MARK: Hey we’re sitting here in the Edge Water again, this is a popular hang out with the SEO Rockstars, AKA Oil Man and Web Gorilla, AKA Greg Boser and Todd Friesen. We just want to talk a little bit about these guys, how they got started in SEO, and then of course, how did the SEO Rockstars ever come to be.
GREG: And where the hell it went.
MARK: (Laughs) Yeah, and what happened to it.
TODD: It’s got a Go Daddy parking page on it I believe (laughs).
TODD: Yes, absolutely.
GREG: No, I still get spam emails. The blog is not there anymore?
TODD: Oh, no the blog is still there; that’s right, we did put a blog up on it. We put like two posts on it.
GREG: It has about 987,000 spam comments on it.
MARK: So what were you doing before you ever heard of this guy named Greg Boser?
TODD: Oh man, go back a few years on that… when I discovered SEO and search I was working at a Chevron, Canada in the accounts receivable department. I was a young up-coming accountant, and I chased joint venture receivables from other oil companies because oil companies don’t like to pay their bills and it was a terrible job; I hated it. Then a friend of mine who had been helping me learn just basic HTML to build websites, this was back in ’98-’99, he sent me this little program and was like, “Dude, you got to check out this program.” It was WebPosition, the very first version of WebPosition, so I fired it up and I created pages and I submitted to search engines and I was like, “This is fast. This is amazing.” It had never occurred to me that this kind of thing existed. So I bought and downloaded a copy and it was fantastic; I played around with it a little bit and then I started actually going to web companies in Calvary as a side-deal and I was going, “I’ll do rank reporting for you,” and I was using WebPosition to create doorway pages, a little bit more than the blue line thing, blueline.gif, yeah.
MARK: Do you remember what year that was approximately?
TODD: It was like ’98. So I was charging like $100 a month to run a scheduled report that automatically emailed to them; it was great. Meanwhile, that whole time I was avidly looking for any job that was tech related, anything to get out of the oil company. Then I finally got a job as a webmaster/SEO for this tech start-up in Calvary, and that lasted a whole four months before they just about went out of business; the bust happened, so I wound up out on my own. I didn’t have a job. I was a moderator at WebMasterWorld at the time, so I went to WebMasterWorld moderator’s forum and posted, “Hey if anybody needs help with anything, I’m going to try and have a go on my own here.” This one guy emailed me and said, “Dude, you got to check out this Phentermine stuff,” prescription diet weight loss pill. I was like, “Oh sure, what the hell?” so I went and signed up, and my sign up number was 1,013 so I was like the 13th person to sign up, and I built a website. I owned PhentermineDietPills.com, that’s how early I was in the space. I put the website up and then my wife and I had already booked a trip to Europe for two weeks, even though then we were broke because I didn’t have a job; we went on the trip anyways. The first month that I did the diet pill thing I made $150. I was like, “Great; great Idea.” So we went on this trip and while we were on the trip we were nickel and diming our way across Europe because we had nothing, and while I was on the trip I would go to internet cafes and email all of our friends where we were and what we were doing and then I would check my stats. The site kicked in. I had about three sites built by then and they all kicked in. I made $8,000 while I was on vacation. All of a sudden we started staying in nicer hotels and started going to fancy restaurants; we quit eating at McDonalds in France, you know, stuff like that. So then when I got back I started cranking out website after website after website. That was back when it was all duplicate content. It was the exact same content on every single site, and they all link to each other. It was great, you could go to Yahoo and they were still a directory at the time. You could search for Phentermine and there were only 12 results and I had 3 of them. Now you go search for Phentermine and there are eight million results. So I road that wave until it really started to fall apart. The government got involved and the guys got “dealing heavier drugs.” We went from Viagra, Phentermine, and hair loss stuff, to Vicodin, Valium, Hydrocodone, Oxycotton, Xanax, and that when the DEA actually got intrigued and as the story goes, from what I understand, the DEA started to take notice of this so they thought they would check it out. So they went to what looked to be a very “reputable” site, because by then we were actually designing nice sites… when it started off they were text only and their weren’t even secure credit card pages and people were just signing up left, right, and center. But they went to what looked to be a reputable site, and they ordered some Vicodin, and they got a package from Pakistan, and it was labeled “Ear Muffs” and it was a zip-locked baggie of unmarked white pills. This is here-say, I don’t know if it actually happened, but apparently after that they went in and started swat team raiding the online pharmacies. Then there was this guy named Vincent Chhabra who ran USA Prescription and they found out, once again this is what I hear, that he was laundering money for the mob through his pharmacy. He lived in a gated mansion on the water and drove bullet proof cars and all of this stuff. So by then I was like, “Ok, I’m done.” I sold all of my sites and it got to where you couldn’t even find anybody for orders after that; it got really turned up-side-down. But in the midst of all of that is when I met Greg. We met at WebMasterWorld, Barcon - the very first one in Ervine, California. We just met, “Oh you’re Web Gorilla?” “Oh you’re Oil Man? Cool.” We had a few drinks and then we were headed back to the hotel which you could see from where we were; we were at the Spectrum which is this giant outdoor mall, this huge complex. You could see the hotel. It was only about a mile away, and Greg was like, “I’m too drunk, I can’t drive. How are you?” I was like, “Dude, I’m cool.” So he gives me his keys, we hop in his Durango, and we start circling the parking lot; we couldn’t find out way out. We’re just yakking away, and we circle the Spectrum, “Oh there’s the hotel.” “Oh, there’s the hotel.” “Oh there’s the hotel.”
