SEO Cold Calling: A Primer

I received a voice mail message on Tuesday. The person leaving the message indicated that they were interested in discussing my SEO services. Normally, I’d return such a call right away, but I didn’t have an opportunity to do so until Wednesday afternoon. As it turns out, it doesn’t look like they’re going to be becoming clients of mine, as they’re in the business themselves, but the call did get me thinking about advice for SEOs who seek out new business by cold calling other SEOs, so I’ve put together this little primer.

Leaving a Message

If you get my voice mail and want to leave a message, don’t tell me that you’d like to talk to me about my SEO services. A message like that is likely to make me think you’re interested in having me do some work on your site. If what you really want is for me to sign up as a reseller of your SEO services, then your best bet is to say that in your message. SEOs who are interested in something like that will return your call, and those of us who have no desire to sell someone else’s services — like me, for example — won’t bother, and a lot less time will be wasted by both of us.

Sure, it’s not exactly a lie to say that you want to talk about my SEO services, but it’s really not very accurate.

If I Say “No”

If I return your call because you failed to follow the advice indicated above and then tell you once I see what’s going on that I’m not interested in becoming a reseller of someone else’s services, you should probably just take “no” for an answer. On the other hand, if you truly believe you can change my mind, then when you take advantage of my polite nature and insist I take a look at what you have to offer, you’d better be prepared to really wow me with your services and your knowledge of the search industry.

SEO 2.0

You tell me that you call your services “SEO 2.0″ because it’s such an advance over old fashioned SEO. I’ve seen the term here and there, mostly to describe search marketing that concentrates on social media. But that’s not what you mean by “SEO 2.0.” Your “SEO 2.0″ involves advanced practices like these:

LSI

If you ask me if I’m familiar with the concept of Latent Semantic Indexing and I reply in the affirmative, it’s not necessary to read the definition from your script, especially if it’s wrong. My “yes” is your cue to skip that step in the process.

When you show me a page that demonstrates your use of LSI, it probably shouldn’t be a page that uses a phrase like “pest control” over and over. Sure, words like “mosquitoes,” “ants,” “cockroaches” and “insects” do show up on the page, but that’s to be expected on just about any page about pest control. I mean, just look at this:

some text about pest control

This is your idea of LSI?

Also, if I should raise the point that I don’t believe anyone’s conclusively demonstrated that any of the major search engines actually make use of LSI, it’s a good idea to have references to an article or two at the ready.

The Search Exchange

OK, so maybe I wasn’t all that impressed with your LSI example. It’s time to bring out the big guns if you’ve got any hope of changing my mind at this point. If your best idea is to talk to me about the “Search Exchange,” I think maybe you’re better off just thanking me for my time and saying goodbye.

But no, you really want me to see the Search Exchange, so you have me click the link anchored “Search Exchange” at the top of your wonderful LSI pest control page. I find myself on a page linking out to a real estate site, a house cleaning service site, a kitchen cabinet site, etc. It looks like a standard-issue link exchange page to me. I’m not impressed. Then you tell me that the great thing about the Search Exchange is that the links are all coming from your network of hundreds (or did you say “thousands”) of sites. Buddy, that’s not SEO 2.0. It’s a link farm. Time to say goodbye.

Do Your Research

This really ought to be step one in our primer, but for me, it’s an afterthought, so I’m throwing it in at the end.

It seems to me that if you’re looking for SEOs who’d be interested in becoming resellers of your kind of services, it’s not enough to just buy a list of the names and numbers of SEOs. Check these people out before you contact them. If their websites warn people to watch out for SEOs who try to get you to join link farms (me, for example), those are people you probably shouldn’t bother calling.

Of course, you could have done worse. It’s not like I’ve got thousands of people reading this modest blog post about you. And while I’ve commented on his blog three or four times, I’m not all buddy-buddy with Matt Cutts, so he’s probably not reading this post either. See, Matt has access to these cool insider-only Google tools, and all he’d need is one look at one of your clients’ pages to ban your whole network.

