Ruud Questions: Matt McGee

Matt's one of those smart people you just want to follow on Twitter. Genuine stream, real conversation. Funny dude at times; smart. You know, the real deal.

Over a year ago I said, on Twitter, that to me The Joshua Tree is one of those classic albums. Matt couldn't agree more, said so... and we sort of stuck around.

He's one of those folks I really, really, wanted to talk with (interview).

Today's my lucky day.

You're a big fan of U2 and once made we aware of the incredibly moving Super Bowl live performance they did.

A lot of U2's tracks have a very strong religious current which has even resulted in so-called U2Charist services where traditional hyms are replaced with U2 tracks.

What do you think of the latter -- and as to the former; are you a Christian?

Yes, I am ... although many days I don't live up to the name very well. That's always been part of my attraction to U2. Many of their songs have Christian themes, but not usually the Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy stuff -- it's more realistic than that. Songs like "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" or "Wake Up Dead Man" or "Until the End of the World" are openly spiritual songs, but like nothing that you'll hear on Sunday mornings.

faith has
been a
theme in U2's music
I've never been to a U2Charist service, so I can't really share an opinion on it from experience. But the idea behind them doesn't surprise me. Like I said, faith has always been a theme in U2's music so it makes sense to bring some of that into church. And a lot of believers can probably relate with the ideas in U2 songs.

Heck, next month there's going to be a U2 academic conference in Durham, North Carolina, and there will be papers presented by members of the clergy and plenty of sessions related to faith/spirituality and U2. I'm actually one of the featured speakers at the conference, but I'll be giving a presentation about the impact of the Internet on U2 and U2 fans. I'm taking a break from putting together my presentation right now to chat with you.

You're an accomplished SEO and you wrote "U2 - A Diary". That makes the fact that there is no preview available for the book in Google Books one that begs the question: why?

Ha! Is that true?? I don't doubt you. It's in there, but no preview, right? I actually have no clue how that works.

The publisher, Omnibus Press, is well-known in the music publishing industry, but they certainly don't have the name recognition of a major publishing house. Maybe I'll pass the blame on to them for not having a preview in Google Book Search; no, they've been very good to me and a pleasure to work with. And for what it's worth, I've posted several book samples on so I'm just doing what any content creator would want to do: control my own content on my own domain. Right?!?

control my own content on my own domain. Right?!?The irony of your question about Google Book Search is that, as an author, I've had to decide what I wanted to do about the proposed settlement. My agent sent me a bunch of paperwork about how it affects me and what my options were, etc. It was kinda strange to read because I've been following it and writing about it on Search Engine Land, and now I had to make my own decision about opting in or objecting.

If you're curious, I'm not a fan of the settlement itself (from what I understand, it essentially closes the door on anyone else ever being able to compete against Google in this area) but I decided not to object as an author. My book has a niche audience, so I tend to think being available in Google Book Search may be good over the long term for exposure. We'll see.

Your writing got you noticed. Your blog essentially led to your job. Would you do it different today; leverage Twitter or Facebook ... or do you think blogs are still where it's at?

To me, the blog is the hub of your online presence. I'm more interested in a company's blog than I am in their web site. The blog tends to reveal more about the company: what kind of company personality they have, what kind of people they hire, how open they are, how ambitious they are, and so forth. So yes, I do still think blogs are where it's at. Let me amend that: A GOOD blog is where it's at.

the blog is the hub of your online presenceWould I do anything differently? Not at all. Last time I checked, I rank No. 1 or 2 on all three major search engines for the phrase "seo career advice," and I still get an email every month or two from someone new to SEO wondering if the advice in that old post still applies. And I tell them it does: Your blog is where you hang your hat. It's where you show who you are and what you know. It's where you practice what you preach. It's kinda tough to post a piece of linkbait on Twitter (and why would you want to? It's someone else's domain), but it's pretty easy to write something that's filled with Fantastic, put it on your blog, and get noticed that way.

Twitter and Facebook are great -- well, I'm not much of a Facebook guy, frankly, but I love Twitter -- but they're not good places to create a content hub for yourself or your company. They're great promotional tools for the content you publish on your own blog. They're great for both expanding and refining the brand, the personality that you show on your blog. They're great tools for building an audience that you can drive to your blog. But they don't replace the blog.

Starting tomorrow you can no longer be an SEO or a marketer. So you....

Can I keep writing for Search Engine Land? That's more journalism than SEO/marketing.

If not, the first thing I'd do is start an online news site covering my local area.

I'd return to my old news days and cover the heck out of my local area. I figure our newspaper only has so much time left to live, so we'll need someone to pick up the ball when they drop it.

I'd use Twitter to find local folks who are already tuned in and connected and understand what's going on today with social networking and social tools. I'd find local bloggers because they already have some idea of what online publishing is about. I'd find some local photographers on Flickr. I'd round them all up and try to sell them on contributing to a local online news site. And if they bite, then I'd try to find someone with actual sales skills to go out and sell ads to the community.

And then I'd SEO and market the heck out of our little news site. Whoops. Did you say I can't do SEO or market? 🙂

3 software tools you would recommend -- SEO related or not.

Well, I'm on a Mac, so this may be of limited functionality, but there's a great program called Picturesque that offers basic image editing and saves me from having to open Photoshop all the time. I can crop, resize, and edit an image in Picturesque in less time than it takes Photoshop to launch.

I'm a big fan of using question-based keyword toolsA social tool I've just started using is; you can send text, audio, video, or photos to it, and it'll automatically distribute what you send to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and your choice of many other services with which it integrates.

And then, for the SEO folks, I'm a big fan of using the question-based keyword tools that Keyword Discovery and WordTracker offer; I think they're great ways to come up with blog article ideas, especially for clients who struggle to figure out what to blog about.

I'd like you to stand on the shoulders of giants for a moment and look off into the distance. What's happening long term with social media, social networking ... especially as it relates to SEO?

Okay. First, let's agree that social media and social networking isn't going away, isn't a fad, and is only going to grow in overall popularity for the foreseeable future. That presents a problem, in that I think the noise and low-level clutter (read: spam) isn't going to go away anytime soon, either. So it'll be up to the search engines to get better and smarter at finding the stuff of value and ignoring the noise. And I think they're all working on that, especially Google.

SEO is all about trustSo, to me, what it means for SEO is that it places an even greater premium on trust. I don't think this is any big secret, right? People tend to flock to trusted sources. Trusted sources have an easier time building an audience. And SEO is all about trust. Search engines gravitate toward trusted pages and trusted sites. They'll mine the social media fields the same way.

Speaking very practically, I think we'll eventually talk about our social networks in the same way we currently talk about link building -- it'll matter more who you follow and who follows you. It'll matter more who tweets and retweets your content. I think the people that realize SEO and social media marketing are really just like traditional marketing -- where things like trust, reach, and remarkability are what matter most -- are the ones who'll prosper for a long time to come.

About the Author: Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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