Right, this article is the shit. In fact it’s a fucking monster.
I’ve been fortunate enough to discuss SEO with the people below and more importantly they have agreed to share their thoughts and ideas with you, the great unwashed.
I’m sure that you have heard of the guys below but if you haven’t & are looking to improve your SEO skills, knowledge and talk to some cool people I would advise that you check out the following:
- Julie Joyce – @juliejoyce – Link Building Company: Link Fish Media
- Ian Howells – @ianhowells – Halo18 – Not hats. Just rank.
- Ted Ives – @tedives – Coconut Headphones
- Barry Adams – @badams – Barry Adams | SEO, PPC, Social Media
- Branko Rihtman – @neyne – SEO Scientist – Applying the scientific method to SEO
- Ian Lurie – @portentint – Internet Marketing Company and SEO Agency
- Don Rhoades – @thegonzoseo – Don Rhoades: The Gonzo SEO | Search Marketing Savant
- AJ Kohn – @ajkohn – San Francisco SEO and Internet Marketing
- Rob Hammond – @robhammond – Rob Hammond, SEO, Perl, etc
This post is huge and includes valuable insights about the SEO industry, if you are not used to this I would advise that you read it one question at a time and perhaps go for a walk and/or maybe have a nap in between.
Right, stupid sarcasm over lets get on with the questions…
1. Why do you work within the search industry and what does success look like for you in 2012?
I was a programmer who got drafted into a vacant position but I love what I do more than I loved programming, or anything else that I’ve done, professionally speaking. Search is never the same for very long and I love that most about it. I love that it’s both art and science, and that there’s not always one right answer. I love the interpretation, the testing, and the continued knowledge. I have over 20 link builders and writers in-house and success, to me, is always going to be keeping those guys employed. That means more to me than giving myself a raise, or securing a top-notch client (with our NDAs, I’d never get bragging rights anyway!)
I actually started out as a designer. Then I realized that there was more money in just making my own sites and promoting affiliate offers instead of grinding away doing designs, trading time for money (vs. making passive income). But, in general – I decided to stay in this industry because it’s so fluid. Things that aren’t challenging get boring, so being in an industry that always has something new around the corner is really the only thing that keeps my attention.
Search (at least SEO) is always changing, and trying to figure out the rules is like a good mystery novel; it’s fun, stimulating, and in high demand – people just plain need help – so it’s a great industry to be in.
Success for me in 2012 would be figuring out how to provide effective ongoing services to clients beyond the large audits I’ve been doing. It seems like there is a big gap in this industry between consulting advice and ongoing activity – it’s a very bimodal distribution.
In one case, I see a few consultants who give extremely effective high-level *advice* that drives a lot of results, and then go away. In the other case, I see a lot of small SEO companies generating a lot of monthly low-level *activity* focused on generating evidence of industry (thus the prevalence of low-end link building packages, fiverr gigs, rankings reports, etc), but to my mind this activity is not always very effective in terms of driving results (i.e. traffic and conversions).
I’m trying to think through some ways our industry could better fill in the distribution in the middle, to couple advice with activity in ways that are profitable for us but also effective for clients.
When I first discovered SEO I found that I really liked it. As a discipline poised on the dividing line between humans and machines, it ticks many boxes for me. In recent years my enjoyment of SEO has diminished somewhat, with search engines spreading their brainwashing propaganda and the wider world perceiving us as shady manipulators at best, but so far I still like it enough to keep me engaged.
Success in 2012 for me means helping Pierce Communications grow as an all-round agency with core expertise in SEO and digital marketing. That in turn is accomplished by achieving success for our clients. I think we’re doing a pretty good job already, but i want us to do an absolutely spectacular job.
It is easier than working in construction. 🙂 On a serious note, it is not so much the industry that I like working in, as much as it is the crossroad of marketing with technology/development. Plus I like the riddles it presents me with. There are some nice and wicked smart people in the industry too, one just needs to identify who they are and that takes a lot of trial and error 🙂
In my current position as being responsible for R&D for a major SEO SAAS platform, successful 2012 means improving current processes of our software that it will replace a lot of the smaller service providers that exist in the market. I want to integrate as many external signals as possible to provide great answers to SEO questions our users have.
I really work in the internet marketing industry. Search is, and will always be, a huge part of getting the word out on the internet. I love the search component: It emphasizes all of my favorite disciplines, from statistics to writing.
