I recently began interviewing the illuminati of search engine marketing, SEO (search engine optimization) and social media marketing. In fact, you will see more detailed interviews over the coming weeks, leading up to the Search Engine Strategies show in San Jose, California (August 18).
My first “victim” was a very courteous, direct and knowledgeable SEO guru –family man Nathan Anderson. What follows is a recent interview talking about SEO myths, some controversial topics and what he’s up to with his highly respected SEO Club.
Nathan also has a uStream.tv show: fun, informative and with always-useful tips. I was reminded how knowledgeable and confident Nathan is about this space. He uses a rare technique amongst SEOs today: Not only does he test and validate his own work for clients and members of his popular SEO Club, but also massive amounts of research and raw statistics (proprietary software/mining tools). This includes all total possible metrics for SEO–from every on-page to off-page factor (content, code, structure, links), and these are constantly updated, reviewed and tested.
J: Nathan, can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you got started in SEO?
N: I live in Colorado with my family and run my own business. For SEO, I really got started in 1997 building websites. With every project launched, I noticed that I was getting traffic but didn’t fully understand why. Being a detail-oriented and curious person, I wanted to find out more. I got started in earnest in 1999 and started formulating the approach for what would later become SEO Club, which I officially opened the doors for in 2003. I launched some other successful software products at that time that helped my users make millions of dollars online. I knew I was on a good track and that I had found my passion.
J: What is SEO Club, and how can users benefit?
N: SEO Club is a members-only club, an exclusive network of businesspeople. I provide ebooks, a large library of training, and years of research and valuable data points, among other things. We have a conference call every other Thursday–and as necessary–to share SEO and online marketing-related discussions among the members. Some of the best minds in SEO are available, and this is information that you would not find in any forum. I also provide links to software and tools worth owning, and discounts to these via my network. All members also receive free access to all seminars that I speak at and the deep SEO-specific data analytics. In other words, an exclusive network of professionals [who] focus on driving their business to the top, using search. Additionally, as I create and push out new products, members get firsthand chance to test and validate in a team setting.
Statistical data is the heart of SEO Club, and all this data is free and available to members. It’s also a safe haven for members to invest into their businesses online. Like-minded individuals can hang out and talk, and whatever you say stays there: We have tough policies on this. Go with SEO Club if you want the hard-core data, not hype. We have competitive niche markets with tons of pages, but virtually no back-links–ranking to the top in Google. So many in the industry think that on-page factors don’t matter as much as links, but they do! Also, a new beta product is coming out later this year that will help you construct pages and websites to our own standard and search engine’s liking.
J: What are the SEO secrets in your mind?
N: I don’t think anything is secret per se, but I do have some perhaps controversial SEO tips; is that OK? (J: Sure!). OK, keywords in URL outside of domain is not beneficial. Keywords early in title is good, and early in keyword-rich domain, for example. Keywords need to be sprinkled naturally throughout, and LSI (latent semantic indexing) and LSA (latent semantic analysis). Relevancy in copy is more important–keyword density is out. For example, a recent look at 15,000 sites in a competitive ranking study had no defined or patterned keyword density in it. You should also only use one (1) keyword per page, and use keyword-rich anchor text in the navigation. I recommend blogs; they are great for link baiting, easily updatable and pretty search engine-friendly. Lastly, H1 tags have come and gone, but it seems to change, i.e., not static. Search engines look for behavior and data freshness, so posting quality content with regular frequency is good. Also, testing pages is important and multi-variate testing can be such a way; it will not hurt search rankings.
J: What does the future of SEO hold?
N: SEO as a standalone is destined to disappear. If you are going to survive as an SEO in the future, you will not–unless you become much more search engine commerce-centric. It’s not enough to know search engines, but you must expand yourself and include a complete wholistic view to online marketing. To think more about conversion theories, bottom-line strategies, retention, etc. will become necessary. The reputation of the site you’re working on, as related to others, is important.
It’s not about keyword density–in fact, we don’t talk about that anymore. And the future of an SEO needs to focus on website analytics and understand that not only do search engines also factor data freshness, user behavior and click streams, but so must you. It’s a mistake to not count detailed study of your own user’s clicks and necessary changes to sites and pages to accomodate their needs. Everything in the ecosystem benefits: users, search engines and the pocketbook!
J: Any other issues, tips or comments?
N: Well, for paid links (highly controversial), do not use those. I have personally not used those since 2004, and I have much success from my own sites and members of SEO Club. Also, never use Flash-only sites. Search engines are still having issues reading and translating those into anything useful in the true sense of SEO.
Lastly, the best data about SEO is not found outside “closed doors.” SEO can be dangerous if not done right, and open forums are scary places to learn SEO. Private and members forums will provide the best information, and hopefully highest yield on all your efforts.
Nathan, thanks for a great interview! I can tell you that I am personally favoring on-page factors with good quality content. There is too much focus on “just get some links, and you’ll be ranked.” Create good quality content that is useful, unique and valuable–the (most important) links will follow.
Boy, the learning never stops, and trying to beat the search engines never does, either. I can see Nathan is a lot closer to it than me…
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