The “Free” Analytics Myth

On 09/18/2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

Yes, there are both paid (Omniture’s SiteCatalyst) and free (Google Analytics) website tracking solutions. Both are extremely robust and have advantages and I find myself working in Google Analytics 99% of the time. The primary reason being that GA is free. I always remember two things when someone says that.
1) It’s only free if you don’t value your time.
2) You get what you pay for.

I like to compare free analytics to a free private jet. While it is great to have, it’s never “free”. You need to have a pilot at the helm, mechanics to maintain & upgrade, fuel in the tank and an actual reason to use it. If it sits in a hangar, what’s the point?

It is extremely important to have tracking on your site & media. Without it, you have no idea how users interact with your brand. I use GA from soup to nuts; customizing JavaScript, structure implementation, establish best practices and more. But don’t fall into the “free” trap. Recognize that there are always costs, and they are worth it to get the best results possible.


Heaven In The Details

On 08/24/2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

I’ve had “Helvetica” in my Netflix queue for a while now.  I haven’t gotten around to watching it because the topic is insanely boring for my wife. To quote, “They are talking about fonts?!?”

It was in her shock that I discovered something brilliant.  These people LOVED typography. Not to the point where they are just graphic designers and it is another tool in their set. They LOVED typography. They loved creating, analyzing, deconstructing, studying, cataloguing, spotting and discussing fonts.  They loved every single detail, and their enthusiasm poured out of the television.

This same enthusiasm is the driving force behind SEOs.  The finest details and changes are analyzed, deconstructed, studied and heavily debated. There is a passion for details and the impact of the smallest change. Without this passion, an SEO would be dead in the water.

And just as I immediately begin analyzing any site for SEO value, I now see Helvetica everywhere.



Stopping Bad SEO Advice

On 08/04/2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

Reacting to, disproving or otherwise going head-to-head with spammy “SEOs” who reach out to my clients is a nearly daily activity.  And these spammers primarily feed on incorrect or outdated knowledge.

This poor advice is bad for the industry because it make legitimate SEOs look like snake oil salesmen. Jill Whalen did a great job of pointing out 7 Reasons Why Bad SEO Advice Spreads Like Wildfire.

Read these & recognize if/when it happens to you.


Despite how amazing your business is, there are always going to be critics.  Often these negative posts make it onto the first page of Google, Yahoo & Bing. The typical reaction is to ignore it with the simple mantra:

Haters Gonna Hate

But a much better approach is to actively control your search presence to push these negative rankings off the first few listing or even first page.

Dominating the first page with your brand name is actually fairly easy. Follow these quick wins to get your website fully covered on the search results page.

1: Get Social

If you don’t have a Facebook page for your business, crawl out from under your rock and get one!  It’s essential in today’s world.  Not only can you connect directly with customers, you can often answer angry ones. Most frustration stems from a lack of information; Social opens the lines of communication.  So set up a Facebook page. And if you get on a roll, add Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and more to have a well rounded social presence.  The main benefit of this is to have multiple listings on the results page!  Wouldn’t it be nice for your website to rank #1 for your business’s name, and then your Facebook #2, Twitter #3 and so on?  After just a few sites, the negative listing can be pushed off the first page, where only a small percentage of searchers venture.


SpencerSEM Search Results Page

2. Optimize Your Own Site

If your own site isn’t optimized, tactic #1 may not work as well.  Be sure you follow search engine guidelines by creating pages that aren’t intentionally manipulative & always have unique, fresh content.  It’s a simple rule of thumb and the backbone of a good web experience.  Follow the tips listed on this website for help with search engine optimization.


3: Pay Per Click

Paid search is quick, easy way to get your messaging in front of relevant searches in a flexible, inexpensive way.  PPC is primarily a short-term solution, which makes it a great reputation management tactic.  This is a great starting point if you have a particularly negative news story spread rapidly. I have personally launched campaigns after shark attacks at a Client’s resort giving facts about the attack, general shark attack information & updates on the safety of the water.  Shark attacks are very scary, and they are actually very rare. But when they happen, it’s so highly publicized that the perception is that they are common and will most likely happen to you when you put your toe in the water. But there is an opportunity to control this message before it gets out of hand.

Pay Per Click Example





BONUS: Go Local

Five Stars




For local businesses, verify your Google Place, verify your Bing listing, verify your Yelp listing, verify Urban Spoon, IYP and whatever you can verify.  Control these listings as much as possible.  This ensures your contact information, business hours, and much more are accurate. This also gives you a direct line to customer’s reviews & helps you to improve.  When someone searches local or on a mobile phone, these local listings are prominent & are often driven by higher ratings.


Over 80% of all internet activity starts at a search engine.  Although the search engines’ algorithms are a closely guarded secret, you are not completely helpless in controlling the results.  Following these four simple steps, you can quickly dominate the search results page.


This blog was just posted to, and it’s well deserved.  It provides a funny and insanely accurate/depressing view how different SEO environments.  All of them are spot on and shines a light on how we, as SEOs, can improve our field.

Do yourself a favor and read this SEO blog today!


Today is the Summer Solstice, aka the longest day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere.

