The Best of Outsourced: 10 Greatest Hits

I took over the Outsourced column from Chris Boggs (now writing SEM Crossfire with Frank Watson) back in September 2007. At the time, Boggs made the move from Avenue A | Razorfish (now Razorfish) to Brulant (now Rosetta), and he generously handed his responsibilities over to me. I’m not the first Outsourced writer, and I certainly won’t be the last.

Sort of a bittersweet moment, this will unfortunately be the last Outsourced piece I write. It is, however, for a good reason.

Onward and Upward

Until recently, I was vice president of SEO and Web analytics at Razorfish, running all organic search and analytics projects within the agency. Last month, I was named the new general manager of Global Solutions for Razorfish. In addition to SEO and Web analytics, I’ll now oversee all of the agency’s global services, including e-mail solutions, business intelligence, and site optimization.

As a result, my professional focus will be much broader than search. I feel it’s time to turn the column over to someone with a strong agency background who can expand the level of SEO insight I strive to offer.

Though I’m moving on, Outsourced will be well handled by my successor, Josh Palau, vice president of SEO at Razorfish. Josh has worked in the online marketing field for the past 12 years. His unique perspective and strategic understanding of search marketing will no doubt take this column to new levels. And knowing Josh, the level of pop culture references are also likely to increase.

Before I bow out, I’d like to take this moment to revisit some of the topics we’ve covered over the past year and change. Consider this series of vignettes my “greatest hits” of Outsourced. In no particular order, here’s a top 10 list of topics that time and time again people still ask me about.

1. International Search

It’s great to see how international search marketing has grown in recent months. When I penned “Optimizing the Planet: SEO on a Global Scale,” international SEO was far less of a reality than it is now. What a difference a year can make.

More than ever, clients have been asking us about foreign language sites and international markets. Asia Pacific and Australia have also started making big strides in SEO. By this time next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the world is catching up, or has caught up completely, to the level of formalized sophistication of the American search market.

2. Local Search

On the other side of the spectrum, local search has become more popular than ever, partly because of mobile phones bringing search into more “real world” situations. “Universal Thoughts on Local Search” covered the importance of maintaining strong local feeds for brick-and-mortar locations in universal search results. Mobile changes the level of specificity of search, and local feeds need to reflect such interests.

3. Video Optimization

Face it, we’re a visual society. Video results in universal search throw traditional eye tracking patterns out the window as we gravitate to sparkly thumbnails. “Universal Mastery of Video Content” means you’ve got visual catnip for the ADD afflicted search audience. Creating, posting and promoting relevant video content can help you stand apart in the SERPs and gain multiple listings.

4. Keyword Research

In the world of SEO, conversions will always trump search volume. While you may have a few choice search terms that you long to rank for, you need to rethink your strategy if they only drive non-converting traffic.

Keywords Without Ego” explored the idea of putting aside those prestige keywords and focusing on ROI. While building up to your ego words in the long term, you need to build revenue in the short term.

5. Client Pitching

It’s no secret; I’ve pitched some rather large client business with fair success and lived to tell the tale. SEO is an ambitious marketing discipline that is still establishing its legitimacy in many ways. Part of “How to Take on a Major SEO Client” is proving your value and taking your pitch to the next level.

6. SEO Standards

Standards? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Standards!” SEO standards are a divisive issue among the search marketing community, and an area where I disagree with Chris Boggs.

Some, like Boggs, see standards as sign of the profession’s maturity, signaling ethical practices and uniform operating procedures. Others, like me, see a field in constant flux that can’t yet be pinned down by to one set of regulations, especially when Google can change the rules of the game on a whim. While the debate has died down a bit, it’s nice to see the level of discourse around SEO rising to such heights.

7. Predicting Additional Traffic

In any client pitch, one question is almost always asked, “How much additional traffic can I expect from your work?” If you could answer that question accurately every time, you’d be a millionaire.

A reliable traffic prediction metric is “The Holy Grail of SEO.” Searching for such a metric will likely lead you far away from client work. SEO is imprecise and can be frustrating for number crunchers. Things are never fully predictable, but a focus on ROI and implementation of SEO recommendations can get us closer to expressing our worth.

8. The Pharmaceutical Business

Philadelphia, where I work, is a big pharmaceutical town. With large hospitals, manufacturers, insurers, and providers, pharma casts a long shadow here. It’s also one of the most heavily regulated fields to work with when dealing with legal reviews. This makes it hard for great social media or universal search strategies to ever see the light of day.

My article on “SEO and Pharma Regulations” outlined a plan for navigating the legal review process and getting good SEO recommendations implemented. It’s worth fighting for, especially when the client finally sees the fruits of your labor.

9. Rankings

As Google personalizes search results to the individual user, we’re left to wonder,”Are Rankings Still Relevant?” Never do you feel more at the mercy of the engines than when Google releases a sweeping change to their search results. It happened with universal search. It happened with personalized search. And it will likely happen again.

Changes in algorithmic operation serve to remind us that it’s not where a site is listed that matters, but how it performs.

10. SEO in Plain English

How to Market SEO to Humans,” may be one of the more practical pieces I’ve written. In a field that often leads to a fair amount of confusion and head scratching, search marketers need to know how to speak about the profession without using technical jargon. Phrases like “robots.txt” and “301 redirects” tend to scare the uninitiated.

Remember, keywords are actually the language of the audience. Communicate with the client in their vernacular, not yours. SEOs can speak English, and clients are more likely to sign a contract if you speak their language.

On That Note…

I guess it’s time to wrap up. I’m confident that Josh will do great things with Outsourced, and I look forward to reading it regularly. As for me, my interest in search won’t wane as I take on challenges that will encompass the full spectrum of global online marketing.

I’d like to thank Kevin Newcomb and everyone at Search Engine Watch for this opportunity, and their continued support. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Outsourced as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

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