Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I’m No SEO Expert

You read that subject line correctly, I’m no SEO expert. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, for one reason or another, I really can’t call myself an SEO expert. SEO experts sit around doing expert things, you know, like going to conferences and speaking on expert-filled panels, penning white papers on the newest Google algorithm, and guest posting to industry sites like SEOmoz. Intentionally, I engage in none of the above.

If I’m not an SEO expert, and I’ve been advising clients for the better half of a decade on the subject, what in the hell am I? A loner? Outcast? Random dude with a laptop? All are at least somewhat true. But when it comes down to SEO, and what I do for people, what am I? Could I be a practitioner? That has a ring to it. Maybe I am a practitioner. Yes, that definitely sums it up, I am a practitioner of SEO. The whole reason I can’t find time for the expert panels, or the guest posts on Mashable is because I’m too busy actually working on SEO campaigns for our growing client list.

As a practitioner I don’t have to base my advice for clients on theory, I base it on experience-derived facts. Why should this be of importance to you? Well, if you care about your SEO rank, then you might care about how to improve it. If you care about improving it, I am your guy, since I’ve worked with a lot of companies to successfully do the same. As a practitioner of SEO I’ve found a few things to be true, hopefully these ideas will help spark some initiatives to jumpstart your own online marketing and search rank efforts.

SEO is Cheaper Than Google AdWords

In the last 24 months Google AdWords has cost my company roughly $80,000. That’s a lot of money, and spending around 40k a year, from all the conversations I’ve had with others, isn’t that much compared to most industries. Today we spend nothing to acquire customers, and while overall email volume is down a bit, our sales aren’t that much affected by the self-imposed AdWords blackout. How do most customers find us? Google organic search.

For the vast majority of web businesses today ranking for the terms people actually search isn’t as hard as they might think. It takes focus, it takes discipline, and ironically it often takes a Google AdWords campaign to kick things off in order to learn the keywords people actually click when searching their business online.

Whatever the case, if you give me half of what you spend on AdWords I’m sure there is a way to get you ranking for a long time to come for your most sought after keywords. Remember, Google AdWords penalizes your business daily by charging you money for every click someone makes, SEO efforts are meant to secure your keyword placement for many years to come no matter the amount of clicks your business achieves, often without a single new campaign once the initial plan has been executed. This is a dirty little secret in the SEO industry, you don’t always need to have an ongoing campaign to stay ranked for your given keyword terms, once you are ranked, chances are it’ll take someone else just as long as it took you to overturn those results, if not longer.

Quality Content Reigns Supreme

I can’t exactly put my finger on why I’ve been so fortunate with my own SEO efforts, other than to say it has as much to do with producing quality content as anything else. Creating content people will want to read, talk about, and eventually share can make a big difference. I’ve never used an article spinner for a single page of content for any of my own SEO campaigns, and while a few keyword terms remain elusive for us, most of what we want to rank for we already rank for. Quality content means a lot when it comes to SEO.

Search Rewards The Persistent

As with quality content, you also want to produce a large quantity of it. Believe it or not, ranking in Google is 99% a numbers game. The more quality content you produce that attributes links back to your site from others, the more likely you will rank for the keyword terms featured in that content. In other words, the more articles you have written and submitted, the more links your site gets, the more your site eventually has a likelihood for ranking for whatever keyword term is important to your business.

I could go on and on, obviously, but I won’t. My point is simply that after working on thousands of SEO campaigns, it all boils down to a few single principles listed above. By simplifying your SEO efforts, you can narrow down on where you want to go easier, implement an effective campaign with less confusion, and one day be able to share the same lessons with other businesses as yours sits atop the heap for all the keywords that matter to your business.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why I Say No To Clients

My brother Clif is a fitness buff with a metabolism to match. He’s always telling me, everything is ok in moderation, while it seems that no matter how much he eats his waistline stays the same. Every doughnut I eat goes right to you know where. We’ve apparently got the same genes Lord, don’t we? While the human body is a total mystery to me, his moderation speak is applicable to more than just junk food.

I often have to tell clients no, I won’t do your project, take your money, or work with you in the future. This is something that isn’t always easy for me to do, and I’m sure many other entrepreneurs struggle with turning down business as well. It is tough to pass money up in this harsh economic climate when your next job may or may not arrive soon enough, but sometimes it just makes sense to say no.

Saying no isn’t just for those that are too busy to handle a job. Saying no can open doors to create larger opportunities for your business, by simply allowing you more time to look at things from a distance. When I started my business many moons ago, I worked hard at saying no to cold calls, and sales pitches, now it’s about saying no to clients that don’t seem like a good fit for our team, and those that seem like they could cause more harm than good. Trust me, not every deal out there is worth doing.

As with a lot of good decesions, saying no isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but sometimes it is absolutely the best course of action to help your business prosper long into the future.


Our business model as an interactive firm is predicated on the Walmart model of high volume, low prices. For us saying no might mean saying yes to 95 out of 100 people that want to work with us. For smaller boutique firms it might mean taking 3 out of 5 clients. Saying no is absolutely relative to the industry that one works in, the volume of business they do, and the nature of what each deal entails.

