The importance of having a good SEO person in your company

A couple of months ago I attended the annual Bruce Clay training in Sydney. Now being an SEO for the last 5 years, I’ve heard about Bruce Clay a lot and hes one of the 4 guys I follow in SEO, the other 3 being Rand Fishkin, Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan. So being at the training was abit of a dream come true.

The training was quite pricy, but I was keen on what I could learn and also keen on meeting other SEOs that were at the event to gather their thoughts about the current SEO climate with pandas and penguins jumping all around.

The training went well, and Bruce Clay definitely knows a lot about SEO. From the training I realised that Bruce Clay really understands the algorithm rather than just speculating like most  “SEO experts” do.

Ben Liau - Bruce Clay
Ben Liau - Bruce Clay

 

As an SEO of over 5 years, I still learned alot and got quite a few great tips, and had my curly questions answered by Bruce Clay.

I was also surprised at the attendance at the training, a real mix bag of professionals including, big brands, big agencies, small seo specialist and pure play online retailers.

From chatting with many attendees, and listening to answers about questions from them, it ironically turns out most big agencies don’t know that much about SEO. This is followed by the big brands who basically work with these agencies. ( I don’t mean all of them, just speaking in general). The attendees that I came across that really know SEO were the pure play online retailers and some of the niche SEO specialists.

And another thing that was evidently clear, was that marketing people weren’t friends with IT people in many large companies. Also not surprisingly big brands and agencies work in silos, which seems to have been the case for many years now.

I think there are a few challenges SEOs in big brands face:

1. You have to act as a middle man between stake holders and agencies without learning that much SEO in the process.

2. You have to jump through many hoops to get anything done.

3. You have to work with people from other departments that don’t really want to work with you (IT Department).

Its does seems quite challenging being an SEO in that situation. But one thing big brands should do, is trust their digital marketing managers, and not put them through hoops every time they need something changed or something new implemented. The digital marketing industry is every changing, and if it going to take months to implement something new, big brands will miss the boat on the best time to execute.

I think the best strategy for big brands are to hire digital marketing experts who have had the experience of making smaller brands successful. These are the people who have fought for ROI without having much resources to use. When a person makes something out of nothing, thats when they become truly skilled at what they do, and become thought leaders in their space. These are the people who really know digital marketing and are passionate about it.

Also a good SEO must have a mix of skills. They must understand marketing to manage stake holders, and know how websites work, and abit of coding would be beneficial. They must also understand  IT infrastructure, to be able to talk to and build relationships with the IT department.

Another major quality an SEO must have is the ability to analyse data. There is no point getting an SEO that can just write content and link build, at the end of the day they will need to be able to analyse the data and make strategic decisions before they start optimising the site.

In saying all that finding a good SEO person is not easy. Im lucky, I know a hand full of SEOs that have those very skills. So if you are looking for a good SEO let me know and id be happy to pass on the contacts.

Happy Optimising people.

Extra “Panda” Update Information Starting to Appear..

 

Last Friday, Google posted an update on its Webmaster Central blog titled “Providing More Guidance on Building High-Quality websites“. The blog post expands on much of what Google has said about the infamous Panda update since its first release on February 24th.

In statements about the Panda update, Google has used a number of questions that they’re attempting to answer with an algorithm. “Do you feel comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?” & “Would you take medical advice from this site?” are 2 that have been around since the very beginning. Last Friday’s Webmaster Central post offered up a better list with some of the highlights below:

  • Does the website have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Does the article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine/real interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by trying to guess what might rank well in the search engines?
  • Does the article provide original/real content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its particular topic?
  • Is the content being mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of content creators, or spread across a large network of websites, so that individual pages or websites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Is this the sort of page you would want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of advertising that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Will users complain when they see pages from this site?
  • Will you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?

Answering the “touchy” Questions

We can conclude how Google can algorithmically answer quite a number of the questions, but what about those “touchy” questions, like the credit card issue question? It’s hard to say, but actually having alot of the questions answered about your website might provide some valuable feedback. If you’re an in-house SEO for a website that has been banned, perhaps one of the following services can be used to help a claim for a re-design or some other change in website philosophy.

UserTesting

User Testing LogoUserTesting is a high-end feedback solution. For $39 you will get a video of a user interacting with your website. UserTesting lets you to ask the user up-to 4 questions after they’ve completed the feedback video, which would be a execellent place to ask some of our Panda questions. 

Other Panda Odds and Ends

NPR did a  long story on Panda’s effect on one company’s struggle since it got Panda-fied: Google’s search new tweaks puts a company at risk

Matt Cutts quote from that  particular story:

“Think about something like an Apple product, when you buy an Apple product you open it up, the box is beautiful, the packaging is beautiful, the entire experience is really wonderful”.

It sounds to me that this particular statement is really just another way of saying “huge amounts of duplicated or bad content on your site can impact the whole domain”.

Reversing the Effects of  the Panda update

Tom Critchlow had this exchange of words with Matt Cutts on Twitter:

@mattcutts assuming a site completely reworks their site/content after panda, how long before they will regain traffic?less than a minute ago via web  Favorite  Retweet  Reply

@tomcritchlow short version is that it’s not data that’s updated daily right now. More like when we re-run the algorithms to regen the data.less than a minute ago via web  Favorite  Retweet  Reply

Moral of this story: Do not expect rankings to come right back after making changes. This is a quite frustrating because webmasters cannot make a change, wait to see if the change actually “worked”, then try something else. It also might explain why there has been so few reports of websites regaining their traffic.

A 3rd Panda Spotted?

Some rumors picked up in early May that a 3rd Panda update may have gone live. Users were reporting wild fluctuations in their rankings and other weird things in the Google cache and site search commands. Considering what Matt Cutts said above, it  actually makes more sense for Panda updates to hit suddenly and all at once, rather than over a longer period of time. Some sources are reporting that their exact match domains took a hit.

So our current Panda timeline now reads:

  1. Feb 24th, 2011: New Panda rollout on Google.com searches
  2. April 11th, 2011: New Panda rollout to all English speaking Google sites. Additional tweaks made to original algorithm
  3. May 3-6th, 2011: Mabe a Third Panda update?

Have you seen any drastic traffic changes during this time frame? Have any of your websites recovered from initially being Panda-fied?