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# So, if everything is confidential,
how on earth does anyone learn to be an SEO?

Is there a special school for the chosen few?


". I could show you generic graphs that show search engine queries, traffic and conversions going in an upwards fashion in line with the time spent over their SEO campaign if you'd like?"

I was meaning the optimisation theories. EG if someone said that you should have no more than 2 H2 tags on a page, how would you test that?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 10:09, archived)
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You learn by either doing it yourself on your own projects and testing the various theories and practices that anyone with the time and inclination can read from the multitude of blogs and websites on the subject. And / or, like I did, you get a trainee position like I did and go from there.

I doubt many pages ever failed to rank because it had more than one H2 tag so I wouldn't bother myself too much with that to be honest. Problems with site architecture, repeated title and meta tags, duplicate content and other issues usually left behind by developers tend to be far more damaging to a site than semantics like that. How do I know without testing? Well, I've seen and fixed problems like these myself enough times and read enough from others who have had similar experiences to draw fairly solid conclusions. Probably not exactly the science you're after but then I'm not a statistical scientist, I just make website rank better.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 10:28, archived)
# .
"anyone with the time and inclination can read from the multitude of blogs and websites on the subject." - surely if the bloggers also have confidential information, it is not going to be on the blogs? You must admit there's some ridiculous theories on the blogs.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 10:37, archived)
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And that's why it's not as easy as you'd think to get it right first time, because there's a whole lot of bullshit out there. As you've found yourself, you've got to try different things... see what is right, see what is wrong, and see what is going to come back to bite you in the arse.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 10:39, archived)
# Why does there not seem to
be good trusted reference material out there, or a strong set of standards, as there would be in any other technical skill eg accessibility?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 10:43, archived)
#
Good question - I think it is, at least in part, because the "official" advice given by Google is largely contradictory to people's experiences of what actually works, especially when it comes to link building. So you've got a mixture of approaches, from the blackest of black hat hackers, through your cloakers and spammers through to your white night agencies that want to be best buddies with Google. I think this will probably only stop when Google or the search engine of the day manage to find an unspammable algorythm. I won't hold my breath.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 11:06, archived)
# Is personalised searching not going to be unspammable after
enough data has been harvested about a user?

"Google is largely contradictory to people's experiences of what actually works, especially when it comes to link building."

Does it not 'work' ultimately by cheating Google's aims. Google's advice is surely to tell you how to make sure that you rank for your chosen keywords.

They see it as their job to then rank in order of relevence, they aren't going to want to encourage people to try and cheat.

A side of SEO I do see as good is making sure that clients remember to do things like mention locations they work on the page, as they often forget, and so are missing out on lots of areas where they may be the most relevent.

Google's idea of SEO is surely this sort of thing?

SEO seems now to mean more to try and cheat the race, rather than just making sure that you start from the best vantage point.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 11:18, archived)
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Yeah but I care more about my client's aims than Google's aims. Google want you to rank where they want to rank you. My clients want to rank higher than that. Of course they aren't going to encourage people to do it.

Making sure you're targetting the locations you serve is just part of the initial keyword research and planning, that definitely should be a standard part of any SEO strategy!
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 11:23, archived)
# Is it not a sisyphian task?
Any methods to cheat are surely going to be found out if Google want to retain their reputation.

Would you not admit that 50% of doing well is down to this cheating side?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 11:32, archived)
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"Any methods to cheat are surely going to be found out if Google want to retain their reputation."

You'd think...

"Would you not admit that 50% of doing well is down to this cheating side?"

I wouldn't like to guess at an exact percentage but you just have to look at the link profiles of the top ranking sites for competitive keywords to know that "cheating" Google, when done right, can help you rank much better than just letting the cards fall where they may. Of course, do it wrong and you'll get shafted.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 11:55, archived)
# So you would use the verb
cheating to describe much of SEO?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 12:04, archived)
#
Not really, hence the quotation marks.

I'd call it competitive advantage.

