More articles by John McCarthy
Confessions of an SEO Snob
ADOTAS – Since 2000 I’ve championed, lead or sold SEO services. Technically I started in 1999 but honestly I really had no idea what I was doing my first year. My SEO knowledge blossomed in 2000 when I met a guy named Bruce Clay. I was a VP at a mortgage company and Bruce took me under his wing and showed me the basics of SEO.
Tuesdays with Morrie… I Mean Bruce
We spent many afternoons talking about things like Titles and Meta Tags (they meant something back then). After exceeding my goals yet spending 32% of my budget, I was gracefully kicked to the curb by this now defunct mortgage company. Yes, I was bitter then but I am grinning ear-to-ear now.
When One Door Closes, Another Opens
While trying to find my next gig, Bruce hired me on a part-time basis. There I performed a number of tasks including documenting the SEOToolSet®, very cool technology developed by Bruce that included highly specialized tools such as single and multi-page keyword density analyzers.
Wax On, Right Hand. Wax Off, Left hand.
This was the perfect job for me to learn even more SEO. I spent days running every tool and documented the input and output with screenshots and typed instructions for every step. By the end of this assignment, I think I knew more about SEOToolSet than anyone. Later I went on to work full-time for Bruce (I believe I was employee #5 or close to it) and worked with brands such as Anthony Robbins, Carnegie Mellon, Edmunds, MTV, and Teleflora.
During this time I developed new services such as the SEO Site Assessment and SEO Consulting Services. I also led the development of the SEO Jump Start Program — a great program that enables SEOs and small businesses to quickly identify, prioritize, and apply the highest and best value SEO techniques to their websites.
I created these SEO services primarily out of the experiences I learned at trade shows such as Search Engine Strategies. With my Dell laptop in hand, my role for two to three days at the trade shows was to sit at a tiny little round table and diagnose the SEO issues and determine within 10-15 minutes why a website was not achieving its ranking goals.
Of course some very large sites took much longer than 10-15 minutes, but it was in these mini site audits where I really honed my SEO skills. You learn a lot and very quickly by auditing 20-30 websites a day. In particular you learn how to zero in on things that apply specifically to SEO and ignore things that don’t.
Since joining WebMetro in 2006, my expertise in SEO has grown deeper, involving a lot of new techniques and updated methods. Except for a link analysis tool (to appreciate PageRank, Anchor Text, IP address) and a server tool (to evaluate server behaviors such as redirects and speed), today I don’t typically rely on tools to help me understand a website. By looking at a site I can tell what needs to be addressed based on my SEO experience.
I Am a Snob. An SEO Snob!
This background info about me is not to tell you how great I am at SEO. In fact, there are several SEOs much better than me, including a couple guys that work with me — but just don’t tell them I told you. The reason I tell you this story is because after 10 years, I just realized I am a snob. An SEO snob.
A few months back I developed a business relationship with a company that caters to large brands with interactive services that include SEO. My contact sent me an email proudly boasting their work on a recent project. I visited their site and noticed the recent work as a case study and started reading. I was impressed. The case study featured a lot of work including strategy, design, content management system (CMS) integration, and of course SEO.
I immediately queried the client name in Google and visited the site. Google displayed the company as the third listing. Odd, I thought – why would a site be listed third for its own brand name? I then began a mini site audit like I learned years ago. In a matter of 30 seconds, I went from feeling impressed to…I’ll just say, less than impressed. The site did not address the complex SEO issues of Site Architecture and Page Construction. It missed several of the “easy” issues like server canonicalization and transferring link equity via redirects.
My website development experience suggests this site probably cost several hundred thousand dollars. I estimate this price because the CMS alone begins at $50,000 for the enterprise version and this is for the software — not the implementation. If you add in strategy, design, CMS customization, development, backend integration and SEO as referenced in the case study, this client likely paid $300,000 to $500,000.
Enter the SEO Snob
It really bothers me when professionals promote their work as good, especially when their work-product is unacceptable. If I was to assess this overall work on a scale of 1-10, I would say this overall work (not just a day’s work) is a 5. My scale is a lot like PageRank in that it factors experience with expectations. If someone is dabbling in SEO and they produced this type of work — I would say it wasn’t bad but would still rate it a 5. But this wasn’t the case.
This established company works with some of the largest U.S. brands. Again, I am rating the work a 5, but I am borderline appalled as a result of factoring experience with expectations.
So, I guess I am a snob — an SEO snob. I didn’t think I would ever say that about myself — but it is true. Quality is important to me and I expect a similar level of quality from my peers.
Do you feel the same way? Are you a search engine marketing or SEO snob?
I think you’re annoying.
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