Kahena Interview XIV – Michael King
Notwithstanding Penguin and the like, one of the biggest SEO stories of 2012 is the de-indexing of iAcquire. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, a company was outed for buying links and subsequently punished by the power that be. Michael King was new to the scene at iAcquire and suddenly found himself in the eye of a storm. Almost six months on and good to report that all have bounced back. Given this, felt it would be good to talk to Michael about this and other SEO related matters.
When you wrote, “I can’t wait to see what 2012 will bring”. Could you have ever imagined what it has brought you so far?
Not at all. I honestly didn’t expect anything. I figured I’d do a few more posts on SEOmoz and people might like them and maybe I might get a speaking gig or two. I didn’t really think I’d be in Israel or Australia or at MozCon. It’s been pretty surreal.
Given what happened with the deindexing, do you feel Google has too much power as judge, jury and executioner?
It’s Google’s index, they can do whatever they want with it. I have no misconceptions about that. The thing I do find personally disturbing is how people have adopted the idea that link buying is a question of morality. Google is not the law or any type of higher authority, and suffice to say I’m completely disillusioned about the industry at this point– especially with people who talk trash publicly and then call us after the fact to ask if we have a side company that can still buy links for them now. I’m also pretty disgusted by the backlash, but whatever, no good deed goes unpunished and I did too many good deeds I guess. Funny part is Google was cooler about the whole thing than the Search industry was. #kanyeShrug
You started playing around with QBasic at age 12 and by the time you were 20 had thousands of hours of computing experience. Do you consider yourself to be an outlier?
Not at all. There are plenty of people like Tom Anthony from Distilled who got far deeper down the rabbit hole than I did and/or just stayed deeper on the comp sci side of things. In SEO I may seem like an outlier because there are so many people who are content to not know anything about code, but there are thousands of programmers far more qualified than I am. I do think that the way that I approach things due to my coding background is incredibly helpful everyday.
What does a typical day of yours look like?
I don’t really have a typical day because I do so many different things. My main role is marketing for iAcquire as a brand, but I also oversee strategy and help out the sales and account management teams on calls and on-site meetings. I also actually still do hands-on work, writing deliverables and experiment with new tactics. I really enjoy that aspect of my job because I never want to be one of those speakers who isn’t actively doing stuff and just parroting insights.
I wake up around 8:30-9, check and send many emails to get things moving, then I come into the office around 11 and typically stay until about 7, then head home have dinner and knock some more stuff out.
What are your indulgences?
Wine, Steak, Chocolate chip cookies, travel, drinks with umbrellas in them, vacations to places people normally don’t go, starwood hotels, delta upgrades, nike air max 90s, Polo, LRG.
As you’ve evolved from SEO person to industry personality, has the way people act towards you changed? Has the way you’ve acted towards others changed?
The biggest difference is people used to respond to my emails because of what was after the @ symbol, now they respond to them because of what is before it. I’m still the same guy I’ve always been.
Given your celebrity, everything you say and do is more tightly scrutinized. Do you miss the anonymity?
I definitely wouldn’t say I’m a celebrity by any means, but I haven’t really had “anonymity” on the internet since the 90s. Anonymity in Search, I don’t miss because people actually listen to and execute on my ideas now and that’s largely because of the “status.” Nothing has actually changed, a lot of the ideas that have been implemented at iAcquire are the same ones I tried to push through in previous jobs where I didn’t have enough status. Basically it’s worth it just because I now have the ability to affect positive change.
Away from work, how do you like to relax?
I’m still trying to figure that out.
What are the differences in the industry between the East Coast and the West Coast?
There seems to be more people involved in the startup scene on the west coast whereas the east coast is more about working for enterprise clients and fighting with creative agencies.
Given the demands of your position, how do you achieve the balance between personal and business?
I don’t; my work-life balance is overdrawn. I’m starting to spend more time on music again though. I don’t really feel the need to give as much of my free time to Search anymore to be honest.
Who are your favorite heroes in fiction and real life?
My mom is pretty awesome. Shout out to her, she just started her PhD at Yale.
What are your peeves about the industry?
In what circumstances wouldn’t you work with a client or cease working with one?
Any client who goes against what I believe in I won’t work on. I know iAcquire has turned down many clients in the escort industry for example. As far as firing clients, I’m a huge proponent of that. It’s not as willy-nilly as I made it sound at MozCon, but if after you give a client a fair shake at trying to help improve their business if they don’t implement anything or they are just overly-problematic – adios! I only want to work with people who really want to do this.
You are also a talented musician. Would you ever want to return full-time to music?
Thanks and maybe. It’s not a comfortable life, but it’s very rewarding and a lot of fun. If I did it full-time again it’d have to be under the right circumstances. I’m working on a new record and I’m actually about to launch a new record label with a content strategy around music marketing. One of my biggest problems in my rap career was that most of my fans were rappers due to the technical nature of how I rhyme. It’s hard to sell rappers music, but it’s quite easy to sell them strategies and tactics for becoming famous.
You spoke at SMXIsrael last year – what are your thoughts about the industry here in Israel?
I was only in Israel for 2 nights so I don’t know if I’m qualified to speak on the industry as a whole, but I do know I met some really awesome people out there who really know their stuff. It was an absolute honor and a privilege to meet and share ideas with so many sharp people.