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Posted by randfish

 A few years back, I wrote a popular post on SEOmoz featuring a set of questions I felt were a litmus test for SEOs seeking to charge for their consulting services. It’s time to revisit that, as many of the answers have changed and the baseline has moved (forward).

If you’re in the SEO business professionally – either as an in-house marketer helping your team with SEO or as an SEO consultant (solo or agency), this knowledge should be second-nature. And if you’re hiring a new SEO or seeking interview questions for someone to bring onto the team, feel free to use these to separate the wheat from the chaff:

  1. Which is more likely to have a positive impact on a page’s search engine rankings and why – 10 links from 1 website or 1 link each from 10 different websites?
    _
  2. Explain the difference between the following items and how the search engines treat them – 301 response code, 302 response code, canonical URL tag and meta refresh.
    _
  3. How can the meta robots tag impact how search engines crawl, index and display content on a web page?
    _
  4. Who are the top 2 search engines (as ranked by share of queries) in the following countries – the United States, United Kingdom, Russia and China?
    _
  5. Name at least 3 elements critical to ranking well in Google Local/Maps/Places search.
    _
  6. What aspects of social media marketing have a positive impact on search engine rankings (apart from the value of direct links from the social sites)?
    _
  7. List 5 tags/locations on a page where employing a target keyword can have a positive effect on search engine rankings.
    _
  8. Describe the distribution of search query demand and what is meant by the "fat head" and "long tail."
    _
  9. Name 6 tools/sources that will display a list of external URLs that link to a webpage.
    _
  10. What are some ways to positively influence the ratio of pages a search engine will crawl and index on a website?
    _
  11. BONUS! Describe the concept of topic modeling and how modern search engines might use it to improve the quality of their results.

I’ll post answers to the questions in the next 12-24 hours and link to it from this post. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the comments and discussion of answers, including any additional suggestions you have for "litmus test" quality questions.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Interesting little snippet from Mr Cutts:

“Matt recommends SEOs do not “chase the algorithm” and instead try to predict where Google will be going in the future”. Matt was addressing PubCon.

Good advice, methinks.

Trying to predict where Google is going is something we do a lot of at SEOBook.com. Whilst no one has a crystal ball, it’s good practice to keep one eye on the search horizon.

So, where do we think Google might be heading?

Google Will Continue To Dominate Search

Easy one, huh.

Their biggest competitors appear clueless when it comes to search. Bing may make some inroads. Maybe. It’s hard to imagine anyone eating Google’s lunch when it comes to search, for many years to come.

Is Facebook a threat? I doubt it. Search is difficult, and I can see no reason why Facebook – which has a media focus – could own the search channel any more than Yahoo could.

Search is, after all, an infrastructure problem. Google’s infrastructure would be very difficult to replicate.

Google Won’t Be Doing All That Much About Blackhat Sites

A search result set only really contains spam if the Google users think it contains spam i.e. they don’t see the answer they were expecting.

The fact a website may fall outside Google’s guidelines might get competing webmasters’ knickers in a knot, but it probably doesn’t matter that much to Google, or anyone else.

Even though Matt Cutts says Google will devote more resources to this, I suspect Google’s efforts will largely remain focused on outright deception i.e. misrepresentation, hijacking and malware.

The Web Reflects Power Structures

We can forget the San Fran techno-hippy ethos of the web. It will not be a free-for-all democracy, if it ever was. History shows us that power tries to centralize control in order to maintain it.

Google may try to keep users on Google for longer. They do this by owning more and more verticals, and extracting data and reformatting it. When they send visitors away from Google, they’ll try to do so more and more on their own terms. Watch very carefully what type of sites Google rewards, as opposed to what they may say they reward.

Expect less competition in the market as a result. Some people are already getting angry about it.

Be Where Your Users Are

Google follows users. So do Facebook. Anywhere your users are, you’ve got to be there, too. On Google Maps. On YouTube. Wherever and whenever. Think beyod your website. Think in terms of getting your data out there.

As Rich Skrenta pointed out in a recent interview:

Social media can drive tons of attention, awareness and traffic. But the search box is the best way to navigate to stuff you want. Now what will drive those results – if I type in “pizza”, what should I get? The answer can be very different depending on whether the results are coming from the web, Yelp, or Facebook. So I guess my answer is that I still see search being the core way to navigate, but I think what gets searched is going to get a lot more structured and move away from simple keyword matches against unstructured web pages

A Shift To Localization

Microsoft Research found that people tend to organize their memories in geographic terms i.e. where they were when something happened.

