Save Money on Your Search Engine Strategies Conference New York Trip

I’m thrilled to tell you that as Founder and Owner of Cre8asiteforums, I can offer Cre8asiteforums members 20% off your registration fee for the next Search Engine Strategies Conference to be held in New York City in March.

Visit Cre8asiteforums to sign up as a new member and register for the conference using your 20% off code. The New York Search Engine Strategies conference is one of the largest of their global events. This year’s keynote speaker is a true genius! This is your chance to see and hear Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google. Having met and toured Google with him, I can vouch for his wit, humor and wealth of information. He’s not one to miss.

When an SEO Expert is Not an SEO Expert

The search engine optimization industry is known to rally around a fallen comrade one moment and in the next instant, eat one of its own. It’s considered a mercy killing needed to save SEO reputations.

It’s never a good idea for an SEO to try and fool another SEO – or a few hundred thousand of them.

We’ve seen the dramatic rise, fall and crash of several SEO companies and individuals. Some have managed to return from the dead but they’re a mere sliver of their previous rock and roll self. Fame is brutal. Some SEO professionals, in an effort to keep the industry viable and reputable, will not hesitate to shove misguided souls out into the arena for inspection or beheading. The latest stake driven into the heart of an SEO occurred when Edward Lewis took on Charles Preston.

It would appear as though Mr. Preston, a rather handsome looking dude, feels as though everyone in the SEO industry knows who he is. As a businessman, with several accomplishments noted in his bio, he wants to tackle a known business need. He has identified that many companies have hired SEO companies and been disappointed by the results. Mr. Preston feels he has the expertise to be able to tell a company considering hiring an SEO whether or not the service is viable. For a monthly fee of $99, an SEO firm can submit their company to a series of questions and tests to be sure they’re qualified for being hired. Mr. Preston even offers a “Verified SEO” badge as an official trustmark.

Edward Lewis carved out such a niche for himself with his free SEO Consultants site back in 2002. Did he feel threatened?

When Preston attempted to defend his website to Lewis, he was unsuccessful. No one was going to defend someone claiming to be an industry leader and yet nobody at Sphinn had ever heard of him. It didn’t take long for the angry reaction to stop Mr. Preston’s plans. He removed the web site. Of course, if you read the comments, it was suggested that this a case of “linkbait” or a very well executed April Fool’s joke.

It didn’t matter if you were the better known person in this situation. Readers were all over the place with opinions and responses. It was like watching somebody pop a balloon and the thing flies hysterically around the room.

One of the mistakes I see SEO’s do is they make claims about their expertise but provide no third-party, objective resources to back it up. I can submit articles by the thousands to article sites but that act alone does not make me an SEO expert. That makes me an article writer. There are thousands of them. Weak claims are part of the marketing process. Certain statements appear to sound good, when they really have no meat. To try and pull off any fake “I’m an expert” tactics to a bunch of marketers is…well, writing your own reputation death sentence.

Preston claimed to have the SEO expertise required to judge the practices of others. In the SEO industry, several organizations exist that had hoped to do this very thing. There are colleges and certification courses. A badge offered by an unknown company doesn’t cut it. What does work with this industry are referrals. The more partnerships and relationships you build, the more likely you are to have proven your skills. I don’t refer anyone that I haven’t worked with. This means much more to the client.

To put a badge on someone’s work illustrated just how much Preston doesn’t know about this industry. It’s not a matter of checking to see if someone got page rank for a web site. Preston claims to have gotten 3000 sites to rank high. So what? The real trick is to keep the pages up there, despite all the new competition. And of course, do they convert? Do the sites do anything productive? Do people return to them? You just can’t slap a badge on that kind of stuff.

It was interesting to watch Preston march into the brick wall and keep playing his drums.

When Charles Preston said he was a well known SEO and yet nobody had ever heard of him, it was time for the cats to play with this little toy mouse. Even Danny Sullivan was surprised at the high number of comments. It was his tweet remarking on it that led me to see what the buzz was about.

Was this a case of the affluent reacting to a newbie encroaching on their turf? It could appear that way. The SEO industry has a reputation for eating its young. It’s as if there is a silent code. If you muck up your entry into the field, you’re left with nothing but a bruised ego and a worthless domain. It may seem cruel, but to truly survive in the search engine marketing industry means that you don’t open your mouth unless you know precisely what you’re talking about. The mere second you show any sign of not knowing your stuff, while at the same time presenting yourself as an expert, you’ll be called on it. Charles Preston made some strong claims and tried to take money by offering a service that plays on “the fear of hiring SEO’s”.

