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High Rankings Advisor: Being a Professional SEO

January 26, 2004

*Introductory Comments:
---->   An Oldie but Goody

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   But Mom...Everyone Else Is Doing It!

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   Search Marketing Resource Guide
---->   SEO Copywriting Kit

*Guest Article:
---->   Building a Link Library

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   Fall 2004 SEM Seminar Survey

*High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week:
---->   GEICO Sues Google & Overture

*This Week's Sound Advice:
---->   Myths About Search Engine Optimization

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   See You in London!

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone!  It's issue #099 and I'm feeling lazy, so we're
revisiting an oldie but goody article of mine called, "What it Means
To Be a Search Engine Marketing Professional."  I've also got a great
link building Q&A for you, thanks to the help of my link popularity
specialist, Debra Mastaler.

Let's get straight to the good stuff! - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++What it Means To Be a Search Engine Marketing Professional+++

Look at just about any search engine results page (SERP), and you'll
be likely to find pages that "spammed" their way to the top.  Some of
the latest techniques include buying old domains that have some
ready-made link popularity, and then adding links to all your other
sites to these domains.  Other spammy methods are as old as the search
engines themselves.

Sure, it gets discouraging to work hard on your site only to find that
you're getting beat out by apparent cheaters.  It's even more
frustrating when you point out the offenders to the search engines,
and their sites are still there many months later.

You might be thinking if you can't beat 'em, you might as well join
'em.  Do you really want to go to the dark side?  Before you decide, I
hope you'll read the following information and really think about your
actions and how they might affect you, your clients, and the Internet
as a whole.

There's a lot of stuff posted on search engine forums and newsletters
around the world about how companies who spam the search engines are
unethical, and that it's important to hire only "ethical SEO
consultants" or "ethical search engine marketers."

But, if you think about it, ethics is not something that's
quantifiable. What makes any given SEO technique ethical or unethical?
Isn't ethics more of a way of life than a method for doing something?
Is trying to trick the search engines really unethical? Sure, it's
stupid, in my opinion, but is it really unethical? I don't believe
that those who practice what I sometimes refer to as "shady SEO
techniques" can necessarily be classified as unethical. Just as
everyone who follows every search engine rule can't automatically be
assumed to be ethical.

What we should instead be discussing is which companies are
*professional* and which are just out for a buck. This is true in
every industry, not just SEO. If the people in our industry can
remember this when trying to create a professional organization of
SEOs (and there are many factions trying to do this), it will go a lot
smoother. It's really quite simple. My friend Alan Perkins, who is a
champion of "professional SEO," pointed out a definition of
professional to me recently. It says in part:

"What defines a professional?"

"A professional is a person who, by education, training, and
experience, performs work, analyzes and solves problems, makes
decisions, and promotes ethics associated with a particular field of
study." - A. Carol Rusaw, Learning by Association, HRD Quarterly,
Summer 1995."

They go on to list some criteria for defining a professional. The one
that really jumped out at me was this:

"[The] Professional assumed to know what is good for the client better
than the client."

That really hits the nail on the head. It would be easy for any of us
to say, "Sure, why not, I'll take your money and just tweak your Meta
tags" when asked to do so by a client. Of course it would be easy
money. But would it be right if you knew that doing so probably
wouldn't really help their site be found in the search engines? Not in
my opinion; nor would it be professional.

So what about when a potential client comes to you saying "we know
exactly what we need" because they read somewhere how SEO should be
done. They ask you for a proposal to create 10 zebra (doorway) pages
for their site.  They don't want you to touch the actual pages of
their site, they just want pages that live on the "fringes" of the
site. You know, the kind that only the search engines will find
(because you added a link way down low on the home page to a sitemap
of all the zebra pages). Once the user arrives at one of the pages
from the search engines, they're basically forced to click an extra
time to finally arrive at the *real* site that they wanted to begin
with.  (See "Search Engine Spam Affects Us All" to understand the
zebra page reference: </issue021.htm#seo>.)

