The Distinct SEO Web Marketing Blog

Discuss the latest topics on web marketing, SEO, branding, and organizational development.

Why Nofollow Could Lead to the Death of Linking

When Google burps everyone feels it. Last month we reported that Google will never follow or ‘remember’ links with the ‘nofollow’ attribute. I surmise other major search engines will follow suit and adopt a similar policy in an attempt to combat link spam, bad link practices (i.e. .edu sites using their position to link to questionable sites), and link purchases. So what does this mean for future web ranking and SEO practices?

The Death of Linking?

Let’s face it, the majority of web sites out there are not optimized by qualified web marketers. Why does this matter? Webmasters are semi-aware of the SEO world and many do pick up tid bits here and there about how to rank their web sites higher in the search engines. But only certain pieces of info actually make it into the ‘mainstream’ web world and I surmise that one of these ‘leaks’ of disinformation will be the treatment of linking (specifically outgoing links). Here is my reasoning expressed in mathematical equation.
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Negotiations and Client Sales for SEOs – A Rebuttal

Todd Malicoat invited Calum Coburn (from Negotiations.com) to write a blog article on ways consultants could convert prospects into sales. I particularly enjoyed this article because we don’t often hear about business component of search marketing in blogs. In the article Calum offers some tactics for SEO negotiations. Now, I agree with the premise and many of the assertions in the article, but would like to offer some additional thoughts.

Herein lies the typical process most consultants encounter with searching clients. The phone will ring (usually the phone) and the prospective client is ‘streamed’ through some type of ‘pre-plan’. Generally you’ve been through this process so many times before you know the questions you’ll be asked and what responses you’ll give. Rather than the ‘here’s what I can sell’ Calum suggests the ‘reverse sales’ approach. He even goes on to suggest prepared answers and questions to help steer your conversation in this direction.

I agree with his approach, however, would argue with semantics. ‘Reverse sales’ should be called ‘reverse marketing’. You see, it benefits your business when you move away from sales focused activities to marketing focused activities. What’s the difference? Frankly, one is more concerned about the needs of customers, and the other tries to ‘sell things’. Clients don’t want to be sold to, but rather, they want to be enticed, romanced, and drawn into a process that they can call their own.

Personally, I like to chat with clients until a point where both company and consultant have articulated and identified the correct needs and benefits. From this process an action plan and solutions are created to make their dream reality. This of course takes time that many of us don’t have. Calum Coburn’s article suggests a certain degree of ‘confidence’ right off the bat, to create a first impression that says, ‘I don’t need to sell you anything cause I’m the best at what I do.’

More Ways to Separate Good and Bad SEO Firms

Again, I like the approach. Obviously it’s harder to pull off if you aren’t confident in your services, but it certainly gives the impression you have a solid handle of your business. This gives you a certain level of legitimacy, however, it also brings up some problems.

Firstly, you have to be ready to loose clients. Some prospective clients (although the number is quite a bit smaller nowadays) want to be sold to and don’t want to be asked questions about why they chose you. Approach them the wrong way and your ‘reverse marketing’ may turn into an interogation. Identify who the quality client is early and be ready to loose a few in the proposal. Frankly, there is a market out there for client’s better suited for the low low prices of the ESL SEO.

Secondly, a good SEO firm will ensure client’s feel completely immersed in the planning and analysis process, and they generally complete this process for free of charge. Why free you ask? It serves two functions:

    1) Helps the client feel a part of the overall solution that makes them more inclined to go ahead with action (since it was ‘their’ solution to begin with :D)
    2) It builds trust and ensures the SEO knows what is really needed for the web site in your specific industry.

It is at this point that I would engage Calum and ask him to shed some light regarding ideal timeframe with clients. I got the impression through his article that there is an expectation clients will choose to love or hate you in one phone conversation. I do agree first impression are crucial, but I don’t think it is wise for prospective SEO clients to choose any consultant based on one phone conversation, nor do I think SEOs should judget clients on the first call.

My experience suggests 3-5 conversations is what it takes to move to the action stage (the signed proposal). Investing the time necessary will turn prospective clients into lifelong clients. And I mean this seriously, invest time into the right client, show them genuine concern for their goals, and deliver on those goals, and you’ll create a long term relationship that will put money in your bank.

To sum up: be confident in your approach, try the ‘reverse marketing’ be ready to loose prospective clients, be prepared for 3-5 conversations to close the deal, and use cheat sheets to help lead your phone conversations.

[tags]seo negotiations, negotiating seo, how to negotiate seo sales, marketing negotiations[/tags]

SEO Consultation Not for Everybody?

I recently did an interview for a provincial business magazine (more details later if it comes out), and one of the questions highlighted was, “I’m the small business coming into your office that knows nothing about SEO, what are you going to tell me?”