Then again, he probably doesn’t need my help, since all of the farm pages are linked to with anchor text of “Search Exchange,” and they all appear to be on pages named 0308.php, which makes them pretty easy to locate.

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What Does Google Mean When It Asks What I Mean?

I have a client who is a Minneapolis interior designer. (Yes, that’s a plug for them. As if you wouldn’t do the same thing.) Earlier today, I was checking out the progress of their rather new site using Google’s webmaster tools, and was pleased to see them starting to move up, and even get some traffic, for searches like [interior designers minneapolis] and [interior design firm minneapolis]. They’ve got a ways to go, but they’re definitely moving in the right direction.

Google also listed them at #4 for [interior designersminneapolis] (note the missing space). That’s a little troubling. They rank higher for the search with the typo than without. I took that to mean that either someone’s linking to them with the typo in the anchor text, or they’ve got the typo somewhere on the site. I couldn’t find either one, though.

I was further confused by Google’s attempt to correct me:

Google search result for interior designersminneapolis

Google wants to know if I meant “interior designers minneapolis” and if I meant to search for “interior designers minneapolis.” Wha? Obviously, if I meant it, I meant to search for it. What else would I be doing at a search engine?

And the two searches being offered to me are indeed identical. The first one links to
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&q=interior+designers+minneapolis&spell=1 and the second to
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=1&ct=result&cd=1&q=interior+designers+minneapolis&spell=1

So what’s the point?

As it turns out, this is not Google’s doing. I run a Greasemonkey script called GoogleMonkeyR. I use it to number G’s results. If I disable it and run the search again, I only get the “Did you mean: interior designers minneapolis” line. I have no idea why it’s adding that extra “Did you mean to search for” bit.

So, problem solved, for the most part. I’ll write to the script’s author about the bug, and I’m no longer freaked out about tripping over a bug in the all-knowing Big G.

It’s still a bit odd that my client is ranking for that search containing a typo, though.

Anyway, it gave me a decent excuse to link to them.

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Another URL Thought

I wrote some thoughts last month about how we choose to communicate URLs to people — what’s essential to getting the message across, what’s not, and what may be changing with time.

Tonight, while waiting for Gary Indiana to finally give the Clinton campaign the coup de grâce (Updated: OK, not quite, but really close), I saw a spot for a certain flower company. It is almost Mother’s Day, after all. “Which flower company was it, qwerty?” I hear you ask.

1-800-flowers logoIt was this one. And there’s the URL, right in the logo (assuming you ignore the flower growing out of the dot). You can read it out: “one dash eight hundred dash flowers dot com.” But you watch the commercial and there’s the founder of the company and his daughter (shades of Frank and Jim Perdue?) referring to it as “one eight hundred flowers dot com.” No dashes. Why are there no dashes? In my line of work, I advise people not to get domains with dashes, and a big reason for that is because it’s harder to communicate. But in this case, the dashes are there in the branding. Are they assuming people will think of the logo and know that when they think of “one eight hundred flowers dot com” they should remember that there are dashes in there? No, that can’t be it.

This is from the site’s About Us page:

Jim McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, INC., opened his first retail store in 1976 and successfully built his own chain of 14 flower shops in the New York metropolitan area. In 1986, he acquired the 1-800-FLOWERS phone number and continued to grow his business under the 1-800-FLOWERS® name. His immediate focus was to create a reliable brand name built on trust, and over the next few years he achieved this through his understanding of his customer base and market. The next logical step was expansion, and McCann successfully expanded his business into other retail access channels-going online in 1992 and opening a web site in 1995. Today, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM® has a well-known web site (www.1800flowers.com), and maintains strategic online relationships with a number of online services, including America Online, Microsoft Network (MSN), and Yahoo!.

So whatever they were called from 1976 to 1986 doesn’t matter much. In ’86 they branded the company based on that phone number, 1-800-flowers.

