Where do you find SEO expertise?Date: May 8, 2013
Category: Author: David Hall
We see this happening at dental meetings, or sometimes it comes from spam e-mail. An SEO “expert” offers you his services and starts by evaluating your website. I got a call from a client after February’s Chicago Midwinter Meeting. Let’s call the client Dr. Doe. Some SEO guy who was exhibiting at the dental meeting had really slammed Dr. Doe’s website. This SEO guy gave him a list of three or four things that his current SEO company (Infinity Dental Web) was not doing, and if Dr. Doe would just switch, the new guy would fix it all.
Fortunately, the dentist had enough good sense and enough trust in us to call me and share what the SEO guy said so I could respond. First on the list was that his website had no meta keywords tags. “Dr. Doe,” I said, “meta keywords tags went out in the 90s. The search engines have been stating publicly for years that they completely ignore those.” When I first started doing SEO, which was in 1996, high on the list was to use these meta keywords tags to tell the search engines the search terms you wanted to rank for. But then people would stuff these tags full of all kinds of high traffic search terms, whether or not they related to the content on the page, and they became useless to the search engines. Dr. Doe went on with a couple of other things that the SEO guy had said, and we explained our strategy and why the SEO guy was wrong and we were doing the right things for him.
To wrap up the conversation, I reminded Dr. Doe that he was getting great traffic – approaching 1500 unique visitors per month. And in February he had 40 calls from his website, which gives him a phenomenal return on investment. It wouldn’t be too smart to change strategies when what we’ve been doing for him has been working so well.
I deal with this subject in my lecture that I give to some dental groups about SEO. How do you tell whether or not an SEO “expert” knows what they are talking about? There are red flags that tell you that they’re scamming you – claiming to have inside information about Google because they have former Google employees working for them or some other connections, predictions of the future, trumpeting outdated SEO techniques, and several other claims that raise red flags. But the best way to tell is from their results. What kinds of rankings do they get for their clients? What kind of traffic do their websites get?
To illustrate this, this morning I was visiting the website dentistryiq.com. This is a high traffic website for dentists. Based on their Alexa rank, I’m guessing they have over 100,000 visitors per month. One of their current headline articles is titled SEO Strategies for Dentists. It’s written by a dentist from Toronto who presents himself as a dental marketing and SEO expert. While he has some useful points, he is off base on some of his recommendations. First, he slightly overemphasizes the importance of keyword research. Don’t misunderstand – keyword research is important, but it’s not the number one factor in strong performance. Second, he makes a serious misstatement by claiming that Google does not rank websites but rather ranks web pages. He is about three years out of date on that one. One of the top factors Google’s algorithm since 2010, by their own statements, is the strength of the website.
So I thought I’d check his credentials as an expert – in other words, his results. His website has an Alexa traffic rank of just over 21 million – close to the bottom of the barrel. I checked his home page, and the primary search terms being targeted by that home page are Toronto dentist and downtown Toronto dentist. For Toronto dentist, his website ranks in the middle of page 4, which makes it, for all practical purposes, invisible. For the longer tail search term (which he trumpeted in his article), downtown Toronto dentist, he ranks #10, just below the 7-pack. Pretty poor for a search term that gets less than 4% of the clicks of Toronto dentist and has low competition. It appears to me that you’d be best off not listening to this guy. He did get a couple of links for his article, but in the links, he used the anchor text technique which Google began penalizing with the Penguin update last year.
The bottom line on this? There is a lot of misinformation floating around about SEO. It’s a mysterious subject to start with because the search engines don’t say much about what works because they don’t want you to be able to manipulate their algorithms. And the field is complicated by people who, for their own self interest are trying to appear to be experts. To protect yourself, watch for the red flags and check their results.
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