Last month, Eric Enge published a lengthy interview with SEO expert Bruce Clay. Not only does Bruce Clay run one of the industry’s largest SEO companies, but he is also well respected within the SEO community.
Like most of Eric Enge’s interviews, this one contained a lot of great information, but it can take some time to read through the entire interview and find the most informative parts. So, since I know all of our readers are very busy people, I’ve dissected the interview and pulled out the ten best tips that Bruce Clay has to offer:
1. When it comes to SEO ethics, the discussions within the SEO community usually focus only on “black hat vs. white hat.” If you have ever spent your time reading any of these discussions, they normally go nowhere and accomplish nothing new. I think Bruce Clay made a more meaningful point about SEO ethics in one sentence than most of these discussions make in multiple pages: “SEO ethics is fundamentally about doing no harm to your client.”
2. Uneducated permission is not the same as permission. If you know a practice is unethical but an uninformed client still thinks it’s OK, you need to use your personal judgment and avoid implementing this practice. Bruce used the example of Traffic Power, which helped its clients increase their ranking through the use of cloaking. This company preyed on its clients’ ignorance, and was eventually put out of business by Google for spamming.
3. “Do things naturally.” Although this seems like common sense, there is a large portion of the SEO world that does not seem to follow this advice. Instead of trying to deceive the search engines, focus on achieving results through techniques that search engines do not frown upon.
4. “Nobody has enough energy to go penalize sites one at a time.” This was Bruce’s response when Eric told him that he was told by a Google employee that they receive one million spam reports a day. Instead of manually monitoring the SERPs, Google focuses on identifying specific spam techniques and assigning a programmer to create a filter that will eliminate all of the sites using this technique. So, it’s important for you to avoid these types of techniques (such as buying footer links in WordPress themes).
5. “Google employees take it personally.” Keep in mind that Google is not a faceless machine; it’s a company made up of employees who are protecting billions of dollars in revenue. People like Matt Cutts really are against spam, and want their search engine to provide users with great results. Because they strongly about this issue, if you’re trying to cheat their system (blatantly black hat tactics), you automatically become the enemy.
6. “We have done quite well in 6 months (plus or minus) for many clients.” If you have ever wondered how long it takes for the large SEO companies to significantly help their clients (such as doubling their traffic), you can use this statement as a general reference. Bruce also mentioned a “three and a half year example that resulted in a 900% traffic increase for a major site.”
7. “Behavioral search and intent-based search are going to change the face of SEO.” Because the gold mine for search engines is being able to match advertising to the established behavior of a search engine user, these areas are going to have a major impact on the search engine optimization field. Bruce used the example of someone searching for Java, which could be related to coffee, travel or programming. One of the major goals of the search engines is to know which one of those meanings the person searching is interested in.
8. “We are going to have to change the view we have of ranking reports.” As search engines evolve and adapt to the goals discussed in Tip #7, the way SEOs approach optimizing for keywords is going to need to change. Not only will the process of conducting keyword research change, but the overall goals for keyword optimization will also shift.
9. “Measurement of the success of an SEO program is going to be based on how much traffic it can generate and not based upon just ranking.” Tip #9 is a reinforcement of Tip #8, because I think this is the most important topic that was brought up throughout the course of the interview. If all your SEO efforts are being targeted at ranking for one keyword, it’s time to broaden your horizons and realize that the behavior of searchers is changing (the long-tail is becoming more prominent), so your approach to SEO needs to become more holistic.
10. “Links are another great traffic source.” This last tip emphasizes a point I have focused on making in previous posts. Links are more than a way to rank higher; they are the social currency of the Internet. If you use links to build relationships with others, you will be much more successful than someone who simply wants to increase their back link count.