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April 19, 2007

Interview: Josh Stylman of Reprise Media

When I was preparing up the various interviews lately, Josh Stylman was one of the individuals who I knew would make an interesting contribution. I’d known of Josh for quite a while; lots of friends hold him in very high regard, but we’d only actually met within the year, in relation to Enquisite. Ten days ago or so, it was announced that his firm Reprise Media, had been sold to InterPublic. Over this past weekend, Josh was kind enough to send me his answers to the interview questions. They are extremely interesting, and a lot of what he writes is both common sense as well as wise.

Q. Josh, how long have you been working with Internet Marketing ?

13 years.

Q. What’s been your favorite organic technique that you can no longer use due to algorithmic changes at Google?

None. Any good white hat SEO will tell you that by subscribing to methods that are totally above board, and approved by the search engines, you are never subject to algorithm chasing. The SEO’s that are always looking for the latest edge (i.e.: trick) will need to redeploy a new SEO strategy every time the engines update their algorithms. I’m exhausted just thinking about that.

Q. Has Google (or any other engine) ever made an algorithm change which made you very happy?

I don’t know if this is an algorithm change, but it’s nice to see that Google now explicitly recommends excluding website search results from search engines – this is a recommendation that we’ve been making to our customers for years.

Q. If you could get each of the search engines to each answer just one question about their algorithms, what would it be?

I’m not a mathematician, so this question is probably wasted on me. There are some other folks in my firm that would love to pick their brains for hours.

Q. Why analytics are important to you?

Web analytics are the underpinning of everything we do, in both organic – and paid – search. They help us determine testing strategies and are the ultimate measure of success. If you’re not measuring, then you’re just guessing.

a. how often do you look at them?

Our analysts “look” at the stats every day, but that doesn’t mean we’re reacting to them quite as often. Testing strategies are for the longterm. It is important to keep your eye on the data regularly though.

b. how do you suggest your clients use them?

We impose that our customers use analytics to develop KPI’s so that internally and externally, their business goals are clear. Far too many people spend time obsessing about ranking reports, when the absolute rank isn’t what’s critical – what is important, is moving the needle on business goals.

Q. What do you see as being the biggest change coming to the search industry over the next 18 months?

The biggest changes are dynamic reply pages that are starting to be deployed around personalization and vertical search. Search engine optimization will become increasingly complex, as pages are different for individual people based upon their history, preferences, etc. Again, it’s about delivering value, so the core model won’t change. Some of the tactics will though.

Q. What’s one tip you give to all new clients about Internet Marketing?

Deliver good content, don’t try to outsmart anyone and realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Oh yeah, measure everything.

Thanks Josh,

Author:  Richard Zwicky is the CEO of Enquisite Search Metrics. He is also one of the founders of Metamend Search Engine Marketing. When not on an airplane, Richard lives in Victoria BC, Canada.