If you want to know where Google is heading, then watch Marissa Meyer. Marissa has been responsible for much of what you see in Google in terms of how it is organized. Marissa has just moved to head of Geographic and Location Services.

Google Earth. Google Maps. Google Local. Google Street View. Mobile location data and targeting. Expect more data to be organized around locality.

Everything Changes, But Not That Fast

Aaron talked about TechCrunch’s tendancy to over-hype new developments:

“…but this changes everything…”

SEO hasn’t changed all that much in years. We still find an audience (keyword research), we publish content, we build links to the content, and then we repeat it all over again.

The changes come around the edges, especially for big companies like Google. There is a lot of risk to Google in making radical changes. Shareholders don’t like it. Why risk breaking something that makes so much money, and is so popular?

The biggest changes in the way we do things on the web are probably going to come from the upstarts. They’re probably hard at work in their garage right now.

SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.

I’ve been promoting my advanced SEO book‘s free chapter for a while now and, since virtually the beginning, I’ve seen a remarkable trend in my data.

That trend is a roughly 14% unsubscribe rate. About 1 in 7 people who choose to get a free sample chapter go on to unsubscribe.


Aweber email stats show that 59 out of 412 eventually unsubscribed.

That’s incredibly high.

But what’s really remarkable is why it’s so high.

It’s so high because my writing is phenomenally bad!

But, based on feedback from some unsubscribers, I have another explanation. Their view is that greyhat/blackhat SEO is Just. Not. Interesting.

I think the unsubscribes are mostly or even entirely attributable to that issue.

How can I support that opinion?

Besides for the qualitative feedback I mentioned and my bloated ego, blogosphere discussion suggests that a lot of fear exists in the SEO community about grayhat and blackhat SEO.

I’ve seen people discussing their fear of the possibility that their coworkers may be engaging in grayhat/blackhat SEO, even though what was being discussed was within the realm of whitehat SEO. “Wolf!” the boy cried…

Why are they afraid to learn?

I think it’s partly due to ignorance of grayhat and blackhat SEO.

It’s like broccoli – it doesn’t smell good, so it’s scary. Just like spinach. Or my armpits. But I digress… Grayhat/blackhat SEO doesn’t have a good reputation, so it’s scary.

That’s the problem with ignorance – it’s a self-perpetuating fear. The more people are afraid of grayhat or blackhat SEO, the more they avoid learning about these topics.

The irony is that blackhat techniques and grayhat techniques often inspire whitehat adaptations.

As Rob Kerry once said, blackhat SEOs were using nofollow to sculpt PageRank years before the rest of the SEO community caught on. That, of course, went on to become a very popular topic in the field…

I’ve made a deliberate choice to keep the grayhat/blackhat material in my sample chapter.

I think it’s useful to filter out those whitehat SEOs who are afraid to even hear about grayhat or blackhat SEO. My hope is that this will eventually prevent returns and negative reviews in the blogosphere as well as helping to avoid nonverbal-yet-dissatisfied-customers.

But it’s a shame it has to be that way.

Understand: Advanced SEO means thinking creatively and critically about search.

I’m not advocating wholesale adoption of cloaking and autogenerated content and linkspam. I’m certainly not advocating cracking other people’s sites to inject links or malware.

I am advocating reading about those techniques, seeing sites using them (but maybe not visiting the malware drive-by-download sites), and understanding why and how they work. Then asking, “How do I learn from this?” and “How do I adapt it to suit my hat colour?”

You can even learn from the malware! For instance, auto-scan link prospects for vulnerabilities and use that as a hook in your link request email (or to start the relationship before the link request). Or follow the footprints of blackhats inserting malware and injecting links to find new link prospects for your ‘your-site-is-insecure’ link request hook.

By definition, if you limit your sources of inspiration, you limit your creativity.

1/7 whitehat SEOs seem to be fine with that.

Are you afraid of the big gray wolf? (Tweet “I agrees,” flames and marriage proposals @GabGoldenberg.)

