Full disclosure: I responded to a HARO per “tips to succeed in SEO/SEM.” I probably run the risk of ruining the HARO (I have not heard back yet) but I took several hours to think through and answer the questions. Plus, SEO/SEM is a passion of mine since 1996. So, I will go ahead and post. I am happy to take down if the story is a go. Cheers. Chris Kovac
Your “claim to fame” in a short sentence.
Professional online and search engine marketing since 1996.
What are your top five tips to achieve great SEO?
1) Networking – Search engines often change the rules (or algorithms) on how they rank a Web site. It is important to network with fellow search marketers to keep up on how the industry is changing. There are a number of discussion forums, blogs and other sites where you can engage your fellow search marketers. My networking tool of choice is Twitter, because you can engage your peers on a 1:1 basis.
2) Attend conferences – There are a number of quality search marketing conferences. I recommend Search Engine Strategies (SES) and SMX. Usually the speakers and panelists are the leading thought leaders within search marketing and provide timely information and advice that can help you achieve great SEO results. Attendees are usually willing to share their thoughts and experiences and most everyone is approachable. It is also a great way to connect informally with your peers at the social events.
3) Test your theories – I encourage search marketers to test and retest your search marketing theories. Part of search marketing is experimenting and then focusing on what is working. With advancements in tracking capabilities, it is easy to set up a simple tracking code to test the results of your search marketing campaigns. I often start with a “shotgun” approach and then refine the campaign to a targeted, “rifle” approach.
4) Stay white-hat – Don’t give into the temptation to try to “spoof” the search engines with link baiting or other “black-hat” tactics. More often than not, you will succeed in generating high rankings until your site/s gets blacklisted and removed entirely from the search engines.
5) Track your campaigns – Before the campaign starts, develop campaign objectives that are measureable and that you can test against. There are a number of ways to track a search marketing campaign. The best practice is to use a tag-based analytics provider. Then you can not only track the visitors to your site, you can also track their behavior and ROI.
What are the three biggest mistakes in terms of their SEO activities?
The three biggest mistakes I see SMEs make include:
1) Beginning a SEO initiative in the middle (or near the end) of a Web site development project. This means significantly more work to: revise the copy after the fact to ensure it is search engine friendly, rename the URLs with relevant keywords, create SEO-friendly Header tags, create relevant Alt text and most importantly, increase the link relevancy or Page Rank on Google.
2) Failure to stay current with SEO best practices. As previously mentioned, it is important to stay current with SEO best practices and how the search engines are changing the way they rank a Web site. This mistake is easy to resolve by subscribing to enewsletters, going to conferences and talking with your peers in search marketing.
3) Finally, not tracking the success or ROI of the search engine campaign still seems to be somewhat common. There are a number of ways to set up campaign analytics. One of the best known (and free) tools is Google Analytics.
How would you explain SEO and SEM to somone who has never encountered either before?
I explain to clients and internal staff that SEO and SEM are just tools in the marketing toolbox. SEM (aka paid search) is a cost-per-click model, meaning you only pay when a user actually clicks on your search engine text ad. SEM is best for driving specific actions, like a purchase or signing up for an enewsletter.
SEO is a longer process to make a Web site achieve high rankings in the search engines for free or “organic” listings. SEO is a good strategy to increase awareness and drive qualified traffic to your Web site, even if they are in the information gathering stage of the sales cycle.
How should business people identify and choose their search advisors/consultants?
I recommend utilizing referrals when trying to find a solid, professional search adviser/consultant. There are so many companies that say they are search experts, but I have found that most are far from being proficient. I would also ask prospective search professionals to provide examples of successful campaigns, case studies and the methodology for developing a search campaign. Finally, previous experience in the industry/category is also a big plus, as this will reduce the learning curve.
What can search really do for a business? Do you have any examples?
Integrated search marketing can be one of the most powerful marketing tools for a number of reasons. The primary benefit is the ability to drive qualified traffic to your Web site that results in an action by the end user. That action can be a lead, sale or even drive call center volume. Often times a solid search engine campaign will produce ROI that will rival any other marketing tactic.
We have a number of successful SEO case studies. I am more than willing to share the results.
What’s in store for search in the near future?
I think in the near-future we will see “virtual personal assistants” that will understand how we search for information and will facilitate that search. The “assistant” will remember every search term we have ever searched for, the Web pages we have visited and the formats of information that we are most interested in. Specifically, those formats could include: text, audio/video and photos. I also think the search assistant will be integrated into our computers, mobile telephones, car navigation and even our home appliances.
Which search resources would you recommend that business people read/follow about SEO/SEM?
There are a number of resources that business professionals can follow to stay at the forefront of SEO/SEM. I recommend sites like: Searchenginewatch.com, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization – SEMPO.com, Searchengineland.com, MarketingProfs.com and blogs by Danny Sullivan.
DM me on Twitter (@chriskovac) if you are interested in discussing.