This week, we continue the interview series with an awesome Q&A session with SEO expert Dan Shure from Evolving SEO. Between travelling arrangements for NYC to speak at SMX this month, Dan was kind enough to sit down with us and share a few of his SEO secrets.
Here are the questions we started with but if you have questions of your own that you'd like to ask Dan, do not hesitate to do so in the comments section below.
Q: What's your workflow on a regular day?
A: I’m actually extremely sporadic with any sort of workflow. I tend to keep really organized (see next question) in terms of my to do lists, emails, project management etc - which allows me to pretty easily jump in and out of different clients and projects.
Generally I “go with the flow” of what my mental/physical/emotional state is at the moment (apart from scheduled things like calls and meetings). I find that if you learn to not force things you’ll end up being more productive and much happier!
For example, if I’m feeling creative, that’s not the time to do an audit but maybe some content strategy. Late at night is often a better time to do reactive things like email, which you don’t need as much focus and mental energy - and the morning is better for that one really important task you need to get done.
Q: How do you manage to keep your SEO work organized? Are there any tools you use and would recommend?
A: Yes! For organizational aspects, I lean heavily on these tools;
And happy to say ... Advanced Web Ranking! (no I was not asked to say that) :)
The first four I honestly could. not. live. without. They are totally essential to keeping things sane for project and business management.
The others are SEO tools of course, but also have a tracking/organizing component to them that help manage things.
Q: Do you have a routine for evaluating and setting up the optimization for a new client? How would you suggest for a new project to be set up?
A: It does of course depend on the client a little depending on what the project is. Here’s the basic flow of it though most of the time;
For new clients or prospects we definitely have a phone call or two so I can really learn about the business model, past or existing marketing and SEO efforts, goals and their resources for development and content. I take notes religiously for every phone call and put action items at the bottom. Don’t depend on your memory.
Collect all account info - I have a Google Spreadsheet in which I gather things like Analytics/Webmaster Tools info, WordPress logins etc
For technical projects, I have a new indexation/crawling spreadsheet I’ve been developing in Google Spreadsheets. I basically mark down things like;
- # of pages in XML sitemap
- # of pages crawled according to WMT
- # of pages I can crawl with Screaming Frog
- # of landing pages past 30 days
- # of Google Organic landing pages last 30 days
- ...this all can give you a really good holistic sense of how efficiently they are leveraging all of their content for organic traffic, and how efficiently Google is crawling their site.
I’ll usually set up a Moz campaign. I don’t use Moz too heavily for the campaigns, but I like setting this up as a second rank tracker. The historical link metrics are really cool. It’s good to just have Moz running constantly because the reporting is pretty good and can provide some extra metrics and deliverables.
There could be lots of other things depending on the project, but that’s the general baseline!
Q: SEO is constantly changing. How much time do you spend daily to keep yourself "evolving"? Can you share some optimization tips for this process too?
A: Easy. I watch (listen to) John Mueller’s Webmaster Help hangouts (after posted to YouTube) - either I put them on in the car (eyes on the road of course - I have a little stand for the iPhone which sits on the dash) or turn them on at a time when I need a little break from active work.
People think there’s way more to keep up with then there is in reality. I mean, sure, things change but if you’re smart about it you can get filled in.
Also - if you’re into Podcasts, Marketing Over Coffee, does a good job of filling you in on the news. I’ll listen to Podcasts while walking the dog, so it’s not taking away from actual work, and I’m still keeping up with things.
Pay attention to people like Dr. Pete and Josh Bachynski. They’re following algo changes closely and can often filter and distill info for you. Lastly, I find Danny Sullivan’s articles specifically dealing with Google updates to be in my opinion, what he is best at. His reporting on Penguin 1.0 and now Hummingbird have been spot on.
Q: About keyword research - do you think any major changes will appear with the latest Google Hummingbird update?
A: Great question! Hummingbird seems to be an update really poised to potentially change the way people search at a fundamental level. I see it getting even more longtail and “natural language”.
