Danny Sullivan Interview, Part 1

In today's video RKG President, Adam Audette, interviews Danny (The Pope of Search) Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineLand.com, about the origins of SEO and link building. Check back for the second and third parts of Adam's interview with Danny, coming soon.



Watch Part 2 of the Danny Sullivan interview

Watch Part 3 of the Danny Sullivan interview


Adam Audette: Hello, everyone. I'm Adam Audette, President of RKG and with me today is a man who needs no introduction, Danny Sullivan.

Danny Sullivan: Hello.

Adam: Danny, great to have you here. When was the last time you were here in Bend?

Danny: 1997. I was here in 1997. There was a small group of people that your father wanted to have trained on SEO.

Adam: Ah.

Danny: So he says, "Hey, would you come out and talk to us about stuff?" We covered all of the ancient history to us now, things like meta tags, title tags, content, and all of that sort of stuff. From there we went out and conquered the world.

Adam: And so SEO wasn't really SEO. It was web design and designing for search engines, and you were kind of the only one who was thinking about the search engines back then.

Danny: Yeah. There were one or two other guys, but I was fortunate enough to come along early enough so you could start writing about it. People were going, "Oh, great. I found a source of a lot of these answers."

Adam: And back then, what was it that worked? You had directory links, and you had meta tags, and you had...

Danny: Meta tags were a big deal. People really didn't understand. Do you put all of your keywords in there? We were dealing with things like; do you put commas between the different words? If you want to be found for apple pie, do you have to say apple pie as two words, apple, and pie? It was crazy time, but people really didn't know. Some of the search engines used them, some of them didn't. Title tags were very important. Title tags are still very important, but some things carry through. Link building was just getting started. The search engines were looking at links more in just the sheer number of counts rather than the context of them, and we had directories. We had people where you would submit... The concerns that people have today about Google is too powerful, and Google can wipe out a business. Well, Google's name was Yahoo back then, and all the same concerns happened, and your degree of being successful was whether or not Yahoo accepted your carefully crafted 25 word description you gave to them or whether some editor decided, not even thinking, "Well, we'll take and shorten some of this stuff out" and wiped out some of the key words and you weren't really found at all.

Adam: Yahoo, of course, they didn't have search, right? They were a directory.

Danny: They were a directory. By a directory it was like an index card, the name of your company, the little description. They would flip through all that stuff first. If they didn't find any match, then they would go back to one of their partners and there was no way to pay to speed it up, also, so you would submit. So many people wanted to be listed, things would just take forever. It might take you months before you could actually get listed on Yahoo, if they ever got back to you at all.

Adam: I remember that game of directory submission. One of the things I did I worked on Marshall Simmonds' team, and we're going to interview Marshall here very shortly. Well, I sort of contracted for him from afar, and I would go into directories like Rex, Yahoo's directory and all of these other ones. I wish I could think of them because they were all great, and they were all different. They all had a certain way that you were supposed to submit your stuff, and you had to do it just right. There were thousands of them.

Danny: Magellan, Galaxy.

Adam: Yeah.

Danny: That was one of the reasons why I started writing and I wrote not just about the SEO tips and the directory submission tips, but I also spent a lot of time trying to talk about the search engines that I thought mattered because you would go to something like Galaxy which was a three page, maybe, 30 to 40 question type of thing that you had to fill out. You had to pick what category you wanted to be in, what biz. That was so exhausting, and in the end I started looking at some of these things, and I thought, "I don't care if I'm in Galaxy or not. No one's using it. No one's ever going to use it, so scratch that off the list and go for some things that count."