In 2012, “success” from the perspective of search marketing will mean connections. Get as many people as possible to know you and follow you on Facebook, Twitter and most of all Google+. That will help you rank when they do searches. Search is more and more personalized – your ability to get folks to ‘opt in’ is going to be key.
Because it is fun. I am generally very private about my how competitive I am, but I do not like to lose. Each project is a challenge, and within a project many components, each with their own challenges. Success for me in 2012 is to slow down and enjoy life. I work more than I play; I have kids so my priorities must change.
One of the main reasons I work within the search industry is that it’s always changing. Search is never dull and you’re always challenged to learn more, whether that be reading up on information retrieval or testing new functionality such as rel=”author”.
Success for me in 2012 is about maintaining the quality of my services while finding ways to expand the business.
I work in the search industry because I love the creativity that comes from working in a continually shifting landscape. Search has become the glue that holds together many different marketing disciplines, and it’s exciting to be at the centre of an industry that’s still continuing to grow year on year, even in difficult economic times.
To that end, success for me in 2012 would be finally getting SEO included as a routine part of media plans (ie no more instances of Orange’s unoptimised “I am” campaign). Success would also be merging SEO and social media disciplines, since as we’ve seen already this year, the already faint lines dividing these two worlds are blurring even more.
2. If you could remove any particular SEO myth, metric or type of content (interviews perhaps?) What would it be?
Since I’m constantly rambling about how quality paid links actually do exist, I’ll go with my second favorite myth: Google Toolbar PageRank. I think it’s useful as a metric only in comparison to certain other metrics, but the reliance upon it is ridiculous.
Myth – I would say the dangerous of automated linking. Not that it isn’t dangerous at all, but its level of danger is being completely overblown.
Content type would have to be infographics. They’ve been done to death and although some are really, really awesome – it just feels like a hack move already. Everyone who spent eight seconds in the industry seems to think an infographic is the answer to getting links now. Every time I see one it feels like… “Oh – let’s see who was desperate for some links this week” as I go to the footer and check for the credit links.
I just noticed the other day that Bing exposes its systemwide paid search click-through rates for keywords in their Microsoft Adcenter desktop program. I wish Google would provide the same, for both paid search and organic, so people could more easily gauge how they are doing versus their industry and what content they should be improving.
As far as myths go, there is one that Keyword Density doesn’t matter. This myth is easily challenged by a simple thought experiment; try ranking for something with a keyword density of zero. Actually, you can based on incoming anchor text (some really neat anecdotal examples are out there involving pages ranking for things that aren’t even on the page) but it’s *really* hard. If a page is going to be about a topic, you need to think through how much “about” it it will be – keyword density, stems, and related words are all a part of that equation.
There are a lot of things I dislike about SEO in its current form and where it’s heading, but I hate none of them enough to want them to simply go away. We just have to grow and adapt, as we’ve always done.
As for myths, I would like people to stop swallowing regurgitated PR spin from search engines and just select the best tactics in order to deliver value for their clients. There are too many SEOs out there who simply swallow propaganda wholesale without applying an ounce of critical thought to it. This propaganda doesn’t just come from Google – some of the SEO industry’s biggest contributors are just as guilty of spreading disinformation.
SEO myth – That links from irrelevant pages don’t count.
SEO metric – different attempts to measure trust/authority. Admit it, you don’t have a clue what Google really means by those words.
Type of content – numbered lists (10 Ways Dead Possums Help Your Link Building)
Myth: That there’s any easy way. This drives me completely insane. Content spinning, link buying, etc. all have a place, but as long term, future-proof marketing techniques they’re a total failure. Marketing is still hard. You’re communicating with people. People are tough to reach, because they’re individuals. Which is cool, and good, and the way it should be. Deal.
Great question, but I could care less about trivial matters of what trends or myths or metrics are archaic or red herring. I would like to see less cabalism and high school cliques in the communities, it likens cronyism in politics. I see phony collectivism being practiced and endorsed by thought leaders of some communities. To me, that doesn’t promote the industry as a viable profession to non-marketers. Also, public outing is a terrible practice IMO. I’m all for self-regulation, but outing smells of shitty linkbait and does nothing to promote our profession as a serious adult business but more of a whining, “I want a gold star too” culture. Forbes and the NYT, et al are never going to write anything nice about us if these things keep up.
