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Monday, October 25, 2010

MaddMatt’s S.E.O. Blog. Issue #01

Quick Question:  What does the world need right now?  Peace in the middle-east?  Clean, renewable energy?  Love, sweet love?

Probably all those things.  The world does not need yet another blog about SEO.  This I know for a fact.  I work for a big ad agency.  I’m a certified SEO expert.  I read SEO blogs all the time.  Most of them, frankly, suck.  My 4th grade daughter has better grammar skills.

So why am I creating another one?  Do I have some mystical insight that has escaped the thousands of self-proclaimed experts that came before me?  Do my sentence structure and spelling skills treat a run-on like 7-UP™[1]?

No, the reasons are much simpler and more pragmatic than that.  And, when all is said and done, of course I think I see a need that’s not being met.  We’ll talk more about that later.

Reason 1:  Publish or Perish.  It’s becoming increasingly apparent that it’s not enough to do good work. In this day and age where every yahoo with a second hand laptop and access to his neighbor’s unguarded wi-fi signal can be a ‘published author’ you need to create your own brand.  I saw a job opening yesterday that said ‘must be a published thought leader on the subject’.  I didn’t want that job, but I realized there may come a day when one pops up that I do want.  They didn’t say ‘must be respected, or read,’ they just said published, so here you go.

Reason 2:  Despite my cynical and occasionally caustic attitude; I respect the process.  I’m a big fan of the Socratic method[2].  I believe I do better work when WE do better work.  I think a rising tide raises all boats.  Insert whatever hackneyed colloquialism you like, as long as it means we all get a better result when we work as a team, not in silos.  I do better work every day when I discuss the process with my teammates.  Hopefully they do too.  When the only thoughts you hear are your own, you turn into Gollum[3], a fate we should all hope to avoid.  So I’ve benefited from the blogs I’ve read (even the poorly written ones) and it’s time for me to give back to the process.  To get on-board.  To join the matrix.

Enough about me and why I’m here.  Let’s talk about SEO.  We’ll go big picture, conceptual stuff today and dig into the nitty-gritty at a later time.

MaddMatt’s SEO Truth #1:  Nothing’s Changed

To repurpose the words of my eighth grade Social Studies teacher, ‘nothing’s changed’.  People make things, people want things, people buy things and people sell things.  The only thing that’s changed is how we let people know what they want to buy.  When you are thinking about the SEO issues your website has, you need to start bigger.  You are, presumably, in the business of selling something.  Whatever it is you’re selling is why your website exists, not the other way around.

Focus on what you, as a company and brand, are trying to do.  Big Picture.  Whatever you’re selling, make sure you’re selling it well.  Google and all the other search engines want people to find what they are looking for quickly and easily.  So make sure your website gives it to them.  If your website sells tires, and all of the content revolves around the joys of driving, that’s great from a ‘sell the sizzle, not the steak’ standpoint – but if you want people to find you by typing in ‘tires’, you better talk about tires.

MaddMatt’s SEO truth #2:  Everything’s Changed

I’ve been an SEO expert for a couple of years now.  In the physical world, that would make me a professional neophyte.  In the digital world, that makes me a professional expert.  Not because I’m brilliant, not because SEO is just liquor and guessing (that’s marketing) but because of the speed at which the industry changes.  Three years ago, if I wanted to find a pizza place in Denver, I had to type ‘pizza denver’ or something similar into a search bar.  Now Google knows where I am and finds local results for me.  Last month if I wanted to search for ‘pizza’ I had to type the whole word.  ‘pi’ brings it up today.  Maybe a more accurate phrase would be ‘the speed at which Google changes the industry’.

Before I started to focus on SEO, I didn’t give Google much thought.  If I thought of it/them at all, it was in terms of using the search engine or vaguely distrusting or fearing anything that grows that big, that fast.

Today I use Google, as a search engine, an analytics tool, a research tool and a general time waster professionally.  Here’s what I’ve learned.  Google is smarter than you.  Accept it.  Work with it.  If you think you figured out something about search that they don’t know; they do.  They’ve had three PhD’s working on it for a year.  If they don’t, you can expect either black helicopters or a job offer tomorrow, probably delivered via Gmail.  Join the matrix.  Come into the house.  Be one of the comfortable people.[4]

MaddMatt’s SEO truth #3:  SEO takes time.

The faster search gets, the more important the quality of the content on our sites becomes.  It’s about becoming relevant.  It’s about building trust.  It’s about all the pieces of your organization coming together to become the authority.  But it’s not about throwing out some link farms in a desperate attempt to overcome a content free website.

Standing on the shoulders of others for a moment, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you this link:

Matt McGee, writing at, put this together.  I keep it printed out and tacked up on my wall.  When people come to me with that look in their eyes that says:

“I know I was supposed to do some SEO thing, but I totally forgot and the site launches tomorrow and I told the client six months ago that we could not only invent a new product, but invent a new term for it and that our new term would be the first SERP on Google by 8:00am tomorrow (eastern time) and it’s only 4:30mst now so can you push the SEO button so we can check that off the list…”

That’s when I like to take this chart off the wall, and calmly talk about the bottom row.  We talk about Planning, and Commitment and Patience, and we move our way up, row by row, until we get to the top.  And then we talk about how Trust generates number one search results.  I like to use the term ‘over time’ a lot.  By then they’ve usually either passed out or left my office in a rage.  At which time I get my first look at the site, check it for the basics (redirects, meta-data, content, keywords) start doing my research and putting my charts together and realize that it’s going to be a very long night.  But at least I made them sweat a little bit, and maybe plan a bit better next time.  And tomorrow, when the client’s new term is not the number one search result, they can speak intelligently about why, and about the plan we’ve put in place to become number one.

I think that’s enough knowledge to throw down for one day.  Think I’m an idiot?  Think I’m brilliant?  Let me know – I’ll probably respond and we can start the process, by which we might all gain a little more insight.  Or waste a few minutes messing around on the internet, which if you’re reading this blog is pretty much what you do for a living.

Before I go, earlier I did say that I thought I might actually have a reason for foisting yet another SEO blog on the internet.  I do.  We’ll talk about that next time.

Next time:  Why CMOs don’t need to fear SEO, and don’t need to take a programming class to understand it.

[1] ‘Never Had it.  Never Will’ for those of you who missed the 70’s and 80’s
[2] Look it up.  You should know your classics.
[3] Slimy guy.  Lives in a cave.  Steals the ring.  Again, know your classics.
[4] Tommy.  The Who.  For the last time, brush up on your classics.