Well the answer is pretty simple, I’m going to walk you through the basic elements of search engine optimization and highlight how it can benefit your bottom line. The process is really the same regardless of web size or who walks in.

However, I also came to the conclusion long ago, and reiterated within the article, that SEO is not for everyone. Actually, let me take a step back, SEO consultation is not for everyone.

Hiring SEO Consultants May Not be the Right Solution

For many larger firms, consultants buy time. The company does not want to invest in the time to learn the new knowledge or stay current so they hire out. The fact is, many small sole-proprietorships may not benefit from a sizable investment into SEO consultation. We have turned away clients simply because it does not make any sense for us to charge thousands of dollars to rank the local vet clinic or drycleaners. (Quite simply, qualified and good SEO consultants are not a dime a dozen.)

For example, if you own a web site with a target market spanning a 10 mile radius then SEO consultation is probably the wrong investment. Don’t get me wrong, if you have any web presence at all, then search engine optimization is a necessary component to your web site, but paying top dollars for a professional may be the wrong route.

SEO Training Solutions

BUT, like I said, there are options out there. You MAY in fact have the time to learn some basic foundational aspects of SEO that will benefit your local community web site. Yes, there are options for you that don’t cost into the thousands. Distinct SEO often turn small clients to our training option. (See: Distinct SEO Training Pages for more details.)

Quite frankly, we do not have an interest in running a client through a process they don’t need. Business owners like to put their investment dollar in the right place, and we do our best to accomplish and facilitate that. Not everybody needs an SEO consultant, most do, but not everyone. But remember, you DO need SEO for your web site, but maybe you save the money and learn yourself–really it’s not that hard (at least the on page optimization stuff :P).

Yahoo Finally Adopts No Directory Meta Tag

Yahoo Offers Webmasters Another No Directory Meta Tag

Congrats Yahoo, you finally delivered on a promise made six months ago. Yahoo has supported the NOODP tag for a while, but FINALLY they will support a similar tag for their own directory.

To bring you up to speed, NOODP meta tags prevent Google or Yahoo from using their (Dmoz) descriptions in your SERP results. If your search results have the directory description you can tell the search spiders to discard the directory meta in favour of your own on page meta description tag.

Like I said, Yahoo has finally said they will respect a ‘no directory’ tag, however, they did so in a manner that will force all webmasters to add tags to their code. Yahoo have developed their own unique meta tag that permits permits webmasters to discard Yahoo! directory descriptions and/or Open Directory descriptions. You will add the following:

<meta name=”ROBOTS” content=”NOYDIR” />
OR
<meta name=”Slurp” content=”NOYDIR” />

There’s not point of using the first one since no other bots respect NOYDIR so use the second one. Yahoo! already respects the NOODP tag (which prevents the DMOZ description) and have now finally have added the Yahoo! directory support.

[tags]yahoo noydir, yahoo noodp, yahoo no directory, no directory yahoo meta[/tags]

Why is Content No Longer King for SEO?

For ages many SEOs have sworn that web content is the key foundation to building successful SEO projects. It is believed that continually updating your web site with relevant, useful, and unique content will give you a head above your competition. Google is firmly behind these content initiatives since, from their standpoint, 1000 unique pages are better than 1000 copied pages.

Read some thoughts from Google folks:
Google Adsense ppl
Matt Cutts’ videos to name just a few.

The problem is, webmasters have tirelessly updated their web site with quality, relevant, and on-topic content without any results. Sure they went up a few spots but their competition rests firmly in place at the top with their ripped off content and rarely updated listings. Why bother with this whole content fiasco if Google continually rewards LINKS and NOT content, as evidenced in their results?

Tips on Maximizing Your Content

The fact is, Google makes a few assumptions when they stand behind the, ‘content is king’ moniker. Firstly, they expect you’ll not only write relevant and unique content, but you’ll also do the correct promotion for the content as well. Google says they love new content, and they aren’t lying, but they don’t explicitly say that great content should gets links. Typically this does not occur without correct promotional activity by the webmaster/marketer. This means your great content will sit unnoticed and without the right people promoting it to its full Google potential.

Google expects great content will yield more links. Great content without quality incoming links in itself WILL NOT trump poor content that has many links (some quality some not). All things being equal, if you have better content but no links, then Google doesn’t care about you. If you have mediocre content but high PR (not necessarily on topic) links, Google will rank the web site higher.

Of course, Google does not want webmasters to follow this ‘crappy content high PR links’ strategy, but the fact of the matters is: within the SERPs, web sites with more links (and higher PR) will rank higher. Furthermore, it appears that in many instances merely getting high PR links without any attention to relevance is A-OK with Google.