GREG: That was bad.
TODD: It was terrible, but that’s how we met for the first time. Then he talked me into coming to San Jose, SES that year.
GREG: I want to say February ’02 was the Barcon thing, I’m just guessing based on the fact of the car I had.
TODD: Yeah, so he was like, “Dude, you’ve got to come to this SES thing.” At that time it was still WebMasterWorld verses Danny. There was this whole weird thing, so with SES it was like, “Oh, you don’t go to SES that’s the corporate, clueless, blah, blah, we’re real SEOs we don’t do that.” Greg’s like, “Dude, it’s the shit you’ve got to come check it out.” So I went down there and hung out, and I was always mooching rooms off of Greg back then because he didn’t have anybody working for him, so I would always mooch the spare bed, and that’s when I met Danny; we had traded some emails and stuff, and I was sort of half-joking and I was like, “Dude, what do I gotta do to get on the speaker circuit down here?” and he was like, “Dude, send me an email.” Then I spoke that fall at SES New York and did an affiliate panel there and it was all affiliate matter; it was VP of commission junction, the CEO of Performix back when they were just an affiliate company, and then Cat Zaida, who was on there – she had just written her book. I was the evil affiliate guy. So I got up…
GREG: What was it called? “Do you know what your affiliates are doing to your brand?” or something like that.
TODD: Yeah, so I got up there and just talked about how we don’t read terms of service and we’re evil and we’re this and we’re that, and it was way over the top; it was all show. Then this lady sitting in the audience put up her hand and asked the question in this very passive-aggressive way called me a Scum Bag.
GREG: Bottom Feeder!
TODD: Bottom Feeder! And a Scum Bag! She got two questions. She goes, “So if somebody is using these kinds of bottom feeder tactics, not that I’m calling you a bottom feeder…” and then afterwards she came up and she wanted to apologize, she was feeling very badly. We actually hit it off and we became really good friends, and she wound up being my boss about 18 months later when I went to work for EngineOnlineMedia. So it was a very long road. It took 18 months for them to convince me that I could be white hat.
GREG: And Sheryl was a professional heckler.
TODD: Oh, that’s her gift.
MARK: At the conferences? Give her a mic, and …
TODD: Oh yeah, she’d always be the one that would stand up for years in my sessions and just be the one to ask that question. But somewhere along that, I think it was the next year actually in San Jose, that Greg and I were hanging out and there were these girls, SEO… what were they calling their company?
GREG: Charlie’s Angles, I don’t know.
TODD: They were like the Charlie’s Angels of SEO. They were these three very attractive women and they were starting this SEO company and they knew shit about it, like nothing at all.
GREG: Dumb as dirt.
TODD: Completely. So we are just hanging out and one of the girls looks at Greg and Me and goes, “You guys are like rock stars. You guys are like SEO Rockstars.” Thus, the name was born. We didn’t do anything with it at the time, this was still years ago, but that was sort of the founding of the name.
MARK: Who was that?
GREG: Becky Ryan.
MARK: Ok, now she’s Trillian today.
TODD: She has managed to make her way very well in the industry.
GREG: The funny thing about Becky is, I first met her and I was doing what we all do and Googling my name and I found this resume on the internet and it was from some chick, and the key highlighted thing on her resume was that she attended my sessions. I just thought that was hysterically stupid, right, kind of flattering but kind of really weird? It was like, “Really?” So, I already knew Becky and the joke is that she was my first groupie. She was like, “Oh my god!” just a bubbly blond, and that’s where it all started.
TODD: So then we sat on that for a couple years.
GREG: No, he went out and registered the domain name.
TODD: No, not right away though. We didn’t do anything with it for the longest time.
MARK: So you just heard the name. She coined the phrase…
TODD: And we would get talking about it, and then Darren and Brandy started WebMasterRadio, and they were going, “You should do a show,” and this and that, and I was like, “Well I could do a show, what do you want to call it?” Then sort of the SEO Rockstars came back to mind, and I was like, “We could call it SEO Rockstars.”
