driven by a different algorithm than was organic search. 

    There isn’t just one thing I enjoy about local search there are several. I love that a small retail business can engage in the local search world and get real benefit from it with a moderate investment of time and no money. And that they can reach a local, regional and international audience by doing so. 

    Since 2000 there has been an inversion of utilization on the internet. In those early years local people would search the world for information and shopping opportunities. Now world wide individuals look on the web for local information. A florist no longer needs Teleflora to be able to be in front of a person in Buffalo, NY that wants to send a friend flowers in Petaluma, California. 

    Another thing I love is the collaborative learning about Local search that I have engaged in via my blog.  I love taking the time to share my knowledge with others and that they share back with me. I get emails from all over the world about new features, bugs, spam and functionality in local search. Without these folks actively sending me their observations and the lot of us analyzing it, we would not learn as much or understand the local search reality as quickly. This has led me to make a raft of new friends.

    With some of these friends, I helped create Local University. I truly love educating small businesses about online opportunities. Local U allows me to meet up with many of the friends that I have made (David Mihm, Mary Bowling, Matt McGee, Ed Reese, Will Scott, Mike Ramsey, Aaron Weiche) and share what we have learned with these business owners as we travel to their towns. Here is a schedule of upcoming events:

    Local University Spring 2012 Series – Open For Business

    Craig: For local business on the web, or any online business for that matter, do you agree that they should be devoting time and resources into obtaining digital product/service reviews from their audience? Do you feel that businesses are doing this effectively?

    Mike: We live in a world that is separated by great distance. Many times we, as consumers, are looking for goods or products that are not available from the shops that we normally frequent. Reviews provide the bridge of trust to gaining the information and confidence that we need to buy a new product or service at a location that we are not personally knowledgeable about. A Harvard Business review study found that 70% of online users believe the reviews that they read from total strangers.

    The goal for any business is to be sure that the complete range of voices of their customers are heard in the world of on line reviews. Most happy customers (the 99% as it were) are unlikely to take the time to express their satisfaction without some guidance from a store owner. Most businesses are not yet making that an easy process for their customers. 

    Some of the small businesses that have tried garnering online reviews are not making it an ethical process either. They either buy fake reviews or post their clients testimonials on their behalf. Neither is really what reviews are all about. See: Reviews: Lipstick on a Pig Leads to User Backlash

    Craig: The Next Web published a post back in November of 2011 titled “Hotel-owners blackmailed with bad TripAdvisor reviews for not offering freebies”. What can businesses do to ensure that they do not become victims to these types of “scams”? 

    Mike: Unethical customers and unethical competitors are a reality of the consumer world that we live in. The affects of these sorts of behaviors are potentially amplified by the affects of the internet. There really is no way that a small business person can control the acts of either irrational or selfish people. He/she can only control what they themselves do.  In the world of reviews, my advice to the small business person is to be sure that they have set up a system of engaging all of their many happy customers in the review process so that the efforts of the malicious minority are not as visible.

    Craig: Do you feel that there is enough technology or procedures in place to identify and prevent users from taking advantage of business owners via fraudulent negative feedback?

    Mike: Absolutely agree not but again a small business person cannot control others particularly the huge businesses that are Google, Tripadvisor and Yelp. Most of these companies have processes to remove fraudulent reviews but their policies skew towards the consumer and not the business. 

    A good review management plan involves not just helping good customers create reviews by making it easier but monitoring the reviews that have been placed. 

    When a negative review does appear, have a plan ready. Know what the policy of the posting website is and attempt to have the review removed. Realize that they are unlikely to remove the review. Be ready to post an owner response that is rational and caring. DO NOT RESPOND off the cuff as that is likely to create more problems than it solved.  Respond with a measured and calm voice realizing that you are writing your response to your prospect NOT the review writer. See: Hit by Competitor Spam Reviews: The Plot Thickens

    And continue to get more good reviews. These types of reviews are quickly buried if you have real and sincere reviews coming in. The bad review will be pushed off the page and no longer be noticed. If you have done a good job of taking care of your clients and they have become reviewers, they will step in and provide a defense as well.