Unfortunately for confused webmasters Google keeps pumping the ‘content is king’ show without walking the talk. There clearly exists a bias for high PR links regardless of content (it is as if anything over PR 5 can come from anywhere, not necessarily sites relevant to yours). Google needs to weight content with greater authority in ranking algorithms if they want webmasters to believe their content is really king of the SEO world.

How to Beat Linking Bias

If you can’t beat them, join them, then exceed them. Fact of the matter is, Google has an initiative to reward great content and relevant links. They are behind the eight-ball right now as countless web sites get away with not producing in either category. However, that doesn’t mean come tomorrow they won’t clean up their act (fact is Google improves every day).

If you’re a webmaster struggling against dirty competition then start doing what they’re doing, but in a different way. Google loves links, however, they will reward high PR relevant links over non-relevant links with the same PR weight. If you need to rank higher then get your web links, quality ones, via focused promotion and off-page optimization. This is a simple process, but it is definitley one that will yield better results than your competition that you’ve tried so desperately to beat.

Content on its own will do little to trump the company ahead of you with 1000s of links. Make a point to acquire quality, high PR, relevant incoming links via unique, profitable and relevant content. Easier said than done though :D

[tags]content is king, seo content king, seo content, google content[/tags]

Google Updates Links Command

For as long as I’ve been involved in SEO, the major search engines have opted for varying degrees of disclosure when it came to displaying the number of incoming links to a particular domain. By typing in link:yourwebsite.com in the search field you were able to display this value.

The value to an SEO to view accurate reflections of inbound links (IBL) has a few uses. For one, you can tell who links to you and whether or not you need to alter promotion/linking strategies. For the longest time Yahoo typically revealed the most comprehensive list of IBL, whereas Google did not. Google was the most ambiguous when it came to displaying inbound link values, that was until today.

All Google Webmaster Tools holders can now view IBL values, apparently real IBL values, known to Google. Of course, we don’t know for absolute certainty whether or not this is truly the COMPLETE revelation of your IBL number, but it is definitely a step above what was available before. Webmasters have complained long enough and Google delivered, which was nice of them. (Official post here: Google Blogspot)

So what is the verdict thus far? Well looking at the tools it’s either semi-useful, or completely comprehensive. The links feature enables you to know how many links EACH page has pointing to it. Of course, this list of links includes various syndication pages and social bookmarking feeds, but nonetheless, it’s comprehensive in that manner. Of course, the value of these links is not measured or displayed so you can’t tell if it’s doing you any real good.

Of course, one of the reasons link: commands never displayed full results was to protect webmasters from competition. This is still the case since you can only view the results within the Webmasters console. Nonetheless, all in all, this is another solid tool provided by Google. Nobody has offered this type of information in an easy format (namely the number of links to each specific page.) Kudos Google.

Social Media Coming Soon

Hey Distinct readers. We’ve been away from our blog recently because of some heavy deadlines and moving servers for a couple of web sites. This would explain our absence from regular posting. Fear not, however, new content is coming soon. We’ll be writing a few more articles on link acquisitions and social media tidbits.

Rumor has it Neil will be making his first post soon so stay tuned.

Till next!

Google Data-Push Rant – There’s Something Going on

This post will be more of a rant than offering anything of new information. If you haven’t picked up on the language yet, Google routinely performs what are called ‘data-pushes’. This is in essence a refresh of the data within the SERPS. Occasionally (less frequently) they perform algorithm updates.

For a complete idea of language visit Google Engineer Matt Cutt’s Blog

Matt Cutt’s has said the so called ‘data-pushes’ were a bi-monthly affair, today they are more frequent, perhaps every couple of days. My issues is this: something happened mid-December that really shook some web sites. Old data was beginning to show in the SERPs and some prominent web sites fell off the map. Conversely, in some industries better results were starting to show. Perhaps the sign of a new algo test? Well not according to Google.

A couple of web sites Distinct SEO owns experienced the drop. Two weeks later they recovered. However, two weeks yet again, there appears to be a major drop coming again. That is a full month of 3 widely fluctuating results. Certainly, this is NOT normal Google operations. Something is going on, a new test, a new algo, a new something, SOMETHING is not working efficiently over at the ‘Plex.

I am certain Google does not consider HUGE fluctuations in the SERPs as an efficient process of displaying the best results for their users. In light of this, I surmise there’s something else in the works that hasn’t been revealed yet. Quite frankly, I can’t stand massive ups and downs on a bi-monthly basis–the heart just can’t take it :P

[tags]google data push, google -950, google -30, google algo[/tags]

Wikipedia Changes All Outbound Links to NoFollow

It was bound to happen, they’ve been chatting about it for months, and some other Wiki languages have already implemented it. That’s right, ‘nofollow’ has been added all outbound links to Wiki English. That’s good news for many webmasters, users looking for quality info with external links, and Wikipedia.

