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June 27, 2011

Win a Pass to SMX East + Interview with Last Year’s Contest Winner, Brent Rangen

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What do you get when you cross an awesome conference, an awesome contest and your awesome professional advice? (Drum roll please!) The Small Biz Local Discovery Contest!

Yep, our annual contest is back and this time with a local spin. Go to the contest page above for all the rules and details on how to enter. In short, answer the question: “How would you advise a small business owner on how best to use SEO, PPC or Social Media to drive conversions to a local business?” If your answer is chosen as the winner, you’ll win a 3-day all access pass to SMX East in New York City in September!

Small Biz Local Discovery Contest logo

Last year’s contest winner is Brent Rangen. He won a full conference pass, including SEO training, with his entry SEO for Small Business: Get an SEO Primer. I chatted with Brent on Skype last week about how SEO has changed over the past year and what recommendations he’s giving small business owners today. Check it out for an observant take on our industry’s evolution.

Since you wrote SEO for Small Business: Get an SEO Primer, what has your involvement been in the industry? Are you still the owner of Optimize Guyz? Where else can we find your presence around the web?

Yes, still the owner at Optimize Guyz and loving it. I am also involved with creating a new marketing model with Dan Wegner of Traffic Resources International, the Marketing Officer at Hub Juice, and overseeing the development of a link prospecting tool with the business Unmotivated Genius. In my personal time, I have been covering news stories and posting software reviews on Search Engine Watch.

You focus on Google in your primer, and certainly most SEOs do, but in your opinion, has Bing made any gains in the local space over the last year that make Bing-focused optimization efforts worth while?

It seems like Bing is steadily growing. However, Google keeps throwing enough updates to try to demand most of our attention. Other than the basic on-site optimization, we do not focus on one primary search engine anymore. I think the key now is to influence search behavior itself, utilize other traffic sources, clean up on low-hanging fruit keywords, ride out conversions, and maximize your efforts as best as you can as far as resources go.

Of the updates to Google features or products that took place over the last year, do any stand out for how they affect the way an SEO does their job on a day-to-day or strategic-level basis? And what were the adjustments made?

Well, I would classify updates in two ways:

1) Algorithmic updates – Therein lies the question, do you take the time to immerse yourself in listening to the chatter or do you perform testing to see how changes influence rankings? It’s a tough question. We don’t really do either. We focus our time and energy much more on natural links, social media actions, and trying to deserve to rank #1. We do still perform a baseline of self-service links in most instances and try to add quality to the index on these links as well, but the majority of the efforts focus on harvesting relationships within a vertical and writing high quality posts, articles, and status updates focusing on trends and long tail keywords. I’m also a firm believer in building a wide variety of search signals. News, videos, social signals, search behavior (ie. brand-related queries), and on-site optimization.

2) Product updates – This would be everything covered at #LiveSearch. New features often mean new opportunities. I do pay quite a bit of attention to new features being rolled out on social media sites and search engines. Local and mobile are always changing!

You list four areas that need attention when doing SEO for small business: back links, on-page SEO, keywords and reporting. The majority of your article unpacked the intricacies of back links and researching and selecting keywords. Has your process for building links changed at all in the last year?

Yes. We have done a complete 180 with back links. We use Twitter to speed-up the process of creating relationships and find many successful guest blog post opportunities with Twitter. Also, we process link data in bulk now so it’s very much data-driven back link prospecting with very accurate footprints.

What about your keyword research and selection process?

Our keyword strategy has not changed that much in the past year. You’re only as good as your keyword list and volume estimates. Keyword research is something that is never done. I think my employees are very familiar with hearing “WMT’s” now and we check search query reports very often.

And then, how about on-page SEO and analytics?

On-site has not changed too much since the Primer was published.

Analytics varies from client-to-client of course, but we are always tracking, monitoring actions and goals, watching referral sources and trying to grow direct traffic.

I love Twitter. I can expand on that if you wish. ;)

Please do! I’d like to hear more about how it fits into your strategy with back links and promotion.

Whatever industry you’re in, your juicy link sources will most likely be on Twitter and eager for friends to connect with. We speed up this process by making very targeted lists, or “People to Watch.” From our lists we create paper.li & scoop.it accounts to help us get out more @mentions on a daily basis. We also have a baseline amount of interactions we try to get out each day using HootSuite. After a few weeks, you know who has blogs, sites, forums, etc. and will be much more successful with link requests, or blog post request after you have built up that rapport. Another added benefit is it is a micro-community you will create. Getting your own content retweeted is a great way to help kick start your incoming links (more visibility & new audiences).

So, to last year’s contest prompt (What one SEO recommendation would you give to small business owners to improve their online presence?) your answer was essentially to focus on “Back links, title tags, keyword saturation, and new content.” Would you give the same advice this year?

No, not exactly. To a certain extent, it would be the same answer. It’s always good to have your web properties as optimized for search engines as they can be (if that’s possible!), conversions, and usability. I think the back links aspect is much more social now and each business should have a strategy and goals in place on how they can grow on the web. How they reach the goals could be completely different now and they may not see the ROI from going after keyword rankings. I think it’s more about connecting all of your marketing efforts both off-line and on-line and adapting the new customer service model (more of a 1:1 relationship with consumers). So the Primer would be a great starting point still, it’s just the tip of the iceberg though.

Have any advice for people thinking of entering the contest this month?

Don’t hold back! The 2010 contest did more for my business than I could have ever dreamed it would. The Bruce Clay training, full conference pass, SEOToolSet membership, and the recognition helped me get where I am today. Not only that, several of the contacts I made at the conference last year are still fruitful for me a year later. It’s well worth the time to participate and give it everything you can!

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5 responses to “Win a Pass to SMX East + Interview with Last Year’s Contest Winner, Brent Rangen”

  1. Unmotivated Genius writes:

    Nice interview Brent!

  2. Dan Wegner [TRI] writes:

    Hey Brent, great interview and thanks for the mention ! :D

  3. Brent Rangen writes:

    Thanks Fella’s!

    Virgina, I can not wait to read the 2011 articles this year.

    It’s such a GREAT opportunity for new SEO/SMO/SEM agencies I really encourage any one considering participating to take advantage of this.

  4. Wayne writes:

    Crazy good article, Brent!

    Keep up the excellent work :)

    Wayne

  5. Kent writes:

    I hope I can win the pass and go to SMX East! Anyway, thanks for the interview. I know Brent on his website ontolo link building. I keep following his blog in link building.I agree with him, build link naturally and socialize online.

    I have two websites just hit PR 5 (keep improving) recently, and I have never submitted links to directories, to exchange links, to buy links, etc. But I did is build relationship online. Comment on blogs and forums one by one, build genuine relationship to real people behind blogs and forums. That’s my strategy for my link building.

    Even Google doesn’t pass the link juice, but I get to know more and more real people that help my business! :)



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