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Who’s Afraid Of The Big Gray Wolf? 1 in 7 SEOs

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Recently, there have been a series of negative articles about content farms.

Content farms, such as Demand Media’s eHow and similar low-cost content publication sites, are now deemed an industry “concern”. “Industry” being the traditional publishing idustry, and concern presumably being “competitive threat”.

A trade group called the Internet Content Syndication Council (ICSC) has been circulating a document entitled “Council To Counter Web Content Generators Growing Clout“. They talk about “job threatened journalists” and “diminishing content standards”. Look, see what happens when the proletariat gets their hands on the printing press! :)

The pundits have also weighed in. So many journalists, eh. Looks like an over-supply if you ask me :) Some of them could learn a thing or two from SEOs.

For starters, many seem to be working on the false premise that Google returns “quality” results. Since when has Google ever been about “quality” results? Google’s aim is to return links the searcher finds relevant.

“Quality” and relevance may not be the same thing, and thinking in terms of an arbitrary notion such as quality is to misunderstand what Google does.

For example, if a searcher, with a below-average level of reading in English wants a quick answer to a question about the common cold, then who’s to say a simple, peer-produced bullet-point explanation is less relevant than a doctoral thesis on the same topic? Everyone benefits when the answer is factually correct, of course, but there’s nothing to say the content mill won’t offer factually accurate content just because the production process is low cost. If geared towards rankings, the content may also offer the facts in a format the user finds more useful.

Google is mostly about utility. It’s about providing value to the end user. “Quality” is very much in the eye of the beholder.

Let’s also not forget Google argue that Adwords – advertisements – are content, which are also rewarded by a relevance algorithm. I’m guessing the council won’t be arguing that advertisements can be a form of quality content any time soon.

And what does quality mean anyway? And who defines it? I think I can guess what the elitists at the ICSC may argue – they know what it is, and they will define it! Nice work if you can get it, I guess.

Solutions To The Content Crisis

One solution they offer to this perceived “content crisis” is to create a set of public guidelines for internet content, or an accreditation process for syndicated content.

Heh.

Reminds me of the SEO “best practices” debates of years past. The result will be the same, of course – they’ll end up talking to an audience that consists entirely of themselves. Everyone else will be getting on with the job of producing content.

What concerns us is that most of these new content syndicators are producing low-quality articles that are link based,” said Tim Duncan, the ICSC’s recently installed executive director.
“They are designed to score high on search. That drives down high quality content.

Wikipedia, and white hat SEOs, might not agree, of course. Content can both be ranked well and be highly relevant. This is, after all, Google’s aim.

Some ICSC members have even advocated reaching out to Google to urge the search giant to tweak its algorithm to give more weight to content quality in its search results

Hilarious. I think they mean “any content they think is quality” Perhaps Google can send them a regular cheque each week, too! I suspect money is the true driving force, as opposed to any real concern for editorial standards. Have you seen some of the trash the MSM serves up?

Quality stuff, certainly.

At the end of the day, quality standards arguments are pointless. Besides the confused frame of journalistic news vs Q&A-style content, the end user decides the level of quality they will accept and pay for on the internet. The real problem traditional publishing and the mainstream media is facing is that their business model is screwed. Their content production costs are simply too high, and they are being undercut. If they think that people want higher quality, then the answer is simple – produce it and let the visitor decide.

And get some good SEO advice, so they don’t inadvertently bury it.

Google Joining In?

In a further twist, Google might be looking to join the content mills at their own game. An interesting patent, “Identifying Inadequate Search Content” identifies keyword areas where there is search demand, but low levels of relevant content. That’s essentially what Demand Media does. Assuming Google don’t/can’t get into publishing for every vertical in existence, Google would do well to make this information publicly available.

Especially to their hordes of Adsensers ;)

How You Can Create A Successful Content Mill

Ignore mainstream media journalists and whiners who like to form councils.

Understand that Google is looking for relevant content. “Relevance” is, in the end, deemed by the searcher. If there are a lot of searches for “pay levels for doctors” and you publish a page that shows “pay levels for doctors”, then you are producing relevant content and Google will reward you.

Google are, no doubt, measuring how relevant visitors think the information is, and there are various signals that could be used to determine this. These signals will not come from a council of elitist, self-interested old media. The signals will be based on user activity and user voting patterns. These signals must be scalable i.e. links, visits, timeliness, recommendations, frequency of appearance, re-quoting, etc.

