Q&A: Ruud Hein on Ruud Questions

A while back I had a thought to post some interviews on my blog so that I could begin to reach more people and it also gave me something to write about. When the idea came to mind I put a request out to people and got an answer back from Alysson Fergison on her thoughts. She figured I should interview Ruud Hein of Ruud Questions since he himself interviews many SEO industry experts but few people ever interview him. I sent him a quick note and happily got a reply. Enjoy the first entry of Q & A.

Ruud Hein working in his home office.

Ruud Hein pounds out another post for his regular column, Ruud Questions from his home office.

Ruud, I’d like to thank you for agreeing so quickly to be my first victim – I mean personality. I’ve been reading your Ruud Questions on Search Engine People for some time now. It wasn’t until I made a post thinking about people to interview that your name came up. So here we are. “Sitting down” to get my Q&A section started. Thanks again in advance of you revealing a little more about yourself.

It’s been quite a while since you started writing your Ruud Questions. If I had to guess, you’ve no doubt had some inspiration on targeting the people that you interviewed. Somewhere along the way I’m guessing you’ve had people say “thanks, but no thanks” to the interview. Is this really the case? Who was the one that got away that you still target regularly? And of course everyone wants to know what was the worst (or best) “escape” someone has used on you?

I started “Ruud Questions” for two, coupled reasons. I felt very touched by the economic devastation so many people went through and wanted to do something that helped regular folks to build up a (new) life: to earn at least a buck extra, maybe create another job. I wanted to have them talk with some of the smartest people in SEO, marketing and web site building. And — I was in a writing slump, feeling that I was adding no value but instead stating what anyone in SEO should already know.

Those two combined led to the format of “Ruud Questions” and who I ask for an interview. The people I target are the people *I* would want to ask questions of, it’s not about Who they are. In other words, it’s who I ask vs. the Who who gets asked.

I’ve had only one “no thank you”. A very talented photographer who was suggested to me. I started following the person on Twitter and thought, yes, this person has a view on things I would love to pry into, would love to ask questions about. But when asked he was quite adamant that, no, our readers wouldn’t find anything interesting in what he would have to say. Remarkable, I find.

Some interviews have gone nowhere *yet*; they are agreements to do an interview but somehow they never crystallize.

I’ve noticed you recently talking a lot about Stephen King in some of your posts and emails. I’m guessing that you’re a fan of his which makes me wonder, if you could interview any single person, who would it be? It makes no difference the industry, country or language. Who would be that single person that you could lay back afterward, take a deep breath and feel confident that you were done. And of course, why that person.

That’s a hard question because then it comes down to “who is the most important person I’d want to talk to”, in an almost unreachable sense.

Mr & Mrs Hein

Ruud Hein and his wife: "I can ask her anything day to day."

Asked like that it would exclude my wife as I can ask her anything day to day. Yet knowing how her life was, getting as much detail as possible, understanding what she thinks and why is one of the most important things to me, creating a bond that makes me love her more and building the grounds on which I can walk when practicing how to be forgiving and understanding in our relation.

The unreachable sense also has a “for one more day” aspect and then who would I ask questions? My father who I grew to understand as a man, a father and “just this guy” a tad late for my taste? My sister whose mind I would love to understand more, now? My grandfather who I experienced as this wise man but who *also* must have been a “just this guy”, one that saw the world change around him?

Finally it implies “unreachable” in a “wish for” sense, implying fame too large to be a prospect but so far I’ve found people I would consider famous to be quite reachable and very agreeable. Brain-care specialist Gag Halfrunt would say they’re “just this guy, you know”.

From those present right now I’d love to interview Stephen Hawking. The opportunity for better understanding there is huge.

On a simpler level, for work, I’d like to do an interview with David Plouffe, the man behind Obama’s web campaign back then. I like how he factors people’s bullshit-o-meters, as he calls them, into his work. Asking him questions about how it was old school marketing instead of new school social networks that won the campaign, as he has explained, would be great.

As a new guy starting out in the targeted area of interviewing people I’d like to make some mistakes, but still minimize those as much as possible. What would be your advice on where and how to start? And of course the single “biggest thing” that you’ve learned along the way you think anyone doing an interview should know.

Interviews are just conversations with people you likely will never talk that way with again. So don’t waste a question. Don’t ask Stephen King “how do you come up with your ideas?!” I’d rather ask him; “writers say it is about what you take out, about what you delete — how do I do that as a writer? At which point does deleting a few words or a redundant sentence become rewriting?”

So, start with something you would really want to know yourself. Or, start with something the people you interview for would really want to know.

The “biggest” thing in interviews is that it’s not you. It means that when the interview is really, really good, the interviewee has responded really, really good. Also means that when the interview sucks, it most likely wasn’t you. When you ask “With mobile phones being so important in Africa, what are the market implications for educational services here in North America” and you get as an answer “Yes” or “Big” — that’s not your fault :)

Is there anything that I’ve left out of the previous questions that you think I should have asked? Were the questions about right? Too long, too short? Be brutally honest in your feedback please. It’s really the only way I’ll learn and have any insight into improving.

I think the questions were fine. Fine as in: good stuff man! The “any single person” question had me occupied as I wanted to give an honest, genuine answer. That’s good: you asked me a question today I really thought about, that did something inside me, made me contemplate and had me sit down with my wife to talk with her about it.

There you have it. A BIG thanks goes out to Ruud Hein for helping me get this started. Now I want your input. How were the questions? Did you think they worked and provided some additional insight into Ruud? Who would you like me to interview next?

Images © Ruud Hein. Used with permission. All rights reserved.


About the Author

Marshall Stevenson is a Director at SPRY. He’s been designing websites since 1995 with a focus on usability. Since 1999 he’s focused heavily on ensuring sites are designed for people and are SEO friendly. Lately he's been spending time on one of the best Winnipeg Jets blogs as an editor and co-founder while also co-hosting the Drunk Hockey Show – a show where friends & guests sit around, drink beer and talk hockey.

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