Anyway that's more than enough for me for one day, sure we both have actual jobs to be getting on with.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 12:24, archived)
# .
"competitive advantage" - I had to look up the term, but "Competitive advantage is a position of a company in a competitive landscape that allows the company earning return on investments higher than the cost of investments. Competitive advantage should be relevant, unique, and sustainable."

I don't quite see how this relates.

"Sustainable", when all un-earned links are built on sand and "Unique", when link building is available to anyone.

Why aren't black hat techniques "competitive advantage"?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 12:32, archived)
# Would you then disagree with
Milt that it comes from having "very deep knowledge of very narrow and specific aspects of web development; deeper than most web developers", or do people not need a strong coding background?

www.b3ta.com/board/10098737
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 10:41, archived)
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I'd say, over time, you need to develop a

"very deep knowledge of very narrow and specific aspects of web development; deeper than most web developers"

that's what I've done, and I came into the job as a trainee having built a few sites in dreamweaver. Make of that what you will.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 10:54, archived)
# Could you give 3 examples
of a specific aspect of web development that you need to know deeper than most web developers?

"I came into the job as a trainee having built a few sites in dreamweaver." - depends if you used the code view to build them or not, I guess. Ultimately, SEO is about the code, not the look and feel.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 10:59, archived)
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Bits and bobs of both. I started constructing using the WYSIWYG interface and then got into fiddling with code to make changes that Dreamweaver was rubbish for.

I can't speak for most web developers but I'll give you the three problems caused or overlooked by devs I come up against most;

1. Duplicate content caused by different URL paths to the same page. This can usually be fixed by reviewing the navigation, redirects and / or canonicalisation.
2. Duplicate title or meta tags - this can kill a site but the amount of devs who are happy to just put the site name as the title of all pages is amazing. Same goes for the description tag.
3. Over reliance on flash, tables, on page CSS commands, java and all sorts of other goodies devs love to drop into the code.

Now I'm not saying that I'm a better coder in any of these departments than the majority of devs. I just tend to recognise their importance more than the developer who put them together first time round and take more care in making sure they're done right.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 11:18, archived)
# .
A dev who builds 2 and 3 is a bad dev. They need training.

However, do tables actually effect SEO, it's messy code for sure, but I've been told that's only an accessibility issue?

I felt Milt was more referring to the likes of the ability to configure server settings and implement these changes on difficult sites, rather than awareness of theory with things like duplicate tags (which is useful knowledge, but not technical knowledge).

If you could make a huge site built on a rickety CMS SEO-friendly (which I suspect is sometimes Milt's job from what he says), then that is a very skilled job.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 11:28, archived)
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Yeah I wouldn't argue that what I do is half as technical as the devs I work with. They'd laugh at me if I did. But there's still times they need to talk things through with me when they're doing development, just as I need to speak to them when I'm trying to develop a solution to a specific issue on a site.

Perhaps Milt was referring to other elements but I can only speak for myself :)
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 11:52, archived)
# But that goes straight back to my initial point
My post was unfair on people who can do all the tricky stuff like Milt. His skills are probably beyond mine, though he could laugh off my joke and wasn't piqued at all.

However, if someone is just selling the well known stuff such as not to duplicate title tags, then anyone can be an SEO.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 12:02, archived)
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If it's so well known why do I have to deal with it so ruddy often?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 12:12, archived)
# bad devs.
You don't get companies existing whose entire sales pitch is to fix work by bad builders. You get bad builders and good builders.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 12:27, archived)
# .
"I'd say, over time, you need to develop a
'very deep knowledge of very narrow and specific aspects of web development; deeper than most web developers'
that's what I've done"

"Yeah I wouldn't argue that what I do is half as technical as the devs I work with."

Isn't that contradictory?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 13:06, archived)
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No, it just means I'm still developing my own technical skills, and that the aspects that I do concern myself with (moreso than your average dev) are not necessarily that technical.

It seems to me that you consider that to mean that what I do is therefore worth less and I'm not sure you're ever going to be convinced otherwise.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 13:31, archived)
# But if
you need 'very deep knowledge of very narrow and specific aspects of web development; deeper than most web developers' then surely you can't work backwards to achieve this aim?