Edward Lewis did what someone who expects excellence from the industry would do. He presented the impostor to the masses. He made his case. The response was reader outrage and then dialog with Charles Preston when he arrived to defend himself. In his mind, I think he was trying to put into place some kind of accountability system for SEO.

However, he didn’t pass his own test.

Cre8pc Article Nominated for a SEMMY

I keep forgetting to mention, that despite interrogating the founder of the SEMMYS, they somehow managed to nominate one of my articles.

While the SEMMY awards are targeted to the search marketing industry, there is a Design and Usability category. It is there that an article I wrote for Website Magazine, called Everyday Usability – 14-Point Checklist for Success has been nominated for inclusion.

Tomorrow, judges decide category finalists. Those finalists will be announced on January 25, 2010 and posted to the public so that they can begin their voting. Winners are announced on February 1.

Competition is fierce. Every single nominated article in all the categories is very good.

If you would like to stay on top of the voting and winners, you call follow the SEMMY Twitter account.

Good luck to everyone and especially the judges. They have a truly tough job.

Contest Illustrates Disconnect Between Marketing and User Experience

This is the time of year for annual polls and content. They make for great link bait. If you make such a list, this may be proof your work was noticed by your peers.

Perhaps you are overlooked.

One recent example is Vote for the top 100 online marketers of 2009, in which they ask you to  ” pick the top 100 most influential online marketers, leaders, and thinkers”.   Where were the marketing user experience people?  Where was search usability?

One name jumped out as a person who I know for a fact includes usability audits by a usability consultant in her SEO packages. Another “marketer” on the list is associated with the usability industry’s persuasive design segment. Sadly, many others like them are not on the list because they are aligned with the usability camp, even though they provide SEO services.

I am unable to vote on a list of 100 names. Many people on the list specialize in different types of marketing, such as affiliate, links or social media. There are “thought leaders” from these areas who stand out among their own niche but who may get lost in a mass clump called “marketing”. There is no criteria for what makes the “top” marketer. Top for who? Peers? Customers? Clients? What field? Healthcare industry? Products? Conferences?

What type of marketing is this contest interested in recognizing? Brand reputation? Search engine placement? Rank? What types of sites? Some categories of sites are easier to market than others. Adult industry marketing has its own criteria. Target markets are different between financial sites, healtchcare and news, for example.

User instructions are missing, which is another signal user experience is not the point of the contest. Do you choose one from that list? Who knows? The true thrust of the contest is to get the nominees to put embedded code on their sites to get traffic into the contest site. Marketers love traffic. You and I don’t count.

How can it be that the top marketers and a contest that promotes them, however well intentioned, has no one that works inside the circle of site development from the ground up? How can you market a site that’s not built for the people you are trying to sell to?

A truly representative annual round up, in my opinion, calls for teams of people or companies that work together in the interests of the client and end users from the whiteboard stage on up to production. A “thought leader” understands the mechanics of marketing, AND site performance, database performance, user expectations, search usability, accessibility, findability and information architecture. Such a group is not an overnight sensation. They have spent year upon year testing, trying new methodologies, growing (rather than doing the same things year after year), teaching and educating their clients and peers and providing exceptional services (most of which we never hear about due to NDA’s.)

Please don’t expect me to choose one person when I work with and support so many talented and skilled folks, some of whom never make the Big Lists. I know I could not succeed without their knowledge, letting me ask questions (no matter how dumb) and definitely their loyal friendship, year after year.

Team work, versus a solo act,  meets every nook and cranny of web site promotion.

Meet Pierre Far, of Cli.gs, on Video

This past weekend I took my family up to NYC to have lunch with Pierre Far of Cli.gs and Chris and Danielle Winfield of 10e20.com.

If you’re a fan of this short URL application (and who isn’t?), I’d like you to meet its inventor, Pierre Far.

If you haven’t discovered social media experts (it’s true!), Chris and Danielle Winfield, I strongly encourage you to subscribe to their blog and look for Chris at the many conferences he speaks at. They’re an energetic company, highly professional and the ONLY social media firm I refer my friends to.