The way we communicate phone numbers has certainly changed over the years. I believe everyone in the US has been on a system that requires them to dial 1 at the beginning of a long-distance call since the 1970s. We no longer say “area code” before announcing an area code. And it’s probably been thirty or forty years since one would identify an exchange (the first three digits after the area code) with two letters and a number, which was itself a streamlined version of naming an exchange for a place, followed by a number. Wikipedia notes that the Ricardo’s phone number on I Love Lucy was MUrray Hill 5-9975, which would later be referred to as MU5-9975, and later 685-9975. I remember this commercial from my misspent youth (spent in the glow of the eye of hell):

There was another hotel with ads that included a phone number with a full on “Murray Hill” exchange, but I couldn’t find that one.

But I digress. The point is, we know how to say a phone number. Even with all the changes that have taken place over time, we’ve never had to actually say “dash”. The hyphens were in there just to make the printed version of the number easier to parse. So if we know that 1-800-flowers can be read “one eight hundred flowers,” the people marketing the web site feel that we can look at that logo with its hyphens and hear the domain name spoken as the phone number with a “dot com” tacked on the end, and not have our heads explode.

Beyond that point, here’s the real point, courtesy of my pal the WebBug:

If I request http://www.1800flowers.com, the server returns the following:

HTTP/1.1 302 Object moved
Location: http://ww21.1800flowers.com/

A “temporary” redirect, but I end up at a domain without any dashes.

If I request http://www.1-800-flowers.com, the server returns the following:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Wed, 07 May 2008 05:31:28 GMT
Server: Apache
Cache-Control: no-cache=”set-cookie,set-cookie2″
Set-Cookie: JSESSIONID=0000UzUSX5tGcqe8AriacpxKyf7:120mbebeh;Path=/
Set-Cookie: ShopperManager/enterprise=d7b1c7dc-1bf6-11dd-b18b-cbe10af70195;Expires=Mon, 25-May-2076 08:45:35 GMT;Path=/
Cache-Control: no-cache
Pragma: no-cache
Expires: Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 GMT
X-Powered-By: 1800Flowers web server
X-AspNet-Version: 1.21.366
Connection: close
Transfer-Encoding: chunked

No redirect. So both versions get me to the site, but excluding the dashes from my request does require the server to take an extra step. Should I take that to mean that the version with the dashes (the one that the logo looks like the domain name would be) is the default and the one without them (the one that you hear when they say the name) was set up to catch errors and keep the competitors from getting control of mistyped traffic?

One last thing to note, now that Clinton’s “apparently” won Indiana, according to MSNBC: In the footer of the site’s home page they’ve got links to other sites they run. Among them are 1-800-Baskets and 1-800-Greetings, with links anchored by “Greeting Cards” and “Gift Baskets” respectively. And the targets of those links? 1-800-Baskets is at http://www.1800baskets.com/ and 1-800-Greetings is http://www.1800greetings.com/. And just for fun, what happens when you add the dashes so the URLs match the company names on those two?

http://www.1-800-baskets.com/ returns a 301 redirect to http://www.1800baskets.com/ and http://www.1-800-greetings.com/ returns a proper 200, but the news isn’t quite as good as it appears. If I request http://www.1800greetings.com/ I get a 301 to http://1800greetings.cardways.com/cp001/clientinterface/creategiftcard.asp?cltid=121&returnid=0 (an affiliate deal, apparently), which looks like this:

Screen capture of 1800greetings.com

And yes, a request for http://www.1-800-greetings.com/ returns a 200, but it looks like this:

Screen capture of 1-800-greetings.comThe wrong site.

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I Lost

I was a finalist for a SEMMY. See? Down there.

→ 2008 SEMMY Finalist ←

You could say I was a “SEMMY finalist,” but that would be pretty confusing, and not particularly amusing.

It wasn’t for a post here at qwerty’s qoncepts. It was for a little something I wrote for isos, called “This Just In.”

Did I win? Did you look at the title of this post? No, I didn’t win. In fact, if you look at the results for my category, you’ll see that I tied for last place among the finalists.