Increases in “quality” i.e. content depth and accuracy – will come from end-user voting. If users want deeper answers to search questions, either Google will deliver it, or users will abandon Google and go somewhere that provides it. Perhaps that’s what ICSC should do – start their own search engine ;)

Having said all that, a lot of samey, lightweight content won’t survive in the long run, because Google likes to provide variety in their result sets. Look for ways to differentiate your content. Quality is only one – arbitrary – point of differentiation. You’d be better concentrating on aspects such as ease of access, readability, findability, relevance and freshness.

Keep the end user firmly in mind.

SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.

Posted by Lindsay

When I was an in-house SEO I hired outside SEO consultants. Now as the outside SEO consultant I often work with in-house SEOs. In the comments of my most recent post, an interesting question came up, "…why would a company who has an in-house SEO expert hire an external company?"

Here are 8 excellent reasons why talented in-house SEOs often bring in outside help.

1. Specialized Expertise

Not too long ago, SEO was a niche marketing specialization. I remember when even Internet Marketing was considered a highly niche specialization. In fact, my college marketing instructor tried to talk me out of Internet Marketing because it was too niche and I ran the risk of limiting my prospects down the line.

Times have sure changed. As the search engines have matured and the SEO industry has evolved along with them, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be on top of every SEO related factor. Even something as specific as SEO is segmenting into specializations. Experts have emerged in social media promotion, local SEO, mobile SEO, copy-writing for SEO, link-building, and so on.

Duane Forrester "I hired the external consultants simply because they had more experience in the area I needed support in. Everyone needs to learn new things, so you’re rarely an expert in everything at once. Hiring the external consultant gets around a lot of hurdles and ramps up your program much quicker. Their deeper domain expertise allowed me to focus in areas I was strong in, while our entire SEO effort moved forward at the desired pace. Why reinvent the wheel when someone else already has an established, productive program that can benefit you?"
Duane Forrester is an in-house SEO with Microsoft, running their program for MSN.  He is also the author of How To make Money With Your Blog and Turn Clicks into Customers. In his spare time, he writes for Search Engine Land.

I like what Duane said about the hiring of external consultants ramping up your program quicker. By knowing and doing what you do best and outsourcing other tasks, you can super-charge your site’s SEO and get closer to your potential traffic level.

If I worked for a national business comprised on thousands of brick-and-mortar locations (think Burger King), I’d definitely look at retaining the services of someone like David Mihm to ensure I had all the right pieces in place. I doubt that many people reading this post are as well versed on the intricacies of Local SEO as David.

How about mobile? You have the choice to either delve into the details yourself or do as other talented in-house SEOs have done and hire someone like Cindy Krum who wrote the book on Mobile Marketing. Literally.

cindy krum
"Mobile SEO is a niche within a niche, and it is pretty specialized. Top in-house SEO’s have brought me in to help with mobile SEO, simply because they don’t have time to learn the niche. There is a lot to know, and it is easy to make mistakes. Mobile is still a small part of most in-house SEO’s traffic, so they want to know that things are set up correctly, but they don’t have enough bandwidth to devote to learning the niche or even shepherding the project."
Cindy Krum is the CEO and Founder of Rank-Mobile, LLC, and author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are. She also hosts a weekly radio show called Mobile Presence, acts as an SEOmoz Associate, responding to Q&A about mobile SEO.

Why bumble around yourself on such specialized niches when you can focus on the pieces you know best and outsource those pieces to a more qualified expert? You don’t need to be everything SEO all the time. Give yourself a break!

2. Too Much to Do. Too Little Time.

Effective SEO is a lot of work. Managing the internal politics can be a full-time job unto itself! Perhaps you are confident that you have the strategy nailed down but you just can’t get your projects through the pipeline fast enough. In order to keep things moving while you consider the next big project it can help to hire an outside consultant.

"I outsource as necessary for specific tasks, not for general consulting or strategy. Specific examples include content creation for new pages on a site, link building, and social promotion of blog content. This has generally worked out well as I’m able to shape efforts and budget across all aspects of Internet marketing while having a specific challenge or need addressed by the consulting company."
John Santangelo is an Internet marketing professional based in Jacksonville, FL and currently works in-house as the Search Marketing Manager for a staffing firm.

