Interview Michael Gray

Mr. Pratt Interviews Michael Gray

Michael Gray (A.K.A. Ω) “Graywolf” was suggested to me by a few of the people I have already interviewed who say, “You should interview graywolf” so I looked into this and found that he is an extremely bright star in the marketing matrix. Here is my interview with Michael Gray.

Mr. Gray, can I call you “Mr.”, I sense that this might fire you up a bit so please remain calm or I will have to get one of my minions to restrain you. I am doing something new here, instead of probing ports, threads, cache and your history of posts and comments @ Threadwatch, I will mainly be focusing on your blog which I believe shows who you are today. Is this ok with you Mr. Gray?

First off Mr. Gray is my dad, it’s either Mike or Michael. One of the things that really bothers me is using pretentious titles all the time, and don’t get me started on people who insist on being called Doctor So-and-So and studied something other than healthcare in college.

Sorry Michael, back to the good stuff. I believe that people spend too much time in the forums and should make a big list of interesting blogs to visit instead. I have visited your blog and linked you because you make good sense to me. You are relevant because you are not afraid to get right up in it, have you always been this way? Ever been in a bar brawl?

To answer your question yes I am a bit confrontational sometimes. Sometimes by coming directly at someone with a problem gets you the most honest answer, they don’t have time to prepare a song and dance and evade your question. As far as a bar brawl, well I’m not very physically threatening or intimidating although my use of sarcasm does ruffle people’s feathers on occasion.

Your latest post in your blog that covers the benefits of “staying connected” is very good. In there you show your magic with an idea that you jumped on and took to the next level. Can you explain to the minions what that post is all about?

I spend a lot of time everyday in my feed reader reading other blogs, news aggregation websites, and visiting a few forums. However you could make a full time job out of reading them, so if you want to actually get any work done you have to learn not waste time reading things like the Google News Forum on Webmaster World, the signal to noise ratio in that particular section is just horrible, compared to the rest of the site. After reading for a little while you’ll develop some idea of the people who’s posts you like, find insightful, or who’s opinion you respect. I was reading something in the supporters section of Webmaster World about buying domains just for type in traffic. This was the beginning of November and the XBox hype was picking up. I fired up a keyword combination tool and came up with about 150 domains. I found three that weren’t registered so I grabbed them. I took a three column template from my template library, wrote 2 paragraphs, added a picture, and very strategically placed some adsense, Chitika mini malls, and Amazon affiliate links. The whole process took about 2 hours. Thirty days later the website has made over $500 profit without a single search referral from Google.

Now here’s where experience comes into play, there are some topics where people are willing to go past the first 10 results. Celebrities, entertainment and news items are some examples that come to mind. If you can find ways to combine them you can get traffic, even if you aren’t number one, and more importantly from search engines other than Google. For example when the last Star Wars movie came out people were searching for all sorts of combinations on Natalie Portman, Hayden Christiansen, Darth Vader and so on, there was plenty traffic for everyone who wanted to get in on it. The thing to keep in mind though is things Adsense may not be paying a lot per click, and the traffic comes very quickly and dies off very quickly, so you want to be able to build something that doesn’t require a lot of time to complete, and realize it’s a short term project.

You also have another post about “getting the breast links” that if one looks at for too long it will make them very unproductive at work, are you describing what is called a marketing buzz?

There are a lot of people who look at social networks and tagging sites like digg, del.icio.us, Yahoo360, and mySpace as useless time wasters. I however see them as incredible tools into web surfers and consumers minds and behaviors. Want to see what people on the web are talking about, visiting, bookmarking and linking to, look at the del.icio.us popular page. Look at it everyday for two weeks see what types of stories are getting the most people tagging them and ultimately linking to them. Sometimes the things there require a lot of work to produce, sometimes they are completely ridiculous things done to wretched excess. I saw one item there about the making ultimate Jell-O shot. They played with the ratio in recipe to achieve the best tasting Jell-O shot, then they tried to figure out how much vodka you could put in the shot before it broke down into a goopy mess. I can’t imagine it took more than 1 day to do the experiment and 2 to 3 days to write it up and publish it, and they ended up getting hundreds of links as a result. So yes it’s all about creating a marketing buzz. Now as far as the “breast links” it’s pretty well known that sex sells. However not being able to concentrate and exercise the best judgment when looking at pretty women is a completely normal response for men, some university did a study proving that men chose short terms goals over long terms goals when under those conditions. So understanding human nature and using it to your advantage can be a good and profitable thing.

You also have converted to WordPress, welcome to the club. I don’t know if anyone is aware but you can hack out some code in WordPress and turn it a personal content management system. You got all your tags in the right places in there?

I’m using WordPress everywhere else and will be changing to it on my blog sometime very soon. At that time I’ll be dividing up my postings into Search Engine related posting on my current site and blog related postings on a new website, so be on the lookout for that announcement.

Yes indeed, you are obviously a thinker; do you have any predictions for the coming year of what’s hot and what’s not?

Well I think TV and traditional print are going to really start feeling the pain. While I still buy and read magazines, the only time a I buy a newspaper is when I want the supermarket coupons. I think newspapers are going to really have to start adapting and finding ways to become profitable online. The New York Times approach of walling off content off won’t work, especially when competitors offer comparable information for free. Things like Tivo are making it very easy for consumers to bypass advertising, and while I would never download a TV show to watch on a small IPod screen, there are millions of people who will, and I don’t think they are watching the commercials.

As far as the internet, I think search engines are going to try and push personalized search, but I can’t see it catching on with the general public. I also see companies trying to get you to think of the web as your desktop/operating system. They are going to push completely integrated search, email, word processing, spreadsheets, IM and VOIP communications. I’m not so sure it will work, but a lot of companies have a lot of incentive to take away Microsoft’s bread and butter. Speaking of Microsoft, MSN has some very fresh SERP results, they are however much more easy to manipulate and vulnerable to spam because of it. However I do see them gaining some market share at mostly Google’s expense. Google on the other hand, is getting far too arrogant, and they are going to make a public mistake soon. They can’t continue to ride roughshod the way they have been doing for much longer without stepping on some toes. In a worst case scenario this would coincide with a flat or negative earnings quarter, which would pop bubble 2.0 in a huge way, let’s hope the boys and girls at the plex realize this before it gets too late. Lastly IMHO Yahoo has the best search results of the big 3, however they have something of an identity crisis with the public. They get along much better with the web publishing community than any other search engine, but they don’t have the tech celebrities fawning over them the way do for Google. They also aren’t making big enough inroads with the younger market sector. Unless they start converting people from one or both of those two groups, I see things pretty much remaining status quo for them.

What hardware and operating system do you run?

I have issues with small screens, so I have an HP ZD7000 17″ wide screen laptop with XP Pro. I don’t travel much so the weight doesn’t bother me, but the battery life sucks, the most I get is 90 minutes so I can’t wander too far from an outlet for very long.

Care to open your SEO toolbox and share the wealth? Got any cool URL’s?

I’ve put out a couple tools, but can’t see releasing any in the near future. It’s not because I’m stingy, it’s because I’m lazy. When you push something out in the public space it has to be reasonably bug free, have some decent error handling, and fail gracefully. Writing programs to do what you tell them to do is pretty easy and straightforward. Writing programs that don’t explode when some wanker puts in extended characters or tries a cross site scripting attack is more difficult and requires way too much time.

Close your eyes and tell us the first thought that comes to your head.

Space … the final frontier, these are the voyages of the starship Enterprise (cue soundtrack)…

Thank you Michael.