June 13th, 2012 @ // No Comments
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Hiring an SEO is a little like hiring any other contractor or employee; you need to make sure the candidate can deliver and will be a good fit for your company. In this field, though, it’s hard to separate truth from fiction, and getting results takes time. Business owners, therefore, face real challenges: is the SEO they’re thinking of hiring a scam artist or the real deal? And how can they tell?
Every other person you hire to help your business in some way goes through an interview process. It shouldn’t be any different for an SEO. Indeed, you should give the questions you plan to ask (and the answers you receive) a great deal of thought. Your visibility (or lack of it) in Google and the other search engines can have a tremendous impact on your bottom line; for that reason alone, you need to proceed with caution.
Fortunately, Eric Siu over at Search Engine Journal put together a great list of questions to ask any SEO you’re thinking about hiring to work on a campaign for you. The answers to these questions will give you a sense of that SEO’s philosophy, and tell you whether you’ll be comfortable working with them. Little wonder, then, that these questions sound very much like typical interview questions specifically tailored to the tasks an SEO performs. Most of these questions are open-ended, inviting long answers that will help you understand the candidate’s philosophy and approach to his field.
Tell me about your expertise with SEO. The least specific of the nine questions Siu says you should ask before hiring an SEO, any candidate can answer with as much (or as little) detail as they wish. How a candidate answers this question will give you clues as to what they consider important, and could give you ideas for follow-up questions. “It’s a question that requires people to think of a great answer on the spot,” Siu notes.
Tell me about 3 SEO projects that you’re most proud of and why you’re proud of them. Here we go from the general to the painfully specific. How your SEO candidate answers this question can tell you whether they can see the forest for the trees. Does he talk about winning a ranking with a single keyword — or improving traffic and conversion? Keywords are only a way to keep score, and as a business owner they’re probably not the one that matters most to you.
What’s your number one rule with SEO? More than any other question, this one will reveal your candidate’s basic philosophy and approach to SEO. It will also give you some idea of how experienced they are. As your candidate answers this question, whether they’re white hat, black hat, or somewhere in between, ask yourself if you can work with someone with that approach. Are they the right fit for your business?
Tell me about your biggest failure with SEO and what you learned from it. Everyone dreads getting this type of question, and with good reason; nobody likes to discuss failure. But we grow from our failures more than from our successes. How deeply does your SEO candidate examine a problem? Ask for details when you ask this question, including what they would do differently if they faced the same or a similar problem now.
June 13th, 2012 @ // No Comments
On June 5th of 2012, at around 9:00am Central Daylight Time, I spotted what appeared to be a major Google algorithm update in the wild. Unfortunately, I was alone… and the photos all turned out blurry… ok, and I had had a few beers. Still, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. This is the true story of an update that I honestly believe we missed, and why we’re just not as good at spotting them as we like to think.
Let’s cut to the chase – this is an artist’s representation of what I saw that fateful morning (not a very talented artist, granted):
Please note that the Y-axis has been scaled to enhance differences. This is a graph of ten days of “Delta10” – I can’t fully explain what that is right now (come to MozCon to hear more), but the short version is that it’s a measure of 24-hour rankings fluctuations across a sample of top 10 Google results. The higher the Delta10, the more rankings changed over that 24 hours.
Delta10 theoretically goes from 0-10, but the practical range is much smaller. For reference, the Delta10 on the morning of June 5th (which really indicates activity on June 4th) was 3.24. The 30-day average just prior to this was 2.29. Over 60 days, June 4th had the 2nd highest Delta10 on record – the record is currently held by the “Penguin” update (3.32).
I spot-checked my data and confirmed it from a second tracking station – this wasn’t a fluke. So, I told the Twitterverse what I had seen…
Replies ranged from “I didn’t see anything” to “Stop drinking, Dr. Pete!” to “Who are you?!” Clearly, the SEO community was unconvinced.