Once you’ve established what needs to be done, hiring an SEO consultant can help you push through a task list and get closer to your goals.

3. Fresh Perspective

money idea!Working on the same website for years on end can get mighty boring. You can only come up with so many interesting articles related to nylons, and if you have to rewrite the homepage title tag one more time you’re going to scream. With boredom comes creative stagnation. Bringing in the right SEO consultant can help get the creative juices flowing again. Fresh eyes bring fresh ideas to help your business grow.

At SEOmoz we used to provide whirlwind audits in our boardroom. The client would bring along their best and brightest SEOs, marketing folks, and development staff. We’d go through their site and point out areas for improvement. One particular client comes to mind; well known brand, important website, talented SEO expertise… They’d blocked an important directory in the robots.txt. Sometimes when you are too close to a problem you can miss little details like a line in your robots.txt or an important redirect.

4. Educational Purposes

At SEOmoz we often sold an educational component along with our site audits. We’d go in with slide decks and teach anywhere from one to dozens of in-house resources some of our knowledge. This empowers the in-house team to move forward on their own, knowing a little more. Training can be formal or otherwise. Topher describes his outsourced project as a learning experience.


"As the in-house at CNN.com I have used a agency (Bruce Clay) and have brought in an outside consultant. I think a good SEO has to know what they don’t know and I do not know mobile SEO well at all. I went and asked about for a mobile SEO expert and Cindy Krum’s name came up all over the place so I brought her in and she was great. I am still not an expert on Mobile SEO but I for sure know a heck of a lot more now then I did before because of her."
Topher Kohan is the SEO Coordinator for CNN. He joined CNN, a division of Turner broadcasting and a Time Warner company, in early 2008 after two years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

5. Validation

SEO enhancements can be expensive to implement and sometimes take months or even years to complete. Based on high level experience across more web properties, an outsourced consultant can help you prioritize your enhancements and validate your project plan to ensure you make the most of the development investment.


"Outside SEO consultants typically have very broad experiences with a variety of websites and industries. Our role is to come along side the in-house team and help them manage the process of inserting SEO into the overall marketing and web production schedules and tackle the different hurdles associated with that. The in-house SEOs are our biggest allies to help us navigate the internal roadblocks and in return we are their biggest allies for getting their projects implemented."
Todd Friesen in the Vice President of Search for Position Technologies Inc. and has been working in SEO and online marketing since 1999 with many high profile clients such as Nike and the NCAA.

At SEOmoz we enjoyed working with strong in-house SEO individuals or teams for our consulting gigs. I suspect that this is true for most SEO consultants that specialize more on strategy and less on implementation.

6. Collaboration

As in-house SEOs, a lot of folks work independently. It can be refreshing and rewarding to expand on the one-man show. Marty describes how he and his employer benefit from expanding his team from time to time to meet a need.

marty
"It really benefits me to be able to divvy up the responsibilities for things like site architecture, internal linking, etc. to an outside firm/person I trust while I focus on other important tasks like content migrations and cleanup with our internal web team. I find it very useful to spread the workload in order to be able to launch a redeveloped site sooner rather than later and in most instances it is also more cost effective in the time savings."
Marty Martin is an SEM/SEO with a broad range of experience working for colleges and universities, regional and state tourism, government and business. He is employed currently as an in-house SEO for Leisure Publishing Co., Inc. in Virginia.

7. Overcome Internal Politics

Of course you know your stuff when it comes to SEO. That is how you got your in-house SEO job, right? Then why do you spend so much of your time selling the value of your projects and negotiating for resources? One challenge that a lot of in-house SEOs face is finding the time to do actual SEO work. External consultants can help pave the way to get home grown ideas implemented.

jessica bowman
"Sometimes in-house SEO departments need help convincing another department that their ideas are solid. We do a lot of consulting that helps the different departments learn how to play together throughout the development life cycle."
Jessica Bowman is an SEO Expert, international speaker, member of the SEMPO Board of Directors and works with companies to figure out what they need to build a successful in-house SEO program.

