Oilman Interview

Again, been a little barren on the interview front, but I have managed to snag a Q+A session from the well known Oilman. There were 10 questions, but Todd chose not to answer one of them. So Answers on a postcard for the Q he chose not to answer. 🙂

Here goes….


You have a network of mates and I know that a lot of privileged information is passed around. How much harder would SEO/SEM be without that, almost insider knowledge?

The network certainly is key. It’s no secret that the vast majority of ‘good’ information is passed along over IM or beers at conferences. The golden days of really solid information and secrets being shared in the forums is gone. Don’t get me wrong – there’s still good stuff out there but the money tips are on the inside. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the network I have. I can ask and answer questions and we help each other out. When I hit a brick wall I can often get the help I need to get around it.

Did you or do you have an SEO/business mentor and if so what sort of things do you learn as a result?

I would have to say that Greg ‘WebGuerrilla’ Boser is easily my SEO mentor. It’s not my style to gush or get all emotional but Greg has been part of my SEO life from nearly the very beginning and has helped open doors and has freely shared his knowledge with me.

That’s not to discount the long long list of friends and influencers in my life. DaveN, NFFC, rcjordan, Brett Tabke, Danny Sullivan…I could go on. I have been truly blessed over the years to have personal and professional relationships with many amazing and talented individuals. Going to an SES show is like a family reunion. I look forward to those trips for far more than the business opportunities.

An age old question here, but I don’t know the answer, so I am going to ask anyway! How did you get into SEO and given your time again how would you do it differently, if at all?

Back in 98/99 I was finishing up my university degree and working full time for a large oil company. I was a low level accounting clerk. I hated my job with a passion but what the heck? They were paying for my education and I’ve never been one to pass up a free ride. I had bought my first computer and was learning HTML for fun basically. That lead to some part time gigs doing web design for small companies.

One day a good friend of mine called up and was raving about this new piece of software he had stumbled upon. It designed pages that were search engine friendly and it then submitted these pages to search engines for you. That’s right – WPG Version 1. I built thousands of ‘blue line pages’.

With WPG in my back pocket I figured I knew more about search engines than anybody in my home town (I may have been right…) so I started selling SEO but I didn’t even know it was SEO at the time.

One day one I met up with a local web design firm (out of business now) and one of the account reps was pretty knowledgeable about search engines and he pointed me to the good old Search Engine Forums and Jim Wilson’s world. From there we all know the story of how WebmasterWorld was born and that was where I really started to make a name for myself.
The rest of the story is a blur of conferences and meeting people and eventually landing a position as Directory of SEO Technology at Range Online Media – a job I love and a whole company of great people to work with.

How do you rate MSN, potential contender or bag of cack?

I honestly want to see MSN as a contender. I know a lot of people over there and I really like them but the last couple iterations of MSN’s search index have been pure crap. If they can’t get a handle on relevancy and the fact that blogspot is not an authority to be ranked for everything then I don’t hold out much hope. Yes they have buckets of cash and can chase Google and Yahoo all day long but it’s very clear that money can’t buy relevancy and mindshare. I really wish that MSN had purchased ASK – that would have been a force to be reckoned with.

The big corporations get away with murder and it is clear to see why they can do it, eg a searcher expects to see BMW when they search for it, so to not have it there would make the engine look bad. So what is your take on it, should they get the green light or should they be flayed to death?

I don’t believe anybody should get a green light to break the rules without repercussions. The balance though is that you’re exactly right and the BMWs of the world absolutely must show up for brand searches. I’m fine with them never showing up for generics. I do all big brand SEO these days and we’re pretty careful to not cross those lines but every so often I get the urge to propose something totally evil so that we could get a ban for a few days. Look what it did for BMW – I’ve never seen better link building – hehehe.

Seriously though, I don’t believe that anybody should get an unfair advantage because of who they are. BMW deserved to be banned but 3 days is a joke. That’s not even a shot across the bow.

Thinking outside the box is essential the way I see it, but it is not always easy, how do you try and see things differently with the ultimate aim of finding the angle? Can that mindset be developed or does a person just have it or not?

I think developing that kind of mindset in a person that’s not wired up that way is nearly impossible but can happen over an extended period of time. A lot of it that kind of thinking is based on a fundamental understanding of how the system you’re working with is structured. You can’t really think outside the box until you know what the box is. I get a lot of SEO ideas across my desk and many of them are just tossed out immediately because that fundamental understanding is missing and the idea simply doesn’t work. To me thinking outside the box is an if-then situation. You can’t postulate a ‘then’ scenario with out the ‘if’ data.

You do corporate SEO, much to DaveN’s jovial disapproval but do you still keep you eye in on the darker side of things? Is it a case of knowing how to do things the dirty way” will help keep your clean stuff, clean?

I absolutely still keep my eye on the dark side. Many of my best friends in this biz still work on that kind of stuff. The information is invaluable to white or black seo. That said, I don’t believe it’s a case of the knowing the dirty stuff keeps my clean stuff cleaner. It’s more a case of understanding how far you can push the envelope. I’ve said it for years: A good black hat can out white hat a white hat any day of the week.

Can you give us an example of a “caught with your pants down” situation that you were involved with respect to SEO?

It’s a short answer but there was a day back in when I was making my debut into Phentermine spam that I was a bit lazy and bit newbie and I didn’t separate whois info and hosting companies etc and I had my whole network burned when it was at the most profitable point ever. I lost about 90% of my income over night. Needless to say it was a hard lesson learned but it sharpened me up and I haven’t been kicked in the grapes that hard since.

How paranoid are you, do you remove all traces of footprints, do you ring fence projects / networks, fake information etc, how far do you go to keep your stuff safe from widespread devastation?

Separate whois, separate hosts, unique IPs, multiple AdSense accounts etc is all good standard practice if you’re working in the spam world. If you stuff is clean then you don’t need to go to that extent. Even if you’re doing multiple site running AdSense I really wouldn’t get all fired up and paranoid if you’re not doing anything wrong. Yes people get burned all the time that didn’t deserve it but the reality is those are very isolated cases and a percentage of the whole it is insignificant. We just look at a very skewed data set when we read WMW or Threadwatch.


Well, thanks Todd, you have been a geezer. Respect due for taking the time to speak to me.

If you dont know Todd can be heard on WebmasterRadio (SEO Rockstars), and can be found on his Blog….Oilman!

ukgimp out.

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