GREG: Of course I wasn’t involved in that.
MARK: Oh you didn’t have any involvement in the name?
GREG: No, he took the name and ran off with somebody else. He cheated on me.
TODD: (Laughs) With Jake Bailey.
GREG: Who we love to death.
TODD: Yeah, Jake and I launched the SEO Rockstars show.
MARK: And he has the "Rockstar" personality.
TODD: Well he actually has a story about somebody calling him an SEO Rockstar…
GREG: Sherri made that up.
TODD: … and he’s got a picture, and he’s got this thing, and he owns SEORockstar.com, and I have the plural.
GREG: And I was very bitter.
TODD: Totally, you weren’t interested in doing the show initially.
GREG: I didn’t really know about it till it started. Don’t let him… he’s lying.
GREG: So yeah, they did the show and Jake got crazy busy making his billions, and he said he couldn’t do it anymore, so Darren came to me and said, “Would you take over Jake’s spot.” That’s how it started. The funniest thing about it now, because it’s a phrase that gets used quite a bit, is nobody get’s the tongue and cheek part because the thing is when I moved to Los Angeles back in ’86 I played in a rock band, I had long hair, I was into the ‘80’s metal thing.
MARK: What instrument?
GREG: I was keyboard player. So the whole joke about it…
GREG: I know he’s laughing…
TODD: Dude you got to just put this up in MP3 form. MARK &
GREG: My fellow bald friend here. So, originally my career goal was that I wanted to be a Rockstar. Of course I failed miserably at that and ended up being a geek, so it’s a very tongue and cheek thing, it’s like, “Well I couldn’t be a real Rockstar so now we’re like the big ameba in a little itty bitty drop of pond water.” So we walk into this building with 5,000 people and everybody is like, “Ooh.” And then you walk in the door and you’re just a nobody.
TODD: Well it got really underscored because you know how you get so used to that. You go into a conference and it’s like you can’t walk four feet and everybody has to say hi, and everybody knows who you are, and it’s great and you get to feel like a Rockstar…
GREG: But when people talk to you while you’re urinating, that’s kind of weird. I’d shake your hand, but…
TODD: We drink about eight gallons of water while we’re speaking and then right after the session it’s like, “Oh my god, I gotta take a leak so bad,” and people are like, “Hey man, I’ve just got one more question,” and it’s like, “Dude, if you want to walk with me to the bathroom you can ask your question.” They will follow you right in there…
GREG: Hand you a towel…
TODD: Yeah, it’s crazy. Then we rent limos and we party a lot and we have this whole, like, when we’re away at conferences its how we roll, it’s the lifestyle. Then we go home and we have kids and mortgages and we’re mowing our own lawns.
GREG: Really so boring…
TODD: But it got really highlighted when we did a three hour SEO class at the Web2O Summit last year in San Francisco, and we walked in and we didn’t know anybody and nobody knew us, we weren’t on any of the party lists... it was so deflating. You just walk in there and you’re like, “Wow…”
GREG: “Wow, I thought I was a geek…”
TODD: And this is the internet at large right, I mean, this isn’t our little corner of search. It is very tongue and cheek.
GREG: It’s definitely not something that taken seriously, because… (Todd Malicoat joins the table)
TODD: And then we both just got crazy busy and neither of us could do the show, and we couldn’t coordinate schedules.
GREG: But it’s coming back.
TODD: Apparently it is coming back with new hosts.
MARK: How many shows did you guys do?
TODD: 25, no more than that, maybe 3o. TODD MALICOAT: Who’s doing it now?
GREG: I don’t know it’s a secret. They won’t even tell me. TODD MALICOAT: It’s going to be Rand.
GREG: Probably Rand and Rebecca.
GREG: I actually don’t even think they have anybody. TODD MALICOAT: “SEO Rockstars 2.0”
TODD: If that’s what they’re going to call it, I can’t even be part of it. TODD MALICOAT: That’s pretty cleaver.
GREG: I don’t think they should redo that show.
MARK: It needs a new name if you guys aren’t in it.
TODD: Well that’s sort of our idea.
GREG: Yeah, it’s definitely a fun thing to do. I love when we do our live stuff at the conferences. Just scheduling wise, when he was working for Range their office was in Dallas and he lived in Victoria. So he was on the road and when he would be home for a stretch I would be on the road. We were always too lazy to pre-tape stuff, because it was always the chat room tied into it.
TODD: Yeah, if you don’t have the live chat going with it… just to sit and pre-tape a show is very…
GREG: Stale. We don’t work that way.
