Welcome to the second Web Branding interview of this 2011 Series.
Today I am happy to be joined by Brian Patterson.
He is a Partner at MangoCo, a design and seo firm based in Northern Virginia, USA. MangoCo deals in Search Engine Optimisation, Reputation Management, and Unique Web Design and has a strong track record for achieving top rankings.
First off, many thanks for agreeing to this interview, and let’s begin with a brief introduction about yourself and MangoCo.
Thanks for the inviting me to participate in the interview series. My background is a mixed bag of IT consulting, project management, and search engine optimization. I’ve consulted on projects ranging from an enterprise system roll-out at a Top Secret government agency to building a celebrity gossip blog for a client that showcases the most interesting celeb tweets. My focus these days is primarily on SEO and Online Reputation Management.
And how long have you been at the SEO game? What’s been the biggest change since you’ve been dealing with Search Engine Optimisation?
I’ve been doing SEO for about four years now. Compared to some other SEO professionals, I’m just a baby in the industry, and they are right. However, 4 years in an online industry is also an eternity in terms of evolution. The biggest macro change that has impacted me is the shift by the algorithms towards stronger domains.
When I first started, it was fairly easy to get content on brand new sites to rank well fairly quickly. However, the updates over time seem to have shifted a lot of trust to ‘authority domains’ – aged domains with strong links that Google can really trust. Often times these domains many not have as good of an article to fulfil the query as a newer site, but Google is ranking them higher because it trusts them more. This shift has changed the way we go about doing SEO, with almost no focus on ‘quick results’ for any sort of competitive keywords
On a side note, we’ll soon be launching a site with details on how we go about building authority sites/domains, so stay tuned and we’ll be sure to share the details here when its live.
If you had to make 3 predictions about the future of SEO in the coming few years, what changes do you see having most impact on how SEO is carried out?
Prediction 1: Bing’s market share will continue to grow, and here why: Facebook is seeping its way into every aspect of our online lives and activities. From the Like button to Facebook Connect, many of us interact with Facebook on a daily basis OFF of the Facebook website. Microsoft relationship with Facebook allows Bing to crawl it to see what people are ‘Liking’ on the web. This gives Bing the unique opportunity to adjust their ranking algorithms based on social activity that Google cannot see. I can imagine a marketing campaign with Bing touting how they can personalize the search experience just for you. >
Prediction 2: Brands will focus more on Reputation Management, and Google will find more ways to combat Brands focusing on this; Its typical cat and mouse. I recently wrote this post over at SEOmoz about how we helped a client combat the issue where Google was recommending their brand name plus the word ‘scam’ in Google Suggest.
Since reputation management is on my mind lately, my prediction is as Google becomes aware that more brands are doing this, they’ll find ways to combat it and surface true user feedback in the algorithm (for branded searches).
Bonus prediction: I also think the algorithm’s bias towards negative suggestions will decrease as a way to get brands to not spend as much time manipulating the algorithm because of reputation management problems.
Prediction 3: Content farms aren’t going anywhere! Everyone is complaining about how Google is just full of spam and junk courtesy of Demand Media and the like, but Matt Cutts just posted today about how the results back then were actually a lot worse, and he has proof. I think eHow and similar sites will still stay around, because they do have their place. For quick, short answers, they actually do the trick quite often.
What’s your Business Philosophy?
At MangoCo, our primary focus is on developing recurring revenue streams. Currently 60% of our income is through client work, while 40% of our income is through web properties and web tools that we develop and monetize. We have large authority sites like Mac Help site Maciverse, mid-sized but growing community sites like My Five Fingers, and tiny niche sites that we are experimenting with like the Best Hair Straightener Guide. As you can see, we put our hands in a lot of pots. Over time, we hope to build our sites and projects to be a larger percentage of our overall portfolio.
What are your top tips for keeping up to date with all the breaking SEO news?
I’m a big RSS guy. I follow over 60 SEO related blogs, and I hate unread counts, so I generally read everything in my Google Reader account throughout the day. I think this keeps me fairly up to date, but I also follow a bunch of SEO’s on Twitter to catch any interesting conversations or breaking news.
If you had to choose one process as the single most important aspect of an SEO campaign, what would this do?
Hmmmm…. That’s a tough question because there really are so many critical pieces. If I had to pick one though, I guess it would be keyword research. It’s critical to know your targets.
What is your opinion on CMS Website platforms such as Joomla, Drupal, Mambo etc from an SEO point of view?
You left out my favourite – WordPress! I’ve used all of the others you listed, but I’ve found that WP’s ease-of-use coupled with the ability to tweak everything for SEO makes it hands down my favourite CMS for most websites. I haven’t used Joomla in a few years, but I remember at the point I was using it that it was terrible for SEO – there was so much duplicate content generated if you wanted to use the pretty URL option. And, if you didn’t, you had long strings of variables in your URLs. I didn’t like either of those options!
How do you see Google Realtime Search affecting SEO campaigns and do you think this will rival Twitter Search?
Page load time is always a big challenge when we are brought in after a website is already developed. It can be a hastle to get large companies to make changes to their website that affect the underlying architecture. It takes time and effort to identify what the culprit is of a slow loading website and then even more time and effort to develop a plan an execute on it. While we have done this a bunch, I much prefer link building!
The second problem we seem to hit fairly often is where client doesn’t want to create any new content, and doesn’t want to pay to have it professionally created, either. This is tough because obviously fresh, interesting content generates links on its own. Additionally, if we are going out and building a lot of links, we like to hide that spike behind content creation. Our thought process here is that the search engines won’t see that spike as “ah ha, SEOs are working on this site”, but rather see it as “ah ha, this site is creating lots of new content, and new links are flowing in because of it”.
Are there any gems of SEO wisdom or advice that you would like to share with our readers?
I would say – think creatively! There are a number of clever and creative ways to get good, strong links. While the popular methods do work, such as widgets, badges, infographics, etc… there are many other ways to get strong links. To get your juices flowing, here is one idea we used in the past:
We found a link acquisition target that was a typical blog run by one guy. We noticed he was sorta vain and liked posting pictures of himself. So, we hired a caricaturist on oDesk for $15 to do a caricature of him. We sent it to him along with a way to link back to us. Easy and unique, right? When you are going after harder-to-get links, it pays to use your thinking cap.
And lastly if you have any final thoughts/ plugs, please feel free..
Thanks again for the opportunity. If you’re interested, you can follow me on the Twitter: @brianpatterson