8. Breadth of Knowledge

As an in-house SEO for a growing business, the challenges you face for the first time have more often than not been considered and successfully addressed by another SEO somewhere out there in cyberspace.

will critchlow
"A number of our clients have in-house SEO teams and we love working alongside them. There’s quite a range of reasons why we’d be brought in. One of the most common reasons is because we have specific experience across a range of sites or in solving a specific tough problem."
Will Critchlow is the Director of Distilled, an SEO and internet marketing firm in London and Seattle.

Lets say you’ve inadvertently landed yourself a Google penalty. How do you diagnose the problem, get it fixed, and request forgiveness with a successful outcome? A consultant who has helped other websites work their way out of a penalty situation can be invaluable.

There are plenty of less dramatic examples. How do you implement a WordPress powered blog as a sub-folder of a .Net site? How do you handle millions of constantly expiring pages (as is common with job boards and classified ad sites)? How will you write a compelling link bait piece?

Action Items

The next time you get push back when proposing to hire an SEO consultant, choose from the reasons outlined in this post to support your case.

  1. We need specialized expertise.
  2. We have too much to do. We’ll get this project moving faster if I can get some help.
  3. We can learn a lot from an outside expert.
  4. We want to double check our strategies before we get going.
  5. We would benefit from collaboration with other SEOs.
  6. A consultant can help us work through the concerns of marketing/IT/executives.
  7. We need the help of someone who has done (insert complicated initiative) before.

In-house SEOs hire outside assistance for all kinds of things from strategy, implementation, retainer, special projects and more. Are you an in-house SEO that has worked with external SEO experts? I’d love to hear your experience.

Happy optimizing!

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Who is going to pay to tell people that they are good enough and their lives are fine as they are? A fundamental truth of advertising is that advertising the truth usually isn’t very profitable – which is why there is lead generation, affiliate programs, public relations, negative billing options, small print, bogus medical research, and so on… ;)

Ever wonder how an SEO professional can charge first world rates to do do third rate, third world work and still get a top rating from a heavily advertised SEO rating website? Edward Lewis has the lowdown on Top SEOs, including TopSEOs complaints.

A big part of the problem with the affiliate business model is when people offer fake rankings / ratings and only promote whoever pays them the most. The person/company which can afford to pay the most for leads often can only afford to because there is hidden risk or hidden cost in the service, or because they don’t deliver on their promises. An analogy here is those AAA rated mortgage backed securities where an S&P employee explained, “We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.”

The biggest brands don’t pay as much per lead because they don’t have to. They invest in brand and quality of customer service. The best service-based companies don’t need to pay cut-rate ad prices to advertise. The best SEO companies have far more demand for their time than time to pay to hunt for customers.

I remember back in 2006 when one of the currently “top rated SEOs” did work for my wife’s website (before she met me). That SEO firm did nothing but outsource overseas irrelevant reciprocal link exchanges and her website *would not rank* for any semi-competitive keywords until *after* the reciprocal links page was removed from her site. After we took down those reciprocal links and built some quality links the site started to rank. We changed the FTP details as well because that guy’s services were not only not worth paying for…the reciprocal links were proved to be damaging, and we didn’t want him to put them back up. And in spite of not doing any services for months (and certainly no services worth paying for), this person wanted ensure they got paid for 12 months of service. And they didn’t want to let the contract end when it was supposed to either. They were all sales all the time.

What eventually stopped the credit card charges was when I wrote him via email “If her credit card is charged again we will be doing a reverse charge and a full writeup on the service.”

He responded to that with the following:

I would watch your comments and threats my friend as you have no idea of what I am capable of or who I am – this is a small industry and if you are trying to be a an up an coming player in it this is not the way to do it by bashing your competition. A simple email professionally stating that you were unhappy with the service would have sufficed and I would have looked into to make sure Giovanna got what she paid for.

I have run 2 optimization companies and have been in this business for 12 years now. With my contacts at Google and the other main engines I can get your ebook website banned within 1-2 days if this is how you do business – with threats and slander – keep it up.

The funny thing is all I said was that if he tried charging again (past the contract) that we would reverse charges. And yet the sleazeball told me to “watch your comments and threats” and that he could use “contacts at Google and other main engines” to get my website banned. What a jerk.

I have always had contempt for blowhards, and for pure hard-sales salesmen who put sales first and are willfully ignorant of their trade and/or who are willing to sell garbage product without any concern for the customer’s welfare.