Otherwise, you have less skills then a web developer and thus fail the criterion of needing the 'very deep knowledge of very narrow and specific aspects of web development; deeper than most web developers'

Otherwise, you'd have to say that SEO requires considerably less deep development skills than a web developer, which is not what you said and not what Milt has successfully persuaded me that a good SEO needs.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 13:40, archived)
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It's simple. I work with narrow, specific aspect of web development.

I believe I know how these aspects should be used better than most web developers.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 14:06, archived)
# Please can you
confirm which specific aspect of web development this is.

What skills are required? As far as I can tell, this is what you do for your clients...

1) Tweak the code more or less according to the Google guidelines [performed once at the beginning of the project]. You might pass this work onto a developer, I do not know.
2) Link building by listing in many directories such as:
www.littlewebdirectory.com, uk.linkedin.com, www.0155.jp
www.whichwebdesigncompany.com, www.counterdeal.com
info.isearchclick.net, www.roask.com www.diverselist.com www.addurl.co.in www.addlink.co.in www.suggestlink.co.in www.webdiro.com www.getlistedrightnow.com www.hotfroguk.co.uk www.tamesidebusiness.co.uk www.fatinfo.com
[sign up taking less than 5 minutes per link]
3) Request reciprocal links sites from relevant sites.
4) Creating wordpress blog and show clients how to use it.
5) Forward free stats from google, explaining what they mean.

I am not aware of anything else. Books, blogs and the above posts I have read seem to confirm this.

I find it hard to see a level of education required for this work and in particular I can't see how this amount of work can justify the monthly fees.

If you could point me to aspects of your work where ability beyond this is required, then that is how you will persuade me otherwise.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 14:39, archived)
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Well you completely missed out any form of keyword research or mapping right there, which is pretty essential before you move on to any of that stuff.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 14:52, archived)
# Again, there are simple tools for
keyword research, and is relevant to anyone.

Keyword mapping increases the time taken in the initial cost of optimising a site (if the site is particularly large), but why should someone then pay a premium monthly fee when this should be done in a single go, especially if it is a static site?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 15:01, archived)
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Yep, everyone has access to the keyword tool... mind you, most people don't even know to turn broad match off to get an accurate number figure, let alone how to use it to determine the best keywords for a given page on their site.

If it's a static site then yeah you'd hope to get the keyword mapping right first time but business aims can change over time, and keywords with them. Other than that you might find you overreached yourself with your original targets and go back and refine them further. But yeah, keyword mapping shouldn't be the major focus in the ongoing work, unless it very active site with content changing on a regular basis.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 15:21, archived)
# Again, I have no problem
with reasonable initial costs.

It is the on-going side of it which I feel there isn't much skill in.

Could you break down what is involved in the work clients get for a monthly fee?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 15:43, archived)
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Not really, we charge an hourly fee budgeted to whatever the client is happy to spend. We only set a fee for the setup as that will take a finite amount of time, wheras we can do as much or as little monthly work for the client as they need or are happy to pay for - although obviously the more work we do, the more of an effect we can have. The hourly fee is the same as we charge for dev work, we don't discriminate. It's probably multiples of what you'd charge but then that's just the difference between agencies and freelancers in any profession.

So, we'll have a set number of hours to work on a client so we'll often have to prioritise at the start of the month what needs doing - if there's been some new products or content adding we'll make a point of ensuring it's all in order and the right keywords are on there. If the site's remained static we'll work on link building - sometimes just carrying on trying to improve rankings for the clients main phrases, or we might target some specific pages to help a client promote a particular item, for example. In some cases we work purely on a consultancy level regarding on site work, so we have to spend that time guiding the client's developers through any work that needs doing.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:47, archived)
# As long as the client is aware of what they are getting
for their fee, and understand why things are being done, then an hourly fee actually seems far fairer than most I've come across.

So, fair enough.

Going to bow out of the debate now, as it's rather too time consuming.

