An SEO Christmas Carol

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carol_smallADOTAS – During lunch the other day, one of our newer SEO team members of the agency asked why we don’t cut corners or outsource. At the previous firm where he worked, the company outsourced most of its search marketing work.

I explained that search engine marketing is a core competency for our company. Our agency has a strong industry reputation for doing the job well. I then proceeded to share one of my favorite stories – “An SEO Christmas Carol.”

It was Christmas Eve and Richard Sears was tracking his revenue on an app from his jail-broken iPad. Sears was a greedy and stingy businessman. Seven years earlier, his business partner Alvah Roebuck had passed away. Sears had no place in his life for kindness, compassion, or charity. For years he had ripped customers off by adding $5 handling fees even though he dropped-shipped most of his merchandise.

While playing Angry Birds for more than an hour, Sears was warned by Roebuck’s ghost that he had to change his SEO ways or he would suffer a -40 penalty. Sears ignored the warning as his iPad slipped below 20% battery life.

As the day turned to night, Richard Sears was visited by three additional ghosts that accompany him to various scenes with the hope of achieving his SEO transformation.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

This ghost visited Sears to remind him of the many questionable techniques Sears employed to get his website well-ranked. The ghost pointed to doorway pages and cloaking techniques. The ghost showed him the multitude of links he bought from offshore companies that had no relevancy to his site’s content.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Sears through many recent algorithm changes and updates. He takes Sears back to December 2009 when Google integrates Twitter to its organic listings.

In April Google announced officially page speed had become a ranking factor. Saving money on cheap $4.95 a month shared hosting was a warning bell that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there and so will Google.

In what became known as the Mayday Update, the ghost of Christmas Present shows Sears how many internet retailers lost 10, 20, 30 or 40% of their traffic over a 3 day period in May because they had focused particularly on head terms as a result of antiquated SEO optimization techniques such as keyword density and keyword frequency.

Not a month later, the ghost shows Sears how with the Caffeine update – Google is looking for fresh content and why a blog is no longer a nice to have but a requirement.

Two months later Google introduces yet another SEO change called Realtime Search. This update organizes social updates such as tweets, as well as news, blogs, and articles, in reverse chronological order so you quickly see how the conversation is developing for a subject. Furthermore, people can refine results according to a geographical location.

Google introduced Instant Search in September and Instant Previews in November. In short — this helps SEOs understand root terms and tail terms by seeing results as a person types. With Instant Previews Google presented a magnifying glass that allows visitors to preview a website without visiting the previewed site. Previewing without clicking could provide Google with a quality signal of usefulness and relevancy.

The ghost of Christmas Present parted from Sears with the mention of Bing’s growth and how Bing now serves organic search results for Yahoo! He advised Sears must pay attention to Bing with its combined 25% market share.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

The final ghost tells him that search is continuing to change and he shows him dire visions of the future that include an empty mall parking lot and store. The ghost explains that local, mobile and social will get hotter in 2011.

The ghost tells him that Google announced a change in October where it moved Marrisa Mayer, former VP of Search Products and User Experience, to leading the company’s Location and Local Services. In the announcement Google stated, “Marissa is moving over to an exciting new role covering geo/local, which is crucial to our users and the future of Google.”

As a demonstration of the impact of local and mobile, the ghost shows Sears how Foursquare works and discusses how Facebook recently launched a check-in feature. With Twitter also integrating location-based SEO ranking signals, the integration of local, mobile and social is here.

On Christmas morning Richard Sears awoke with joy and love in his heart. The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come helped Sears understand the fundamentals of natural search engine optimization. Sears spent the day with his nephew’s Kmart family after anonymously sending an iPad to the Crachit home for Christmas dinner.

I explained how Sears became a different SEO overnight. Today he treats his optimized web pages with validated HTML and CSS, uses more sophisticated techniques to attract quality long tail traffic, and has started implementing integration of local, mobile, and social. Sears gained a positive brand reputation as a search engine marketer who embodies the spirit of a white hat SEO.

I turned to my fellow staffer and asked him what he thought of the SEO Christmas Carol. His response? “Bah! Humbug! Who would give an iPad without a $100 iTunes card?”

Note: The names Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck are purely fictional and have no reference to anyone in real life.

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