I’m over it, though. It was an honor just to be nominated…dammit.

Besides, with the WGA strike going on, the awards weren’t televised, so it’s not as if I had to rent a tux to find out I’d lost.

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Ask Tries Advertising Again

Ask logoI saw a couple of new adverts for Ask.com on the eye of hell Tuesday night. I’m pretty sure this makes five different campaigns in the past 18 months or so. We had…

  • One that took place in a café full of animalistic searchers, and that one Ask user who evolves, plus one with some scientist types being described as “animals in pants” by an ape. These, I’m sure, were massive hits with the intelligent design crowd.
  • The series with Apostolos Gerasoulis himself (founder of Teoma) pointing out what a “pimped out” search engine Ask is.
  • Two or three spots involving people talking about “the algorithm” and yucking it up over their friends who just didn’t get it.
  • Those god-awful singing and dancing “I got what I was looking for” ads, featuring searches for [Kato Kaelin] and [chicks with swords].

Apostolos Gerasoulis and a kidAnd now we get a couple of new ones. In these, the only sounds are a few musical notes at the end and the sound of a user clicking (must be using IE, so how smart a searcher can it be?) as s/he shows us the beauty, the splendor, the majesty, and the usability of Ask’s GUI. One of them shows how a search for San Francisco offers lots of options, such as different media — images, maps, images from news stories, or the Wikipedia entry on the city, direct information — the time and weather in SF, or the opportunity to narrow or expand the search.

In the other, we get to learn about how we can make our searches more pleasant by choosing wallpaper (they refer to it as a “skin”) from a dropdown list:

  • AskX – the Web 2.0-ish interface they introduced a few months ago
  • Azul – a bench, ostensibly in London in front of a blue backdrop
  • Cartas – a mail slot on a red door
  • Flower
  • Golden – wheat
  • Pink stripes
  • Polka dots
  • Rotunda – Sorry, I don’t know what building’s rotunda it is
  • Timber Brume – A forest in a bit of fog, which is apparently what a brume is
  • Western Sky – at sunset, of course, and
  • Default – that boring interface we all hate so very much.

The thing is, the “skin” only appears to skin ask.com. Run a search, and it’s gone until you go back to the home page. So… big deal.

Are these ads going to help Ask? Maybe the one involving how useful the engine is might bring them up from a distant fourth to a close fourth, but the skin ad really doesn’t strike me as a reason for anyone to switch.

I guess I’d like it if Google had a bit more competition. All three of the other supposedly big four are on the eye of hell, trying to get the public to give them a try. Big old Goggly Gogol has yet to stoop to advertising on the tube, and I’m still waiting for the day when Paris Hilton looks out at me from the dreaded eye and says, “iGoogle. Do you Google? Wanna Google with me?

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The Kind of Smallish List of Sort of Search Marketing Blogs

smallish list of sort of search marketing blogsWe search marketing types are big on business blogging. We recommend blogging to clients (“it’s like having an open conversation with your targeted audience!”), we blog about our work, we blog about our tests and theories, we blog about our colleagues’ work, and we blog about our colleagues’ blogs.

It was Lee Odden of TopRank® Online Marketing who recognized this and created the ever-growing Big List of Search Marketing Blogs. It’s big, alright. As of this writing, it contains over 400 listings. No, I didn’t count. Feel free if you’re in a skeptical mood.

Naturally, when a list gets to be this big, people are going to start editing it down to more specialized, niche-oriented lists. Today I came across Peter da Vanzo’s Big List Of Link Building Blogs. If they don’t already exist, I’m sure we’ll soon see Big Lists of keyword research, analytics, search satire, search rumors, contextual advertising, and affiliate marketing blogs, and eventually we’ll have somebody throw together a Big List of Big Lists of Specialized Search Marketing Blogs. That somebody will not be me.

