Shawn Hogan is the President and CEO of Digital Point Solutions. He is also the lead programmer, analyst, technical writer and artist. However, around these parts he's probably better known as digitalpoint, webmaster of the DigitalPoint Forum. In the world of eCommerce, Shawn is known for several different things, not the least of which are his very popular SEO Tools. These highly regarded tools are available free of charge and belong in the arsenal of every serious webmaster, including forum owners and administrators. We're grateful that Shawn was kind enough to answer some questions for this Admin Zone interview.


Can you give us a brief bio?

Sure, I founded Digital Point Solutions 10 years ago at the age of 19 (I'm now 29 for the mathematically challenged). Primarily doing development of high-end business management/account software.

What do you do to relax and unwind?

Snowboard and travel.

Are you a native Californian? Do you live the "California Lifestyle"?

Yep, 4th generation San Diegian even. As far as the "California Lifestyle" goes, no idea because I don't really know what that is exactly. :)

What do you drive?

2005 Hummer SUT

What are your favorite books? Movies? Music? Games? Foods? Beverages?

I don't really have the attention span for books (same applies to movies over about 90 minutes [with a couple exceptions]). I like all sorts of music (like most people), but my favorite these days is stuff like Thievery Corporation, Crystal Method, etc. As far as movies go, some of my favorites are Lord of The Rings, Matrix, Team America and Bad Santa. I'm not much of a gamer, although sometimes my life feels like a big game. heh I like all foods really... sushi, steak, chicken, fruits, etc. I'll eat pretty much anything. :) Favorite drink is probably a frozen lemonade chiller from Hot Dog On A Stick (yum!).

What is your educational background?

Just a normal run of the mill high school education.

What would you want to do for a living if you weren't a programmer/analyst?

Anything that wasn't repetitive. Construction would be cool because you are always out doing something different. {shrug}

Can you describe your normal work day?

Uh... I really don't have a normal work day. Basically I get up, and work on whatever I feel like that day. I spent a good portion of my time experimenting with new things. Coming up with better and faster ways to do things or inventing something completely new is what I like to do.

What do you consider your greatest success? Any failures you want to tell us about?

Hmmmm... my greatest success is basically the previous question, that I wake up each day and get to do or work on whatever I feel like. My biggest failure was a record label I started 6 years ago. :)

Which online communities do you enjoy as a member?

These days I barely have time for my own, but if I did have time, probably SitePoint would be my favorite.

How would you describe your moderation style?

Hands off. Generally things work themselves out on their own. My moderation is basically just deleting spam threads or moving a thread to the appropriate place if it's posted somewhere incorrectly.

How did you get into webmastering, eCommerce, and search engine optimization?

By accident. About a year and a half ago, search engine optimization (for myself) was one of the "new/interesting" things I decided to start mucking around with one day. By the time I heard the term SEO or PageRank, I had a huge site with a zillion link and a PR7. So that was a big help from starting from nothing like most people have to do. I probably would have lost interest pretty quickly if I had to start from scratch.

Are the DigitalPoint Forums difficult to manage?

Nope, not at all. One person could do it by spending 10 minutes/day in the forum.

How did you recruit your staff?

I don't. I really only have one "real" moderator, and I just asked him because he was always in the forum. So if he happens to see spam or a thread that needs to be moved, he has the power to do it.

Most forum owners/admins get into forums as a hobby, not a business, and generation of revenue concerns including seo are often an afterthought. What tools and strategies can you recommend for these people who are new to these things and don't know the ropes to help get them started?

Truthfully, I have no idea... the only reason I started a forum was to support my existing user base. The fact that's it grown to more than that was just by chance, not really a goal.

How important is SEO for a forum admin? Isn't it enough to have lots of good content?

To be honest, I don't personally think a whole lots needs to be done. I run vBulletin, and mainly the only thing I did was change my <title> tags on a few templates. For example, make the <title> of the page for a thread be the name of the thread. Other than that, there wasn't anything I thought was worth spending any time on.

Do you think the importance of SEO is increasing, decreasing, or remaining constant? And if it's changing, how quickly?

I think the importance is actually decreasing (pretty rapidly) because search engines are getting smarter and smarter. Google for example is starting to understand JavaScript and probably will start understanding CSS files soon.

What would you recommend as the best way to start to learn about eCommerce and SEO for the beginner?

Just read... go to your favorite forum with topics about it and just absorb as much information as you can.

Which of your SEO Tools should the novice start with?

It depends on what they want to do I suppose. If they are trying to figure out what keywords to target, the Keyword Suggestion Tool is great. If they have a new site that needs exposure, the Ad Network is a good one. Once you know the keywords you want to target, the Keyword Tracker is nice too.

What are the most common mistakes you see new admins making?

Using phpBB because it's free. :)

How do you see the internet in general changing over the next 5 to 10 years? What about online communities in particular?

I have no idea... Everything on the Internet changes so quickly that I couldn't predict what's going to happen in 1 year. The best I can do is try to stay a step or two ahead of everyone else.

Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know.

I was born at home without a midwife because my parents were crazy and thought if they bought a book about having a baby at home, they didn't need anyone else. heh

What does the future hold for Shawn Hogan?

No clue... but I'm sure it will always be changing. :) Some of the things I'm doing today I would have never thought of 6 months ago, so...