Should you give the client a quote for this even though you know in
your heart that it's not necessarily the best way to optimize their
site? Certainly, creating those pages that way couldn't really be
considered unethical or anything. But what if you see that their
current site already has tons of great content pages? They really
don't need to add zebra pages, they just need to tweak their current
content a bit to make sure they're using words that real people use
when searching.

Or perhaps they just need to make sure the search engines can easily
spider through the site and find all that great content, e.g., turn
dynamic URLs into static URLs.

What do you do if when you explain this to the client, they're still
set on using those zebra pages? They refuse to make changes to their
actual pages (cuz someone told them they shouldn't have to!), and even
though the site will be much improved by making these changes, no
amount of cajoling will convince them of this. So what do you do then?
Do you do things the way they want you to? Do they really know better
than you, the SEO professional?

If I were in this situation, and I couldn't persuade them how wrong,
unnecessary and shortsighted their preferred technique was, I'd have
to turn down the job altogether. Yeah, it's hard to turn down some
decent money that a job like that could bring. I mean, you could
probably even create those zebra pages using WPG's Page Generator, and
give them some fancy new name. They're really not zebra pages...these
ones would be giraffe pages! It could be good money for little work.
And after IS what the client wants, right?

There are plenty of ways you can justify it to yourself. But the
bottom line is that it's your job as a professional to do what you
know in your heart is right. If it means you don't get that particular
job, then so be it. There will be other jobs. And there will be other
clients that appreciate your looking out for their site's long-term
well-being. You can bank on that. Seriously. The money you lose from
declining that type of work will be made up in so many different ways.

___________SmartSearch Marketing_____________________adv.

(Free) Search Marketing Resource Guide

"Killer Tips & Tools for Search Marketers"
70 essential resources you should know about!

This invaluable guide from SmartSearch Marketing contains
market information, tools, resources, how-to guides and more.

