Gradual Growth Wins the SEO Race

SEO visibility score graphThis is what I like to see with my SEO campaigns – gradual growth over time (note: the dramatic dip is from a major technical issue that brought the whole site down, but it quickly righted itself). Too much rapid improvement will scare the (search engine) horses, not enough will scare your client. Good search engine optimisation is about finding balance.

Mentoring at Summer of Somewhereto_

I’ve recently been asked to become a mentor as part of the Lottery funded Somewhere To_, an initiative that links young people with donated spaces around the UK. Yesterday was the launch of the Summer Somewhere To_ – a “festival of fresh talent in amazing spaces” and I was invited to speak on a panel discussion in the afternoon.

somwhereto

That’s me, second to the right.

The day was officially kicked off with a talk by Ben Drew (Plan B). He seemed down to earth and very informed when it came to  the issues facing some urban young people (such as postcode wars minimising the benefit of otherwise great youth services).

I wasn’t sure if search and SEO was going to be a very hot topic (compared to, say, the entertainment industries), but I ended up speaking with lots of savvy young people who wanted advice on promoting their websites, writing copy and keeping motivated.

ribbon cutting

Plan B cutting the official ribbon.

Also got to chat with some of the other mentors, including presenter/actor Aaron Roach, Fred Butler (a London based fashion designer), Cassandra Stavrou, owner of Propercorn, Jo Burford (head of talent at Latimer), and Eddie, a talent scout for SYCO Entertainment.

somehere-to-mentors

Slightly cheesy “mentor huddle” photo.

A great day, I’m looking forward to more mentoring!

SEO Keyword Tool – Übersuggest

I’ve been creating a lot of keyword research for my clients recently, and as well the usual suspects (keyword planner, kabillions of Google searches, competitor research) I discovered a new keyword tool called Übersuggest which I really like.

It’s pretty simple to use – plug a keyword in, select your location, type in a MASSIVE captcha and you’re away:
Übersuggest 1

Übersuggest then gives you all the Google Instant results in one long list from Chimapan-A to Chimpan-Zee (sorry, Simpson’s joke)
Übersuggest 2
Übersuggest 3

Click on any of the words and it drills down even further:
Übersuggest 4

Thanks Übersuggest!

Confessions of a SEO Guest Poster

News from Google’s Matt Cutts last week sent a massive ripple through the SEO community. Never one to mince his words, Cutts stated in his blog post The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO that “guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.”

confessions of a guest bloggerThe reason this announcement feels so galling is that – ironically – quality guest blogging felt like one of the last bastions of ethical, or “white hat”, SEO. While your competitors might be using spam directories, buying sidebar links or acquiring links in other nefarious ways, guest blogging felt altruistic in comparison. Creating a high quality article which spoke to the blogger’s readership seemed like a fair exchange for the exposure and, more often than not, link. And it was by no means an easy process. Bloggers are, very rightly, protective of their blogs and quickly turn away sub-standard copy. In doing so, they became the gatekeepers of quality content in a way that Google’s algorithm can still only dream of.

Having blogged and guest blogged in some shape or form since 2003, I’ve learnt a lot about publishing online – both personally and as an SEO consultant. From my stint as a guest writer for the Londonist, to building connections with great bloggers like Judy at Work from Home Wisdom and Brenda at The Green Familia, guest blogging for me has never been just a cynical exercise in building links, it’s about forging connections.

So is guest blogging dead? No, I don’t think so. If you read between the lines, you can see Google is hoping to squeeze out the spammers and anyone trying to manipulate rankings using guest blogging. Their aim is to increase quality, and I’m on board with that. But I do feel the way Matt Cutts announced these changes does a disservice to bloggers, many of whom have been working for years to bring quality content to the web. It lumps them all together, and tarnishes them with that most pejorative of web monikers – the “spammer”.

I hope guest blogging rises from the ashes. Instead of low quality blogs trying to charge exorbitant amounts for a post, I’d like to see us as a community dedicated to creating quality content together. I think we need to be nicer to each other in our communications. After all, we’re all just people sitting behind our computers (or in my case, standing at my computer) and we shouldn’t forget that guest blogging is about creating a dialogue and sharing ideas. Isn’t that what the internet was made for?

More info on Google & Guest Blogging:
Forbes: Guest Posting Isn’t Dead: Google Just Raised The Quality Bar
Moz: Why Guest Posting and Blogging is a Slippery Slope
Search Engine Watch: Don’t Stick a Fork in Guest Blogging Yet…

Image Credit: Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos Blogging, after Franciso de Goya y Lucientes by Mike Licht (Original image cropped).

SEO – What’s in a Name?

In the Friends episode The Contest, Ross creates a quiz as part of a bet to see which housemates (Chandler and Joey vs. Monica and Rachel) know each other best. The question that stumps Rachel and Monica seems to be a very simple one – what is Chandler Bing’s job? – but neither of them can remember (Rachel desperately guesses “Transponster” as time runs out. Chandler in fact works in Statistical Analysis and Data Reconfiguration, but of course you knew that).

For years, I’ve had a similar experience – none of my friends or family could remember what I did either. “Something with computers” they might say, or “web design?”. The acronym S.E.O. was especially off-putting, and the mouthful “Search Engine Optimiser” wasn’t much better (and is it Optimiser or Optimizer?)

I applied for my first search job at the (then) fledgling agency Greenlight in 2003. Warren explained I’d made it to the phone interview stage because I was the only applicant who knew what the acronym S.E.O. actually meant.

More recently, people had begun to nod knowingly when I mention what I do. Increasingly though, there’s a slight recoiling, something I imagine divorce lawyers and traffic wardens must experience. People might not know everything about search engine optimisation, but they have a hunch it’s a little untoward. I try and put them at ease: I enjoy working with ethical companies, SEO isn’t a dark art but one grounded in good usability – but the black clouds still linger. Only Google seems to make the clouds part again. Oh Google, they say smiling. You work for Google? With them, I reply, not completely disingenuously, and that finally seems to put them at ease.

As search marketing continues to appear on people’s radar, the industry is going through a makeover, especially when it comes to link building – always the most ghettoised of SEO techniques. It’s much better in polite conversation these days to discuss “inbound marketing” instead (Of course many of the folk pushing inbound or content marketing will be furiously old skool link building when they hope no one’s looking). There are other changes too. SEO is being absorbed into PR and more traditional marketing, while the search engines push on with glasses and global updates and push against the usurping social media giants. As they say here on the Underground: it’s “all change”.

So why The New Ethical? I’m talking to a lot of clients who seem worn down by Google’s monopoly. How do you work ethically and effectively without being left behind by your less than ethical competitors? Is link building really dead or is it just being given a new lick of paint? And why isn’t paid search more of an even playing field? I want to explore these questions, and others as they come up, and use this blog as a repository for my adventures in corporate responsibility and social enterprise (but no preaching, I promise).

Of course, you could argue I only wrote this post so it included a healthy frequency of digital marketing keywords, ensuring its well optimised (or optimized?) – but I only have one thing to say to that, or rather Chandler does: could you be any more cynical?