    Craig: Businesses are held accountable for bad practices, poor service or faulty products. I personally feel that there is nothing to deter consumers from publishing false information about businesses. Do you feel that there should be more policies or enforcement deployed to hold consumers accountable for their fraudulent actions?

    Mike: While I do think that there should be more policies to hold the companies that publish these reviews accountable for insuring the accuracy of reviews, my thinking it, will not make it so. We live in a world that is largely controlled by large corporations and just because I want a different world my ability to influence those policies is very limited.

    But I have seen that by taking their destiny into their own hands, a small business can have a great deal of success and not be as affected by the negative impacts of false reviews. I have worked with a number of clients and we have successfully overcome the negative impacts of these sorts of reviews. The tactics varied but in every case it was incumbent upon the business to keep getting good reviews from real customers and doing a good job of taking care of their real customers. 

    Below are several articles that Mike has written that pertain to putting a review system in place:

    Garnering Reviews – A Mom & (no) Pop Shop finally Hops on Reviews

    7 Tips on Avoiding Bad Reviews

    Where to Gather Reviews

    Responding to Negative Reviews – Your Prospects are the Real Audience

    Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in encouraging customer reviews

    Google Places: Onsite “Review Stations” AOK with Google

    Asking for Reviews – UMoveFree Finds the Groove

    Removing Friction from the Review Process – Crafting a URL

    A Listing management & Review montior tool

    Craig: What is one piece of advice you would give to a digital marketer interested in specializing in local search/SEO?

    Mike: Focus on the needs of the clients first, foremost and always.

    There you have it folks, local search expert, Mike Blumenthal. I would like to thank Mike for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. SEOs, if you have yet to read Local Search Ranking Factors in which Mike and other contributors share their expertise, I highly recommend checking it out. 

    About the Author: Craig Kilgore is a digital marketer with Mainstreethost and currently heads up their R&D department. Craig’s interests include SEO, paid search, content marketing, social media marketing and business development. You can find Craig on Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin.
  3. Craig Kilgore Interviews SEO Manager & Rapper Mike King (@iPullRank)

    If you are ever looking for a go to source for SEO, UX, link building or development information, Mike King is the man. Mike, aka iPullRank is very well known throughout the SEO community and is looked at as an expert to many, including myself. Mike is an SEO Manager with Publicis Modem and a Global Associate at SEOmoz. He is also a recording artist going by the name of MiC K!NG aka iCON the Mic King.

    I started following Mike on Twitter about 6 months ago and since then have been overly impressed with the quality of his work, his opinions, tips and the creativity found in all of his publications especially after reading “Just How Smart Are Search Robots?” which was featured on SEOmoz back in November of 2011.

    Mike King @ SMX East

    (Mike speaking at SMX East in 2011)

    Mike was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions I prepared for him. See his answers below:

    Craig: How and why did you get involved in SEO?

    Mike: Aww man, I wish I could somehow make this story cooler. I started doing SEO in 2006 after I got into a bicycle accident and had to pay my medical bills. I was a full-time rapper at that time and I didn’t have any health insurance. I’ve been building websites since 1995 and coding in various languages since 1992 so it was pretty easy to make the jump into a technical analyst role. From there I went in-house for a company that makes basement waterproofing products. After that I went to Razorfish and now I’m the SEO lead at Publicis Modem. I’m really excited for what the future holds.

    Craig: With the growing importance of creative content marketing strategies and community building, who is more valuable in your opinion, a creative content marketer/SEO strategists or a more technical oriented SEO?

