First (Annual?) Freelancer Christmas Drinks

I meant to post this in December, but just before Christmas I threw some drinks for some of the freelancers I know in London. It was a fun night, and it was especially good to meet people I’d emailed a lot but never met in real life – like fellow SEO freelance consultant Tim Aldiss from Think Search.

At the freelancer drinks. The only pic taken (because I'm lousy at taking photos) – my friend and mentee Christina Lai presenting me with some green tea she bought back from her travels. Also, apparently I had a beard.

At the freelancer drinks. The only pic taken (because I’m lousy at taking photos) – my friend and mentee Christina Lai presenting me with some green tea she bought back from her travels. Also, apparently I had quite the beard in December.

What’s more, Judy from Work From Home Wisdom was unable to make the drinks, but she wrote a piece for the Guardian’s Small Business Network called How to plan a freelance Christmas party – and I’m in it.

Guardian Freelancer Christmas article

 

Deloitte UK – Content Optimisation Testimonial

Just received this very lovely testimonial from Froukje Heres at Deloitte UK:

“In July and August 2014, I have had the great opportunity to work with Drew to run three workshops on content creation. At that time we both were contracted by Deloitte UK.

The objective of the workshops was to inspire and educate internal stakeholders about writing for the web: How to start anew and how to rewrite existing content to make it more engaging and easier to read.

Drew is an expert on writing for the web, but he is also a great presenter. He knows how to perfectly mix real life examples, group discussions and exercises to engage trainees and make sure they leave with plenty of inspiration and practical tips to implement.

His sessions were well prepared and the trainee-feedback was very positive. I look forward to working with Drew again soon.”

Froukje Heres
Project Manager Digital Transformation at Deloitte UK

Deloitte Content Optimisation Training – Room Evolution

There’s one thing you realise when you start working with Deloitte – they’re big. They have a lot of people, a lot of buildings, a lot of meeting rooms, so logistics can be quite a feat.

My style of training tends to be interactive, with a lot of group participation, so I suggested a room where we could spread out. It’s still a bit of a lottery booking rooms at Deloitte, however, and so despite very best intentions this was the one we got for the first afternoon’s training: 

Deloitte 1

The photo doesn’t quite do it justice, but trust me – that’s a very long table. The northern end had snow on. You needed a passport to get from one side to the other. I’ve also never given training with ten people patched in through a conference phone before. Our “hands on” interactive training suddenly became a lot more formal. I’m not sure if the people of the phone could hear all my jokes. That might not necessarily have been a bad thing though.

Next training session, new room:

Deloitte 2

No tables this time, which was a triumph! Initially, all the chairs were facing the screen, but rolling up my sleeves I pushed them into this colosseum-style in-the-round shape. The training attendees were surprised when they arrived, maybe because they thought they might have to duke it out with each other, gladiator-style. Or maybe because they hadn’t been forced to sit in a circle like this since primary school. Nonetheless, the session was much more energised and interactive.

Training session three: disaster. When we arrived at the room, we realised it had an even longer table. It was so long, The Guinness Book of Records wanted to measure it, but ran out of measuring tape (the training is much better than these jokes – honest).

Fortunately, when I threw myself at the mercy of the meeting room co-ordinator people, they sent up two nice chaps to untether the individual table sections and move them to the back of the room (I wasn’t allowed to do it because of “health and safety” – or maybe because I was weeping):

Deloitte 3

It took some time, but it was worth it. Disaster averted, the training proceeded without another hitch.

(Thanks to Mark, Froukje and all the attendees from Deloitte!)

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).