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Is the Best SEO Strategy Today Still The Long Tail?

October 6th, 2009 1 comment

In the world of SEO, links are still considered the bread and butter of most SEOs and linkbuilding is the most espoused strategy by the SEO industry. There is no doubt that inlinks will always be seen as critical to the importance of a site in search engine algorithms. However, as an SEO strategy, the practice of linkbuilding has come under increasing fire and indeed becomes more questionable all the time, as a primary SEO strategy for websites.

Long gone are the days when you could cajole naive webmasters into giving you a link for free. Everybody knows the value of a link now and webmasters routinely request a return backlink or they ask “how much is it worth to you?”

On the other side, Google threatens to penalize people who buy links or sell links. You can get away with it, until someone rats you out and then you have a long climb out of the rat hole you’re in. So as an SEO, you’ve blown some money on link buying and then actually lost traffic. What kind of a reputation does that give you, and the industry?

Today, many SEOs are singing the praises of flat site architecture; that is something I espouse as well. But how long before a well crafted flat site architecture becomes commonplace? It does not matter the age of pages involved or the age of the site. Once Googlebot can quickly find all or most of the pages on most sites, the SEO playing field, at least in the sphere of architecture, will be once again even. Mind you, that day is some ways off.

However, when looking back at the past, at the present and into the foreseeable future, my favourite strategy is still long tail content development. I have no doubt that Google values sites with many more pages. In fact, I see sites with relatively high PR, seemingly garnered only from the fact that they have a significant amount of content, whether or not that content has copious or strong backlinks from other sites or not. This is one area where you can’t fake it – either you have the original content or you don’t.

Of course, it is not enough to simply have content – that content has to be crafted to meet the long tail. Good SEOs know how to properly wind in some latent semantic indexing, with just the right mix of keyword rich content and actual substance that might get you some organic links. This is the one area of traditional SEO where you can still work and know that you are doing what Google in fact wants you to do and can have more confidence than most marketers and corporations that you know what you are doing and they very likely will not.

I see over and over again, opportunities to work with company’s developers, marketers and editorial staff to leverage their already existing content to create copious pages that target the long tail of content – that long list of keyword variations related to their particular industry – where it is easy and relatively cheap to do so and where they do not know the value of this strategy. I’ve seen lots of websites grow traffic significantly simply be creating copious pages that meet their potential users down the long tail.

I’m getting those pages online ahead of other SEOs, getting backlinks to those pages ahead of them, and having those pages age (gain authority) ahead of other SEOs.

I see the long tail content strategy I implemented on some old built-for-SEO sites – built long before Chris Anderson started even blogging on the subject – still working very well for those sites.

In my humble opinion, long tail content development is a sure fire SEO traffic-building technique that still really does not get enough attention and respect in the SEO industry. It’s something lost on many companies and web businesses and it’s something that still requires some SEO expertise and experience.

Starting an SEO business

May 13th, 2009 No comments

I’m officially relaunching this website as an SEO business, complete with this SEO blog.

Search engine optimization has been a booming business for a while now.

In some respects, I think that’s a shame.

Not in and of itself, of course, because I love the vibrancy of search  and the web in general (of course). It’s a shame because an industry with so much potential (still very much so, ten years after the launch of Google) attracts so much profound BS. A friend of mine complains that “SEOs are almost to a person, a collection of one-trick-ponies and snake oil salesman.” I would add “loud mouth braggarts” and “frackin phoneys” and I would also say, “But let’s emphasize: ‘almost to a person.'”

Jill Whalen recently complained about companies wanting to get into the SEO business and she quotes an email she received – from someone in India – that read (quoting verbatim) “i want to start SEO (search engine optimization) business.but before    that i want to know about SEO.” She gives them “props for wanting to know about SEO *before* they set up shop.” The real gist of her post comes when she complains: “new SEO companies keep popping up like dandelions in Spring. This would be okay if they weren’t getting paid for their services. But apparently they are.”

She’s dead on, of course. My own experience has at least one similar anecdote.

Two years ago, I got a call from a small company in Oakville, Ontario, after I was part of a massive layoff from a company that specialized in building sites that dominated SERPs (and still do, to this day. They also specialized in PPC arbitrage – the cause of both their rise and their downfall – but that’s another story). I had a few meetings with a couple guys from this small company in Oakville, who wanted to know everything I knew about SEO. Stupidly, I actually went along with the whole charade, as I explained to them things like the value of original description tag content, clean code and a bunch of other things, while they feverishly took notes. The funny thing (or not) was that they were already getting paid to do SEO. Just as funny (or not) was their boast of being able to rank for “terms like ‘hamilton rebar company.'” They also bragged to me that they were page one in Google for “Ontario’s best SEO.”

You’re bragging about being able to rank for a term that no one in their right mind is actually going to look for?

You’re really only telling me that Google knows how to do its job. You’re not saying very much about your ability to do SEO. And people are buying your services?

As Whalen points out, real SEO is difficult work. The industry is changing all the time and you have to keep up with what is going on. Not by listening to other SEOs, either, but by paying attention to changes at Google, knowing all about social media and its implicatons for SEO… and lots of other things. In other words: actually having lived through some of the ups and downs of the search engine industry over the years. Google whacks and penalizations are a really good experience, for an example.

In other words, earn your stripes, as they say.

Here’re some more things you should know:

  • Know how difficult it is to rank for truly competitive terms. Succeed at this. Fail at this, too.
  • Know what it is like to work with an aged domain versus a new domain, wrestling out of the sandbox.
  • Fully understand the difference between quality links and crapola links – that still might add up to something with enough quantity.
  • Know what trustrank is.

Know a zillion other subtleties about site development, url and site structure, long tail content development… and a zillion other things.

Then you will know how to apply your experience to leverage the search presence of any website or company, on a case-by-case basis.

Then you can start a company.

That’s where I am.

Anyway, that’s my introductory blog. That’s where I’m starting up from. And let me say one more time: “But let’s emphasize that word ‘almost.'”

Read Jill Whalen’s smartly written discussion about BS in the SEO industry.

Categories: SEO, the SEO industry Tags: , ,