International webmasters should keep this in mind as site engagement can vary between hemispheres.



On 06/14/2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

Most SEO’s have a penchant for being analytical & nerdy.  While this is mostly true, it is also a requirement to be an extremely creative bunch.  Not only do most SEO problem require reverse engineering to diagnose a problem, they also require creative solutions to overcome the problem.  There is also a need for creative copywriting, as well as overall content generation that makes for great linkbait.


So, for all SEOs out there who are feeling like your left brain overpowers your right brain, here is a great video  with ideas for jumpstarting creativity:



First of the Month

On 06/01/2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

Today is the best day to review performance from last month and compare it to previous months. See what sections of your site have increase, what traffic sources have improved and review all engagement metrics.

What converted? What didn’t?

Do you have new referrals, and therefore new links?

Take this time to review performance, analyze activity, and most importantly: ACT ON THE DATA. Make these revisions so you know what to look for on July 1st!


6 SEO Lessons From The Beatles

On 05/18/2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

Those who know me know that I am a HUGE Beatles fan. I am also a huge search geek. Hidden within their lyrics are great SEO lessons to keep in mind.

Hard Day’s Night

“It’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been workin’ like dog. It’s been a hard day’s night; I should be sleepin’ like a log”

Some in-house SEO gigs are different, but most SEOs don’t punch out at 5:00. Hell, some don’t even punch out at all! Instead, they stay up way too late reading, experimenting, sharing, programming, testing, reviewing, analyzing and much, much more. An SEO doesn’t sleep because search engines don’t sleep. And yes, right now I should be sleepin’ like a log.

Can’t Buy Me Love

“Tell me that you want those kinds of things that money just can’t buy”

Good rankings are earned. They are the fruit of hours, days, weeks & months of building good content and creating a relevant site. This creates leads from fans to boost your site. Yes, you can buy “link love”, but it is usually short-lived & ultimately detrimental to your site.

Get Back

“Get back to where you once belonged”

Google’s frequent algorithm changes can hurt inexperienced SEOs who simply “chase the algorithm.” Putting all of your effort into one tactic that fails to consistently deliver will leaving you wishing you could get back to where you once belonged. A solid, diverse tactic set that doesn’t involve exploiting once facet will prevent you from feeling this way (aka “Pandalized”). And in a a supporting role with this lesson is Yesterday. “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.”

Don’t Let Me Down

“Don’t let me down”

I’ve written about SEO expectations in the past, and this type of comment comes up often. Clients don’t want to be let down when they aren’t ranking #1 for a certain high-volume term. It’s important to set Client expectations in the beginning so they know what in involved in your SEO program.

With A Little Help From My Friends

“I get by with a little help from my friends”

SEO is a team effort that is driven by a community of peers. Since the search engines don’t publish their algorithm, we are left with case studies, deciphering Matt Cutts, or relying on expert Q&A from sites like SEOmoz. These are all great resources, but you really can’t learn it until you roll up your sleeves and get started.

The End

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”

In all honesty, SEO gets a bad wrap. We are constantly compared to lowlife spammers or used car salesmen. We are viewed as selling snake oil or manipulating search engines. SEOs are trashed so often because so many of them are trashy. The few ruin the industry for the honest, hard-working SEOs who genuinely want to do great work and want your website to succeed. So for those who are ruining the industry, you will get your comeuppance.


Warning! Nerdy Advertising History Lesson:
In 1956, a young copywriter (and future ad legend) at Foote, Cone & Belding (You may recognize the FCB moniker) named Shirley Polykoff was visiting her future mother-in-law, a very conservative Old World Orthodox. She disapproved of Shirley on the primary reason that she “painted her hair.”  Shortly afterward, Shirley was placed on the Clairol account and was tasked with launching the Miss Clairol brand, the first at-home hair color bath. Remembering the Yiddish statement of her disapproving mother-in-law, Shirley translated the quote: “Does she or doesn’t she?”.

Unlike the humiliation that she felt from that quote, Shirley created the phrase with a sense of empowerment. She wanted women to embrace the fact that they can change their color…and ultimately change their life. “Blonds have more fun.”, “If I only live once, let it be as a blond!”, etc. She wanted hair color to be a seamless part of the woman. Something completely natural and not jarring. Something that “only her hairdresser knows for sure”. Something that would cause an onlooker to ask “Does she or doesn’t she?”

Nerdy Advertising History Lesson Over

Just as Shirly Polykoff wanted people to wonder, your SEO strategy should cause the same reaction. Just like Miss Clairol looked natural, the SEO’d version of your website should look natural too. Your content should be helpful, fresh and relevant. It should make the view want to look closer and visit often. If there are black hat or spam techniques employed on your site, the visitor will be able to tell & you will immediately lose their trust.
Following this rule of thumb will also make the search engines like you and boost rankings. Even though Google may tweak it’s algorithm hundreds of times per year and roll out big updates like Caffeine, Instant & Panda, the tenets remain the same.  Create good content that is good for users. Don’t overly apply SEO tactics that look like spam (or legitimately are spam). You get penalized accordingly.

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