I was about to go back to the bottle, when a second sighting was confirmed by SERPmetrics:
While I don’t know the exact details of their tracking system (or how it compares to mine), it also measures ranking fluctuations. So, I asked the burning question: “How big was it?” and got back this:
If I was crazy, at least there were two of us. Was it an authentic Sasquatch, though, or just a hairy, naked dude taking a walk in the forest? It was time to go CSI on the data…
One of the plusses of my system is that it stores the top 10 URLs for the tracked keywords, so I can see how any given SERP changed. The tough part, as I’m learning, is that many SERPs change every day, so you have to learn to separate out “normal” volatility from unusual change. As I went through the SERPs that changed the most from 6/4 to 6/5, I came across one that seemed pretty quiet in the preceding week. This is the top 10 for “bjs menu” on the morning of 6/4:
I’ve color-coded the domains – for reference, there are nine root domains in this SERP. Here’s where it gets interesting – look at the data for the morning of 6/5:
The number of root domains in the top 10 dropped from nine to only five – BJsBrewhouse.com grew from two to three listings, and BJSRestaurants.com expanded from one to four listings. By itself, this could mean anything, but I started to see the same pattern repeated as I dug into more and more individual SERPs.
Here’s another example – a search for “kohl store locator”. On 6/4, the top 10 included seven different domains:
On the morning of 6/5, only four domains were left standing:
Although this is only one result, there are a couple of interesting things to note here. First, this wasn’t simply a change in exact-match domain handling or brand power. Kohl’s sites didn’t expand, and power domains like Wikipedia lost ranking – meanwhile, WhitePages.com jumped from one listing to four. It’s also interesting to note that two previous, broad Kohls.com pages were replaced with specific landing pages. Of course, it’s possible that was just a change on the Kohl’s site and not a Google tweak.
Of course, these single SERPs are anecdotal at best. I needed a larger-scale metric, so I decided to run some numbers on domain diversity across the entire data set (1,000 SERPs = 10,000 URLs). Put simply, across the 10K URLs, how many domains were in play? To simplify the data processing, I treated each sub-domain as unique. Here’s what I saw over the ten days from 5/28 to 6/6 (in this case, 6/5 is the critical day):
Again, I’m cheating a little on the Y-axis here – for the record, domain diversity decreased 2.6% on June 5th, from 5,802 domains on 6/4 to 5,654 on 6/5. I included 6/6 to show that the change seems to have stuck, at least temporarily. While 2.6% isn’t a huge change, the numbers appear to have been very steady prior to 6/5, and this data does match the pattern shown in the example queries.
It’s interesting to note that Google’s April Search Highlights included a change that was supposed to increase domain diversity in the SERPs:
“More domain diversity. [launch codename "Horde", project codename "Domain Crowding"] Sometimes search returns too many results from the same domain. This change helps surface content from a more diverse set of domains.”
So, I decided to run out the domain diversity calculation over the full data set (which goes back to 4/5). What I saw was the following…
Keep in mind that more sub-domains across the 10K URLs equal more diversity. Not only can I find no clear evidence of Google’s “Horde” update in April, but the data suggests that domain diversity has steadily declined over the past two months. There are, in fact, two steep drop-offs. The second drop-off is the one being discussed in this post and shown in the previous graph. The first drop-off is the Penguin update.
Of course, it’s important to note that this is a hand-selected sample of 1,000 keywords and only measures the top 10 rankings. While the domain diversity patterns across the data set are interesting, they don’t necessarily reflect the entire population of Google’s rankings.
After my initial Tweet on 6/4, SEO patent guru Bill Slawski turned me on to a Google patent published on 5/31 (although it was filed back in February). Interpreting patents, let alone if and when they enter the algorithm is a tricky business, and I’m not 5% as adept at it as Bill, but the patent essentially covers how Google matches queries to entities. In particular, note Claim 28, which describes how a term could be matched to “a plurality of domains”. Or, as Bill noted:
This is highly speculative, and I don’t want to put words in Bill’s mouth or over-simplify a long conversation, but if this reflects a general change in capability on Google’s part, it does match the pattern somewhat. If Google could match an entity like Kohls to not only Kohls.com, but it’s listings on WhitePages.com, the algorithm could give more weight to those non-brand domains, in theory.
Ok, yes, I could. At this point, I think the fluctuation data is reliable – I’ve confirmed it wasn’t a bug, and the SERPmetrics numbers back me up. Of course, fluctuations in the rankings are just one way of looking at things, and the tougher question is: What was the impact? If you look at the sample queries, you can see that many of the changes happened in the bottom 5 of the top 10. For my metric (Delta10), a change from #6 to #7 is the same as a change from #2 to #3, or, for that matter, a change from #7 to #6. Maybe, fluctuations were high but occurred almost entirely in lower-impact positions.