There are quite a few SEO myths and memes that I’d like to never see again. The ‘SEO is Dead’ articles are annoying, more so because they often come from people who should know better. The problem with a lot of the SEO content that gets under my skin is that they get it half right. Fresh content is important, but not the way most people think. Meta Description can be important just not for direct ranking purposes. So at the end of the day I’d like remove the content that doesn’t deal with the nuance of these topics.
In that order, the unkillable “SEO is dead” meme, keyword density (still hear too many people quoting this as a metric), and analysis that mixes up correlation with causation.
3. There have been hundreds/thousands of articles over the last few years about how social signals influence SEO. Have they had enough influence to warrant the hype?
I don’t think so. I don’t think that I’ve seen enough actual results to suggest that they’re more important than links. One of the best things about social media is that due to its nature, it doesn’t have to be as quantifiable as certain other things. You can talk about reach, for example. Your tweet reached 15000 people. What does that say, really? I think a lot of the hype is simply that social media isn’t as exploited, yet, as other areas, like links, and that it’s easier to get into than, for example, technical SEO. Because it’s social, if you’re doing it, you’re expected to write about it, but I think it’s easy to write about it without actually doing it. There are some great social media brains out there, but that area of marketing is totally cluttered with people who know very little and speak quite loudly, unfortunately. I imagine those guys hate the hype surrounding link building, though!
As of yet – no. Not at all. Wil Reynolds did an awesome study/talk about how he was still being beat out by people just slamming exact match anchor text despite all the fantastic social signals the SEER Interactive domain has. I think it’s the future – but it’s not the present.
Moving forward – we’ll see how intrusive Search+ gets with generic searches and signed out users. In general, I think between Search+ and rel=”author” it’s going to shift away from links a bit in areas where that data is available, though not completely. Also, there will always be areas without someone who put time into Google+ or rel=”author”. I think we’ll see a lot of affiliates really embracing the idea of micro-niches in response to these changes… basically any area where there isn’t enough social data to allow it to be a big signal.
Or, you know – we’ll just game social the way we game links.
When Google+ eventually gets enough action to base rankings on, it will be game over for all those other signals. The bigger question though is, how many searches do people do on Youtube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn? There are plenty of other search ranking algorithms worth figuring out; you would think our industry would fragment at some point, but I don’t see too many people working on dissecting these. This puzzles me.
As an industry in a continuous state of flux, SEO is very prone to unsubstantiated hype. We all want to stay on top of all the latest developments, and as a result many of us can get carried away by what they perceive to be the Next Big Thing. Social signals in search have been prophetised for years but have only very recently become factors of any significance. Those who’ve been proclaiming the value of social signals are eager to adopt the ‘told you so’ mentality, but the fact is that for most of the time they’ve been horribly wrong and, as a result, been spreading misinformation. Only recently has their point of view been vindicated and is social a factor to be seriously considered for SEO.
Not the hype but maybe the attention. Here is the thing – people measure social signals and compare to rankings and say “here, this shows that pages talked about in social media rank faster/better”. But they disregard the fact that pages talked about in social media are also linked to more than those that do not get talked about. Who is to say that it is the social media signals that fuel the rankings? Maybe social media fuels the linking which fuels the ranking? Till this day, nothing has been definitively shown to influence the rankings as much (or even at all) as links do. That said, only due to the fact that social signals can translate as pages that are being linked to more, would make me prefer getting links from pages with higher social interaction levels than those pages with, say, higher PR but that no one tweets about.
No, but social media overall doesn’t warrant the hype. First, social media isn’t new – it’s been around since cave men. Second, it has a very low payoff if you measure direct ROI. Third, pure search outperforms social by orders of magnitude.
However, social signals ARE important. They’re powering a lot of search results I see now. And with Google Search Plus Your World, social’s really going to become even more important.
I chiefly look at social as a brand management tool. In terms of ORM and SERP management, social presence is a must. In terms of engaging clients and winning awareness to one’s brand, it’s better than advertising salvation on the back of church pews, if you’ve got an adept manager. As far as it’s influence of SEO, I hold little regard for the most part as both major social platforms do not invite Google to their data. As for G+ and personal results, I see where that is going and it is about as social as I’d imagine state prison might be, though clearly it will affect what is displayed to search users (I don’t think it’s proper to call them rankings anymore).
