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Five reasons why your SEO agency suck

I’ve been working on one client’s account and encountered some consequence of the operations of the previous SEO agency. The SEO agency in question has actually won awards, which comes as a great surprise since the quality of the SEO and the value generated for the client is questionable. Occasionally I get contacted by other SEO companies proposing the outsourcing of work, but all too often it’s the same old story; poor SEO practices. Therefore I thought I’d take some time to compile some of the most common characteristics of poor SEO agencies.

1) They do blackhat SEO
Some of the other reasons will comprise of the dysfunctions of practicing blackhat SEO, however it warrants a separate factor. There is a time and a place for blackhat SEO but on client accounts isn’t one of them. With the size of the accounts I work on, there are various stakeholder group interests to be taken into consideration, the risks of a strategy featuring blackhat far, far outweigh the advantages. The consequences for being penalised with a major client is that people could lose their jobs, and investors could lose capital. These are not risks that can be taken, and so it’s essential that strategies should be white hat.

2) … and they do it badly

Not only do they do blackhat, they do it badly. Your inbound link portfolio consists of a large proportion of inbound links placed with no context, with the perfect anchor text on PR loaded, low domain authority pages. They make no regard to maintaining an organic looking anchor text distribution, nor a natural PR distribution of links. Probably all of your key phrase targeted links appear only on pages PR3 and above, sending alarm bells to Google.

You’ll likely to have a range of links on penalised pages too, lowering your domain authority and link reputation.

3) They will turn off all your links when you switch agency
Unless you plan to be with your SEO agency for the rest of time, one day you won’t renew your contract and when that day comes, your SEO agency will stop paying for all the links that have been giving your rankings. When that day comes, you’ll lose your rankings, your links and you will be back to square one. Not at any point are you generating any sustainable competitive advantage. Indeed, with consideration to this you’ll only building up your barriers to switching supplier which in turn makes you more dependable and places you in a worse position to negotiate new terms.

4) They target vanity terms with no consideration to ROI
It’s common for management to place great pleasure on vanity terms, and sometimes as an agency you have to fullfill this. However it’s the responsibility of the SEO agency to convey the importance of leading a ROI focused campaign that delivers returns, not boasting material for management. SEO isn’t just about attaining high position in Google, but high positions that deliver returns on investment. 80% of traffic can come from the long tail, and ignoring this can be a huge mistake too. I’d always recommend tracking search traffic through to sales, so you can see which keywords are delivering you sales, and accordingly target these.

5) They underestimate good on page optimisation
It’s true that the Google algorithm heavily values inbound links in determining rankings, but on page optimisation should not be neglected. As previously stated, 80% of traffic is generally derived from the long tail, and accordingly on page retains great importance. Getting a good, indexable website is crucial, and an approach to content creation that gives consideration to semantics allows your to far better target the long tail.

No doubt I’ll continue to keep coming up with ideas why your SEO agency sucks, but this list will do for now. If you’re looking for a SEO agency, make sure you are satisfied with these points when you pick one.

Is Meta data still important in the Google algorithm?

You could almost be forgiven for thinking that in this day and age Meta Data has no real importance. Ever since Matt Cutts confirmed that Google no longer uses Meta data in the algorithm, many webmasters have started to neglect it, in particular Meta descriptions. However I’m going to present the case that Meta descriptions are still very important in the Google Algorithm.

Well written and accurate Meta descriptions and titles can seriously improve CTR. In turn, by improving your CTR, one would improve their ranking. The slide below is from a SEOmoz presentation slide done by Rand Fishkin.

In a survey of 72 SEO professionals, on average traffic and CTR was deemed to be weighted 6.29% in importance in the Google algorithm. So indirectly Meta data still has importance in rankings. You have to take this with a pinch of salt, especially since I don’t know how knowledgeable these SEO professionals are, nor how they derived their weightings. In addition, the statistic suffers from the same problem that a simple mean statistic does. A mode and median would be interesting to read.

Regardless, there is still a consensus that CTR remains an important enough factor in SEO to put effort into Meta data. For those looking to improve their capabilities in writing Meta data, I’d recommend this article.

Deciding whether or not to use WWW in a URL

Over the past couple of days I’ve been deciding how to structure my blog URL. Prior to today I had two versions of my blog:


Although I obviously have just one blog, but to search engines these are actually two different sites. This presents problems for duplicated content and link building. For the former,  search engines don’t like duplicated content and with two variants of the site, it’s essentially duplicated perfectly. In terms of link building, you could waste efforts and not benefit from genuine links if they are targeting to the two different versions. I therefore went on a journey to build rationale to pick one of the two to keep.