TODD: It’s like writing a presentation. I would rather just get up and wing it and go with the flow of what’s happening, right. So when you’re doing the show it’s the same thing. And we never had a topic. One time we planned it out was when we had Matt on the show. We actually planned that show; we had Matt Cutts. Without fail every other time, ten minutes before show time, he’d email me, “What are you going to talk about.”
GREG: “What do you got?”
TODD: “I got nothing what do you got?”
GREG: “I don’t know, wait till the promo.” Once the promo starts playing it’s like…
TODD: Yeah, and we would just do site clinics and go with what people were talking about in the chat room. It was all very casual, just hanging out.
GREG: And now it’s just kind of this weird freakish cult thing. It’s almost like the rock band Boston, you know? They only did two albums but… well, the last two don’t count… but I mean, originally. That was like 20 years between.
TODD: Two real albums.
MARK: Yeah, yeah, ok.
GREG: Yeah, so people still come up constantly and say, “Why don’t you do your show? I listened to it…”
TODD: Well outside of search cast, it’s still the most subscribed show on WebMasterRadio.
MARK: So what would it take, now that you are in the west coast and same time zones, what would it take to… TODD &
GREG: We’ve always been in the same time zone.
GREG: I don’t know, he’s just a flake.
TODD: OH! (Laughs)
MARK: Dallas and Los Angeles are in the same time zone?
GREG: No, no, no.
TODD: The company was in Dallas, I lived in Victoria.
MARK: Oh, ok.
TODD: So I was traveling down there a lot.
GREG: And of course, to travel off of Victoria is like a ten day excursion because of the fog and the boats and the missed flights and it’s a nightmare. When we would show up at conferences I’d fly in, “Oh yeah, I got here in like 4 hours.” “Oh, 19 hours, Todd is stuck in an airport.” You know, because you didn’t live next to a major airport, so travel was always the hard part.
TODD: I suppose…
GREG: What really makes it tough is the kid’s schedules, because you have the spring time, my daughter plays softball on Tuesdays and when we did shows she had games and I didn’t want to miss the games... I don’t know what it would take, but I guess it’s a new point now because apparently we’ve been replaced.
TODD: That’s what I hear. Well, it’s not what I’ve heard, I’ve gotten voicemails, “Hey this is Darren, call me.” And I haven’t, it’s terrible.
GREG: The thing is its kind of time consuming and its fun. It’s never something that would take precedence over work, because we don’t make any money from it.
TODD: It never did any business, it was just a fun thing to do. I mean, it was great, don’t get me wrong. It was an absolute blast.
GREG: The problem is that the people that listen to the show can’t afford it, so it’s not like…
TODD: Yeah, corporate America is not listening to that.
GREG: Thank God.
TODD: Yeah, (laughs) no kidding.
GREG: Because we are potty mouth, but we did…
TODD: We did just about get sued.
GREG: No you just about got sued.
TODD: No, he was going to sue you first.
GREG: Oh yeah, yeah, it was Greg. So we were on the show and I forget what even made him upset, oh, he’s a stalker, that’s what it was.
TODD: Yeah, and we went to commercial cause you had been emailing me and you’re like, “Dude, we can talk about my new stalker.”
TODD: So before we went to commercial I said, “When we come back from commercial we can talk about your new stalker.” And we both laughed and it was totally tongue and cheek; it was nothing. Then this guy heard it. We never said his name, but he figured out that it was him, and he threatened to sue everybody.
MARK: For what?
TODD: For defamation, calling him a stalker.
GREG: Yeah, because he would call me and just basically wanted free consulting. Sometimes it crosses the line, it’s great that people dig the show and everything, but he was a freak; he still is a freak, I’d say it again. The thing is, for me I was the boss, I didn’t give a shit. I was like, “Whatever, I’m an attorney. Bring it on.” But he was working for Range, and he was pretty new there, so now they’re freaking out because…
TODD: He called my boss.
GREG: Oh yeah.
TODD: He called me first, and gave me a chance to make it right, which he wanted a buy-off. He wanted me to talk to Greg and see how we were going to make it right because he was going to put Greg in the poor house and it was this really crazy thing. Then he didn’t give me the 24 hours; he actually called my boss the next day. So my boss calls me up and he’s like, “I just had a really weird conversation…” and I’m like, “Oh I’m so fired,” cause he was going to sue Range because of what I said, because I worked for them; I was their representative. It all went away eventually over time, but it was freaky. Greg was like, “Eh, whatever,” and I was like, “I’m going to lose my job,” not that I couldn’t have gotten another job or anything, but nobody has threatened to sue me before and this guy was vociferous in his conversation. But that is the only time we have ever made any enemies on that show. He lives in the Philippines and I always sort of picture him, he would listen to our show on his iPod.