This is an instance where the SEO community is ahead of the search engines. Social signals haven’t really merited as much attention as they’ve received. But that doesn’t mean they are important now or that they won’t be vital in the future. We’ve just been jonesing for them because the link graph is so rickety.
Almost certainly not – “testing” the effects of social media on SERPs is one of those aforementioned areas where there’s a high tendency to mistake correlation for causation. Of course it’s important to be engaging in social media and building a brand voice, but there are plenty of sites that rank pretty well without any social media presence. It’s undoubtedly a signal amongst many others, but if you’re doing link building well, you should be impacting on those signals to some extent anyway.
4. There are many examples where respected SEOs have completely different opinions on fairly simple subjects (exact match domains, social signals etc.) Do you believe that this is down to people not understanding whether a certain technique works or not but have given an opinion or that they are purposely giving out false information in order to confuse?
I would hate to think that any respected SEO gives out false information in order to mislead, but nothing would surprise me. I know SEOs who will tell you anything, but I know a lot who will tell you nothing, too. I know some who publicly state that they do nothing to violate Google’s guidelines but they’re buying links and hiding that. That kind of hypocrisy bothers me more than anything. So to go around the bush here and actually answer your question, I would strongly hope that the reason for people having such differing opinions is because they are actually seeing results to back up those views. In reality though, I suspect that some are indeed protecting their empires (and who can blame them?) and a few don’t do any real SEO firsthand anymore but live off their old reputations, therefore sticking to what they’ve said and thought in the past.
I have yet to run into someone who I knew was purposely giving misinformation, though I suppose it could happen. I think most of it comes from people either not doing their own testing (and going by what someone they respect said) or doing a test once and then using that to make large, sweeping statements that aren’t really supported by their single success or failure.
I doubt most people are giving out false information; there is enough fog inherent in the system that can cause reasonable people to disagree. I was surprised to be in an argument with Bill Slawski in his blog comments recently about a few things, and it definitely caused me to really consider my position.
What drives me crazy though is people making blanket statements with zero evidence. Show me either a study (like SEOMoz’s yearly correlation studies), or as a doctor would say, at least some “clinical” i.e. anecdotal evidence. If you had one or two sites perform a certain way – great, talk about it – that contributes to the collective conversation available on the internet, and if enough people talk, maybe someone will figure out a way to test it and prove something.
I do think though, that the search industry often feels like something Woodrow Wilson described, and as a result, there are a lot of things people will just not talk about openly, which is a real shame. Wilson said:
“Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men’s views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.”
Wilson was of course talking about a conspiracy behind the government, but search engine companies fit the “organized, subtle, watchful, interlocked, complete, pervasive” description in some pretty obvious ways.
With your websites using their analytics, webmaster tools, their email system for your link building, their web browser, their operating system, their web-based applications and so on, are you ever going to stand up and put out a blog posting that you know they are *really* *really* *really* not going to like? No way! (Aaron Wall and Danny Sullivan perhaps being the exceptions). Please note – : I have written this paragraph in such a way that I could be describing at least two companies that fit those criteria, so I can have some plausible deniability!
I don’t think this is necessarily due to lack of knowledge or malicious intent. these two both play a role, but there are other factors at work too. First I think the aforementioned eagerness with which SEOs embrace new hypes is a large source of disagreement, with potential new or updated SEO signals being given more column space than they’re worth, just so some SEOs can claim they’re at the cutting edge.
Another big source of disagreement is that nobody outside of search engines really knows exactly how web pages are ranked. Google’s black box algorithms, as well as their tendency to apply different values to various signals depending on the context of the search query, leads to all kinds of anecdotal evidence that does not necessarily carry across to different sites. Each SEO will defend what they see happening on their client sites, not always realising that a similar tactic on a different site – boasting different ranking signals – might not have any effect at all, or even a detrimental effect.
It is down to a lot of different things. First of all I have an issue with the status of “respected SEO”. Some of the SEOs that people respect did not touch a website in ages. If by “respected” you mean “vocal” then I am sure we will agree that in some cases respect is unwarranted. In any case, I will always have a lot of respect towards webmasters that bust their ass over their own web properties and know through hard work and trial and error which of the techniques work and which don’t. These people are usually not heard at conferences or on blogs.
