John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?  Competitive Web & SEO
October 20th, 2006 by john andrews

A day in the Life of an SEO Scam Artist

It’s not that late (almost 2am) but as I am feeling a bit tired today I’ve poured a glass of wine and set back from the monitors to write this post. I just read yet-another-non-seo complaining about SEO as a field of scam artists. Yawn. It was a copy writer, no less. And one who works in SEO, no less. Yawn.

If there was any truth to the claims that SEOs don’t really perform and are just a bunch of sales people pushing mystical snake oil, why do we have so much work? I didn’t say contracts, but actual work. Well, let me try and answer that. I will pull from my daily experiences (today, even) and from the items currently scattered around my desk – active client projects.

Let’s start with the copy that I wrote today. Most of it was not written by copy writers. However, some of it was. And some of it was written by former NY Times editors, current English professors, and an author. All of it needed to be re-written. Am I a brilliant author, credentialed editor, or artful copy writer? Sure I am. And I am an SEO. And I had to re-write every one of these things to make them sensible to the web audiences they were intended to serve.

Think that’s just my ego talking? Think again. Upon review of my editing, everyone agreed it was better, and they don’t even know how to evaluate the copy for it’s SEO utility. Still think SEOs are scam artists? Next time, instead of waiting 3 weeks and paying 4 figures for copy, check with your SEO to see if you really need it to be that way. It’s not magic or mysticism… it’s not-common-enough sense. The content has to navigate the keyword universe such that it places the message in context, supports the sales or conversion goals of the web PAGE, and satisfies the search engine’s requirements for relevance. I’m an SEO, and that is my job.

Now lets move to the web design work I did today. I love designers. They know how to create what they see in their visual imaginations. I have a great visual imagination – I know exactly what I want. But I can’t create it. They can and do create and I marvel at their skills. And then they go and start turning those comps into HTML markup and I want them to simply GO AWAY. Designers should design, ok? Not code, and not convert their visuals into markup. Leave that to the coders (and me), because otherwise, like I did today, I will have to redo it all.

And the page design work? What is this sub title for? And this one? It looks like a breadcrumb, but not exactly. It’s light gray. It’s a generic word. WHY IS THIS HERE? No one knows. Three months of committee work to get approvals on the web pages, WHICH HAVE ALREADY BEEN CONVERTED TO MARKUP, and yet not one person can tell me why these meaningless, generic, non-nyperlinked, barely-visible subtitles are on every page. I am willing to bet that someone, who goes unidentified, put that in there “for SEO” and is now unwilling to admit it. Well, funny thing is, if you have already approved the presence of that extra line of text, and no body knows why it is there, I can change it to whatever I want, right? Maybe put some relevant keyword-rich hierarchical references there, or (gasp!) actual breadcrumbs? H2 hasn’t even been used yet. If only I had enough keywords…

Which brings me to the keyword research I had to do today. Magic? No, I just used Word Tracker and Overture plus a few trips back and forth to the search engines and traffic logs, as any monkey could have done. And of course as I worked I framed everything using my a-priori knowledge of this market’s keyword space (since I have considerable experience and yes, expertise in this market) so that every judgement I exerted upon these projects was sound. That’s my job. I’m the SEO.

Oh, did I mention those traffic logs weren’t actually available? Yeah, and that’s why I was doing sysadmin work today, too. You see, CRON jobs only run if the cron table entries are properly formatted. Otherwise, the entries will just sit there yet the jobs won’t actually be run. And your logs won’t actually rotate. And your current log will only reflect a few days or data, JUST LIKE IT DID THE LAST TIME YOU PAID ME TO ASK TO SEE IT. All that historical data which was supposed to be there since the sysadmin was charged with configuring logrotate 3 MONTHS AGO, isn’t there today, either. But it will be tomorrow, because I micro managed the fix today. That, too was part of my job as SEO. Now watch me pull a rabbit out of this hat…nothing up my sleeve…PRESTO!

Where did that wine glass go? Okay, so enough about ME, how was your day?

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October 19th, 2006 by john andrews

Pick your Poison: An SEO at the Pub

In suburban America in the 80’s, everyone had a home bar, and everyone wanted to know everyone else’s drink. You wanted to be able to take a guest aside to the bar and serve him what he liked…make him feel special. The town hall people, the lawyer down the street, the cardiologist that gave out free advice, and of course the ice cream company district manager living next door. I was just a teenager but sometimes running to the Local Liquor Store for somebody’s favorite Tanguerey, or Jim Beam, or Canadian Club was *the* critical task of the day.

You know who you are

Nowadays SEO people meet at bars and restaurants, but they still drink, and that aside meeting is still where the SEO action takes place at major conferences. Oh, sure the sales action and intros largely take place on the conference floor and exhibit hall, but the SEO action is at the bar.

In this case the lawyer has been swapped out for a domain guru or semantics expert, the town hall guy has been replaced by the link meisters and directory kings, and the ice cream salesman? Well, let’s just say that these days he’s selling luncheon meat.

The question remains: What do you drink?

If you go to seo pubcons and the like, name your drink. I’ll start:

A black & tan, or a 2x Jameson straight up with an ale on the side.

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October 17th, 2006 by john andrews

Competitive Pressures: Keeping up with the Spammers & Googlers

I’m always looking for ways to motivate myself to compete, because it is that competitive work done in an emotional, driven fury that pays off year after year as dividends (residual income). The daily grind brings in the bread, yes, but the bi-weekly checks from activity on sites built over a few frantic days of go,go,go! completed long ago… well that sugar is sweetest of all. If you’ve ever been to Brazil and eaten the bananas or mangos or pineapples, you will agree that some sugars are definitely sweeter than others.

So I have decided I will try and keep up with the spammers. I process upwards of 800 emails per day on most days. Of those, about 400 are actual information (the rest are automated reports, security status indicators, and the like). Of those 400, it seems that about 100 or so are spam. No, I don’t use a spam filter (I can’t afford to… the spam filters block too many of my automated reporting scripts).

So I will now set a goal of working “at least as hard as the spammers”. That means I have to generate at least 100 new items of information per day, to keep up. That’s probably going to be 10-20 pieces of unique content. Ten to twenty pieces of feedback, commentary, or announcements. Ten or so bits of meaningful internal communications to sustain my business, and about 50 thoughtful emails. That’s just an estimate.

Just to make sure I am not actually becoming like the spammers, I will exclude from the count all ThreadWatch activity, all simple “approval” or “consent” emails, all SEO forum activity, and any other non-work-related bits. That way no one should tell me that my stuff is just spam because I’m on a kick to meet a quota (no one who knows me, at least).

I should be able to keep that up for a few weeks at least. A nice competitive push towards the holiday season. Of course my other competitor is Google, but with Google managers spending a mere 25% of their time communicating with their people, and dining on avocado wrapped in fennel cake, topped with chocolate chips, I am not too concerned.

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John Andrews is a mobile web professional and competitive search engine optimzer (SEO). He's been quietly earning top rank for websites since 1997. About John




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