As the BlogWorld East schedule starts to fall into place, I wanted to highlight some of the amazing speakers we have lined up for you guys and gals! Over the next few weeks, expect some interviews and guest posts from some of our presenters so you can get to know a little about the topics they’ll be teaching at the event. Today, Ric Dragon from DragonSearch was nice enough to sit down to answer some questions about his topic of choice – SEO. It’s something that is a thorn in the side for many bloggers, but at Ric shares with us, it doesn’t have to be!
Allison: Thanks for speaking to everyone here at the BlogWorld blog, Ric! For readers who may not know you, tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.
Ric: I was listening to a presentation a few weeks back being given by Bryan Eisenberg (author of Waiting for Your Cat to Bark, Call to Action, and other books) – he was starting off by asking the audience how long they’d been in the business, little by little narrowing down the hands raised to those who had been in the business to over a decade. I realized with not a little chagrin that I’d become one of the sage long-in-the-tooth veterans. I started a web development company fourteen years ago to provide development services to those wonderful graphic designers coming out of the big New York agencies – none of whom had a clue about what it took to make a website work.
Concurrent to that company, four years ago some business partners enjoined me to form another company to focus on online marketing. Since then, I sold my share in the web development company to focus on the marketing company, DragonSearch. There were some other adventures in between – most notably a failed startup that was designed to help bloggers and marketers connect, and to help bloggers earn income from their work. It was a great idea, but the timing left us without capital during one of the financial market downturns.
How did you first get started search engine optimization? What attracted to you to SEO initially?
I was actually reluctant to become an SEO. At our web development company, we had always provided “best practices” to our clients – making sure that pages were properly structured for SEO. But pretty much since the start, there have been a lot of individuals and companies out there providing SEO that I consider snake oil salesmen – and I really didn’t want to be associated with that bunch. Even today, the industry is plagued with a lack of standards and service providers that don’t stay on top of changes.
SEO is a discipline which is undergoing constant change. Something that we assume to be a truth last month is NOT a truth this month. But it might be, again, next month. It’s very Nietzshien that way – we have to constantly re-evaluate our assumptions. On the other hand, there is also an approach that is about “best practices” – structuring content in a way that is friendly to both people and machines. It reminds of that movie The Terminator, where Arnold Schwarznegger comes from the future to help us fight the machines. Except it needn’t be a basis for conflict – instead, SEO can be about making your content better for people USING machines.
A lot of bloggers say that the best SEO you can do is writing great content. Do you agree with that? Why/why not?
It’s remarkable how much antipathy there is with bloggers and SEO. Just last week I saw a tweet where someone said, “I write for people, not for Google”. And, it is true that, as Scott Stratten says, people don’t retweet good SEO. They don’t spread good SEO.
There is something in these statements, though, that is more of a reflection on those snake oil salesmen I mentioned above, and on experience with the worse of SEO. Writing great content and writing with passion is by all means paramount.
A better understanding of SEO can help you reach a wider audience. An underlying component of SEO is understanding your audience better. What could be wrong with that?
Another piece of SEO is doing things with “best practices”. Often, doing things in a slightly different way provides better results. In Florida, it is best practice to add a couple of nails on your roof shingles. The extra labor and materials hardly amounts to much in the overall project, but the result of still having protection from the rain after a hurricane is invaluable.
What’s the one change bloggers can start making today to make their blogs more search-engine friendly?
SEO isn’t, as many people like to say, rocket surgery. There are a LOT of little things that are worth being mindful of – no one thing. But the biggest, most significant thing that bloggers can do is to pause, and try to THINK like their audience. If you’re writing the next great American novel, that may not be a big concern. But if you want to develop an audience, and build out that wonderful thing where you’ve got a significant audience with lots of comments and give and take, then it pays to consider how they think, and of the words that they might use to discover you.
As part of your BlogWorld presentation, you’re going to be speaking about keyword research. Can you share with us your favorite keyword research tool?
In my other life I’m an artist – and in that capacity, used to teach drawing. I discovered that if my drawing students put on a carnival mask, their drawings would be significantly different. Sometimes, tools that help us think differently are the most valuable – they can help us get unstuck from a rut.
My favorite tool these days is http://www.wordle.net. I like to take a blog I’m writing and dump it into Wordle, and see the patterns. It will often show me that I’m emphasizing something with key word frequency that I didn’t mean to emphasize, and that I could be emphasizing something else.
Wordle treats each word as an individual word, so it can be helpful to use search/replace to manually connect phrases. For instance, I might make “social media” read as “socialmedia”.
Thanks again for stopping by the BlogWorld blog! BlogWorld East is fast-approaching, with more and more sessions being added every day. Give us your best pitch – Why should attendees absolutely make sure they make time for your presentation?
At its worse, SEO is about how we manage the perception of our relevance. At its best, it can help our writing be more relevant. If this presentation was only about “how to do SEO”, I think it would be a failure. There is real value to picking up on those things – but where we’re really going to make a difference is understanding SEO as a tool in creating more meaningful, more relevant blogs.
Blogging is part of a revolution in writing – in human expression. If it can be made better through SEO, or if through SEO we help a blogger’s audience gain more significant audience, then we’ll be doing something wonderful.
Ric’s presentation is currently scheduled for Wednesday, May 25 at 11:30 AM in room 1A07 – check out the full schedule here to stay up-to-date with schedule changes and to learn about other BlogWorld East speakers.