I had several interesting discussions about blog SEO outsourcing with a few of my friends a colleagues. I think some highlights of those discussions deserve a full size post or two. Since we are talking about blogs I just have to start with some classic points. Trisha Okubo did a phenomenal job covering those in her almost classic “Blog Your Brand”
In case you did not read the presentation, here are the main points:
1. Pick a Topic that’s Uniquely You
2. Stand for Something Real
3. Be Newsworthy
4. Be Awesome!
5. Create a Stoplist
6. Build Real Relationships
7. Meet People in Person
8. Make it Easy to Spread the Word
9. Create Community Wherever You Go
10. Be Patient
I guess if you do all that (especially #4) the traffic is guaranteed and SEO is not really needed. You will be a caring a good title (e.g. VP of Thinking up Stuff) and work an outstanding company. For many of us, less awesome introverts with niche blog and narrow audience SEO is probably the only way to get some traffic. Of course even that route is impossible without the king – content. You should write about something you know very well and you should write reasonably well. You also should write well from standpoint of His Majesty Google and his cohorts and rivals. Titles, description tags, keyword density, linkbate posts, etc. But at some point you realize that this is still not enough… as a matter of fact by large margin.
For example if you Google for “Pros and Cons of Outsourcing” my blog will not come up on the first, second and even third page of results, even though I’ve written about the topic a lot. More so as one of my readers noted sometimes I bend over backwards to be neutral and show both sides of the coin… Well, you might say, Nick, you are not exactly the world best known expert on the topic, there are much more popular sources… Maybe, but let’s see what we’ll find. Here are the first 5 from google (as of 2/2010):
Isn’t it a bit strange that a dubious quality “press release” (“Outsourcing: Pros and Cons”) appears as number 1 on the list? Alas its not, no matter how well google hides its methods of indexing they are reverse engineered by millions of SEO “experts” around the world and an army of data entry people line up to promote sources with deeper pockets. As a result the order in which the links are displayed is not topic relevance or author credibility but financial backing of the links. That’s of course not a fault of “do no evil” google, just the nature of the game.
I guess there are bloggers who write for the sake of writing and do not care whether anyone reads their posts, that would be a tiny minority though. And that mean there is unlimited demand on SEO activities, in particular on offsite SEO.
Offsite SEO in a large degree boils down to creating links from multiple places on the web towards the target URL – your blog. Of course not all links are created equal, search engines value links from high quality sources much higher than links from junk directories. There is unlimited number of places where links to your blog can be placed for free: directories, blogs, forums, classified sites, etc. With some sources adding links is a laborious task, for many it’s not. Link building is one of the most common SEO tasks that could be outsourced. Let me use it as an example to illustrate challenges of outsourcing that dubiously simple task.
Here are just a few questions you can consider asking your SEO provider:
- What URLs will be link placed at?
- What is PR rate of those URLs?
- What is Alexa rating of those URLs?
- What will be the content of these sites?
- What approximate place on page the link would be placed at?
- What will be the anchor phrase for the links?
- What process is link builder will use to place the links?
- What will be the text surrounding the links?
- What traffic is expected at the target pages?
- How long the link remains there?
And now a $1M question: do you know what your requirements are with regards to these questions? … if you do not know where you are going any road will lead you there …
Let’s assume that you know the answers / requirements. Next step is to find a partner who can actually do what you asking for and chances are that will not be easy. Most of SEO vendors have a plenty of work coming from people who have no idea what they are asking for. Working for such customers is so much easier as the fairly challenging job becomes very much a data entry task. For example, when I first engaged an Indian provider to do some offsite SEO for my blog I did not give them clear requirements and here is what I’ve got:
- majority of the links were from low quality irrelevant sites
- the sites PR was between 0 and 3 with majority of them being 1
- the sites’ content had nothing to do with the topic of my blog
- most of the links were very low on page, and possibly never indexed by Google
- anchor texts had nothing to do with my blog
So as you can imagine that did not help me with traffic, rating, etc. When I asked my provider to change the strategy and work against standards / requirements I put forward… the provider dropped out of the project. You get what you paid for… and you can’t get something for nothing.
I am afraid this post is getting to long and rather discouraging. Well, there is a light in the end of that tunnel. You can find a good partner who understands SEO and can do a reasonable job for a reasonable price. The key is to clearly identify your goals and objectives before you start the search and then do not settle for the first (or the cheapest) provider. Think – somebody did place “Outsourcing: Pros and Cons” at first position on Google… and that’s a pretty impressive piece of real estate.