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SEOs Do Your Homework

One of the good things about the modern social web is the associated ease of communication with distant colleagues… people who do similar work, but with whom I would not otherwise communicate. Professional associations and meetings used to enable such connections. Today meetings bring us the face-to-face aspect of professional relationships, but  we largely make our connections ourselves, online.

Older generations would probably misunderstand an incoming email from a stranger that was on topic, specific, and interesting. I find it enriching. Lately, however, I wonder how many professional SEO practitioners actually do their homework. It’s not wise to talk specifics here, but consider the case of the exact-match, premium domain name deployed for search marketing such as lead-generation.

An SEO emails me with evidence and comments about the significant extra power Google is granting exact-match domains these days.  The exact-match site sits at #1 in Google for a very competitive search query, known to be a target of some very dedicated (and expensive) SEOs, funded by seriously aggressive businesses. How can one compete with that, if there can be only one exact-match .com domain?

With one look at the site, I noticed a very nice implementation of a modern content SEO strategy I use myself inmy work as an SEO consultant. Nicely done, I thought to myself. I didn’t even check the back links because I would rather look at the #2 and #3 sites. Given the content strategy at work in the #1spot, the status of #2 and #3 might tell me more of the story than a back link analysis. Sure enough, both #2 and #3 are old-school (circa 2007) content strategies.

I write “old school” partly in jest,  but I am serious. It’s not so much that I expect the SEO to have evolved so far that 2007 methods are easily recognized as “old school”, but that difference in this case is really quite obvious. Anyone looking at #1 would notice the difference. Non-marketers would even remark about how different the content is on the #1 site, compared to #2 and #3.

The SEO really needs to do hir homework.  That SEO home work is not “learn the latest content strategy from active SEO communities like the private forums” (although that would be a valuable move for any SEO today), but rather pay attention to the ranking sites. Anyone would notice the difference in content between these sites I looked at this morning. An SEO should not only notice the difference, but wonder about it, ponder it, and be enlightened by it. We marketers look at web content differently than “regular people” do. We study keyword spaces. We see things regular people don’t see.
I think that any thinking SEO who didn’t already know about this particular content strategy would recognize it and learn it quickly from this query/SERP. THAT is the SEO homework. Pay attention to the SERP. Don’t be blinded by some internal belief system (“the exact match domain is all-powerful”), but rather look objectively and see what is there before applying SEO assumptions.

In this case, as in many others I have seen, the exact-match premium domain is icing on the cake but not the recipe for success. The content would have done extremely well on a lesser domain. I think back links could have made up any difference.

I consult to several premium generic domains and the irony is not lost on me – the greatest value that premium domain may bring to the extremely competitive keyword space is the mythical barrier it represents to SEOs who don’t do their homework. Bravo, I say. Bravo!


  1. Ed wrote:

    John – What the heck does modern (2008) content strategy supposed to mean? :)
    Kind of a odd thing to say without elaborating on it.

    What is the difference?

    @Ed: not really… it’s not something you learn from reading SEO blogs, which tend to “reveal” what used to work.

    Monday, November 24, 2008 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  2. Affan Laghari wrote:

    Observation is what made Isaac Newton different from the other 100,000 guys who had seen apples fall from trees.

    Monday, November 24, 2008 at 5:01 pm | Permalink
  3. “Anyone would notice the difference in content between these sites I looked at this morning.”

    So you dont want to out them, I can understand that. But elaborating on exactly what the difference is between the 2-3 websites would be great!

    Some sort of examples.

    @jaan that’s the homework part, and the point. It’s not that I don’t want to “out” them… they have done nothing wrong. But nobody wins when SEOs post details or even examples of current SEO strategies that work, except SEOs in the business of building hungry audiences or selling make-money tools, or perhaps “White Hat SEOs” who need to satisfy their clients.

    Monday, November 24, 2008 at 6:51 pm | Permalink
  4. patrick wrote:

    Guess y’all will have to wait until someone provides you the answer key…Or, you could do your homework and educate yourself.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  5. I think that difference isn´t!

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  6. Good post.Getting the SEO done right from the beginning is not that simple.To get top rankings at the search engines you need to know exactly what you are doing.

    Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Permalink