I am grateful that the above mentioned person sucked at what they did & ripped people off back then. If they were not out scamming people and actually provided a useful service then my wife wouldn’t have had a reason to contact me and meet me and marry me. ;)

I let it go for over 3 years, but if they are still scamming people then that needs to stop. I figure its only right that I write this post as a fair warning. All good things must come to an end. And so should bad things. Hopefully these clowns quite scamming people. Enough is enough.

SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.

A lot of people who are well known as SEOs spend too much time on self promotion and not enough time on business development. BTW I would classify myself as being in that camp, though I have been slowly migrating since meeting my wife ;)

So much of SEO stuff is sorta ego in place of performance IMHO. And the problem when you hire top SEOs is that even if they have a strong brand and do great work on their own sites, the market pricing for services tends to be so dysfunctionally under-priced that…

  • it is mostly an exercise in back patting to even do any client services after you have a good amount of capital, cashflow, and leverage online
  • even if you think you are hiring one of the best SEOs you still rarely get to work with them because the people who are out there being really well known are by and large lead generation tools for the company, and the bigger the company is the more likely you are to have an intern servicing your account

Getting serious cashflow out of servicing the SEO market is akin to squeezing water out of a rock, especially when compared against running your own websites.

To me, the measure of an SEO’s success is not in their knowledge, but in their ability to leverage their knowledge to build cashflow. I know money isn’t everything, but we live in a world where the algorithms grow more complex every day. So each day you are working for less than your market value is a day closer you are to being broke!

Spamming and jamming can get you some paydays, but its not easy to *consistently* pull down 7 or 8 figures a year in profit if you are not building at least 1 or 2 properties with serious staying power and momentum behind them.

Given the complexity of SEO and the lack of liquidity in the SEO market I think that by and large the best SEOs who generate the greatest profits derive most of their profits from publishing. Given that I thought I would highlight some of the people who I would view as top SEOs (and why).

Danny Sullivan

Few people have Danny’s knowledge about the history of and trends in search. Even fewer have that type of knowledge while being accessible. And even fewer yet would have been able to put a decade in building up momentum for a brand and website in the industry, stop, start over from scratch, and compete against what they had built for a decade.

Imagine the strongest site you have, giving it a decade of effort, and then one day trying to start from scratch competing directly against it with a similar business model. And yet he pulled it off.

Greg Boser & David Naylor

Greg is probably the first name that comes to mind when someone says “old SEO” (yes even before Bruce Clay). His knowledge is much like Danny’s in being rich with historical context. The thing that Greg has done to make consulting actually worth doing is tie payment to performance. Doing SEO in that manner is like becoming an affiliate, but one with few competitors and a huge advantage in the marketplace.

Dave is the UK version of Greg (or maybe Greg is the US version of Dave?), and they have done some successful projects together for some of the biggest brands in the world.

Stephan Spencer

Stephan Spencer branded himself as being an expert at ecommerce SEO. And, rare amongst SEOs, he has the technical chops *and* the marketing skills to sell to big companies (speaking their language & touring the world speaking at dozens of conferences each year).

They built a software program which is almost as sweet as cloaking would be (if you could get away with doing it constantly with no risk), but partnered with the right kinds of (big brand) companies and branded their GravityStream solution appropriately such that it was never viewed by Google from a negative lens. This created a business model where they could get paid based on performance (like many affiliates do) but be paid for the performance of the core brand website! :D

NetConcepts was sold to the SEM company Covario, which will be able to benefit from tying the GravityStream technology to their predictive analytics and Google’s quick-indexing caffeine search results.

Patrick Gavin & Andy Hagans

As people, at this point I don’t really trust or respect them (and feel that those who do might be in for some eventual bad news). But as far as being efficient at running businesses, few can compare. Patrick took a gamble and build the Text Link Ads link brokerage into a company he was able to sell for mid 8-figures. And his latest venture in the SEO space was so bold as to call “ensure you are not buying any links” an advanced SEO tip. Meanwhile on Andy’s personal site he recommends iAcquire for your link buying needs :D

Not content with sitting on the results from TLA, they invested the proceeds (and other investor funds) into building a domain portfolio that even Kevin Ham or Frank Schilling would admire. But they also turned those domain names into functional websites, and have kept cost structures low, while creating blogs with more top x lists than the rest of the web combined and sending out millions of “congrats” emails at potential link sources. The net result? They have built a lead generation business that has been rumored to be pulling in 8 figures a year.

