Spotlight on Search – Barry Schwartz
Here’s the next installement in the series of Monday interviews called "Spotlight on Search". Today’s interview is with Barry Schwartz, who runs a web application development business called RustyBrick, edits and writes the Search Engine Roundtable blog, serves as moderator on numerous forums, provides editorial coverage and speaks at Search Marketing conferences AND is now running a new forum.
Lee: Tell us about your background and your business, RustyBrick
Barry: RustyBrick is a Web development firm my twin brother and I started back in high school, actually. My brother is the tech side of the business and I am the business side. We have 8 employees right now, looking to hire two to three more PHP/MySQL developers. So if you know any coders willing to work in the New York area, please send them my way.
We specialize in building custom, web based applications, used to streamline a company’s business operations and workflow. It is mostly dry work, but its really nice to help businesses get automated. We also build high-end e-commerce sites with sophisticated backends. As well as some very SEO friendly CMSs, on occasion. More info on that at rustybrick.com.
Lee: What made you decide to launch Search Engine Roundtable?
Barry: Initially it was for me to keep my notes on what I learned at the forums. Blogs make for a great notebook. But over time, as people started reading it, I adapted the writing style to fit the readers. Now we are known for two things; the best place to locate some of the best threads at all the major SEM forums on the net and intense SES and WMW conference write ups. But initially it was a place to keep my notes.
Lee: I’ve read that you don’t consider yourself a SEO, but I think many would agree that you know more about search engine optimization than most SEO’s do. How does SEO play into the business services you offer your clients?
Barry: For 90% of my clients, it does not play into our business services at all. But for those we build e-commerce sites for and advanced CMSs, it does. I believe SEO is one of the many requirements every customer should look for in a Web development company. Most know that I would never "fix" a site. I only knock a site down and start from ground up. Why? Because we believe that SEO should be from ground up, that SEO is like accessibility and usability. Build the site the right way from the start. So we never do standalone SEO services, we do however incorporate SEO practices in the overall Web development process.
Lee: Your blog has become very popular in 2 years. Probably the most popular SEO blog out there. What are your goals for the blog in the next year?
Barry: I am probably the most amazed at the blog success, I would never have imagined it be considered one of the most popular SEO blogs, let alone "the most popular SEO blog out there." But why ruin a good thing? If it ain’t broken, don’t change it. Coders use that line all the time. I hope to continue to do what we are doing at the blog forever.
But what will change over the next year? I have been getting requests from readers over and over again, asking me to start an SEO forum. Time after time, I kept saying that I can not because it would be seen as a competitive attack against the forums I cover at the blog. Plus I moderate at three of the major SEO forums and have a wonderful relationship with all the major SEM forums.
However, due to what has been going on at SEO Chat, I have decided to step down as a moderator over there. The problem is, many of the SEO Chat members (due to administrative changes at SEO Chat) have left SEO Chat and are in limbo, they are at forums that they do not fit into culturally and they feel exiled. Due to that, today (Monday the 12th), we launched a forum at the Search Engine Roundtable at http://forums.seroundtable.com/. The moderators are from SEO Chat (Randfish, Phoenix, PK_Synths, DazzlinDonna, sufyaaan) and the style will remain SEO Chat friendly. Hey, I even got Darrin Ward, the founder of SEO Chat to come on as a mod! I simply could not leave the SEO Chat members. I have been an SEO Chat moderator since before Dev Shed came on board, and to leave the members, would not be right.
I will continue to blog and cover all the forums, as I do now. Trust me, I am sure many will be on me about being non-biased. And it will be hard, but I think I can do it. I will treat each forum equally, as I try to do now. I will continue to link out to the other forums, like I do now. I hope nothing changes with the blog itself. The forum is a side thing, and it was an answer to a different problem.
Lee: Do you consider yourself black hat or white hat? Or some other color?
Barry: I don’t consider myself an SEO, so I have no shades of color.
Lee: Many experienced SEOs advise not to believe what you read in the forums, or to take things with a grain of salt. What advice do you have for budding SEO/SEM practitioners that get their information from forums?
Barry: Very good question. When reading advice in forums, make sure to see how many posts the member has. If they have a high post count, they are more likely to be accurate. However, it is not always the case. Make sure the forum thread has enough discussion about the topic, if it is a single post, then I wouldn’t believe it to be true. But, as you know, SEO is very gray. SEO Expert A may believe strongly in having keywords in the URL, whereas SEO Expert B would say keywords in the URL will hurt your rankings. The bottom-line is that you need to test things for yourself and see what works best for you.
The best way to bud with SEM/SEOs is to reach out to them with information and success you have realized. You give them advice and tips and help, they will reciprocate.
Lee: What are some improvements you’d like to see in the major search engines?
Barry: I wish I can answer this, but I can write a book on this alone. Quick answer; better and smarter answers.
Lee: What are some of the resources you rely on for information on search? Best practices, news, industry information. What tools do you use to manage those sources?
Barry: I am an RSS guy. I subscribe to news resources I want to watch daily and I subscribe to different feed search engines for keyword searches. I rely heavily on RSS. RSS has changed my life.
Outside of RSS, I have a trusted set of people I talk to on a daily basis either through email, IM, IRC or phone. I also speak to folks at conferences and other events.
Lee: You’ve been involved with a number of beta tests and focus group with search engines. What kinds of things are they interested in? Can describe any new developments?
Barry: I think the main reason they invite bloggers like us, is because they want us to blog nicely about them. Its cool, I like it, but at the same time, we both know why they invite us to do focus groups and beta tests. Oh, the NDAs disallow me from talking about any new developments.
Lee: What are your favorite forums and search engines?
Thank you Barry, and good luck to you and Yisha!