GREG: Yeah, so this is the best, he’s jogging down the beach, right…
TODD: He’s jogging down the beach listening to the show.
GREG: The pod casts from iTunes, “Lah, dah, duh, dah, duh…” and all of a sudden he’s like, “They’re talking about me! I’m pissed!”
TODD: We never said his name, but you pasted his URL in the chat room.
GREG: I posted his spam in the chat room.
TODD: Yeah, his spam was on Google pages. What do you expect.
GREG: I was like, “Give me a break.” He sent me this big long thing about how he thought he got in trouble for spamming but he didn’t do anything, and then I found all this crap and we needed a topic.
TODD: Uh huh, and boom. Then it came back again; remember when we posted that picture with Michael Turner and we’re all giving him the finger, and then Mike’s like, “Dude it’s just for me. I’m not going to do anything with it.” Then he put it on his blog.
TODD: So my boss gets a call again. So I called Mike up and I was like, “Dude, you gotta take that picture down.” On the other hand, it was one of those things, I was more concerned with Range getting dragged into it, because otherwise, he’s an American in the Philippines, I live in Canada and if it was just me it would have been a whole different thing, but I was more concerned about Range. If it was just me in Canada I would have been like, “Dude, come and get me.”
GREG: The best part about it was, after that, WebMasterRadio came out with a disclaimer.
TODD: Yeah now there is a disclaimer before the SEO Rockstar show.
GREG: “The views and opinions expressed on this show are not necessarily those of WebMasterRadio… blah blah blah…” Like, “Don’t sue us.”
TODD: Yeah, because he was all up in Darren’s business too. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in that conversation, because Darren doesn’t take that kind of shit from anybody. Shortly thereafter we had the disclaimer, and then every show has it now, but we can take full credit for WebMasterRadio having disclaimers on their shows.
GREG: The other problem with the show was that we would, not really get in trouble, but I told Darren, “I’ll do the show until you tell me there are things I can’t say.” So I would always start bagging on a company, like LookSmart, “He’s like ‘Why don’t you change your name to LookStupid.’”
TODD: We had this one show where we lit LookSmart up, we just ragged on them for like half the show.
GREG: Go to promo, go to commercial break, and what add is running on…
TODD: LookSmart. They had just signed that day to be an advertiser on the network.
GREG: its like, “Oops.”
TODD: Then Darren is like, “Dude, you guys can’t do that.” I was like…
GREG: “First of all we didn’t get the memo. Second of all, that’s how we roll, I’m sorry.”
MARK: That’s funny.
GREG: I wouldn’t mind doing some version of it again at some point.
MARK: One a month? Is that too much?
TODD: Well one a month is… it’s not even enough, really. It needs to be a weekly thing, but at this point I’ve got this new gig going now, and it’s just insane. I’m just ridiculously busy.
GREG: And the thing is, you get into that same thing where it’s kind of like speaking at the conferences where the good stuff… people want actionable stuff, but when you talk about… you know, Matt used to listen to our show; he would listen to it in his car on his way home. And we ran into some situations where we talked about stuff and then it got torched; because my thing is like, “Ok, it’s me, Todd, and five knuckle heads in the chat room listening to this,” I never ever believed that there really was a lot of people listening, so we were very open and free about stuff and then we would be like, “Oops.” So now once that started happening it was like you get back in that thing where it’s like, “If I talk about the good stuff than it’s not going to work, and that doesn’t benefit my clients and since I don’t make my money from the radio show…”
MARK: Yeah, and now it’s hurting you…
GREG: Right, so then you run into issues where it’s the same thing like blogging on the space, it’s tough to have topics because…you know… then that’s why all the rule stuff happens is in these bars like this, because then once you are in person with friends, you can share those tips and learn to benefit.
TODD: And every so often…
GREG: Right, yeah, it starts out, “This is an ‘off the record’ table.”
TODD: And every so often you still get burned on that. There is a guy, his name is Garret French…
GREG: No, there’s a bitch named Garret French.
TODD: Sorry, I miss spoke. (Laughs)
TODD: There is this bitch named Garret French and he sat down, it was at a SES Chicago, and he was a nice enough guy but he always walked around with the yellow legal pad and you were on the record all the time. And we are hanging out at this club…
GREG: Little dark seedy corner.
TODD: Like in the dark, back, smoky corner…
GREG: Deep into beers and liquor…
TODD: And he comes over, “Hey, can I sit down?” and I’m like, “Dude, you can sit down but it’s an ‘off the record’ table. You put that note pad away and this is ‘off the record.’” Garret was like, “Done. Great, I’d love to just sit and listen.” The next day, everything he could remember, he didn’t take notes, but everything he could remember he blogged on WebProNews.
GREG: And all of Todd’s great one-liner quotes he attributed to me, so that was kind of cool.