I don’t think they are giving false opinions on purpose. There are however examples of ulterior motives – for example, sudden and almost violent coming out against paid links. I believe preaching against certain practices with almost religious fervor is aimed predominantly for Google’s ears, either as a way to get in favor and develop back channels or as a way to win redemption from former transgressions.
I’d better not say much on this – I’ll get in trouble 🙂
If you look at the truly great search marketers, they’re in agreement on the important stuff: Social versus links, onsite SEO, etc. They may differ on details, like whether heading tags matter. But they have the same philosophy, and they all know the role of content-driven search marketing, ‘black hat’ tactics, etc. All have a place.
I believe this is the result of mixed results and improper testing. SEO is referred to as an Art (like Medical and Legal) because the same procedures can yield different results due to the patients or clients having differing circumstances (competition). If the same surgical procedure is performed on two different patients, their results can vary on several factors; the same could be said of legal representations. I have seen bullshit opinions passed off as fact because some people are too lazy to do their own research. People also need something to write about, many of them lack imagination so they write about something they’ve not experimented and take another’s word as sound fact. The only real misleading information I’ve seen out there comes from Google. There are real whitecoat SEO’s like Steve Plunkett and Branko Rihtman and they do test in controlled experiments. Those guys would never call it science and they are also Postmodern SEO’s Like Joe Hall and do not go by what so-and-so says works/doesn’t, they find out for themselves.
I don’t think there are a lot of people out there giving false information. (I do think many SEOs hold back a few things for themselves and for their clients.) When it comes down to differing opinions on these subjects I believe it’s usually about experience and context. That’s not to say that one is wrong and one is right. The truth is it often differs by client and by vertical, so your experience could be the polar opposite from another person’s experience. That and there are multiple signals and a time component that make it difficult to be certain about such things.
I look for those who are willing to provide insight into why they believe what they believe and then seek to test those theories for myself. Doing it yourself is always the best course of action.
SEO is clearly one of those industries that triggers a lot of contention and disagreement, both within and outside of the industry. People get frustrated because there is no “right” or “wrong” way of doing things (outside of Matt Cutts’s golden rules of course…)
There is definitely a huge amount of misinformation out there on SEO, but disagreement from experienced and respected SEOs probably more often than not stems from working in different verticals, and seeing effects that may work in one industry, at one time, in one level of competitiveness but is completely ineffective when applied elsewhere. Given there are hundreds of different ranking factors, an average of about 1.5 algorithm changes per day, and thousands of different datacentres out there, I’d be rather worried if there wasn’t disagreement among SEO professionals. For anyone who hasn’t read it, I highly recommend Aaron Wall’s post on the nofollow fiasco, which, agree with it or not, is a fantastic read around what can happen if you take what you read on (even respected) industry blogs as fact without testing it for yourself.
5. What makes a great SEO?
Lack of ego. If you think you know everything or that you’re the best, you’re never going to listen to alternative ideas or accept that you made a mistake.
Analytic thinking and problem solving skills. They are, I think, two large contributors to having someone “get it”. You don’t need to know how to make great content – you can hire that out. You don’t need to learn to program – you can hire it out. But knowing how to plan and attack a problem is something that you really need to be able to do yourself. (Knowing how to write/code help – but I don’t think they’re mandatory.)
I know a few guys, very few, who nothing can phase and have seen just about anything you can imagine. You can’t get familiar with numerous different CMS’s quirks by reading some books on SEO, only by experiencing some serious pain first-hand. Have you ever noticed that every website you analyze teaches you something new? The SEO curve has a very fat head but then a *very* long long long tail.
85% of the problems you will encounter in any audit are easily found in checklists or a few books like “The Art of SEO”. The other 15% of the problems you’ll find (some of them traffic-killers) are either ones that you would have had to examine many many other sites to in order to have run across before, and some are new ones almost no one has ever seen.
Some advice for any newer people in the industry: if you can get some experience at an agency working for some large clients, it’s a great learning accelerator – you will see different problems every day and learn far more quickly than you could on your own.
SEO that delivers long term value for clients. That’s the only thing that matters.
Ability to master multiple marketing disciplines, great people skills, understanding of human nature, healthy dose of skepticism and devotion. Programming skills are a plus.
A great learner and a great teacher.
I’d have to say their willingness to continue learning. Someone I note for this is Wil Reynolds of SEER. He hires the best and brightest he can find and learns from them as they learn from him. At the same time, Wil shares his knowledge over Google+ when he has the time. The day I stop wanting to learn more about how to perfect this craft is the day I retire from search marketing.