To me though, keyword research isn’t about that specific keyword - but about a concept, intention or topic. You have to be reading between the lines and applying empathy to all keyword to try to understand the intent anyway.
A keyword like “men’s shoes for sale” might be a user really thinking “i’d like to find men’s shoes for sale” or “where can I find men shoes on sale right now”. Users may begin to learn they could get better answers by typing fuller sentences than just a keyword. There’s subtle nuances between those two expansions.
Q: You spoke at many conferences. How important would you say live networking is for business? How that worked for you?
A: Absolutely essential. Our SEO work literally lives on the computer. But our SUCCESS and progress comes from people. Those relationships with people. Trust. Consistency. Showing you are a stand up person over the long term. You can’t do that just on a computer or even over Skype.
I mean, that goes beyond just the idea of “oh, I spoke here, I got X leads and Y clients”. It’s the idea that I could meet someone today who refers someone to me 6 months from now, who follows me on Twitter for 4 months, sees I’m consistently trying to deliver value and like 12 months after that conference they become a client. And that’s just a simple version of how it probably really works in reality.
It’s like multi-touch attribution for the real world ;)
Q: You are also a Moz Associate. Is this something you aimed for or did it just come naturally? What's the story behind?
A: Pretty much I had no direct intention of becoming a Moz Associate. When I started really getting actively involved in the SEO community, I was (as many of us are) inspired by Rand Fishkin’s content, online presence and speaking. I basically really wanted to show him (and others in the community) that I felt like I “got” SEO. Not at a superficial level - but I mean there’s just some things you really feel like you have an innate understanding about. Music was like that for me, as is SEO.
Anyhow, so I made it my goal to get some of my own content in front of his eyes, as well as other like Wil Reynolds and Tom Critchlow. Not because I wanted to “get” anything from them, but because I was genuinely excited about their content and wanted to share mine.
By early 2012, I’d gotten Rand’s attention on a few posts of mine, and Moz reached out to ask about either an actual job in Seattle at some point or an Associate position. The great thing about Moz, is they really value the individual. They have no set position or job descriptions, but rather build a roll around the person’s strengths and passions.
I spoke with Jamie Steven (no longer at Moz) on the phone a few times about everything. It was all put on the back burner for a little while.
Serendipitously, I ran into Gilliane (Rand’s Mom) at SES NY in April 2012. I told her the potential of working with Moz and she said (very firmly) “Do NOT let that opportunity pass”. I listened, and as soon as I got home I emailed Jen Lopez and a few weeks later I was officially a Moz Associate.
Ultimately a full time position with them didn’t work out because I’m personally very driven to grow my own business and also a relocation would have been tricky.
Q: In the end, tell us a little about your plans for next year. Is there anything in particular you would like to focus on in 2014?
But in short 2013 brought some huge changes, challenges, mistakes and progress too.
One thing I’ll definitely focus MORE on is training, seminars, workshops and speaking. I like client work, but as a former teacher and performer I get a real thrill out of events and being in front of people.
You might find me on the more on the quiet side in a crowd, but put me on stage and that feels like home. People tell me I explain things in an engaging and helpful way (which honestly still comes as a shock sometimes as I’m pretty self critical).
So I hope to be releasing some info on these types of services soon. Either where people can come into my new office space or I can go on location.
Some things I’ll be doing LESS of. For one, not taking clients where I have that “gut” negative reaction or lack of excitement. These jobs go OK, but in general excitement builds success. It builds confidence and everyone wins. You’re not going to click with everyone and not every job is a good match. I turned away a ton of work in ‘13 and intend to do more of that in ‘13 - while trying to attract and retain more of the better clients!
Thanks a lot, Dan for sharing all this!
Hope @everybody enjoyed our little chat. If you have anything you'd like to add or ask, share your thoughts below and if you haven't already followed Dan on Twitter, make sure you do so in order to keep up with him ;)
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