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?

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November 24th, 2008 by john andrews

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 seobook.com 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!

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November 22nd, 2008 by john andrews

It’s Good Content, but is it “real”? Do you care?

The New York Times online is on a roll. I’m reading it again. Good writing, good stories, good photography, and (gasp!) hyperlink to other web sites! But as I admired this piece on a little foodie in New York City, I started to wonder. What kind of journalism is this now? Great photo. It tells a story. It’s actual photojournalism, which is so rare on the web. Then again… wait a sec… it’s a staged photo!

The story of a young boy in New York going on his own to a salumaria and sampling the offerings as a food critic… great story; very NY. And that photo! The lighting.. the faces… the movement of the server’s hand, the reflection from the window pane. Awesome photo… my only problem is, the photo credit is Michael Appleton… award winning photojournalist. There is no way he was there the day this story took place. So this must be a re-creation. A staged photo.

[Update: As Lea notes in the comments, the caption of the photo now says “on a subsequent visit to the Salumeria..”  I’ll gladly assume I missed that the first time, although the page is NOARCHIVE so I can’t look back to see if it was updated. It says the story was in the print edition November 17, 2008, on page A23 of the New York edition in case it matters. If I did miss that, much of this post is irrelevant…erroneous…. and so for now, I’m removing it. If it was changed, well, that’ll be a story for another day.

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November 20th, 2008 by john andrews

Yahoo GLUE Mashup

Another example… search engines need your content. What price do you set? See Yahoo! Glue Beta.

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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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