There’s another possibility, though – maybe the fluctuations occurred in rankings that do matter (in the aggregate) but that most of us aren’t watching. How many of us take notice when a few long-tail keywords drop from #6 to #7? By themselves, they don’t mean much, but across hundreds of keywords, I suspect some sites experienced significant traffic changes.
Or possibly a sister – I’m not getting close enough to check. Just as I had almost finished this post, weekend monster sightings were off the charts. Although Google is officially confirming Panda 3.7 and an impact of 1% of queries, ranking fluctuations over the weekend were massive. Here’s an updated graph that includes June 4th:
The original “Bigfoot” (I owe Dave Snyder a hat tip for the name, even if he was kidding) was June 4th (Delta10 = 3.24), but that was followed up by an unusually active weekend, including a peak Saturday of Delta10 = 3.62. Keep in mind, Saturday topped not only the first Penguin update, but dwarfed Panda 3.5 and 3.6.
My gut reaction is that something bigger happened here than just a Panda data refresh, but I honestly can’t prove that. Keep in mind that weekends are also normally pretty quiet, so relative to a typical Saturday/Sunday, these numbers are even more unusual. It’s possible that Panda 3.7 impacted more sites than 3.5 or 3.6, or that Google had to make adjustments on the fly, or that Panda 3.7 rolled out in addition to other updates.
Unfortunately, the timing of this post made a full analysis of Panda 3.7 tricky and the pattern of change over the weekend isn’t clear, but I pulled a couple of numbers. First of all, the domain diversity drop I’ve documented leading up to June 4th has not reversed. June 8-10 was not simply a rollback of June 4, as far as I can tell. These were separate events. It is entirely likely that June 8-10 were related to each other (you can see a pretty clear ramp-up into the weekend).
It also appears that the weekend was not simply a matter of a big change that got reversed. Let’s say, for example, that every URL moved on Saturday and then moved back on Sunday to its original position. Each day would show high Delta10s, but the two-day change would be zero. Looking at Sunday vs. Friday, the two-day change here is 3.91 (compared to a 24-hour change of 3.44). Although multi-day changes can be very tough to interpret, the evidence suggests that the changes from this past week are here to stay, at least for a while.
I’m almost sorry Panda 3.7 came along before this post went live, because it painfully illustrates a fundamental problem in SEO right now – we’re letting Google define what we pay attention to. By my numbers, Penguin 1.0 was big, and Panda 3.7 was bigger, but many recent Panda updates have been barely blips on the radar (just above average), and I’ve tracked a half-dozen events in the past 60 days that are as bigger or bigger than Panda 3.5 and 3.6.
Google has stated publicly (under oath, in fact) that they made 516 updates in 2010. The numbers for 2011 and 2012 appear to be on par with that. On average, that’s 1.4 updates every day. We’re chasing two runaway animals while an entire zoo is stampeding toward Grandma’s house, and we’re too often doing bad SEO along the way.
I’m not asking you to chase the algorithm – my obsession shouldn’t become yours. I’m asking you to pay attention and stop waiting for official confirmation that something changed. Think long-term, pay attention to your traffic, and watch the numbers that matter to you. The picture of rapid change I’m painting doesn’t even count localization, personalization, rich results, vertical results, etc. You have to know your own niche, and if you want to succeed, you’d better watch it like a hawk. Don’t rely on Google to tell you which changes are important.
June 13th, 2012 @ // No Comments
One of the best ways to achieve your goals in any field is to learn from those who have achieved success in your industry. I asked some of the top professionals and leaders in the SEO field to share their best advice for being successful in the SEO field. Here are their responses:
“90% of the information you need to know about SEO is available online and in books. Once you have figured out that much (you will know because you will start to feel like you aren’t learning anything new from reading and attending conferences) spend the rest of your time innovating and trying out completely new tactics. That last 10% might be findable through the right connections but honestly your time is better spent coming up with your own ideas.”
-Danny Dover, writer at LifeListed.com, a bucket list blog.
