Meet Ann Smarty, a search engine optimization (SEO) expert who agreed to an interview with BlogHer. The interview was a Q and A session by email.
Q: Let’s start with who you are. You’re the SEO expert for Blue Glass, a new marketing firm. You run your own SEO company called SEO Smarty. The article "Top SEO Women" put you in with the top-ranked SEO experts. On your site at annsmarty.com, you describe yourself as an SEO consultant. I’ll just sum you up by saying that you’re an expert in SEO.
What else can you tell us about yourself?
A: I am not that good at talking about myself, really. This is why my personal blog annsmarty.com looks so neglected. I am terrible at writing applications and talking about myself at interviews because I never know what to say: my private life is hardly interesting to anyone (except probably my personal contacts) and my professional life may seem too boring to start the interview with.
You covered pretty much everything. I also blog regularly at Search Engine Journal, which is one of top SEO blogs in the world. I have also recently started a new project aiming to help guest bloggers to find blog owners accepting guest posts. The site is MyBlogGuest, and it's a free-to-join community focusing on guest blogging and everything around that.
We have just published an infographic about guest blogging (if you struggle to understand why you may want to do that).
Q: Many BlogHer readers run blogs, websites and small businesses themselves. They want to know what they can do to improve their traffic and their business. If you could only give someone one or two SEO tips, what would they be?
A: SEO is just about improving search engine rankings. Most blogs (as well as most of my own blogs) do not really rely on Google's traffic. Most of us rely on communities we network in and social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. I'll share my SEO tips further on but here I'd share the most effective non-SEO tips:
- Build connections (actually, build as many connections as you can.)
- Promote other people's content as sincerely as you can: this always pays back.
- Link to other people's content (this is always appreciated and is by far the most essential way to build connections.)
Q: What is a common mistake you see people make regarding SEO?
A: Overdoing it. Really, blogs are about your voice and your style. Overdoing SEO usually results in keyword stuffing and link stuffing. Just be as natural as you can. Create quality and unique content, network with other bloggers in your niche (to get them link back to your blog) and search traffic will come!
When bloggers start browsing through all those "advanced" SEO tactics and frightening SEO rumor, they forget about the major aim of their blogging, which is creating a unique voice people would follow.
Q: In addition to the most important one or two things I asked about earlier, what are some of the less important things that really help with SEO?
A: When talking about less important tips, I am ready to share the SEO-specific advice here. I did a post earlier sharing some essential basics for SEO newbies:
- Mind your post titles. Not only will it grab your reader’s attention and make him read further, title of the page is also the most “prominent” place to put your important keywords in. Make sure to create catchy and attention-grabbing titles AND use some post-specific details in them. Those “details” which will then help your post appear in search engines may include: the product you are reviewing, the person you are interviewing, the place you are describing, etc.
- "Interlink" your content (Link to previously published posts within your blog). Search bots discover and index your posts by following links. Thus, before publishing a post, make sure to drill down to your previously published articles, find relevant ones and link to them from within the new content. This will also encourage readers to browse to your older posts and motivate them to stay on your blog.
- Try not to link to "suspicious sites" (especially if you are offered a pay for that!). While linking in general is highly appreciated, linking to “bad neighborhoods” may get you into trouble. What is a “bad neighborhood?” Just a couple of months spent online will teach you. Those are various health- or gambling-related resources which are likely to send a spam email to your inbox. Never mess out with them, even if they offer good money for a link. Just ignore them.
- Post unique content only. Even if you are approached by a PR person with the “ready-made” press release or product review for you to “just copy and paste,” take a few minutes to retell the contents of the release with your own words and express your own opinion. This will make your blog voice stronger in the community, your style more recognizable by readers and your content more valuable for search bots. Remember, Google only values unique content!
Q: Is it all about numbers and stats or is there some other way a blogger can measure her SEO success?
A: When it comes to SEO, this is really almost a numbers-only game. SEO is all about making your site "search" (machine) friendly: making your site easy for search crawlers to find and go through. However, there are many neighboring areas (like usability, conversions, social media optimization and marketing), and most of SEO professionals have expertise in these and use them to measure the campaign success.
After all, this all comes down to your aims: if you hope to monetize your blog with ads, you may want to measure the blog performance by monthly income. If you aim to build a mailing list, count your subscribers, etc.
Q: Does someone have to hire a consultant such as yourself to get good SEO results? Or to put it another way, what type of business or website would benefit the most from hiring a professional?
A: Bloggers usually don't need an SEO consultant to succeed. Like I said, blogging success is tightly connected to the blogger and his blogging and networking skills. Ecommerce sites ALWAYS need an SEO (either independent or in-house one) because commercial sites are hard to optimize and get natural links to.
A: You see, I am an SEO expert, and I would not recommend non-SEO bloggers to go as in-depth as I do. So I won't recommend anything I read regularly for that reason. Instead, try going through this one: Beginner's Guide to SEO -- after this guide SEO should seem clearer!
Q: At BlogHer, we’re big on finding women bloggers and spreading the news about them. Are there any women’s blogs that you know of that might be good examples of SEO done well? Can you mention what they do right?
A: I recommend you check out SEO Chicks -- they are all women, they have great style and in-depth knowledge of SEO. I guess they make a perfect example of women with attitude being great SEOs and bloggers.
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