TODD: Yes, I had the best freaking SEO quote ever that got attributed to Greg.
MARK: What was it?
TODD: 80 PHDs, 80,000 spammers, I’ll take those odds.
TODD: And then that gets attributed to Greg which was…
GREG: Cause you probably stole it from me earlier.
TODD: Well, I’ve stolen credit for a lot of stuff that you’ve done so we are pretty even I figure.
GREG: So we hated Garret, and that was the whole…
TODD: Well, then he screwed over a good friend of ours that works for a large engine – same kind of thing. Go try and find Garret French and search engine JournalismNow, he’s gone.
GREG: Wasn’t he working for Loren for a while?
TODD: He was for a while, but then people wouldn’t take his calls anymore.
MARK: I wonder why.
TODD: Yeah, exactly.
GREG: He violated the code.
TODD: And anybody can do it, but if you screw up in this business you can get frozen out in a hurry.
GREG: It’s funny because Michael McDonald finally one day came in and said, “Hey man, I never who did that,” you know…
TODD: Mike is a stand up guy.
GREG: Yeah, but for a long time I boycotted WebPro, I wouldn’t even talk to the reporters. Now it’s all good.
MARK: Well thank you. Speaking of ‘off the record’ we could shut this thing off now, that was great; I think that will do what we were after.
ADAM(?): I remember when I first saw Greg and you guys in New York I was like, “There’s Greg Boser, holy shit! There’s Todd!” I was like one of maybe 300 people who listened to the show, but it didn’t matter. It was this higher level of… all of a sudden I was like, “Wow, these guys have taken their shit to a higher level.” Excuse my language.
GREG(?): Whoa we’ve only just started.
ADAM(?): And what happens is once you realize that these other guys are working at a higher level, you realize you have up your game; you have to step it up a little. It’s no longer about doing this and doing this, you have to find a way to get yourself ranking higher in the search engines, I’m talking about like when I first ran into the show, you’re really focusing on that science. It’s no longer just doing trickery, its now, “Well, I listen to what they say, and now I have to take my game to seriously a higher level,” if you’re going to compete. For me that’s what I got from listening to the spammers.
MARK: And even though they are just BSing it’s kind of wide talk like you said.
ADAM(?): They were shooting back and forth, and they were buddies, but every once-and-awhile they would drop something. You would sit there and you would be like, “Huh, I didn’t get that before and I definitely know what they are talking about. It makes sense.”
TODD: Well that’s the thing, eventually I had people come up to me over the years and go, “You know, listen,” it was this one little thing, like Caveman; he comes up to me at a conference in New Orleans, no it was after that I think New Orleans was where I dropped the tip, but I had like a ten minute session I was talking about God knows what, and I dropped in like one sentence. He took that one thing and he went and made 30 grand off of it. I’m like, “Dude, you’re buying me drinks all week.” But that was it, it was just a throw-away, no, I was moderating a panel so I was walking around for the Q&A, and when I walk I have a microphone in my hand I have a microphone in my hand and I’m going to use it. So I’m walking from one end of the room to the other and I’m just babbling about shit, and I threw out this one thing, I said, “We don’t actually build real websites anymore; with Java script, a few links, you get some interesting things.” He took that one sentence and made 30 grand. I was like, “Dude, that was pretty bad ass.”
GREG(?): That was mostly I think people who were now addicted to the show, they were in the chat room and they were looking for that.
MARK: They got going again, Adam started, but chime right in.
ADAM(?): You’ve got to warn me when I’m on. I didn’t know I was on!
MARK: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, well we stuck the meter around so everyone could see.
GREG(?): Then these weird little people like Rebecca showed up.
REBECCA: Sorry to kill the mood.
GREG: Kill the industry, why did you say that?
MARK: Do you have any post-session stupidest questions?
TODD: No, it’s usually during-session stupid questions.
ADAM(?): What’s great about the Q&A is that at least they pick the better ones.
REBECCA: They weed it out; that’s nice.
TODD: Yeah, but we did a panel one time, it was me and Greg, Tim Myer from Yahoo, Matt Cutts… who else was on that panel?
GREG: The Vegas one? That was good, um…
TODD: Yeah, there was the four of us and there was somebody else…
TODD: Darren. No, it wasn’t Darren; no, different panel, the Super Session where it was a site clinic with you, me, Matt, Tim, and somebody else. This dude stands up in front of God and everyone, has his site put up on the freaking huge screens, there is like five hundred people in the room, Matt Cutts on the panel, and this guy… it was a disaster. He had all of these domains that linked together and it was just crazy. I think either Greg or me was like, “Dude, you may want to just sit down and not pursue this.”