“Intellectual honesty. Which is somehow different from plain honesty. Intellectual honesty is what makes you say no when no must be told… and not just in the case you are dealing with a pushing client, but also – and maybe especially – when you don’t say ‘No’ to yourself and accept deals that you maybe you should have not have taken. That is an horrible mistake I did and I wish to not do again.
“Don’t just learn by reading what other people write. Learn by doing – test tactics out on your domain; test new things, not just what people are talking about. Try to take a tactic and do it better or try to scale it. Have test domains to try out tactics that may have an adverse affect on your site.”
“Never stop learning. Data visualization, language processing, search in general, writing skills and your general marketing savvy have to continuously mature and improve. The best SEOs I know are mental sponges – they soak up information, all the time.”
-Ian Lurie, Founder and CEO of Portent.
“Run a number of projects test what works. To learn the algorithms does not make one a tainted person (it is ignorance that is bad, not knowledge). Do not allow others to influence what you are willing to test by inserting suggestions aligned with their own business models as though they are moral clauses/code.”
-Aaron Wall, Founder of SEO Book.
“It depends how you define success. If you want to be a financial success then similarly to any other industry the name of the game is scale; get yourself a public persona, set the PR machine rolling and get as many bums on seats to grow your operation. Oh and do a decent job on a couple of clients so you’ve got a case study or two to use.
“Always be transparent and honest in all your dealings–both with your clients and the search engines. Don’t take on work that you don’t know how to do (unless the client knows this). Remember that in SEO what works for one site may not work for another as they are all unique and have different needs. Take responsibility for your actions (or of those who work for you). Under promise and over deliver. Set goals on things that really matter to your clients’ bottom line and measure success accordingly. Always educate your clients so that if they eventually want to take their SEO in-house, they will have a good understanding of the process.”
“Intellectual curiosity. Our field changes all the time, and not just in response to algorithm updates from Google. People are constantly finding new ways to search the Web and new tools to use. So as SEOs, we need to be curious about emerging trends, new ways of doing things, and the general goings-on in other fields outside of our own. The best SEOs keep up with practitioners of user experience design, information architecture, content strategy, web development, and several other disciplines. Yeah, it’s hard, but that also makes it fun and challenging — and that’s why you love SEO, right?
Be quick to laugh, slow to anger. We all go on rants from time to time, and why not? With Google’s algo updates, Firefox hiding keywords, ‘negative’ SEO, it feels like everything’s always in flux and it’s hard to find any stable ground in our industry. But whether we call ourselves ‘inbound marketers’ or ‘Internet marketers’, there’s simply more to life than arguing about SEO. The best SEOs are real human beings — they play, they spend time with their families, they go outdoors, and they laugh more than they rant. This makes them more approachable, easier to learn from, and more fun to hang out with. All those traits are marks of success.
“As my business has grown I think about this question a lot in hiring. My situation is unique in that I am running an agency from a small town in Idaho. I hire people that largely have not worked in any tech job nor do they have any idea what SEO even means. I have been fortunate to see people start with zero understanding and literally become extremely competent SEO professionals in a very short amount of time. There is one common theme with those that are able to accomplish this. It’s passion. Passion for success, for the people in the industry, for new information, for testing, for making clients happy. I personally don’t think that there is a specific SEO passion bug. Passionate people excel in usually whatever they touch. So, my best advice is that this industry changes too much, is too complicated, and too important for people that don’t have raw passion. If you do have it then you will want to read, test, and network in everything you do and I can promise it will lead to industry wisdom and success. Thought leaders in this industry have stopped looking at SEO as a job and literally eat, drink, and breath this stuff well after clocking out of the office. That is exactly what it takes.”
-Mike Ramsey, Owner of Nifty Marketing.
-Neil Patel, Co-Founder of KISSMetrics.
“Love what you do, do it with integrity, keep learning every day and use that learning to help your clients.”
-Mike Blumenthal, author of Understanding Google Places and Local Search.
“Get some skin in the game. It’s easy to offer clients advice and then go home at the end of the day, but when you build something you care about and watch those traffic numbers rise and fall, that’s when you learn what it’s like to live and die by the algorithm. It makes you a better SEO, and it makes you understand what webmasters go through when their businesses are on the line. It’s not just about education and empathy, though. If you succeed, you’ll have something to show the rest of the industry, and that’s when people start to notice you.”