Another metric might be their will to kick ass. My 3 year old son gets crushed in Super Smash Bros. by the older two kids, but he kept playing for weeks and finally punked one of them with plain old Luigi kicks. Tenacity and resilience of a champion is required for any success in this game. See: http://visiblefactors.com/blog/914-inhouse-seo-story/
The traits that make a great SEO professional are a high capacity for logic and problem-solving; curiosity; a desire to learn; experiential learning; and the courage to fail. Personally, I also think a knack for pattern recognition is valuable.
A great SEO as far as I’m concerned is highly self motivated, and relentlessly curious about the industry they work in.
Beyond that I think it’s difficult to pin down – it’s very rare to get a great strategist, technician, link builder, marketer, analyst and copywriter all in one person. I think a great SEO can be anyone who’s great at any, some or all of those things.
6. What link building method has given you the best ROI?
Paid links, definitely. Here’s a bit of a sad thing to say…we had a client who wanted to increase his ranking for a few specific terms in time for a holiday that was quite important to his industry. He basically wanted us to throw as much money as possible at webmasters in order to achieve this, so we did just that, ignoring our usual in-house guidelines and pricing structures. He spent a fortune but it worked like a charm and he probably made well over 10 times what he spent in a month. Like it or not, for certain industries, you have to have money to make money.
Blog commenting. They cost about a tenth of a penny to buy, and it takes very little time to drop your own using something like ScrapeBox. Amassing thousands of links really can not be done for a smaller investment unless you already have a huge audience or make a quick meme image that goes viral. But, in terms of something that’s repeatable for any site, any time – it’s still blog comments.
The best ROI I ever got was starting eight weeks prospecting the press way in advance of a website launch, calling and calling until I got people on the phone, giving them a quick elevator pitch, and then physically visiting them in New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC. It resulted in coverage on day of launch by the Chicago Tribune, the AP, Agence France-Press, and PC World, and the AP article even made it into USA Today.
This resulted in 15,000 monthly uniques almost immediately; about 80,000 a few months later when the site was later properly optimized. It was a ton of work but the links and traffic that resulted from it were fantastic, and continued to roll in over the course of 18 months as others in the press wrote additional articles, prompted by the original ones.
I actually got an hour with Walter Mossberg in his office – he chose not to write on us, but what an experience! The neat thing was all the other press guys were giving me advice on how to pitch him when I told them I had the meeting set up, so they were sort of batting for me (also there was the implication – hey, the WSJ is going to be looking at these guys – maybe this thing is newsworthy and this guy isn’t just some huckster pestering me).
I think PR and SEO often don’t work closely enough together; you can achieve a lot – even by simply embedding links with the right anchor text in releases you were going to send out anyway. It’s surprising how few companies put in place even just that basic level of cooperation.
We see different approaches to link building yield the best results for different industries. Sometimes the brute force approach of hundred of low value links works really well, while at other times we need to go after small amounts of high quality links from reputable websites. It all depends on the competitiveness of the industry and the types of sites we’re trying to outrank.
Spammy ones, not because Return was great, but rather because the Investment was small. On the more whitehat side of things, in the past year, my blog was linked from almost every large SEO site i can think of and without me asking for a single one of those links. It was all due to stuff i did without thinking about getting links. This could probably work for clients too. Web presence, dedication and unique perspective can take you a long way when it comes to getting links. It is the similar to getting rich. People usually don’t get rich by doing stuff that needs to be done to get rich. They just do something they love, work hard and try to excel in it.
Content content content. It takes time to ramp up, but without fail, it works, it scales, and it has all kinds of other benefits for your company.
Ha! Wouldn’t you like to know – just kidding. I’ll always refer to the “Charity Link Reclamation Act of 2009. Garrett French coined the term Preciprocation back then and it taught me to look for opportunities that were already there. This is hands down the best method of gaining some of the best links. Here’s an example: I worked for a law firm that gave a good amount of money ($300K+) to various local charities each year. They gave without asking for anything because it’s the thing to do when your business is successful because of the people in your community. They also had some personal interest in certain things like the University Children’s Hospital. They had a content writer cranking out press releases for events and fundraisers in which the firm participated, couple of deep links in the content body were ok, but not the links we needed to go from competitive to dominant. I made a page with each organization’s logo and a bit about their mission. I also included a link to their donation or volunteer page. I sent each webmaster or organizer an email letting them know we wanted to help their cause and asking if they could share it with their friends. See, I gave them something and didn’t really ask for a link. Instead of getting one from each I got up to twelve from other supporting organizations from each. I think Peter Attia recently did something similar to this only with colleges (.edu’s). citation please
The best link building ROI I’ve experienced has been around widgets. However, it’s contingent on succeeding on distribution. That’s no small task so many widget strategies fall flat. But if you solve distribution, widgets are an amazing link building tool.