GREG: “Are you sure you…”
TODD: …”Are you sure you want us to get into this?” Matt’s already on his laptop…
GREG: Oh because we had the cards. I asked him that before he stood up…
TODD: …Yeah, “Are you sure?”
GREG: I’m like, “Dude, Before I do this, are you sure? Understand the implications here.” Natalie sits on the corner, turns his laptop this way so we can’t see his tools.
MARK: So what did he confess to?
TODD: Well he didn’t confess to anything. He was like “Yeah, I want to know what I’m doing wrong.”
GREG: He gave him one domain, Matt looked up all of his domains, and he’s like, “Well what about this site? You own this site, this site, this site, this site, this site…” you know, its like, “Uhhh…” all of a sudden it was clear why he was in trouble.
MARK: (Laughs) Yeah, and Matt Cutts is on the panel.
TODD: Yeah, yeah. It was me and Greg, and the search engines essentially.
GREG: Now we have to drink you said “Matt.”
TODD: Yeah, that’s the new drinking game is when you hear the name, “Matt Cutts” have to drink.
GREG: Matt Cutts is two drinks.
TODD: Matt Cutts is two drinks Matt is one drink.
GREG: Because it’s so ridiculous how many times in a session his name gets mentioned, so we thought it would be a cool drinking game to sit in there and do shots every time somebody said his name.
TODD: (Laughs) Yeah.
MARK: You wouldn’t make it through a session.
ADAM(?): You would all walk out toasted.
GREG: You have to chug a whole beer if his name shows up in an actual power point.
TODD: You know what’s cool though, I was at WebTool or some other conference that I went to that Matt was at, and it wasn’t like a “search” conference, and it was like nobody knew who he was either. Even if you go to Google, hardly anybody at Google knows who Matt Cutts is.
CHRIS(?): A lot of people said he doesn’t even work there.
CHRIS(?): A lot of people tell you. He’s just really into the whole image.
VOICE(?): He’s an evangelist for Google.
TODD: It just gives you a sense of what Greg said, “We are this giant ameba in this little drop of pond water.”
GREG: Which is awesome because three or four times a year we can go out and party like the lifestyle that I used to live all the time…
TODD: When you were a Rockstar.
MARK: Did you shave your head or was it a wig?
GREG: No I had hair back then.
TODD: It’s so funny because we both stayed in each other’s houses and it’s just so funny to see him like all domestic, helping his daughter put on her glove for softball, and scooping up the dog…
GREG: Shhh, you’re going to ruin my image.
TODD: Yeah, please.
GREG: Yeah, that’s where the tan lines come from because I spend my weekends, not riding in limousine and partying in hotels, but on a softball field.
MARK: That’s a good thing.
TODD: It’s how it is, absolutely.
GREG: It creates balance.
MARK: I mean, I’m sitting in the audience and the panel is put together, and there are a lot of straight laced answers, and then sometimes it will go on… like people will feed on that a little bit. Then you guys will come in and just cut through the crap in one sentence and it just kind of makes the people in the audience go, “That was worth it. Right there was worth it.”
TODD: But that’s the thing though, right, you talk about all these new people all of these up and comers, it’s actually getting to a point where we have to have that angle where we are the “straight shooters,” we’re the “funny guys” we’re not afraid to say stuff, because it’s getting harder and harder to be a voice in the noise of everybody’s blog.
GREG: Right, and it happened by design because there was a time with Danny’s conferences… he called me up one day and was like, “I want some ideas to mix it up.” And I told him, “Well, here is the feedback I always get, is that people are upset that they come and pay all of the money and they get so much corporate fluff from the engines,” this was back in the time when we used to do this panel called SEO Ethics. So I started just ranting going, “You know, that’s ridiculous. What about search engine ethics?” I started rattling off all of these things that they did that year to piss me off, like Inktomi used to call your clients and say, “You don’t need SEO just use our paid and click…” trying to steal your clients away… all kinds of crooked shit. He’s like, “Oh, that would be awesome, will you do a panel on that?” So Danny, to refresh the series, intentionally created panels for me to be confren.. or to…
MARK: …To be the other voice.
GREG: Right, because there was a while there where it was a little too pro search engine and sponsors and that kind of thing, and that’s why they would come into the Bar. So I went and did this presentation in San Jose called “The Ten Things Search Engines Do To Piss Me Off,” and that was the whole session.