-Dr. Peter J. Meyers, President of User Effect.
“Work a lot. Work hard. Be patient. Too many people quit before they see any results. Too many people never stop looking for ‘easy ways.’ But the truth is, there’s no an easy way. You need to take it seriously: read a lot, comment a lot, write a lot and test a lot. You need to build websites from scratch. You need to take over already established sites and see what you can do that. You need to work for free before you can make money!”
“Find a particular niche within the ever growing world of SEO and master it. If you do provide general SEO services, I strongly recommend working as part of a team. There is far too much to learn and understand for any single SEO consultant to properly service clients and stay abreast of the rapid changes related to SEO. There is too many varied skills required of a SEO for a single person to do everything at a high level. Site analysis requires a basic understanding of designing websites which is one particular skill set. Google Analytics and other methods of performance tracking requires working with spreadsheets, graphs and mathematics which is another skill set. Writing content requires extensive use of English, research and creativity which is yet another entirely different skill set. Lastly there is promoting websites through link building and social media which requires marketing and networking skills.”
-Ryan Kent, Director of Vitopian.
“I think that you have to be willing to set your ego aside and both continue to learn AND continue to teach, whether it’s through educating your employees and clients, participating in and/or moderating forums, networking offline and online, writing industry articles, and generally just becoming an approachable resource for others.”
-Julie Joyce, Director of Operations at Link Fish Media.
“Form your own opinions. Don’t just naively believe everything you read or hear about SEO unless it comes straight from the search engines or is proven beyond a doubt. Keep an open and objective mind.
Consider the client: It’s easy to just say ‘here’s the problem.’ But also take the time to provide the solution with your client’s level of understanding in mind. Speak their language and make sure they can walk away knowing exactly what to do.”
-Laura Lippay, President of How’s Your Pony
“Be honest at all times and with everyone.”
-Debra Mastaler, President of Alliance-Link.com
Push your comfort boundaries. Make yourself uncomfortable by asking questions of industry experts, tweeting about your lessons learned, writing blog posts to help others learn, and speaking at events when you have learned valuable information to share (depending upon the audience you’ll address, if they are not SEO-savvy, such as typical webmasters, developers, designers or business owners, you could do this pretty early in your career development process). The work you’ll want to do to be prepared for these efforts will help you learn more quickly. Ask, write, and speak!
Volunteer to help a non-profit. There are non-profits galore on the web who are barely scraping by, if that, and nearly all of them have websites in desperate need of optimization. They will likely be grateful for any volunteer assistance you can offer, and you’ll get a chance to learn new skills earlier in your career that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do in a paid job you might not yet be qualified to get. You’ll be doing a great thing for a needy cause, and you’ll be learning on the job! Best of all, if you spend any money on PPC campaigns in behalf of a 501c3, these are likely charitable contributions for you!
Just do SEO. Optimize a site you own (create one if necessary, so if you screw up, there’s no harm done). Earn your reputation through high-quality, white-hat SEO work. You can also ask if you can help with the company website at work (it could lead to a great career move). Look for opportunities to do more, and eventually become a resource for others who will follow in your footsteps.”
-Rick DeJarnette, Website Optimization, Search Engine and Social Media Marketing, Content Development at The SEO Ace
I want to thank everyone who contributed for being so generous with their time. Hopefully you can take away some insights to help your career. And if you have advice to share for being successful in the SEO field please add it below in the comments.
June 13th, 2012 @ // No Comments
In this week’s Whiteboard
Friday Wednesday, we have something different in store for you. Last week, during SMX, I had the extreme pleasure in having Danny Sullivan come into the MozPlex Studio for an interview. Luckily he let me ask him all kinds of fun questions. I should warn you, this is another long one, but believe me, it’s well worth it!
By the way if you missed Danny’s epic rant about link building from last week, you really should go listen to it (right after you watch this video, of course). Also, you can keep up with him on his personal blog as well. Now, without further ado, let’s chat with Danny Sullivan.
Transcription coming soon. Our apologies for any inconvenience.
