Lee Odden

Interview with Chris Pirillo


Normally when I do interviews, I categorize them under “Spotlight on Search or Spotlight on Blogging”, but Chris Pirillo doesn’t fit in just one category. He’s a bit of a renaissance man when it comes to all the enterprising projects, ventures and activities he’s involved with.

Chris started Lockergnome in 1996 and hosted TechTV’s “Call for Help” show for 2 years. He hosts a popular conference every year called Gnomedex which has been sponsored by the likes of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. He’s written books, columns and many articles and he produces a popular online radio show.

I met Chris when I started writing about SEO on Lockergnome and in person at SES conferences. Chris did a podcast interview with me at SES New York in April and I’ve been threatening to interview this fellow Midwesterner (he’s from Iowa) for almost a year. Things finally worked out and I was able to do a short interview.

In this interview, Chris talks about his TagJag project, web traffic from social media, favorite conferences, plans for Lockergnome 2.0, his upcoming wedding with fiancee Ponzi and fun quotes like: “Google is the internet”, “Email is dead” and “Let’s not blog about blogging about blogging about blogs anymore, okay?”.

There appears to be an increasing amount of buzz about using social media as a marketing tool with the majority of tactics relying on tagging. Tagging is also essential to your latest site TagJag. Can you tell us a little about how TagJag works, and how you came up with the idea?

TagJag has been an interesting project for me, and it’s about to get kicked into high gear again. I had the service developed out of my own need for finding information across various indexes – simultaneously. Essentially, TagJag.com is a discovery engine. It enables people to search for a brand (and/or keywords) and subscribe to those original results in RSS instantaneously. Try this: http://tagjag.com/all/webpronews/opml – there’s no easier way of doing that on the Web today, and I’m constantly looking for new indexes to add to our list.

For pirillo.com and Lockergnome.com, have you noticed a shift in visitors coming more from social sites like Del.icio.us, Digg, StumbleUpon etc. as opposed to search engines?

Not really. At least, not unless they see something that gets continuous traction in the blogosphere (which seldom happens). Out of all of ’em, I think StumbleUpon drives the most – largely because it’s a service that’s very friendly for “normal people.” Google drives most of my traffic. Google is the Internet, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s great that everybody can get online and start publishing their thoughts immediately. The problem is that most of ’em are nothing more than “me too” posts. Awesome. Let’s not blog about blogging about blogging about blogs anymore, okay?

At Search Engine Strategies in San Jose, you were good enough to start a short video interview but my camera’s memory filled up. You mentioned that there need to be some fundamental changes in the search marketing industry. Can you finish that thought?

I believe it had something to do with slimy jerkwads finally having to straighten up and fly right. Spamming just pisses people off – but creating value for the Internet actually generates traffic and good will (at the same time). I realize that gaming the system can be lucrative, but is that really what you’d want to have chiseled into your tombstone at the end of your life? “Helped Himself by Hurting Others.”

You’ve recently changed Lockergnome’s layout. Did you employ any search engine or social optimization to it? Do you consider things like SEO or “social media marketing” with your web sites?

Well, what you see on Lockergnome.com today is just the beginning of our evolution – a long-overdue upgrade. We’re adjusting our direction to benefit those who care to monetize their knowledge (but don’t necessarily know how to do it themselves). It’s not just about technology content anymore, either.

We’ll be accepting beta testers (independent writers) very soon – and I definitely will be welcoming in my closest SEO friends for feedback. They, too, will understand the extreme value in writing smart content on the www.lockergnome.com domain. We’re focusing on tools and features to maximize external AND internal discoverability.

At lockergnome.com, you offer email and RSS feeds for subscription options. We offer the same at marketingblog.com with about a third of our readers subscribing via email and the rest via RSS. Is this ratio consistent with your own experience? Have you seen any shift from email to RSS?

Yeah, definitely. I don’t know if I was the first one to say it, but I was certainly the most vocal about it: email is dead. We can still use it to communicate with one another on an individual basis, but as far as content is concerned – RSS holds infinitely more value and promise. Remember, I was trumpeting its power long before any SEO knew what a blog was.

I’ll likely continue to “do” email newsletters, working with preferred vendors like WhatCounts. The new Lockergnome will likely see new email delivery partnerships spring up as well. Ultimately, I don’t want to mess with email anymore – at all. It’s a complete drain on my time, energy, and other assorted resources.

Lockergnome is about to leap into the blogosphere in a big way. We shifted from MovableType to WordPress MU for a lot of reasons recently – and are actively developing our own WordPress MU “Community Edition” (trust me, SEOs and markters will be very intersted in our short-term and long-term strategies).

Blogging can easily turn into a grind when you do it often and it’s the source of your income. Between Lockergnome, chris.pirillo and thechrispirilloshow.com, you appear to do a LOT of writing. What methods do you use to keep your posting quality up to the “Chris Pirillo” standard?

I really only write when I have something to say and/or share. Lockergnome is turning into a marketplace of mindshare, so it’s fundamentally different than the content inside my personal space. It’s to the point where I’m actually writing more in my blog than I am in Lockergnome. The “show” site is just another way of sharing my creativity.

Besides Gnomedex, what are your favorite conferences to speak at? I see you are speaking next at the Business Blog Summit. What are your favorite conferences to attend?

Conferences like Gnomedex, honestly. I dislike panels and PowerPoints.

I do, however, enjoy attending conferences outside my area of expertise or comfort zones. I’ve learned a lot about SEO from attending SES – as I’m not really a traditional Internet marketer (yet always seem to run in those circles, sometimes running in circles).

I hear you’re getting married this month. Are you stressed about making plans, or are you leaving that all up to Ponzi? 😉

It’s all about Ponzi at this point. Although, I’m still seeing what I can do about getting some smart company to sponsor our honeymoon.

I got Pluggd.com to sponsor our Internet connection on a cruise to Alaska, and it worked out very well for them. Google still seems to like a few of my Alaskan cruise posts.

Thanks Chris!

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Nice interview, and as I see Lee, you insisted on social aspects. Here’s the Digg article.

  2. Yeah, with Chris it’s hard not talk about social media with his blogging, podcasting and tag search engine. Thanks for the Digg Cristian!

  3. Avatar Lloyd D Budd says

    Nice interview. I look forward to seeing and reading about the interesting things Lockergnome is doing with WordPress MU.

  4. Lee Odden’s interview for me was very usefull, it teach a lot of information about blog marketing
    I also add this page to my Technorati account

  5. great interview. never head of chris until i stumbled on to his youtube video. amazing. I wonder how much he makes.


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