A touring rapper, a web developer, turned a full-fledged marketer. With a versatile personality like this person, one would wonder if he would spare some time to give an interview. Michael King is a software and web developer turned SEO turned full-fledge marketer since 2006. He is currently the Executive Director of Owned Media at Acronym. He’s also an international touring rapper. Follow him on twitter @ipullrank or his blog – The Best Practice
We caught up with him and had a quick Q & A session and he was generous enough to answer the questions.
Tell me about your journey from awesome Rapper to Inbound Marketer?
“Well, I never expected to be in marketing when I grew up. My dad was/is in Finance and Marketing and I always saw him in Lotus 1-2-3 doing boring stuff with numbers. I’ve been coding off and on for a long time and, as I said in my first post on Moz, I got into SEO as a result of being in bike accident in 2006 when all I was doing was touring and putting out records. When you rap for a living you don’t have health insurance so I needed to get a job to pay my medical bills and an SEO agency was the first place to hire me. It was a pretty natural transition because I had had to pick up marketing from promoting my own music.“
What was your first job? And when was it that you realized you wanted to be in marketing?
“That’s actually a funny story. The first company to pay me to do something was an ISP because I kept rooting their server. One day the owner of the company came on the Linux chat and said “hey can you please stop hacking us? I’ll pay you to do something…” So we decided that I would write tutorials for CGI scripts like guestbooks and message boards and he paid me $150. I used the money to buy a pair of Jason Kidd’s.
My first ever actual job with a regular paycheck however was a high school internship at Microsoft as a Webmaster that same year which in a way somewhat connects to where I’m at now because that’s how I met Jamie Stevens former CMO at Moz and current CMO at Ookla. He and I built a portal for interns that got us featured in Microsoft’s internal newsletter.
I didn’t really realize I really wanted to be in marketing until I worked at Razorfish and got to work on cool projects and accounts.“
Nowadays, inbound marketing is the hot shot. So, what’s your definition for Inbound Marketing?
“*Deep Breath* To me Inbound Marketing is a collection of marketing activities that leverage remarkable content to penetrate earned media channels such as Organic Search, Social Media, Email, News and the Blogosphere with the goal of engaging prospects when they are specifically interested in what the brand has to offer. Some other people include PPC and Social Display, but I don’t. I have nothing against those channels, but I think if we include those then it’s no distinction between Inbound and Content Marketing.“
What advice would you give to an inbound marketing intern? What would be the most important lessons to take away before starting out full time?
“To everyone starting out I always say make or do something. Start your own blog and grow it to 10k visits a month, start a social community and grow into whatever your goal is. Basically find something you’re passionate about and apply what you’ve learned about inbound to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s always best to learn by doing and then you have something you can show your prospective employers. As a hiring manager I was always far more impressed by people that had something to show me than those that just knew the buzz words.“
While inbound marketing, what are those 3 crucial factors, based on your experience, which could be real game changers?
“I don’t know that the crucial factors are exclusive to inbound, rather they are related to any type of marketing. Those factors are measurement, planning and optimization. If you fail at any of those phases you’re not getting the most out of your campaign. Measurement should be done in context of planning so you know how to judge how well you’re doing. With planning your strategies and tactics should be developed through the lens of the target audience. Optimization should be done with respect to the audience and measurement. I wouldn’t say any of that is game changing, it’s just that a lot of people skip out on the basics because SEO has always lived and died by guess and check.“
Michael, mention those 5 Advanced Onpage tactics, which should be included in Inbound marketing?
“SEO is a channel of Inbound Marketing and therefore all on-page tactics should be included.“
For building an online community from scratch what’s your ideas & advice?
“My advice is really no different than any other aspect of the marketing campaign; it all boils down to content strategy. You need to really understand what makes your target audience tick and how you can consistently create something of interest to keep them engaged. Tactically you can use tools like Followerwonk to pull followers and segment them based on their interests in their profiles, but at the end of that research you need to gauge what type of content you can commit to creating on regular basis and you need someone to known and own the channels. A lot of people start out ambitious with content, but ultimately can’t execute. Another great research channel to leverage is Quora. Quora is a Q&A site and you can find questions relevant to your business and objectives with content that can be repurposed, influencers and interested parties all in one place.“
Content marketing and Content strategy still effective weapons. Can you drop your views for the same?