June 13th, 2012 @ // No Comments
When asked what I do, I often will respond “I work in SEO,” or “I’m an Account Executive for an SEO agency”. Other times, I find myself having to go into a longer, more detailed explanation, explaining “it means Search Engine Optimization. We get websites ranked higher in Google…” Or if there’s a very large generation gap I’ll keep it super brief and say “I do stuff with search engines.” When I first decided to dive headfirst into the SEO world it didn’t take me long to realize if I wanted to hang, I absolutely needed to learn the lingo. SEO has a language of its own, and if you want to stay afloat in this industry, but more importantly in the search engines, you better know your stuff!
With that said, I’ve created 5 common terms and 5 recent (and increasingly common) terms I regularly discuss in my interactions both internally and with clients. This is the list I feel you better speak, understand, and implement in the SEO world today in order to thrive.
1. SEO SEM: Search engine marketing (SEM) is the overall practice of marketing your products or services through search engines whether through paid search or organic search. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing websites in order to rank organically in search engines.
2. SERP: A Search Engine Results Page (pretty self explanatory) is the page on which search engines show results for search queries.
3. Backlinks: Also known as inbound links or incoming links, these are hyperlinks pointing to your website. In SEO it is common to hear the term “backlink portfoilio”, meaning the overall portfolio of types of links you have acquired coming back to your website. It’s important your backlink portfolio is natural and diverse in order to achieve rankings.
4. XML Sitemap: An XML sitemap is a file on a website that is accessible to both users and crawlers. This tells search engine bots where and what pages can be found on a website. It is important that your sitemap is accurate and updated so you can tell search engines to read and crawl all the pages you want them to see on your website.
5. Canonicalization: According to the head of Google’s webspam team, Matt Cutts, canonicalization is “The process of picking the best URL when there are several choices”. Implementing canonical tags will help avoid you being penalized for duplicate content issue
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to 5 terms we’ve heard used more and more as of late, if you want to be up to speed in Google’s world you’ll want to pay attention:
6. Penguin: The Penguin update is the most recent update made by Google, arguably the biggest update ever, and targets “over optimization.”In particular it targets sites that are playing the “SEO game” by keyword stuffing, linking schemes, or other forms of irrelevant and unnatural link building. The goal of this controversial update was to enhance the overall user experience by producing more relevant search results.
7. “The Fold”: The fold refers to the section of a website that is available on the screen without scrolling. Earlier this year, Cutts announced they had multiple user complaints about having to scroll down to find actual content. He warned that sites that don’t have content “above the fold” may be penalized. If your site is one that has recently been penalized, having no content above the fold could very well be a reason why.
8. Author Authority: Also referred to author rank, this is the process of influencing rankings by indicating the writer. Google’s official statement explains this further.
The name of the writer can be used to influence the rankings of web results by indicating the writer responsible for a particular content piece. Assuming that a given writer has a high reputational score, representing an established reputation for authoring valuable content, then additional content authored and signed by that writer will be promoted relative to unsigned content or content from less reputable writers in search results”.
In a nutshell, by using the rel=author tag you can gain authority, get links, and social shares to your content.
9. Infographic: An infographic is a visual representation of information, data, or knowledge. Implementing infographics into your SEO campaign can be very beneficial. Infographics can be submitted to infographic aggregators, and the chance of achieving a good amount of backlinks through these aggregators and those sharing your infographic can be very high. Creating an interesting, unique, funny, or extremely informative infographic is a good idea because it can help drive both links and traffic to your site.
10. Blog: By definition, a blog is an online web journal. Why is this on the list of “recent terms”, you ask? It is true internal blogs have been around for ages. It is no secret that having an internal blog on your website is always going to provide value. But now, more than ever, frequently updating your website with fresh, unique content, keeping posts relevant, interesting, and timely will increase the chances of your content being shared and websites ranking you. If you have an internal blog, having social buttons to persuade users to share content will influence your social signals and possibly your author authority (as discussed above).
Overall, having a good understanding of some of the common as well as increasingly common phrases is only going to benefit you as a website owner. The beauty of SEO is that is the industry is constantly changing. Understanding and staying up to date on important terms is the first step in having a successful website that will not only perform, but thrive in the search engines.
Article source: http://www.seo.com/blog/speak-seo-ten-terms/