GREG: It was like, “Ethics is a two way street, you want us to be… what is this bull shit?” I’m giving examples of how there was a crooked deal, we had a competitor one time that had this crooked deal; he had a personal connection in Yahoo that sold him this exclusive add space to where we went in and try to buy adds for a stage of recovery and then the contract was pretty much done, and they came back and said, “Oh sorry,” because what happened was he got this guy to give him a life-time exclusive deal on it and then that guy got fired or whatever, so Yahoo was in a corner because this guy is saying, “If you sell that inventory, I’ll sue you,” and then we’re going, “We already got this signed thing, you can’t back out of it,” and Yahoo basically gave us a million impressions and bought us off; gave us all of this free shit for other phrases to get us to shut up. So the business was rampant with shit like that. So I did that panel and everybody was like, “Wow.” Then he used to do another one called “The Spam Police” where he would have reps from the engines on there…
TODD: This is all pre-my engagement with SES which was a bummer really.
GREG: So then we got the bright idea he goes, “Would you do this ‘Spam Police’ panel?” I’m like, “F*** yeah.” So I get up there, “Hi I’m Tim from Yahoo.” “Hi I’m Matt from Google.” “Hi I’m Noname from Ask.” And I would be like, “Hi I’m Greg and I’m representing the Spammers,” right? TODD &
GREG: It was cool because when they would say their corporate spin bullshit I’d be like, “Uh, with all due respect, that’s not really true,” you know, they would put up examples and be like, “That doesn’t work,” and I would say, “Uh, yeah it does, look at this…” it was great, man.
TODD: It was right at that time when the refresh was happening and we were starting to make some waves, and then you saw me scoot to Boston…
GREG: And that was the thing… that’s what I said to Danny, I said, “Hey man, you really gotta hook up with Todd because he has the gift of gab,” and we needed more blood like that, Michael Grey, guys like that… those were the guys I always seek out and say, “Whoa, this guy is smart, he knows his stuff,” and he was a shit talker, you know what I mean? But there were people coming to me and they were like, “You are the best. You are worth the price of admission.”
GREG: Right, all everybody else talked bullshit, and I was the first one that ever swore on the panel.
TODD: And then Dave Nailer started speaking and you can’t even keep up with that.
GREG: Yeah, then it was all over. So it actually created kind of a speaker type, you know, and the response to it was so good, that other speakers started to be more willing to lighted up and loosen up a little bit.
TODD: It’s like when I started doing the affiliate talks, at SES, I just figured, “I have nothing to lose. I’m going to say anything.” After that first talk with the VP of Commission Junction sitting in the back, they called me up and they were like, “We’re doing Commission Junction University, we want you to come speak at Commission Junction University.” And so when I did my thing, and I went even more over the top in that session, there was the entire top brass of Commission Junction was sitting at the back of the room.
GREG: And I got to go on a free pass.
TODD: And they were rolling. Everybody else on that panel, there were three other people on my panel, they all just gave up. I basically sat up there and I said, “Look, I’m an affiliate, I don’t give a shit about your brand. I’m in it to make money. I’m going to sell my traffic to the highest bidder essentially, so I just don’t care. I haven’t read your terms of service, I could care less about this, all I care about is do your checks come on a timely basis and are they good?” I went on and on and on. The rest of the panel just… and all the hands are popping up and everybody is just “Question for Todd,” “Question for Todd,” and I actually felt kind of bad for the rest of the panelists because they were just sitting there. But then, it’s funny, I talked about, “How much damage I can do to your brand. Dude, I will wreck your brand,” I had a line up out the door of affiliate managers wanting me to pimp their products, like out the door. So I actually signed up with this one company; this guy was like, “Dude, you have to come sell my stuff,” so I signed up, and I told him…
MARK: Was there margin in it?
TODD: There was, but I warned him out of the gate I’m like, “Dude, you saw my presentation. I’m going to sign 60,000 blogs this weekend, just so you know,” I kept him informed of every move I was going to make. He was all in, he was like, “Done.” Two weeks later he pulled the carpet out because he was getting so much hate mail about his product, and I was like, “Dude, you knew.”
GREG: You weak sister.
TODD: So he actually just paid me out. He gave me a couple thousand dollars to say, “We’re pulling it, I’m sorry…”
MARK: Forget it.
TODD: Yeah, it was funny. But I actually kind of screwed that campaign up a little bit because normally what we would do is we would do the blog spam before we launched the site, right, and you put up a notice on the site like a fake, “This site has been taken offline for violation in terms of service,” by the hosting company, so people would go click on the link in their blog because they are all pissed off you’re spamming their blog, and they’re like, “Oh, he’s already been taken down. Yay, we won, the bloggers rule.” Then two weeks later we would put up the site and all the links are all festering away, and then we take down the fake suspended page and put up the real site. Well, I had actually put up the site, I did it backwards that time, I can’t remember why, but I put up the site and then I did the blog spam, so they all tracked it back, “Oh he’s selling for this company,” and they all emailed him back. He got like five hundred emails over a weekend and just shit a brick and took the whole thing off.
MARK: (Laughs) That’s funny.
GREG: We should probably head back over there.