We like to say no to adult businesses, off shore pharmacies, and gambling outfits. When we’ve said yes to these businesses, for the most part, they’ve been a total pain in the rump to work with, and often caused more harm than good. There is a reason why Google blocks certain types of businesses from it’s advertising arm, AdWords, and as internet marketers it is important to pay attention to the big G, and all the rules they make.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It Just Takes One


At college football practice one day, a teammate of mine was late, so we all ran around the perimeter of the field for close to an hour. This particular practice happened to occur the day after a long night on the town, a rarity for my in season playing days. Let’s just say those White Castle burgers that tasted so good the night before, didn’t taste so great after 30 or so laps around the old practice field.

Fast forward a decade to the spring of 2009. It seemed time to loosen the reins on my control freak grip of my fledgling business, and allow others to help. As busy as we were, outsourcing some of our core jobs just made sense. Unfortunately my experience hasn’t always been stellar, and to be frank, things tended to get worse the more I allowed others to partake in critical tasks that kept my business afloat each day.

A few years ago I tasked an employee with sending payments to the 65 contractors that were to be paid that week, boy was that a huge mistake. After thousands of dollars in clerical errors, and being told I was a “bad human being” through a popular rant website, the ordeal left me with a new perspective on outsourcing, and one less employee. I could literally tell similar stories all day long, the common thread though is much larger than financial losses, or the reputation of one person. It is about the team.

The lesson from that day on the field, besides not to eat White Castle hours before running, was that it just takes one person to negatively impact an entire organization. It just takes one.

With over 700 contractors working for my company today, I’m far from an opponent of outsourcing jobs, rather I caution those that do outsource to uphold a zero tolerance standard on subpar behavior, and if it comes to it, make ‘em run around the preverbal field all day to punctuate the point.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Remembering the Digital Divide


Ask any professor of mine at Ohio Wesleyan, my papers were at times, how does one say this, rushed? Ask any of my professors in graduate school, and they might agree my attention sometimes drifted when it came to say documenting statistics in an effort to push an argument. But one paper, rather one independent study over a semester nearly a decade ago, really grabbed this bull by the horns, and refused to let it go.  To this day I can’t stop thinking about the digital divide.

Various definitions are offered the internet for this phenomena open to your own interpretation, for the sake of simplicity let’s just call it the divide between those that have computers and internet access at home, and those that do not.

Social Media Experts Continue to Make Dumb Claims

A notable "social media expert" pontificated the other day that social networks had effectively replaced email as the form of communication on the web. In other words he explained, email is dead. Email is dead? When was the funeral? Who gave the eulogy? If we’re all communicating entirely on Facebook and Twitter, what happens to those that use the internet that are not on those networks? Will they simply no longer communicate with the outside world? Let’s hope they find a way.

Another one of my favorite notions coming from these so-called savants is that the tablet computer will replace the PC. I own a rather fancy iPad, and it can’t even save a file, has no hard drive, and as far as I can tell, isn’t able to print a damn thing, all qualities of my first laptop purchased over 15 years ago. The iPad and tablet computers though, are now the replacement for my PC that can do all those things and a hundred million more? To this I say not yet, and honestly, more than likely, not ever.

Saving Files

Forget the iPad, most poor people don't have any internet connection at home. According to a 2003 U.S. Census report approximately 62 percent of American households have a computer, with a notable 54 percent with internet access. While many celebrated this information as progress from the mere 8% access rate of 20 years prior, there is still nearly half the population of America that can’t access the internet at home to consider.

To reiterate, nearly 40% of America has no computer in their home. So we have a device problem. With no computers comes no real internet access. With fees starting at $50 monthly, those with less simply can’t afford high speed access at home, even if they had the device, which leads to a connection problem. Efforts like affordable netbooks, and complimentary WiMAX connections help, but are not yet solving the problem entirely. Sure, anyone with a smart phone can access the web, but are they really able to write papers, code websites, and do all the things one can with a desktop from a phone? It’s doubtful idea at best, even for the fastest fingers on the planet.

Click Here To Unsubscribe

So what does this all mean? It means that in an effort to keep up with the tech-savvy Joneses next door we’ve built up huge inventories of unused, but perfectly good, computers, routers, monitors, and peripherals. It means that we are so quick to jump on to the next fad; we rarely harvest the full crop of innovations from the last one. It means that people that make dumb claims online annoy me enough that I end up writing a blog post / diatribe on the unfair nature of tech reporting when it comes to issues dealing with the poor.

In the past several months I’ve unsubscribed to several noteworthy tech blogs for their alienation of nearly 40% of our population, many of whom, if given the chance, could change the face of tech for the better. Here’s hoping they will one day.

Postscript- Do This Now

If you have an old computer, consider giving it to someone that can make use of it, after all if it can access the web, the world's latest and greatest technology awaits.

Personal gifting not your thing? Why not take your old computer hardware to a preschool or nursery, it might be the only one they’d have to teach America’s youngest the tool of life as we know it.

If you like to pick fights, next time you read one of those idiotic predictions about the end of email, let the author know you’d rather hear about initiatives to make the country more connected for those that need it most. Simply not forgetting them, is doing something, at least that’s my sincere hope.