And I never even got on to ranting about the sheer amount of spam I get from people asking for text links and link building scams...
(Although I suspect that no one is going to come on here and admit to sending them)
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 10:20, archived)
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"It seems to me that you consider that to mean that what I do is therefore worth less and I'm not sure you're ever going to be convinced otherwise."

I don't know what you do - you rarely give examples. If you can point to work which is as skilled as the work Milt seems to do, fair enough.

If, however, you cannot, then my original point stands that the skill base is very small.

I have conceded loads of points to Milt - so I am able to be convinced by a convincing argument. You seem to just fall into the logical traps of Special Pleading and Straw Men.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 13:45, archived)
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Okay I have a question for you.

How do you think you'd do, working as an SEO? Do you think your current knowledge and skill base covers everything?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 14:10, archived)
# I'm scared off by the link building side.
If I wasn't, then I do believe my knowledge and skill base covers everything (in your definition of an SEO, not Milt's)

I have read books on SEO as that is how I would learn a new development skill. If you don't think this is enough, what are the available books missing?

The fact that the books are so sparse on knowledge in an area which has existed for ten years suggests to me that there is not much more to learn.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 14:44, archived)
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And when you consider that, at the end of the day, an SEO (or at least the amount they're worth paying) is judged by the rankings he or she has achieved and maintained in the past, what level do you think you'd enter at?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 15:07, archived)
# As I mentioned earlier
I believe it should be performance related pay if it is going to be judged on rankings alone.

You know the industry better than me, so what skills do you think I'd be lacking from books and blog research?

I'm not arguing that I am better at SEO than you, or that you don't get results. I'm sure you do. I'm just interested that people seem to suggest there is a big skill base in the monthly cost side of it, then not pointing me towards what any of these skills lie.

If I had you and someone else come in and pitch to me, and the other person was a fraud, what questions should I be asking to tell you apart?
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 15:41, archived)
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"You know the industry better than me, so what skills do you think I'd be lacking from books and blog research?"

I can only go from the work I can see from your site, and really I think all you're lacking really is experience. There's some rooky errors going on that won't effect the site's performance all that much but kind of explain why very few of them have particularly good rankings right now.

I know you weren't arguing who's best, and that wasn't my intention, I just wanted you to think about why your sites aren't ranking when other sites, most likely handled at sometime or another by someone who calls themselves an "SEO", are ranking well. Could it be that they're doing something you aren't? And wouldn't the know how to do that be worth paying good money for? I think so. The problem comes when you get people selling the service without the know how to back it up, which leads us on to...

"If I had you and someone else come in and pitch to me, and the other person was a fraud, what questions should I be asking to tell you apart?"

That's a really good question. I'd consider the following...

- do they offer any guarantees, and on what basis? if it sounds to good to be true, it is
- they should discuss with you the keyword targets / target group rather than dictate what they're going to be
- watch out for phrases like "ranked in 48hrs" or "we'll submit you to 1000 search engines"
- ask them about their techniques... if i was talking to you in person i'd be much less cagey than i am being on this here public bulletin board, and any decent SEO will be happy to talk you through what they'd do
- can they take the work away? i worked for a company once that would actually reinstate the non-optimised version of your site if you stopped paying the monthly fee! Fuck THAT for a bag of chips - i didn't stay for long.
- ask to see work and rankings for existing clients... again, they'll be less cagey in person and if they refuse to show you anything then it's probably not a good sign
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:36, archived)
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In other news, I see you did some of the games for the computers episode of Look Around You. I'll happily concede that that is fucking awesome.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:09, archived)
# I use a text editor for everything and have built software for major automotive companies
as well as a number of corporate websites before I became an SEO.

I also wrote some crackingly bad caravan sites as a trainee web developer - www.bancroftleisure.co.uk/

Back then I used tables to lay our content. What was I thinking? Well, I guess I was probably thinking that the different browsers were shite, but also that I was a lazy toad.

I can look back at this kind of bedroom web design and, rather than shame, I realise that I should not ridicule those who are not good, because we all shit our pants at some point.
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 10:55, archived)