Wherever there is an economic distortion in the economy leading to a large bubble you can bet these guys have at least a half dozen to a few hundred sites, chipping away at the markets 24/7/365. And the only thing increasing faster than their scale is their efficiency!

Matt Cutts

I always hate when I see Matt Cutts listed on top SEO lists and think “hey he is not even an SEO”

…but…

how many SEOs have seen Google’s source code? How many have written a good chunk of it? As one of the top few search engineers at Google, Matt not only has a pulse on what is changing with the web, but he constantly tracks & battles the evolution of spam. His knowledge and experience set allows him to just look at a search result and be able to spot the algorithmic weaknesses & exploits at a glance.

Further, Matt Cutts is better at public relations than 99% of public relations experts are. He is able to constantly promote Google products and engage in issue shaping while rarely being called out for it. And he rarely makes *any* mistakes on the public relations front, even when defending some of Google’s most bogus & hypocritical policies.

Imagine if your company had a b/s slogan of “don’t be evil” while operating with the above strategy. And yet he somehow manages to make it work.

Jason Callus Anus

Imagine entering an industry pulling in attention by calling everyone in the industry a bunch of scumbags – stating that you will clean things up through the use of manual intervention. Then imagine using the economic downturn to fire almost all your editorial employees and leveraging your built up domain authority to create a low quality automated general purpose web scraper, which stuffs Google with indexing their own search results (heavily wrapped in ads). And then imagine link farming to build authority, then using the leverage of that platform to start selling SEO services to corporate clients & selling links!

When Matt Cutts described scraper sites a few years back he said they were “shoot-on-sight“. And yet Jason’s crappy site keeps gaining traffic while almost never adding any value anywhere.

Whenever I think of Mr. Anus, I picture a used car salesman who moved to the state which doesn’t have a lemon law just so he could get the enjoyment of duping people with broken cars. And yet somehow he manages to pull it off. For public relations brilliance he gets a +1. And the same goes for claiming ignorance of SEO and claiming to be anti-spam so he can get away with passing his spam garbage off onto everyone else while rendering Google’s spam team flacid.

Richard Rosenblatt

In 1999 Richard Rosenblatt was able to sell iMall (have you ever heard of it?) for over a half-billion Dollars. He then sold MySpace near the top for 0 million. Trying to strike gold once more, he formed Demand Media and bought eHow.com to build a search-arbitrage content farm. Once growth rates began to slow he then created a controversy by trying to legitimize his model in the media, building his site tons more links. He then used that platform as a success story to get other publishing websites to engage in profit-sharing partnerships where he posts articles on huge trusted authoritative domains like USAToday.com.

Now Demand Media is rumored to be gearing up for an IPO or sale:

Demand Media, a closely watched startup that mines online search engine data to generate thousands of videos and web stories a day, has hired Goldman Sachs to explore an initial public offering.

People familiar with the plans say the company could file for an IPO as early as August. Details have yet to be finalised, but the discussions involve pricing shares around November in an offering valuing the company at about .5bn.

A little known fact amongst the SEO industry is that Richard also is the chairman of iCrossing, which is currently being rumored for sale to Hearst Publishing for ~ 0 million:

Under the deal, which is in the final stages of negotiations, iCrossing, one of the nation’s biggest independent digital-marketing shops, is likely to fetch about 5 million, plus bonus payments if it reaches certain targets, these people said.

One person familiar with the matter cautioned that iCrossing, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., could still decide to remain independent if it doesn’t attract the right price.

Nice side gig!

That guy flat out prints money. If he keeps it up, in a few years he might put Ben Bernanke to shame. :D

Honorable Mentions

Over the past few years certainly Jeremy Shoemaker, Brian Clark, and SugarRae have built up some nice empires – each with a vastly different approach. The Caveman is great at tying SEO metrics into real world marketing advice, and has the cashflow to prove it. In terms of being great at building on the consulting model, Bruce Clay comes to mind. Tim Armstrong is tasked with turning around AOL, and if he is successful with it he would deserve a mention. I would also put Cygnus high on any SEO list, but he tends to be a bit shy, and is not very boastful in terms of what he has accomplished. John Andrews would make the list too, but then he doesn’t like lists! :D SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.