The Distinct SEO Web Marketing Blog

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

Distinct SEO Interview #1 – Barry Nagassar

Rather than going last we thought we’d give our own in-house SEO Pro Barry the honor of opening up this year’s SEO Interviews. The purpose of SEO interviews is to poll some top SEO names, those who have specific skills sets, and those who have been in the industry for a while. Their knowledge is invaluable and we are confident even the seasoned SEO vets will take something out of each participant. Without further ado here’s Barry!

Your vitals:

• Name: Barry Nagassar
• Web site you wish to have linked: You’re on it now!
• Shameless plug about yourself: Hmmm. Well we’ll be releasing an SEO Book that will be focused on MBA style marketing techniques readable to a general business audience. It’s more than SEO our book, it will be a broad marketing approach, not a get rich quick scheme, but foundational marketing practices with a unique web marketing twist.

SEO Question Sets for the Pros

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This Ain’t Your Regular SEO Interviews

Hey everyone! This is my first post, and I’ve been given the task of running our SEO interviews. Distinct SEO is pulling in some top names in the SEO industry to ask them what makes web marketing tick. We know this SEO interview game has been done and even if we just did the usually thing it would still have immense value for our readers, however, we’re going to go one step further than the regular interviews seen out there in SEO-land.

We’ll certainly ask the regular questions, “what do you like about SEO? What is the average wing speed velocity of a coconut laden swallow?” but we’ll also tackle some issues that are perhaps neglected. For example, we are going to focus more on the business aspects of SEO, things that separate the competent business/marketer from the entry-level SEO.

Some very useful thoughts and remarks are one the way so stay tuned. Once we’re done this round of interviews we’ll post a ‘Top Ten’ type list of the best ideas from the SEO professionals we interview. As part of our own initiative the first interviewee will be our own :P–sorry for the shameless plug.

MY Piece on SEO in the Alberta Venture

New Media Rules – SEO Style

If you picked up this month’s Alberta Venture magazine you would have seen my contribution explaining elements of web marketing. (May, 2007) in the Alberta Venture, a provincial business magazine, some introductory comments were made in an article exploring various marketing models for web sites.

Although my take was brief, I did manage to get in a couple of key aspects about the SEO realm, albeit I would have liked more emphasis on SEO as a smaller component of the broader web marketing beast. There was also a comment I supposedly made,

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What Comes After Web 2.0 – Web Cubed?

Everyone is starting to note the impact of Web 2.0. Well OK, admittedly if you’re just picking up on it now you’re quite late in the game. Still, web designers and marketers have long learned and implemented Web 2.0; much later (present day) the mainstream media and semi-unprofessional web marketers are starting to pay attention.

Here’s the thing. If you’re just catching on with Web 2.0 it’s not actually the place where you want to start. Rather than jumping on a crowded Web 2.0 bus, why not get into the driver’s seat and lead the pack? New web developments, marketing promos, and other online business planning should in the very least reflect Web 2.0 trends, but should also be considering and defining what comes next.

Web 3.0 / Web Cubed to Replace Web 2.0

What will replace Web 2.0 and what will that look like? Somewhat haphazardly I have named in Web Cubed (for Web 3.0, by the way, I’m willing to have someone point out that I’m not the first to use Web cubed). Bare in mind, I’m not suggesting Web 2.0 must logically progress to the next number in three (or cubed) but for the sake of this post I’ll stick with simple numerics.

I think we can divide web trends in a variety of categories, i.e. design, market planning, choices, etc. For example, what will Web Cubed look like? That’s a good question and I’d love to hear from all web designers. What will it feel like? I’d love to hear from the programmers. How will we produce it and promote it? I’d love to hear from the marketers and planners.

Here are my top thoughts on what Web Cubed will consist of.

1. A Continuation of communal aspects. Why is Wikipedia, Facebook, MySpace, etc., so popular? Connections, community, people remain hugely important to web browsers today. The importance of the community mentality of online sites will continue to replace the desire of the individual.

2. Designs will become more abstract. Instead of congruent headers and footers you’ll experience asymmetry in web design work. Colors will be vibrant, collage, patchwork, wavey and mutant ideas will replace unity, symmetry.

