Posts Tagged ‘long tail’

SEO costs are frontloaded but the payout pays off

June 13th, 2011 No comments

Companies starting the long journey of search engine optimization (SEO) have to really take a leap of faith when it comes to investing in SEO. Like many reasonable SEO’s I fully understand that this is painful and that there is uncertainty and insecurity in doing so.

I’m currently working with a number of newer companies who are showing varying degrees of commitment to this process. I can point them to various examples of websites where I took over the SEO and helped them grow traffic but here I’ll offer a fresh look at a case study in SEO investment. This is a broad look at a case that is, in some ways a uniquely successful case (as all successes are) but in other ways typical and even predictable.

benjaminsThe initial approach
This company approached me about two years ago around the middle of 2009 and told me that they were spending X amount of dollars (a mid three figures number) per month on SEO and it wasn’t doing anything for them. Unfortunately, there are many companies and people (let me emphasize unfortunately) who take money in the SEO business without delivering growth or, at least, measurable value in some respect. This company had built some backlinks from some time before but other than that had done little to continue growing traffic to the client’s website.

Every SEO has their own unique strengths
When I looked at the website’s situation, I realized that I could do a lot to grow the site’s traffic through content development. This is an admitted strength of mine (hence the name of this site) and is a focus of mine vs. the focus of many SEO’s which is linkbuilding (while there are still others who, it seems, are questionable as to whether they have any focus).

The work
I took over the site, got to work and started developing content, telling the site owners that if they invested about $1000 per month I would double their search engine traffic in 6 months time: from about 50 visitors per day to 100 for a concentrated niche that was somewhat competitive (for page one results, anyway) and also highly interested. I never quite topped out on this budget as I follow the old adage to under-promise and over-deliver.

Since the company was already investing money in SEO, though, the investment was relatively easy for them.

Here’s a graph of those first six months:

What you see in the graph is that the traffic was basically flat-lined when we commenced work on SEO for this site. (I say ‘we’ because I did work closely with the site’s developer on some critical changes.) During initial work, traffic rose only very slowly, so little that it barely registers on this graph. We could see progress in terms of pages getting indexed and getting some traffic from new keywords.

However, there was no great payoff and we had promised the client that traffic would double within six months. They kept spending the requisite high three figures per month, though. They may have been growing worried, I’m not sure, but I don’t think I was.

What happened was that there was a cumulative effect of activating the site’s development and continuing to add content as well as working with partners to create links into the site, then tweaking the site structure as we went along. All of that work cumulatively added up to an eventual spike in traffic.

And that’s the way it goes.

After this, the site owners felt that the site had grown enough and they were happy with the amount of traffic they were getting for the investment they had put into it. Of course, others like continued growth, although a doubling of traffic every six months is not likely, especially as you start to top out on terms that you can truly rank for and as you run out of content ideas (as happens with sites that are focused on a small industry or consumer niches).

The point in all this, of course, is that your search engine optimization payout is often frontloaded but in the end there is a payoff. It hurts at first but in the end you will enjoy results and from there, clients can decide to continue to grow traffic or simply enjoy the benefits of your investment for a while… as long as your competition stays asleep.

SEO Successes in Recent Months

March 27th, 2010 1 comment

I just posted a new static page about some recent successful SEO and Internet marketing.  I don’t have much time to update this site nor do I care to, as I have plenty of work to do right now.

I should admit that not everything I work on has been a great success. In almost all cases where things have not worked out as well or have had middling results, there is a shortage of commitment from companies.

I can do some SEO that will keep your company afloat but you need to help me out. You need to update the design of your site, for example, especially as more pages are added and your site’s design falls farther behind the times and changes to search engine algorithms.

That being said, I am still pleased to be well ahead of the curve in some cases and doing stuff that still works, in other cases.

I should blog more – but I am just overbooked.

Google Caffeine: A Look Ahead

November 16th, 2009 2 comments

Google Caffeine was first previewed in August 2009 and will go live soon.

Any change to Google’s algorithm is of course big news, spawning reams of Internet chatter, a whole lot of speculation and probably some fear-mongering, along with some brand new websites (e.g. Compare Caffeine!)

What exactly Google Caffeine will do, though, is largely unknown even though some have reported that it will be a change to Google’s indexing methods and Matt Cutts (and webmasters who tried the beta version) note that there will be changes to rankings. One thing that will not change will be the look and feel of Google.

A big change noted by many (of us) who previewed Google Caffeine was the speed of results – it’s about twice as fast, if you can believe that.

Matt Cutts summarizes on his blog:

The Caffeine update isn’t about making some UI changes here or there. Currently, even power users won’t notice much of a difference at all. This update is primarily under the hood: we’re rewriting the foundation of some of our infrastructure. But some of the search results do change.

While Google has very kindly (mercifully, for those who will inevitably move down) held off until after the Christmas season, that is largely because of flack they have received in the past. It does not seem to be because Caffeine will have as profound an effect on search results as have major updates of the past. provides a good overview of changes it found in a comparison of Caffeine to “Old Google” (i.e. the one we’re using today). Some changes they identified are as follows:

* Google Sitelinks disappearing from some results.
* Rich Snippets disappearing from some results.
* Caffeine has difficulties handling 301’s. ( This is a bug )
* Page 1 results mostly contain the same sites, however positioning is quiet different
* Page 3 and onwards seem generate completely different results.
* The index page on root domain now has more weight.
* Pages with heavy keyword stuffing are been penalised.
* Pagerank Sculpting is no longer effective. ( further confirming the rel=nofollow topic )
* Brand name / Domain trust further effecting SERP. ( a step further in the Google Vince Update? )
* Number of inbound links from external domains
* External links using targeted keywords as anchors carry more weight.

The last four points are nothing new by the way. It seems to me, then, that Caffeine will simply entail that SEOs continue to explore the long tail of relevant content, staying away from suicidal blackhat practices like keyword stuffing and over optimization and continuing to acquire legitimate organic links. So once again, Caffeine seems like no big news for SEO, although it might be relatively big news in Search.

What Caffeine actually looks like and how it will actually affect all us webmasters will, of course, have to wait to be seen. I suspect it will affect legitimate sites very little and it will only give webmasters and SEOs more work to do. In any case, we will all find out for sure, come 2010.

To learn more, see:

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.