Local Search Talk Series Part 3: Matt McGee Interview

Next up on the Local Search Talk Series is Matt McGee. Over the last year I have had the pleasure to meet Matt through his most amazing resource Hyperlocal Blogger, as I have been trying to build my own community news website. Matt has been an all around great guy, and has given me some very sound advice on things hyperlocal, local, and industry wide.  Matt has “walked the walk” in the search industry and instead of listing all of his credentials in this intro, they are spread throughout the interview. I am grateful he was able to find time to take part in this series.

Alright, first and most important question… What is with the half face (if you are wondering just visit @mattmcgee)?

Well, many years ago I was in a horrible car accident and one side of my face was completely disfigured, so … okay, not true. Actually, I was just looking for an avatar that would be a little different from the standard mug shot that everyone else was using. I probably saw someone more original than me already using a half-profile and decided to try it out for myself. And now it’s stuck with me. It’s nice, too, that some people don’t recognize me when they meet me in person. So I can go incognito if I want to. And then I just cover up half my face and everyone’s like, Oh – there’s Matt.

Back about the time I was born, you used spend a bit of time trying to figure out Search Engines. Can you tell us about your “aha” moment when you knew you were becoming an internet marketer?

Wow, yeah, long time ago. It was probably when I first discovered Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Watch web site. That was a real eye-opener when I discovered that I wasn’t alone in trying to figure out how those early search engines and directories worked, and that there was a community of learning built around this topic that completely fascinated me. I don’t even think I had any marketing clients at the time — just web design — but I knew it was something I needed to learn.

You are currently the Search Engine Land Assignment Editor. What were the 3 biggest factors from your previous endeavors that you think helped you get the job?

Little known facts: Danny Sullivan and I both went to college in southern California. We both went to schools without a college football team. We both worked in journalism when we got out of college — him at the Orange County Register, I think, and me at the Los Angeles Daily News. We both wrote a traffic column at our respective papers. We both transitioned out of journalism into web design and eventually into SEO and online marketing. We’re basically each other’s doppelganger. Me joining Search Engine Land was pretty much inevitable.

What makes you loco for local?

Oh, wow … a lot of stuff. The chance to work with small businesses and really make a difference to their bottom line – heck, to sometimes even help them stay in business. It’s just so much more rewarding than working with Big Brands. I love the challenge, too. In many cases, local visibility is more difficult than traditional SEO — try getting a small business in St. Paul to rank for Minneapolis terms, for example. Lastly, I also love the community of local search marketers we have — really good people, really smart and helpful, and very generous.

Do you have someone who has helped you along the way in learning local search, and search in general?

In terms of local search, Bill Slawski was a real big influence. I think if you look back at the first year of the SEMMY Awards, he had a ton of articles nominated in the Local Search — seriously, a ton. More recently, though, the whole community that I just mentioned –everyone helps each other a lot, which is really great. More generally speaking, Todd Malicoat was a huge influence in getting me to come out of my shell and start blogging, start showing up at conferences, etc. David Wallace and Jennifer Laycock were also very helpful many years ago when I didn’t know many people in the industry.

Most Search Industry people are quite familiar with SmallBusinessSEM.com, but your newest project is HyperLocalBlogger.com. How is that going?

I guess you’d have to ask the readers! I’m generally pleased with how it’s been received and grown, and by the commenting activity, too. There’s a neat community of local bloggers that’s very willing to have conversations on the blog, which is great. But I’m also frustrated that I don’t have as much time to write there as I’d like. I’m hoping for more guest blog posts in the future — like your recent article, which was very well received.

Speaking of hyperlocal, in your mind what are the big hurdles that face the developing industry?

More hyperlocal sites need to figure out how to make money, otherwise they won’t last too long. Sustainability will be huge, because running a serious hyperlocal blog is an enormous commitment of time and energy. No one’s gonna do it for free for very long, I’m afraid. Then there’s the general issue of exposure and teaching the local community that local blogs and news sites are an acceptable — sometimes preferable — alternative to traditional media. I think the act of journalism is also something of a hurdle, because many local bloggers don’t have traditional journalistic training and that causes friction when they’re doing things and dealing with people and organizations that are more familiar with dealing with traditional media.

How can small businesses benefit from hyperlocal blogs?

When done right, a hyperlocal blog can help establish a small business as a trusted local resource — and trust is always a Good Thing for small businesses. Doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, if you have the time and desire to blog about your local area, you can make it work. Local blogs are powerful weapons for local SEO. That said, it’s not for everyone and you shouldn’t do it if your heart isn’t in it, if you don’t have a plan, a goal, and so forth.

Alright, you are an assignment editor, small business blogger, hyperlocal real estate blogger, hyperlocal industry blogger, in charge of being in charge @U2.com, Sphinn Editor, Semmy’s founder…. what do you do in your free time?

Try to figure out what I should be working on.

Any advice on managing multiple ventures?

No, because I’m really terrible at it. I make a lot of lists and try to manage my email In box. Those things keep me sane.

Who’s going to make the final four? (This was asked a few days prior)

Ha! Nobody that I picked in my bracket, that’s for sure. I’m in danger of having my bracket-making privileges eternally revoked by the NCAA.

What do you enjoy more as an internet marketer….Organic, Local, PPC, Social?

Ooooh, that’s tough. It changes for me. Well, I can’t stand PPC –that never changes. Right now I’m really, really enjoying doing Social consulting with one of my clients because it’s in a very competitive space and it’s such a huge challenge. It’s fun to try to turn someone into a rock star in their industry. At the same time, though, I love Organic and Local because the results are very concrete and easy to quantify.

What is the best advice you would give someone that is wanting to learn about local?

If you’re a small business owner wanting to learn about local for business purposes, I’d advise a trip to the nearest installment of GetListed Local University. That’s the best $100 anyone can spend to start learning local search marketing. And then I’d read the Local Search Ranking Factors survey about 4-5 times. And then step three would be to bookmark or subscribe to the RSS feeds of the contributors to that survey.

Thanks a lot Matt for taking the time to answer a few questions I have had on my mind. You can follow Matt on twitter @mattmcgee and be sure to check out his blogs and links throughout the article.

For more Local Search Talk Series check out…