Impossible to give an unqualified answer as I’ve seen widely varying effects of different methods depending on the site you’re pointing links into. Some of the lower quality link building methods such as spinning can show a pretty good ROI if you’re not in a competitive niche and aren’t concerned about burning the site that you’re pointing them into, but it’s not something I’d ever recommend doing for a site you care about.
In terms of getting the best results, techniques that blend more social strategies such as spending time on high quality guest blogging and well-thought out viral ideas with backing from clients (such as April Fool’s gags) are among the most effective strategies I’ve seen.
7. Do you believe that the Google webspam team really cares about ‘cleaning up the SERPs’?
Good God no. I think they want to ruin my fun.
I do – though not for all terms. I think they care a lot about high attention areas that will make them look bad.
It’s hard to know what their motivation and feedback loop is. They apparently spent very little on it for a few years; then when Bing came along and made them focus on their game for certain use cases, they started doing more. My guess is that fighting webspam at Google is probably viewed (from a business standpoint) at best as a necessary evil, and at worst as something with a huge risk of downside – it always has the potential to anger people and provide fodder for legal troubles down the road.
To some degree, perhaps Google doesn’t have much incentive to clean up the SERPs beyond a certain point. If the stuff on the left was too good (which drives traffic), it would detract from the stuff on the right (which drives revenue). It must be a real balancing act for them; I would love to see how they measure SERP quality.
Yes, I do. In fact, people would do well to realise that this is the prime directive of Matt Cutts and his team. They genuinely don’t care about SEO – in fact the webspam team would rather just see SEO disappear, or change in to something that’s not as detrimental to what they perceive as the purity of their SERPs. (In fact, once you realise this you see how the information Google is putting out there in their help guides and webmaster videos is all designed to change [brainwash] SEOs to be Google’s unwitting allies.)
I also think that in their quest to clean up the SERPs and promote what they perceive to be the most relevant results, Google has lost touch with what real users actually want. They’ve committed the cardinal sin of enterprise: looking at the world through the distorted lens of their own corporate culture.
That is a tough one. I don’t have a direct line into their head nor have I bugged their offices. Those members of the webspam/search quality team i’ve met, struck me as very nice, honest and friendly people. There is no reason for me to think they are lying. On the other hand, I don’t know how much of what they do is being dictated to them from higher levels and is a product of intentional corporate policy which steers the SERPs towards total domination of Google-owned properties.
Yes, because it’s so important to their business model. I know the arguments that affiliates pay a lot for Adwords ads, but bottom line they have to get the searches. Cleaner SERPs mean happier searchers, and more searches. That drives everything else.
Define ‘cleaning up the SERP’s’. By the recent actions of over-personalizing results… no. By the recent update to penalize top heavy ad-centric sites, yes. There’s cleaning and then there’s “cleaning”.
I do. They’re very earnest in wanting to rid search of spam. Between the search quality and webspam teams, I think they really do have a passion for making search better and more relevant. You may not always agree with their definition of quality or relevance and they (by their own admission) may not always get it right. But they do care.
That’s not to say that they don’t understand that by making it better they ensure that users continue to use and make money for Google. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.
Yes, I do think they really care about clearing spam from the search results, and the continuing rollout of significant updates such as Panda shows this. There are so many factors at play they can never get it right 100% of the time for 100% of the people; to some extent it must sometimes feel like playing whack-a-mole with a sledgehammer – solve one problem and not only does another one pop up instantly, you’ve also suffered collateral damage in the process.
8. Here’s an opportunity to link out to a tool/blog/resource/whatever you want. What makes it so great?
I am a massive fan of State of Search. It’s co-creator, Lisa Myers, is one of my dearest friends and asked me to co-found the SEO Chicks blog with her. I think they are doing some amazing writing over there and I can’t think of anything on that site that hasn’t been interesting and topical. Everyone involved with it is fantastic and they do a great job of promoting each other’s posts without seeming icky about it. Overall, I think it’s my favorite industry blog.