Free download:  <>
You'll wonder how you ever got along without it!

~~~Guest Q&A~~~

[I recently received a link-building question and didn't have the
foggiest idea of how to answer it.  Luckily for me, I knew my good
friend Debra Mastaler from Alliance-Link would have some great ideas,
so I forwarded it to her, and she did!  Below are the original
question and Debra's response.  Enjoy - Jill]

Hello Jill,

Always read your newsletters and had the pleasure to attend one of
your seminars in the Boston area.

I have a quick question, which really bugs me and wonder if you have
the time to answer me.

I have a client, which we do SEO work for and currently we are trying
to improve its links from other sites. This site is a specialized firm
that makes special equipment only for other companies worldwide. This
is not like your average consumer product. They cater to specialized
companies that order their equipment. These other companies are
specialized firms also.

My question is, how do you improve a web site with links, when they
themselves do not link to anyone else?  No other company links to
them, because it is not necessary. I have wracked my brains on this
one and read everything I can find on link building for websites. Can
you kindly help me on this?


Eric V.

++Debra's Response++

Eric wrote:

" do you improve a web site with links, when they themselves do
not link to anyone else?"

My initial reaction was to sympathize with you on your static client
and suggest a clever promotional campaign to gather links, but after
thinking about it, I decided this wasn't the best tactic or the best
answer I could give you.  While a clever promotional campaign is a
great tactic, the real answer lies in the strategy you need to
implement for long-term success.

So my answer to the question above is....

You improve a website by creating content people will trust. Links to
the site will happen naturally if you do.

When you think about it, all of your actions and reactions are based
on the trust you have in a person, product or service. If you "like"
something you trust it and subsequently will buy, use and recommend it
to others.  Those three viral processes are why you're in business to
begin with, so finding ways to stimulate their growth potential should
be your constant focus.

So how do you get all this love and trust? By developing new content
for your client's site that builds brand, elicits trust and
strengthens your client's credibility.

A way to start (and my new way of choice for these kinds of
situations) would be to create an onsite library and fill it with
related articles, documents, essays, citations, tools, surveys,
reports etc. from your niche market.  Shouldn't matter who wrote them,
just collect, organize and list the information in an easy-to-read
format that clearly establishes your client as an authority in the
industry. Your goal with this tactic is to be THE only place to go for
information on this subject.

In the new library, solicit for guest writers and make linking back to
you're your client's site part of the article submission agreement.
It's a win-win for both parties that way.

Another suggestion would be to have a professionally written press
release or public service announcement created and distributed
throughout your client's industry announcing this new resource.  In
addition to submitting to media resources, send the release to past,
current and future potential customers. This way the release does
double duty -- it garners mentions/links in online media
publications/blogs, and helps solidify business relationships by
providing an added value benefit to their customers.

When a major publication prints the press release and mentions your
site, be sure to acknowledge the honor by adding a link to the
information on your client's website.  It's a great credibility
booster as well as a strong outbound link for their site.

And one last suggestion...brainstorm with their sales department on
where a press release or public service announcement can be posted to
help their efforts.  Sales people know what their clients want, what
publications, forums, etc. they frequent, and which associations they
belong to.  Use that knowledge for venues not mentioned above and
submit to those places.

Everyone likes to be associated with a winner as well as to do
business with people they like and trust.  Help your client become a
winner by creating exceptional content that builds brand and attracts
trust.  Do that...and the links will come, because really, it's not
just linking, it's marketing.

Debra Mastaler

[Now why didn't I think of that? ;-)  - Jill]


MarketingSherpa's SEO Copywriting Kit featuring Jill Whalen

Includes Jill's "Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines,"
the audio CDs and transcript of Jill's recent teleseminar with Anne
Holland, PLUS a bonus copy of Karon Thackston's new "How To
Increase Keyword Saturation Without Destroying the Flow of Your
Copy."  The teleseminar CD and transcript portion include Jill's
verbal review of a ton of sites belonging to the seminar participants.

A *steal* at only $99!  </seowritingkit>

~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Fall 2004 SEM Seminar Survey ++

This isn't really any "stuff you might like" but I figured I'd sneak
it by you to see if you were paying attention!  My High Rankings
seminar team and I are planning our next one for the fall and would
love to get some feedback from all of you before we make solid plans.

If you've been to one of our seminars before, or if you're interested
in attending a future one (especially one in the New England area this
fall), we'd very much appreciate it if you'd take a few minutes to
fill out the survey form here:
</seosurvey>.  Your responses will help us
make the next seminar better than ever!

Thanks in advance for doing this one little favor for me!

~~~High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week~~~

++ GEICO Sues Google & Overture++

Check out our discussion on the recent news and alleged trademark
infringement on PPC buys:

As you'll see in that thread, I say go GEICO!  The search engines (in
my opinion) have no right to allow other companies to use our
trademarks to show their ads.

~~~Sound Advice~~~

++Myths about Search Engine Optimization++

(This audio recording changes each week.)

~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

That's it for this issue, thanks for reading!  Next week is the London
SES Conference <> so there will
be no newsletter.  If you applied for the free pass, I didn't have a
chance to choose the winner yet, so don't despair -- you still have a
shot.  I'll probably do that tonight or tomorrow morning.

I did select the forum winner because I had no choice but to choose my
long-time newsletter subscriber/forum moderator buddy and pal, Brian
Raynor.  Brian's been a subscriber to the newsletter since the very
beginning when it was still RankWrite.  He's been so sweet and
encouraging to me all these years.  He always takes the time to email
me little notes when I write something he agrees with, and that sort
of thing.  Once he even sent me *real* UK Cadbury chocolate, which is
definitely better than our US Cadbury (just like he said it would be).
He joined the forum when it was brand-new, and we made him a moderator
somewhere down the line for all the help he offers to the "newbies."
So congratulations, Brian, and I look forward to finally meeting you
in London next week!

Next up...issue 100! Whoo-hoo!

Cheers! - Jill

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