“Content Strategy and Content Marketing are certainly very different things. I like to think I’m in the CS category more than the CM category because I value the processes and techniques behind building systems for creating and maintaining effective content. However I have definitely fallen into the CM category at some points as well when we have a great idea, but don’t have the time to cook it to perfection. In my experience the content that was born of CS has resonated with our audiences much more and helped us meet the business goals better.“
Which are the most common mistakes committed by SEOs?
“Too much copying of the wrong things, not enough imaginative thinking, not enough focus put on on-page optimization. As far as to link building. though there are lots of tactics that still work that people aren’t doing. I’ll forever point to Ethan Lyon’s tactic of comparing backlink profiles to Twitter profiles. I always start there for quick hits, but as an industry, it seems like everyone’s first inclination is to say “let’s do guest posts!” In general, I think the industry is always looking for the new tactic when in reality we have tons of tactics already, we should all be thinking about how we can build strong new strategies that these tactics can support.“
If you had to identify the TOP most ranking factors, what would they be?
“There are many studies out there that look to answer this question better, but for the most part it’s the same as it ever was – optimized content with strong user-driven signals.“
Do you have any advice for optimizing a site that in a sub-directory of a nation site? Would there be any difference if it was configured as a sub-domain?
“I don’t understand this question.“
Have you tried any black hat tactics for optimizing any website?
“I test out black hat stuff on test sites. I like to know what works and what doesn’t. I never suggest or employ black hat tactics for clients.“
Back when you still did SEO consulting, what was your proudest SEO moment? What client did you totally knock out of the park and took their business to the next level?
“I still do SEO consulting and I welcome inquiries into those services. =)
I have had proud SEO moments on huge brands like LG which are great for my resume and my ego, but I’m most proud of the stuff I’ve done for smaller companies. In those cases I’m helping change the lives of families and such. There are a handful of contractors whose businesses have seen hockey stick growth from my efforts. The same could be said for a lot of the clients I’ve worked with in my various agency experiences, but big brands aren’t as appreciative they’re just like “oh, a few more million dollars, cool.”“
Google rolls out algorithm updates for the betterment of search results. What is your take on this as a digital marketer?
“I love how they are forcing marketers to think more about the target audience and their needs instead of just search engine trickery. Granted there will always be new exploits, but I appreciate that a lot of people are starting to shift to marketing. After all SEO is a marketing function despite the fact that it rarely lives there within teams at companies.“
What are the biggest personal sacrifices you have made to progress your business and did they play out as you anticipated when you made the decisions to make them?
“As a leader of a team at my previous agency I had to make a lot of personal sacrifices. I think a lot of people took that for granted, but there were many situations where I made the decision to do things to benefit my team rather than to benefit myself. I created opportunities that the entire company would not have had and I fought for people to have opportunities within the company, but in the end some of them may not have understood or appreciated that. And that’s ok, but I stand by all of my decisions because I always did what I felt was right, not necessarily what was right for me.
Did things play out as I anticipated? Yep.“
What tips would you give to first time public speakers?
“Know your subject matter inside and out. Don’t rely too much on your slides. Don’t be boring. Be authentic.“
Michael King is an idol for all in the Internet marketing industry. Who is Michael King’s idol? From whom do you seek guidance?
“I don’t think I idolize anyone in marketing. I respect a lot of people, but there’s nobody that I’m like “I want to be like that person.” I guess I idolize the future me because I want to be as amazing as people that people look up to. As far as guidance I have people that I trust that I reach out to in and out of the industry for advice and then my girlfriend and my parents are pretty smart too.“
If you had the power to change something in Google for one day, what would that be?
“I’d make the Organic marketing just as transparent as the Paid. I’d also surface more of the audience data they have.“
What do you do when you are not doing SEO?
“These days I’m writing code and working on building my own toolset. I travel a lot, drink wine, and rap of course. I also read a lot of books.“
Which are those 3 things the world doesn’t know about Michael?
1. Shakira told me I was cute once.
2. I’m the first American rapper to ever perform in Szczecinek, Poland.
3. I’ve never seen the Titanic
Thanks, Michael for your sporting spirit and for answering the questions. The internet marketing world will look forward to this interview as a valuable source.