SEO interview with Screaming Frog's Dan Sharp
Without further Ado, here are my questions!
I followed the clichéd route of university, a year out travelling, before arriving back home with no money and the need for a job. I was lucky that my very first role was within search marketing for an agency called Guava (who were eventually bought by a larger European marketing group years). I started out running large-scale PPC campaigns, which I think gave me valuable perspective of the importance of return and accountability (I wrote about this years ago here) when I soon naturally moved into focusing on SEO only.
This was about 10 years ago now, so while I am far from proper old skool (I have *some* hair left) I have been around a while in the industry now.
When I left agency life, I started consulting under the name ‘Screaming Frog’ and development of the ‘SEO Spider’, which everyone refers to as ‘Screaming Frog’ was already underway. This was about 5 years ago now and at the time there was no clever plan or strategy really. I just wanted to build a tool which would be helpful for my own SEO work, but would also be useful for others to who were experiencing the same frustrations with what was available at the time. You can read more about the Screaming Frog story here, but the SEO Spider certainly helped raise our profile and I never really expected the SEO community to embrace it quite like they did at the time and still today. We still get so much valuable input and suggestions and have some big development plans for this year which are exciting.
Extremely important. Basic market and keyword research, accessibility, as well as site structure, internal link architecture and page titles still go a long way. I also think mobile optimized websites are and will be even more important over the next 12-months.
Away from just basic onsite optimization, we are also seeing Google penalize websites for large-scale duplicate, thin and ‘low quality’ content and negative usage signals with the likes of Panda.
Google historically said they wouldn’t penalise for duplicate content, however that’s exactly what they will do now. They are making quite a few mistakes along the way as discussed by Glenn Gabe.
We witnessed someone get completely nuked from the search results during a Panda update, purely because their web designer had accidentally allowed the development site to get indexed on their own website (I left a larger comment here) for example. So little things, which shouldn’t really be a big issue and sometimes you can’t control can have a huge impact.
I completely agree, even great content can fail if you just publish it on a site without any real thought.
I don’t think there is a big secret to promoting content, but we’ve always had more success on a highly strategic and focused approach. Sometimes all it takes is just a few emails to key publications or journalists to set the initial seed for a piece of content to take off. I also think the best way to learn is to test and just give it a go and see what works for you.
I do think SEOs can learn a lot from the PR industry in particular and we have invested in tools such as Gorkana which has been really valuable.
There’s loads of cool tools out there, but we don’t really use that many.
I’d have to say:
Pretty much all link tactics can still work to a degree. But obviously the focus should be on what will work in the longer-term, what’s sustainable. Unless you like churn and burn.
The ‘power’ or impact of a link often wasn’t about the quality of the link host; it was about the trust of the target. If the target site is well trusted, all links are inherently more trusted themselves and that’s why big brands could build crap links and rank really well. This is one of the reasons why Google introduced Penguin and increased the number of manual actions as their core algorithm wasn’t really smart enough by itself.
I’d say any link building tactics which are scalable are not sustainable moving forward, like guest posting just for links. Google will eventually nail the lot and diversification is always wise.
I think it’s more than fair to say there has been a huge amount of low quality guest posting over the last couple of years, where it was all about getting another quick link. So it was far from a shock that Google nailed a big name in the industry last week (MyBlogGuest!) and lots of sites who bought and sold links there at scale.
I think guest posting just for links (at least at any real scale) is not really a great idea if you want to stay in Google’s ever evolving guidelines. However, I think if you write for an industry publication or somewhere relevant for your audience and get an on brand citation to your website, that’s fine. I do think there is a difference, although perceived intent to manipulate is what Google look for ultimately.
I tweeted this the other day, but Google themselves do have some guest posts for their own blogs, you can see them if you run a query like –
So perhaps they are little hypocritical, as usual.
I think it’s wise to test with PPC and let it guide the SEO campaign. The amount of times I hear ‘PPC didn’t work, so I want to try SEO’ which is odd, as if it didn’t convert via PPC, why will it from organic?
PPC data can be valuable not just in terms of key phrase targets (now with not provided!), but as messaging for meta descriptions etc as well.
I do think the importance of social depends on the client, their industry and audience. Small and medium sized businesses can obviously struggle for resource and budget, so there needs to be a balance.
With that said, I do believe social should be at least some part of everyone’s online marketing strategy today. I certainly think businesses are getting savvier, understanding the value more and we see more willingness to try it as a medium.
I change my answer depending on my mood. I think it mixes between ‘working in marketing’ and ‘helping websites improve visibility in the search engines’. Then I generally get asked if I work for Google, doh.
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