This morning I had the opportunity to sit down with one of our resident Search Engine Optimization (SEO) extraordinaires, Mr Eric Morgan. The guy practically drinks Google Juice for breakfast, so I figured he would have some interesting information about SEO that I could share with you. Eric works out of our Salt Lake City office, so what transpired was a little phone interview on the current state of his practice.
How long have you been in the SEO game?
I’ve been working on SEO for 8 years.
How do you get into it?
My mother-in-law asked for some help on her adoption site, and I wanted to drive more traffic to it. So, I started researching how to get that done. It was then that I realized I could make a living doing it.
What are you currently working on?
I feel very fortunate in my position with Twelve Horses because I get to work on a variety of different clients. Many SEO managers work on just one specific industry where I get to be exposed to a lot of different companies.
For example, ski resorts like Alpine Meadows, Homewood, and Heavenly are definitely fun. I’m also working on Solera Networks, which is a company that provides network monitoring services and network appliance products. It’s a unique challenge because their products and services are new and relatively unknown, so I can produce some real results for them by building up their rankings from the ground level.
Uppercase Living is another one. They do vinyl lettering for home decor, which allows you to decorate your home for very little money. It is an exploding market, and they are probably the biggest player in their industry. Finally, another example is Set Point. They do industrial automation for faster and efficient manufacturing processing.
Wow, you really are working with wide array of different industries. How does a company like Set Point benefit from SEO?
You’d be surprised at the amount of people that are researching what Set Point has to offer. It really opens your eyes to how many people are typing in terms like, ‘custom automation solution‘ or ‘industrial automation‘ to improve their business. Where I come is helping make sure they get introduced to a company like Set Point.
What tactics are producing the best results for your clients?
Link building has the biggest impact on SEO, specifically from bloggers and copywriters. It also really helps to get fresh content on new topics, which in turn expands their website. Another one that you may find surprising is educating the client on SEO. Ingraining these fundamentals, truly getting the client to think in terms of SEO, makes a huge difference when they go to make changes to their own website or blog. It is often things they do every day that can make significant impacts on SEO.
What are some common mistakes that businesses make when it comes to SEO?
Biggest one is they fail at the very basics of SEO…ones that are well known. For example, the first thing we fix are title tags and meta description. The next thing we find is that companies did not do their keyword research well enough. That, or they focused on keywords that are not obtainable, do not represent significant enough search volume, or they are simply not relevant.
Others common mistakes are embedding text in graphics, which the search engines cannot see.
The URL structure is another fundamental mistake in the sense that they just don’t take it into consideration. Search engines don’t index dynamic pages as well as static pages. Also, I will often see random variables in the url as opposed to logical words that pertain to the specific page and company offerings.
How does SEO relate to website architecture?
That is another common mistake. Companies focus on just SEO, but if the traffic is being directed towards poorly constructed pages then they don’t convert. If the customer is directed towards a web page that has nothing to do with what they are looking for, or if it is too confusing, then you lose them. But if they are directed towards a well-constructed web page that is optimized to encourage them to take an action on the website, the chances are much higher that they will.
How often do use PPC or SEM in combination with a SEO strategy?
It is ultimately up to the client and their budget, but about 65% of our client are engaged in both.
Why is it important to do both?
As long as it has a positive ROI, why wouldn’t you do it? But many people think that PPC will help SEO ranking – they are not directly related. Where it helps is keyword research and retooling the website to better handle those conversions. It also helps test specific keywords up front instead of getting 3 or 4 months down the road with an SEO campaign and finding out that those are not the best words to focus on.
What are some new tactics that you are employing and testing?
Lately, we have been doing a lot of testing with bloggers and link building; interlinking where we make sure copy is linked to other pages within the website. This has also had a big impact on persuasion architecture.
How do you stay informed about SEO?
Mainly from other blogs and website such as SEOMoz, Marketing Experiments, Marketing Sherpa, and Grokdotcom.com. But there is no better way to stay informed, especially about your website, then practicing SEO, studying the results, and rinse and repeat. I like to focus on experimentation, trying new things and constantly assessing what works and what doesn’t, and then applying those strategies to other websites.
Has there been any news lately that has gotten you excited about the industry?
The news that Google can better index flash files is pretty cool, but it still has a ways to go. Google Adwords has started to release search data through AdWords, where before you could only get that through WordTracker. But the fundamentals have not really changed that much. Trends come out like social media marketing, but it is still the same fundamentals such as link building, html, and content. Often companies just don’t focus on the basics and instead get caught up chasing the latest fads that are kind of worthless in many instances.
What is the benefit of a business outsourcing SEO as opposed to doing it in house?
What you should get by outsourcing SEO is not only a deep level of experience with what works and what does not, but also a clear set of deliverables, a dedicated resource, and a fundamental understanding of web design and web architecture. Not only that but also how to effectively convert qualified traffic, and finally, how to interpret the analytics and create a dashboard that serves as a guide going forward.
It takes time, patience, and perseverance, and frankly, not everyone is cut out for SEO, but I enjoy it. It’s great to see results!
Eric Morgan can also be found blogging on SEO and web related topics at Marketing Morgan.