3. Purpose will be replaced with play. Interaction with environments and combinations online will be desired over selection and rigidity.

4. Marketing becomes courting clients and not selling products and services to customers–(this has been around for a while mind you). We should also acknowledge methods of marketing will change; low-bit youtube will be replaced with full and high quality and perhaps some day 3-D video.

5. Change will be embraced and rapid change will become norm in information retrieval. Consider the continuing rise in cellular media and methods of sending and receiving communication (not just RSS but RSS to mobile in the least).

These are but a few aspects that are sitting perhaps in the tail-end of Web 2.0 but are also ready to lead the way for Web Cubed which for some who are ambitious, has already arrived. What are your thoughts?

We Were Finally Cold Called Today

Well it finally happened. I dunno how it works, where they got my name and number, but I should have known that when I received a call today with ‘unknown’ in the display it was going to be spam. Spam on the phone you say?

Cold Calling for Web Hosting and Web Design is Phone Spam

A+ hosting (I can’t be sure it was them so I won’t list their web site) called me today and inquired whether I had taken care of some ‘recent web hosting woes’. I don’t recall asking anybody for help in my web hosting but hey, maybe that was the one liner.

What really got me was once I said I had no use for web hosting the conversation proceeded to, ‘can we offer you a service to increase your web rankings?’. My response, ‘no, I do web marketing myself.’

BUDDY, A+ Web Hosting, PLEASE! Do your damn homework at least. I should have rambled on and on to waste their time, but seriously, did you check the web site? Does it look like your web hosting/ web design/ web seo/ web marketing company can help me? Ha, uh no. Next time I get a call like this I’m going to set up a pitched squeal device that will render the cold call perpetrator listless and the company bankrupt. I swear it’s in the making….

Distinct SEO Launches Web Review Service

Wow, today has been the day for new and exciting new from Distinct SEO! I am happy to announce we are launching one of the few ‘SEO services’ offered by our marketing team: SEO web reviews. Typically Distinct SEO does not provide a ‘product’ or a ‘service’ since we’re in the business of marketing (there will be a worthy marketing blog post this week about the distinction.) However, there was enough demand for a web review service we decided to put it in our portfolio of offerings.

Are you a web manager, webmaster, marketer, entrepreneur, or any other smart web owner with a product, service, or content to promote in the search engines? Many people invest their own time to learn and implement search engine optimization techniques on their web site, but they are not sure if they’ve covered everything. Ensure you do negative errors on your web site that may hurt your rankings.

Distinct SEO will provide a full review of your web site with recommendations on necessary action. In a three step process we will offer the following reviews:

  • 1. Items Requiring Immediate Attention
  • 2. Items We Recommend to Be Changed
  • 3. Future On-Page Aspects to Consider but do no Affect Rankings

We will also try to point you in the right direction for targeted web promotional campaigns. For more details visit our SEO web site review section.

Remove Content With Google Webmasters

Remove and Reinclude Web Pages

Google Webmaster Tool console has been updated (or added to) yet again. This time you can remove content from your page that you don’t want kicking around and have found robots.txt is not successful at eliminating. Conversely, you can also use the new tool in the console to re-include a web page that’s been canned.

For more information on the tool visit the Google Webmasters blog.

New Sitemaps Protocol for Webmasters

It appears that Google, along with the other major online search engines, have combined to change the way they view sitemaps. Before you could submit to each major engine with a location (usually .xml) of your sitemap file and they would crawl it. It appears there is an even better way.

Robots.txt Used to Locate Sitemap

Now you can place a line of text in your robots file so all spiders (who understand what to look for) will be able to locate your sitemap file easily. This is how your new entry in the robots.txt file should look like:


You can still submit to the search engine webmaster consoles directly, however, this is a one stop solution to help the spiders find what they need. Of course, this also implies that you use sitemap.xml files to start with. Many SEOs are now advocating that you bypass the whole ‘add sitemap’ because you loose certain information like where your weaker pages (PR wise) are.

More of the news here:

[tags]sitemaps, site map xml, sitemaps robots.txt, sitemap robots, sitemap protocol, google sitemap[/tags]

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 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” />
<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]