All of this got me to thinking. What about those blogs by people in the search biz that aren’t necessarily about search, but might have the occasional search-related post, like… well, like this one, for example. Who’s going to list those blogs? Qwerty is, that’s who.

I’ll be relying on you, dear reader, to send me suggestions, as I can only think of a few off the top of my head, and I’m hoping this list, while somewhat smallish, will at least be complete. You can suggest via the comment form or send them in an email to gladstein[at]gmail[dot]com.

And so, without further ado, it gives me great pride to present…

The Kind of Smallish List of Sort of Search Marketing Blogs

  • All About Content – Sure, the title tag says “SEO Blog,” but Melanie Phung blogs about plenty of other stuff, such as Stewie (no, not the feetsball-headed cartoon character). Besides, she isn’t on Lee’s list and she was the first to volunteer to be listed here.
  • Daggle – The personal blog of Danny Sullivan. The “About Daggle” page says, “What’s Daggle? It’s my personal blog, where I’m writing about things other than search. If you’re after what I have to say on the subject of search, then you want Search Engine Land. Daggle’s about other things in my life,” but there’s stuff in there about Scoble, Facebook, AdSense and such.
  • qwerty’s qoncepts – Duh.
  • Vanessa Fox. Nude. – The ex-Googler and current Zillow-er has plenty to say about search, but her expertise on the subject of Buffy may just eclipse her knowledge of the online.

OK, this is where you come in. Give me more. More, I say.

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Cats of SEO (and a few dogs while we’re at it)

Matt Cutts, in responding to the the question Why Do I Blog? came up with an interesting idea:

I think someone should start a “Cats of SEO” blog post.

I agree. If you’re an SEO, an SEM, a search marketer (or whatever you care to call what we do), or if you’re just active in the search marketing community and you want in, send me:

  • A pic of your beastie(s)
  • Their name(s)
  • Your name
  • Your company
  • Your URL

The address is bob at raisemyrank dot com, and please put “SEO Cats” in the subject line. And yes, dogs will be accepted too. We’re very open minded here.

Maya
Maya – Bob Gladstein of Raise My Rank

Gonga
Gonga – Bob Gladstein

Liesel
Liesel – Jennifer Taylor of Viewsource Inc.

Blackie
Blackie – Lise Tyrrell of Eco Tropical Resorts

Bob
Bob – Lise Tyrrel

Spaz and Punkn
Spaz and Punkn – Randy Cullom of RandyCullom.com

Sassy
Sassy – Michael Motherwell of WMS Australia

Sunny
Sunny – Todd Mintz of S.R. Clarke

A lot of cats
Courtney, Tango, Mitz, Shadow, Rags and Bones – Ben Ryan from The Purr Company

Snoozy
Snoozy – Leontine van der Meer of Lionsites Web Design

Misty
Misty – Scott Sedwick of Hyperformance Media

Emma
Emma – Scott Sedwick

Stryker and Beckham
Stryker and Beckham – CK Chung (Kid Disco) of SEOdisco

Taz
Taz – Alan Cook of cfreek

Salem
Salem – Alan Cook

Jasmine
Jasmine – Alan Cook

Toby
Toby – Alan Cook

Tumba
Tumba – James (Old Welsh Guy) and Lottie Edwards of Umbrella Consultancy

Cassie and Jeremy
Cassie and Jeremy – Sandy Craner of Brandy’s Delights and Delectables

Oscar
Oscar – Sandy Craner

Google
Google – Béate Vervaecke of e-Zen

e-
e- – Béate Vervaecke

Zen
Zen – Béate Vervaecke

Lil Bit
Lil Bit – Matt Foster of ArteWorks

Kitty and Worf
Kitty and Worf – Meg Geddes of Michigan Integrated Solutions, Inc. and Netmeg.

Kitty
And another of Kitty for good measure.

A thought just occurred to me — we already know about the eagle and the Galapagos turtle (tortoise? turtle? goat?), but I wonder if, somewhere on his undoubtedly palatial estate, SC from SC has the greatest living American cat.

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