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SES 2006: It's Hard Out Here For A Blogger

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-08-09

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Mike McDonald found himself in a room with a larger A-list than a Nathaniel Hawthorne character sketch. San Jose (or thereabouts) is where the big search engines and their famed bloggers live. The only thing better than this, says Mike, would be Danny Sullivan in lederhosen.

"I lost a World Cup bet, so tomorrow I will be wearing lederhosen for the organic search panel," says Sullivan.


Sullivan is the moderator for "Speaking Unofficially," a panel comprised of Google's Matt Cutts, Yahoo!'s Jeremy Zawodny, Microsoft's Niall Kennedy, and Ask.com's Gary Price. The four of them spill their guts about life on the corporate blogging A-list.

Cutts and Zawodny, as may be expected, seem to have the most to say on the subject. Cutts feels as though he's a "security blanket" to an extent, as SEOers and Webmasters hang on his every word for the next Google tweak. Zawodny just wants everyone to know that bloggin' ain't easy.

Keeping up with a blog is a lot of work. How do you guys do it?

Zawodny: It does take a lot of time. People ask: 'how much time does it take?' And I never know how to answer that because it's so hard to quantify. Sometimes it takes no time at all, other times it takes half the day.

Are you having to show the company what you guys write about?

Cutts: Maybe 3 or 4 posts I've sent over to legal or PR, but in general it's just something I write at 3 am and just send out.

Zawodny: I think maybe I've done that 3 or 4 times, but I've never had anybody say 'don't say this' or 'don't post out' or anything like that.

Jeremy on speaking for Yahoo:

"One thing that happens is that someone will see something I've said and ascribe that to Yahoo, as in 'Yahoo draws a hard line,' or whatever, which is just wrong. And then what happens a lot of the time is that people won't link back to the original statements, or whatever, and the inaccuracy just lives on in the headlines."

How has the blogosphere created something of a democracy, and also somewhat of an imbalance insofar as what gets talked about? How do you feel about that underlying democracy wherein you have so much more influence over what is discussed than the smaller guy?

Cutts: I try to look for a lot of important feeds where news might break where people wouldn't normally look. I try to track down the smaller guys. The blogosphere can act as an echo chamber in both a good and bad way.

Zawodny: I think the whole democratizing nature of it went away a couple of years ago. I've actually tried to shy away from more of the echo side of things. The skill, I think, for companies is knowing when to get involved and when not to get involved.

Price: There's so much in the blogosphere where one person says something's great and the next will say it sucks.

Are you PR people at the end of the day?

Cutts: "I don't view Jeremy as a PR man when he writes that Yahoo Finance has this and that problem. I view that as ballsy. People care more about an authentic voice than they do anything else. If you only use your company's products, for example, people will think you're fake.

Zawodny: I think it's tricky for people to see because we don't always say when we're putting the hat on or taking the hat off. There are people at Yahoo who think my job at Yahoo is the company blogger. A lot of people will have that perception just because that's the most visible thing you're doing.

Price: If i become a shill for Ask.com, then I'm no longer valuable.

Kennedy: It really depends on who it is. If it's the official product team it's one thing.

Where do you draw the line about what you talk about?

Cutts: The supplemental results have been completely refreshed with completely new infrastructure, but I can't really delve too deep into the underlying details. That's an example where much beyond the surface would be inappropriate.

Zawodny: I guess for me figuring out where the line was by repeatedly crossing it and getting some visits in my office - usually not a lawyer - but a VP or whatever. I average about one of these office visits every year. I'm actually overdue about now.'

What's the feedback on the video blogging?

*Matt recently began video blogging on SEO topics.

Cutts: Like so many things, I kinda just backed into it. My wife is out of town, I had the bills paid, the cat groomed, caught up on my email. And I'm looking around and there's the video camera, so put all the lamps in the house in one room and just kinda threw something up on Google Video. Now there have been something like 80,000 downloads. It's important to keep trying new things and it's a lot of fun.

Zawodny: What I've been looking at, something I think has really come along, I think is screencasting. That's what I hope to spend some more time working some more with.

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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