Interview With Ian Lurie of PortentFull disclosure: About 80% of the things I impress my clients with on a daily basis, in regards to link building or SEO in general, probably came from Ian Lurie. In other words, I’m a huge fan and you should be too! Listen up!

As founder and CEO of Portent, an Internet Marketing Agency in Seattle, WA, Ian Lurie is one busy guy. Since 1995, he’s been recognized as an industry leader on all things related to internet marketing and SEO. Of course, we were thrilled to catch up with him recently, and get his take on the future of SEO, content marketing, and more…

The SEO & Content Marketing Connection

Because Ian’s been in the internet marketing game for 17 years, you might think he has some secret formula to success. However, he’ll be the first to tell you that content marketing and SEO is never 50/50 – or any magic combination.

“I use different terms,” says Ian, “because I think ‘content marketing’ causes a lot of misperceptions. ‘Content marketing’ isn’t really marketing through content. That perception has caused a lot of folks to start vomiting lousy stuff onto their sites in the hope that a huge amount of mediocre articles will get them ranking.

“I talk instead about producing marketable content – truly great, great material that informs and entertains – and then promoting it. The result is stronger authority that goes far beyond SEO.”

Right on the money!

“All that said,” continues Ian, “SEO, content marketing and marketing in general are completely intertwined. It’d be really difficult to say which drives the other at this point. I know – total cop-out answer. I’ll say this though: You can’t conduct SEO without a content strategy. And you can’t conduct an internet marketing campaign without an SEO strategy, nor can you conduct SEO without an overall marketing strategy.”

What About AuthorRank?

Strong SEO skills and great content are critical for success – neither trumping the other. But, the big question this fall is how internet marketing experts are approaching Google’s AuthorRank system.

Currently, AuthorRank is tied to Google+, but Ian believes that “Google may soon try to carry it beyond Google+, making it into a broader standard.” Of course, this broadening could be a bumpy road for Google and the internet marketing industry.

Like many other experts, Ian’s concerned that a more powerful AuthorRank system could be easily abused. “How long before we see people selling rel=author placement?” he asks. “I’d be surprised if it isn’t already going on.”

What’s Pivotal for SEO Success?

The fact that there are major changes (like AuthorRank) occurring in the world of internet marketing shouldn’t come as news to anybody. But it seems that success today requires a much more thorough understanding of SEO and content marketing.

We asked Ian what he considers to be critical for SEO success. His answer? “I’ve always taught data-driven content strategy.” His top three factors for long-term success:

  • Technical site visibility
  • Authority through smart marketing
  • Great content

“I’m not bragging,” he says. “Those are truisms in any kind of marketing. But those rules haven’t changed.”

However, he says, what has changed is that “it’s harder to pick out individual signals and say, ‘This is the most important to SEO.’ As search engines get more and more complex, and behave more and more like people in how they rate and rank a page, it gets harder to create a prioritized list. I’m increasingly telling clients, ‘It all matters,’ when they ask me for priorities. They don’t like it, but it’s the shape of things to come.”

Building Efficiency

A large part of what Ian does is build efficiency. When Portent takes on a new client, they run them through their basic “10Things” SEO audit, which looks at site performance, potential ‘thin’ content, link profile quality, and how servers respond to broken link requests.

So what are the most pervasive issues? “The most common issue we find,” says Ian, “is server response codes. When tested, 30% of servers we review return a 302 or 200 response instead of a 404. 78% of all Windows servers returned a 302 or 200.”

“That’s a huge blow to crawl efficiency. And it’s such an easy way to improve SEO – a simple click on a control panel (on Windows) or a few lines in your config file (on Apache).”

Once Portent fixes a client’s bigger technical issues, it’s time to look at broader strategic points like content strategy and overall site quality. But, as Ian will always remind a client, it’s not just SEO, or just great content that’s required for success. Both are integral!

Questions or comments for CEM or Ian? Share your opinions below!