A fellow Portlander, Scott has been kind enough to host my random SEO musings, so I’d figure I’d return the favor. :.)
1) Please give me your background and tell us what you do for a living.
I’ve spent the last 5 years as a competitive SEO building my own sites, living the SEO dream. No clients, no meetings, just traffic. It’s a great job, but stressful of course when 80% of your income is from Google. Since 2011 I’ve been building http://www.serps.com full-time. It’s an SEO-monitoring dashboard. It was originally an internal tool. My focus now is pretty much 100% on SERPs.com. I’ve divested most of my sites or signed partnerships so I haven’t run them anymore in the past year; I want to make sure I’m never in competition with our customers. By the end of 2012 I should only have mostly test sites left, which I think is important to keep a pulse on the algorithms.
2) What are Panda/Penguin and why should we care?
The animals, Panda/Penguin, are Google finally bringing out its big stick. For years they’ve spoken softly about enforcing their webmaster guidelines. Now they are enforcing them.
I think SEOs should care because it’s made their job much clearer in many ways. I think the choice of tactics should always rest in the client’s hands, and SEOs who are doing tactics outside Google’s guidelines need to disclose those to their clients.
Look, I don’t think that the SEO should be making these grey/white hat calls. Ultimately that’s a choice the client should be making. There’s too much risk now going outside the white area that it’s not a choice that good, quality SEOs should be making.
3) How can you tell how technically competent an SEO is?
Ask them how much they make from personal sites they run.
OK, that’s a bit unfair, but that would be my first question…if you’re so great at all this stuff, why aren’t you just building your own sites so you don’t have to deal with me all the time?
But you can’t hire those SEOs anyway, so what I would probably ask is that they give me a few case studies of sites they’ve worked on in the past few months and what tactics they did and what were the results. And I’d want hard-number answers.
If the first thing they lead with is rewriting the meta description tag, I probably won’t even listen to the rest of what they are saying. That type of SEO has its place, of course, but for goodness sakes give me something creative or higher-level right off the bat.
4) What value-add can an SEO get from software above and beyond analytics?
I think the best way to use SEO software is as a check on what your creative brain is implementing. Most automated recommendations generated by a lot of SEO software are crap for beyond the basic level.
Once you know a bit about what you’re doing, you don’t need software to tell you what to do – you need to be able to better measure what you’re already doing.
Websites are like snowflakes: each one is different. And you can’t take specific strategies and apply them across all websites; it’s just crazy to think like that in 2012.
So yeah, software should make a good SEO brain more efficient and make proving work to a boss or client super-easy so he/she can get back to work.
5) How important is social sharing in the Google Algorithm, and where do you see that trend headed?
I have no idea. I’ve been in a cave for five years, so this social stuff is fairly new to me. You have to think it’s going to continue to influence more and more, but when I look at competitive results I still see brand and links as the most influential factors.
6) Where do you see SEO evolving in the next 1-3 years?
I think 50% of crap SEO shops will be out of business in the next 18 months. The low-level stuff that many cheap shops were using to prop sites up is dead. Again, no moral judgment; that’s what the client was paying for (hopefully the client knew this). But I see SEO more driven by creative marketing and less by specific tactics.
Which is great if you’ve got a decent brain, right? Plus, I think this means that great SEOs are going to be paid more and more because they can deliver results without jeopardizing the long-term viability of a site.
I love SEO. I think it’s a fantastic creative profession that gets misaligned by some bad apples. And I’m not talking grey- or black-hat SEOs. It’s not those tactics that hurt SEO; it’s when those tactics are used on client sites without their knowledge or permission. That’s what hurts SEO’s reputation. Or SEOs who charge $500/month for a $30 article-blast and a shi*y report each month.
Oh yikes, I’m ranting…back to the question.
SEO will be thriving in 3 years. It’s not dying; in fact, you hear ‘SEO’ more and more in the mainstream media (I think I heard it twice on Shark Tank alone this year). Businesses know it’s important, and I think the industry has a bright future ahead.
– Todd Mintz, Senior SEM Manager