This is bad news for newbie SEOs and web spammers. For ages they’ve been able to score suitable one way links, sometimes with significant PR, and help boost their web sites in the SERPS. Nofollow tags will change all of these tactics as soon as word spreads. (Remember, ‘nofollow’ attached to links means no PR weight that will be passed to your web site that helps boost your search engine rankings, but it will still be recorded.)

This isn’t all bad news though. Although external links will likely miss their usual spammy web sites, other more legitimate web sites may seek to press a bit harder to have their links placed at Wiki for the purpose of garnering additional traffic. I may do the same and press a bit harder simply for traffic reasons.

Of course, the converse may also be true. Webmasters may have the impression that the traffic from Wiki is worthy enough to continue their spam practices. This would in turn be met by a force of Wiki editors who have less spam to deal with and more time to scrutinize entries.

What does this change overall for SEO? Wiki is only used for traffic and perhaps some exposure/’promotion’. What it doesn’t do is help web sites with quality back links. You may see the interest in Wiki diminish as well since many webmaster I know actually added many pages to Wiki for the sole purpose of getting the link. That’s going to stop now.

In the spirit of the theme I have linked to the Wiki page with nofollow, they wouldn’t want it any other way. Wiki Nofollow page.

[tags]wikipedia nofollow, wikipedia seo, wiki nofollow[/tags]

Distinct SEO – ‘All the Bull Stops’

We recently asked one of our small business clients to offers his thoughts on the service he received from Distinct SEO. Eric is owner and operator of www.palmtreeservices.com.au and approached Distinct SEO in late September, 2006. Admittedly, we are very pleased with his responses and that he has agreed to act as a reference for Distinct SEO (so you can validate his claims :P).

Here are some of his thoughts from the review questionnaire he answered.

Hi Eric, thanks for agreeing to complete our reference list questionnaire. Let’s start with question one: How did you find Distinct SEO?

From a SEO forum.

What made you choose Distinct SEO?

Their involvement and the genuine interest in helping. In the early stages their contribution was voluntary and free. However, not knowing CSS and HTML inside out I decided to delegate the task of reconfiguration a more SEO suitable site to them.

Describe your experience with the Distinct SEO team.

Excellent, many companies simply don’t respond, overcharge or think smaller websites are not worth their time. At Distinct you are not treated like a cattle in a branding queue. Their techniques work; they adapt quickly to a foreign environment which means they understand your business, its operating conditions, and your competitors.

Did we answer your questions correctly and concisely?

Yes, this if anything it has been an overkill in their work. They put you right in the loop and explain why certain things are being done.

Eric, You took our SEO training program, what did you think?

I learned a lot, I also found some great tools myself on the net. The biggest advantage is knowing how to pick the sites that are infront of you apart then figure out how to beat them. I have also helped other sites and seen them rocket off. It just pinpoints what to look for. I’m not saying I’m an SEO expert by any means but I do know what to look for. When I can afford it I may want a refresher or tougher one using some tools online with you to pull apart some sites.

Were you happy with your ranking results stemming from Distinct SEO’s work?

Yes, very impressive, now many pages are one the first page of Google. In fact they rocketed there from nowhere in less than 3 months.

What would you like to see different if you were to repeat your SEO process from the beginning?

Well, I’m unable to flaw the approach. It was very professional from the onset with clear guidelines of what you will get for your money. Honestly, keep it the way it is.

Anything else you’d like to add?

There is no shortage of experts in every field. Type SEO into Google and you’ll have pages of ‘experts’. Some offer a monthly fee to keep your site monitored and ontop of search results. Some what exuberant fees to guarantee results and analyze your site. Some will want you to rank on keywords that frankly no-one searches. Some have so many keywords their meta tagline looks like a dictionary. At Distinct SEO all the bull stops and the facts and realities step in, no nonsense results, they’ll tell it to you the way it is.

Thanks for your thoughts Eric, and thanks for agreeing to be a reference for us. If you’d like to reach Eric please Contact Us for his details.

Internet Web Site Marketing Getting Harder

The rumor mills were true. SEO is an ever changing and dynamic industry. Actually, if you’re anybody, then you’ll know that search engine optimization is more than just pushing keywords, it’s a crucial component to marketing plans. You’ll also know that the SEO industry is in constant flux, always adapting and evolving. Many smart minds can pinpoint what aspects of SEO are about to change. It goes without saying, what was ‘hot’ yesterday, will be ‘lukewarm’ today, and ‘cold’ tomorrow.

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