Advantages of www variant:

  • Branding.  A lot of web users come to expect www as a prefix to a website, and when entering a URL into an address bar, will include the www subdomain.
  • Natural links. Usually when people organically link to you without being paid to do so (shock horror!) they’ll include the www subdomain.

Advantages of the non-www variant

  • Link building juice. My understanding of the search algorithms is that if you receive a link to this version of your site, Google will automatically credit the link equity to the www version of a site too.
  • Low char. The omission of the www. subdomain reduces the length of your links by four characters. On social networks, especially Twitter when you have a minimum amount of characters, this gives frees up more characters to use on Tweeting you!

With this in mind, I chose http://bowdeni.com . The rationale for this choice was the fact that the nature of my content is likely to be linked to on social networks. I’m at an early stage of running this blog and I believe there will be trend will be towards the non-www variant. I therefore added a canonical tag to my header on the blog as follows:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://bowdeni.com/" />

When search engines read this canonical tag, if there are any links to the www variant then it will credit the link equity to the non www variant. There is however a price. It seems that Google reduces link equity passed through a canonical tag, and it’s at the same level as a 301 redirect. To make everything watertight, I’ve 301’d it to the non variant anyway!

If I had a giant website such as the BBC where people will write out the www variant in links made , and I had a giant portfolio of links, then I’d keep the www variant. However my blog doesn’t have such a sparse portfolio of links (sad) and accordingly I can lever a bit more control over the link building.

I must confess that I had done a tiny bit of link building to my blog with the target URL being the www variant, so this very moment, I’m going to change all those backlinks where possible to ensure I don’t lose any link juice through the canonical tag or 301 redirects!

8 techniques for link building (Part One)

weblinkSEOmoz recently ran a webinar on linkbuilding, outlining 8 major different methods of linkbuilding. I thought I’d write a bit about them, and add my experience of using them. This is a two part post, the following  four further methods will be posted soon. 

1. Manual Link Submissions/ Requests

This technique refers to approaching relevant sites and either attempting to leave a link or approaching the webmaster to obtain one. I have used this technique a great amount buthaven’t gained many high quality using it. It is a pretty tedious method of link building too.

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The battle of transforming data into information

Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel

It is fast approaching two months I’ve been working as a SEO professional in digital marketing and there has been one constant theme, the usefulness of data. Rational decision making is limited by a lack of information and time, but by having knowledge and tools at hand, one can quite easily limit these bottlenecks.

At the SEOmoz Pro Training Seminar 2009 Excel was either referred to or used numerous times and reading some of the commentary about the two days, I wasn’t alone in feeling I need to improve my Excel skills. With some pivot tables, identifying the links your competitors have but you do not can take minutes instead of being a horrible laborious task.

One of my modules on my Master’s was quantitative research methods and it comprised of statistics. P values, confidence intervals, distribution models, regression models… all of that. It was the least enjoyable module I did at university but I worked hard and graded really well on it. Perhaps had I had a better understanding of SEM, I could have seen use for it and played around a little for the gain of digital marketing. I wasn’t a total stranger to Google Analytics when starting my job, but I hadn’t used it on any of my own websites. Google Analytics is really interesting and now it’s running on my sites.

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SEOmoz Pro Training London Seminar 2009

With just a few weeks of being a SEO professional, I was packing my bag and getting ready for the SEOmoz Pro Training London Seminar 2009. With little experience in SEO I was a little apprehensive since the course is geared at established professionals rather than newly starting juniors such as myself. It kicked off with some pretty hardcore Google Analytics data being exported into Excel. After that initial scare, I was very much at home.

The quality of the speakers was exceptional and what I learnt was invaluable. A particular highlight of mine was the guys from Conversion Rate Experts who gave an excellent presentation on (yes you guessed it) improving conversion rates. One of their clients included SEOmoz themselves and the results they had with them were quite impressive.

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A little introduction

Farewell Royal Holloway, time to start the working life

Farewell Royal Holloway

After a couple of days hunting, I’ve finally settled on a WordPress theme for my blog and accordingly now seems as good as time as any to introduce myself. In September 2009, after two business degrees I figured my time at university should come to an end and I should start contributing to UK GDP.

Just two weeks after completing my MA in European Business at Royal Holloway, I was very fortunate to get a job. With my academic background I could have taken the path of a management graduate scheme, but rather I’ve decided to start a career in digital marketing. I love it too much.

Digital marketing isn’t something covered a lot (if at all) at university in neither my marketing or advertising modules, so the learning curve can be steep. I could quite happily give a 30 minute presentation on the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU institutions, or the impact of institutional shareholding on different models of capitalism across the EU, but to ask me to give a 30 minute presentation on link building would present a challenge.

That’s why I’m working my way up from the bottom. Digital marketing is a passion for me, and knowing SEO well is  going to be an essential skill in my career. So let the fun begin.