WordPress Blackhat is probably the best $500 I ever spent online. It’s a paid forum with a lot of guides and tools. Some good step by step type stuff for totally new people as well. The download section alone more than covers the cost of joining. I think that’s about all I can say without breaking the first rule of Fight Club.
Wow, there’s so many. Dan Shure recently put together a pretty nifty tool that you can use to do a quick assessment of the space a website competes in, and it can also be used to do some prioritizing of URLs for link prospecting. I think Google Docs tools like this are going to become much more commonplace:
I’m nothing if not a link whore, so if you’re going to reward me with a link it might as well be to my employers: top SEO Belfast company Pierce Communications. 😉
Tool – Screaming Frog Spider – became a must-have tool in the toolset. First thing I fire up when starting a review and the number of ways it helps me increases on a daily basis
MajesticSEO – The most comprehensive link database out there. I was a happy customer ever when Yahoo Site Explorer was around, Majestic was better than Yahoo even then. In addition to the size of the database, different ways in which you can slice and dice the data makes it essential.
Blog – Explicitly.me by Rishi Lakhani, – Rishi always finds a unique way of looking at things that other people only understand at a very superficial level. Case in point: his post about things we can learn from Google banning Chrome for paid links. He is always on top of things and I have not met many people that cannot learn a thing or two from each post that he writes
Annie Cushing’s posts on Blueglass Blog – Annie is an Analytics Geek and as such has an incredible knowledge in all things data. Her Excel posts always make me want to run to my computer and redo all my spreadsheets
Resource – SEO Book forum – if I could choose only one site I could read and learn from, SEO Book forum would be it. Depth and width of marketing themes covered on the forum is second to none and the helpful and dedicated community of people that are in the marketing trenches every day makes the subscription price worth every penny
Excel for SEO guide by Distilled – as it could be deduced from my referral to Annie Cushing’s posts, I am a big Excel fan and this guide is about the best one you can find out there. I didn’t link to them but Distilled also have posts describing the use of SEO for Excel addon, which together with the guide make for an essential introduction into mastering Excel for SEO purposes
I gotta say, SEOMOZ continues to crank out great content and tools, and drive the best community in the search world. If you buy only one tool/subscription, these are your guys.
There are some sites you may not know if you’re not in the industry, though. Check out SEOByTheSea.com for some of the best technical insights you’ll find.
Hugo Guzman is probably one of the best communicators in this industry. If a non-SEO, C-Level reads his blog, they get it – if we read his blog, he hits the nail on the head. We get something to think about and unsurpassed quality of delivery in his posts, every time.
Garrett French has developed link building tools for guys on the ground to scale. With Citation Labs, you can build a successful link building agency with minimal manpower. These tools are both efficient and affordable and they allow me to fast-forward through the parts of the process that take the most time; prospecting and qualifying link leads.
Resource: SEO Training Dojo
The Dojo is the best value for learning advanced SEO. Full Sail University charges almost $9,000 each semester for a BA in internet marketing from guys I’ve never heard of. Dojo membership is under $300 a year at full rip. The insights you get from creators David Harry and Terry Van Horne are priceless and the contributions from members like Gabriella Sannino and Doc Sheldon help shape a seasoned warrior in the arena of search marketing.
I don’t want to pick just one because there are a lot of great ones out there. And you should be triangulating with different tools and reading from a variety of sources so you’re not just repeating the same stuff you hear from everyone else. Look around. Read up. Test and decide for yourself.
As a bit of a Perl geek, one of my favourite resources is CPAN (the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network). Not strictly an SEO tool but probably the one resource that I’ve come to use more than anything else in my years in SEO. The sheer volume of useful code that’s been built, documented and shared for free in CPAN is phenomenal, and has saved me countless hours of repetitive tasks through providing pre-built API libraries, Google PageRank modules, easy to use web scraping libraries, and almost any text or stats processing features you can imagine.
tl;dr – Smart SEO’s know their shit and share their thoughts with people who know less than them.
A massive thanks to the guys who have taken the time out to answer my questions. I’m sure that you will agree that they have all added some excellent points above.
Please feel free to share your thoughts below…