“To think for yourself, you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself.”
Timothy Leary

I’m a huge fan of ESPN’s Bill Simmons and two of his most memorable columns are when he and Malcolm Gladwell did “extended” email dialogues on relevant topics. I wanted to interview Steve Plunkett but when I realized that he had already been interviewed on both the websites where I had been posting, I thought that perhaps that doing an e-dialogue with him might be an interesting blogging exercise (and I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether it worked or not…)

Steve: The 3 facets of Social Media are: Value, Engagement, Genuine.
Do you provide value?
Are you engaging?
Are you real?

I keep thinking 4… but there is a place in this world for people who swear and talk sexy, not really B2B, but could be wildly successful in B2C or Entertainment.

Todd: There is a place in the world for people who swear & talk sexy = Adult :.)

What astounds me is that people feel they have to be a certain way on social media in order to be successful. Apart from some obvious uber-celebrities, the successful social media folks share a common authenticity no matter how sweet, sour, salty or bitter that authenticity is. Is there anything less cordial and commercial than @shitmydadsays? Yet, look at the value it’s provided to many millions…

Steve: Exactly.. Entertainment value… the whole reason I started “Paisley’s Cool sites” (now Cool Websites Organization http://www.coolwebsites.org), was to showcase the “cool websites” out there, I had a column in the paper, weekly interviews, weekly radio show on 4 clear channel stations, simply about what was cool on the web, from 1996 on… until 9/11 happened then I knew people who I had linked to in that month (windows on the world restaurant, north tower, WTC) and watch the web server I linked to become “unavailable”, as we watched the tower on tv fall to the ground in a cloud of dust. So I kinda stopped “link building”, (which honestly... wasn’t the purpose. I was getting 100k uniques a day for the “coolest flash website”, which at that time, people were pushing the limits for flash websites… like http://2advanced.com and others, of course we also linked to www.doggydoo.com, one of the “dotcoms” that literally sold poop, small, medium and large, hermetically sealed to send to someone you love.. LOL.

As we age “professionally” linking to sites about poop, looks less professional than say blogging about the differences between twitter integration on Bing and Google for your company’s http://blog.mccom.com blog. However part of social media’s interaction with search is not about tweets, it’s about amazon, ringtones, youtube and music. There isn’t really that much search efforts around that spoken about.. or maybe it’s because I don’t blog about seo tactics, just strategy?

Todd: Networks existed well before social media…they weren’t as accessible and visible to the masses but arguably that made them more valuable. Social media isn't the end game for your message…it’s the temporal disseminator of it to where it will get picked up and acknowledged “permanently” via links which pass the value.

As to you other point, frequently your SEO Strategist and your SEO Tactician are 2 different people with two different skill sets. Articulating a SEO vision and managing its implementation is very different than doing the everyday grunt work in a SEO campaign. Visionaries tend not to be the most detail oriented folks…

Steve: That’s what I don’t get… are there actually SEOs who do not touch code… just buy links, spam comments and such without even editing the website? Then again I can see some facets of Local search that don’t’ really require you to edit a website, your thoughts?

Todd: It’s true…there are some aspects of search (certainly local) that can be done without touching code. However, to be any good, you have to have a broad based education and a variety of experiences in order to offer maximum value to anyone. I can’t tell you how many times something I’ve done years ago in a very different context has seeded my mind into coming up with an optimum solution today.

SEO isn’t just about knowledge…it’s about perception. That’s why I’m not big about learning SEO in a classroom setting. A class might teach you knowledge…it could possibly teach you how to think but it won’t teach you how to perceive. Only experience can teach you that and if you don’t have a holistic Internet Marketing background (SEO + PPC + Social Media), you’re far less likely to come up with the $$$ insights.

Steve: I just had this conversation with Robert from @SearchExchange (@NC_SEO on twitter), he was like.. “ohh.. so you’re one of those old people, like we can get you a walker to get to the stage at Search Exchange” – as in I’m a webmaster/code hacker and he understands links a different way I do but his SEO works, just not the same way I do SEO. However, recently I have had the opportunity to train someone, (Yes, I have an SEO Minion/Clone.. Be afraid, Be VERY Afraid!!), who thinks and reasons in a way that mirrors my own, with a slight difference. I taught her FTP and Notepad, the first thing she asked was “Do we really need four blockquotes?”. She picked up the “holistic” aspect of writing clean code. That is something that can’t be taught, even more with Google’s last major announcement was something concerning page load times. Strategy not just tactics are the key to good SEO, from keyword to cash register, what happens?

Todd: I’m now celebrating 10 years in Search Marketing. When I learned SEO, there were no blogs, no RSS feeds, a relatively few websites on the topic, and just a few major forums (most notably Webmaster World). While it was clearly easier to rank well naturally, you had to figure out what to do with almost no outside guidance. The education I got back then is priceless and even though the knowledge I learned is mostly out of date, the process I went through then has greatly contributed to my success now. Even the boring task of recognizing and fixing clean code offers valuable lessons and if you always use a CMS that automates that for you, you missing a major part of the learning process.

Steve: I think the old “usability” + keyword targeted copy and site structure still works every time. Google’s driving directive is to “provide the most uniquely relevant results for each searcher”, as long as you target your customers digital assets with that primary objective in mind you should do fine. Not all CMS systems are horrible for SEO. Recently we have been working on a website for a Microsoft SharePoint CMS consulting firm, SharePoint rocks for SEO as far as CMS’s are concerned.

Todd: You probably know much more about CMS systems than I do. What I do know is that the best CMS for SEO doesn’t add a lot of value if it isn’t being run by an experienced “competitive webmaster”. Excellent SEO’s when presented with a new and unique set of circumstances tend to want to tweak and tinker with what they are given to see if they can supercharge its performance.

One of the reasons I truly value my peers in this industry (such as yourself) is that their ingenuity and insight is absolutely tremendous. Whatever situations I might face, chances are someone in my extended network has successfully navigated through the problem (and chances are they are likely to share). When a group of creative, intuitive, and friendly people pool their common knowledge, anyhurdle can be overcome.