    Mike: Well, you can’t teach imagination. If I had to choose I’d rather work with a creative strategist than a technical strategist. However luckily I am both so I don’t have to choose! I was on a panel at SMX West and we talked about how SEO needs to be sexy and make cool shit and I think a creative strategist is going to be much better at that than a technical strategist. Technical stuff can easily be learned, creativity not so much.

    Craig: As I stated in my intro, I am a follower of yours on Twitter. A tweet of yours caught my attention rather recently. You tweeted — “all the link building strategy you’ll ever need. You Ready? Make news and make friends. Good night.”

    For emerging digital marketers and link builders, what is one piece of advice you would give them to getting started with this process?

    Mike: People tend to think of link building as a numbers game. Really link building is about getting people to take a real world action on the web that benefits you so unless you’re doing a bunch of link dropping or paying for links all of these tactics are essentially ways that you are making news or making friends. Making news is your content-based link building, making friends is your outreach. My one tip would be to use social media for both things to be more effective. Social will quickly allow you to get ideas for the content that you’re creating and also make your outreach easier because it’s the space where people are expecting to hear from people they don’t know. Context is King.

    Craig: As I mentioned in my intro, you are also a rapper, and a very talented one in my opinion. How do you find the time to balance two highly demanding careers and do you feel that your music background gives you an edge when it comes to creating creative content?

    Mike: Thanks Craig, I appreciate that! Honestly, I don’t. People oftentimes ask me how I came out of nowhere in the SEO scene and the reality is I have been doing it for about 6 years. Early in my SEO career it was just a job to me because I was a musician first. I hated how my day job occupied so much of my mind and how I couldn’t turn it off because I wanted to be able to leave work and then go jump in the studio and create. I don’t really have that ability to fully shift gears so it’s either one thing or the other. Since late 2010, I’ve been more focused on Search and as a result I have only done things here and there for music. Somehow in 2011 I still put out 14 songs due to guest appearances I’d recorded prior. All that said I’m actively trying to achieve a better balance and work on music regularly now. It’s pretty cool that since I’m no longer a full time musician I only take the gigs that I really want to do since I don’t have to worry about paying my bills. The next thing I want to do is make it so whenever I go somewhere for a conference I do a concert around the same time.

    Without further ado, I present to you, Dinosaur’s Anthem by iCON the Mic King:

    Check out some more iCON the Mic King videos.

    Craig: When did you start rapping and who inspires you musically?

    Mike: I started rhyming when I was 14. I’d bought a copy of Method Man’s first album and decided I could do it too. So I’ve always been very inspired by WuTang, Organized Konfusion, and a bunch of independent rappers that are what me and my circle call “playground legends.” 

    Craig: What is one piece of advice you would give to emerging professionals (doesn’t have to be an SEO) who are looking to make an impact within their organizations or community and ultimately make a name for themselves.

    Mike: I’ve got two. 1. Be authentic and original.  2. Always be learning. 

    Craig: For those that would like to watch you speak, where can they find you in 2012? And to follow up on that question, what is the best SEO conference you have ever attended (whether as an attendee or as a speaker)?

    Mike: Well unfortunately you might have already missed me at SMX Israel and SMX West but as of now I’m speaking at SES New York, LinkLove London and SMX Sydney. Not sure if I’ll be speaking at MozCon, but I’ll be in attendance either way. It was easy the best conference I’ve attended so far with SearchLove NY being a close second.

    I would like to thank Mike for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions and for sharing some advice for up and coming digital marketers. For all of you SEOs, marketers and web developers, if you’ve yet to read any of these posts by Mike, it’s worth the time:

    The New SEO Process (Quit Being Kanye)

    The Cat in The Hat Teaches SEO

    8 Tactics for Defending the SERPs when Synergy is not an Option

    Throw Away Your Form Letters (or Five Principles to Better Outreach Link Building)

    About the Author: Craig Kilgore is a digital marketer with Mainstreethost and currently heads up their R&D department. Craig’s interests include SEO, paid search, content marketing, social media marketing and business development. You can find Craig on Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin.