SEO Q&A with Kalena Jordan of Search Engine College and Ask Kalena…

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This weeks SEO blog post is a bit of a special one. I got the opportunity to do an SEO questions and answers with the search industry’s first agony aunt Kalena Jordan.

In the Q&A Kalena gives her views about link building, SEO tactics, SEO companies, Search Engine College and more…

So, tell us a bit about how you got in to search, what you specialise in, your company etc

In 1996 I was appointed marketing manager for a computer software company in Australia and one of the first jobs they gave me was to develop the company web site. So they sent me off on a half day HTML course (yes, a half day course!) and gave me a 1 month deadline to start making sales for the company online. I had zero programming knowledge, but somehow I muddled through and whipped up a pretty brochure ware site using (boo, hiss) MS FrontPage. But the job was only half done as I had to work out how to get traffic to it.

Around this time, I stumbled across a little-known newsletter authored by Danny Sullivan called Search Engine Watch, plus another called the i-Search Digest. Danny was talking about these things called META tags and explained that if you put keywords in these tags in your web site HTML code, important search engines like AltaVista, HotBot and InfoSeek would be able to associate your site with those keywords. Then, when people looked up those keywords, your site would auto-magically appear in the search results. He didn’t know it at the time, but Danny was establishing a whole new industry later to be dubbed Search Engine Optimization. I followed Danny’s advice and it worked! Within a few months, the company I worked for had formed a million dollar joint venture with an American firm for the distribution of their kitchen design software. Then and there, I fell in love with the power of search and began to specialise in SEO.

In 2001, I set up my own freelance SEO business in Christchurch, New Zealand and began to write and speak about search in various publications and conferences worldwide. In 2002 I began blogging about search and that eventually morphed into Ask-Kalena.com – an agony aunt style column to answer tricky questions from the general public about search engines. After years of receiving and answering the same questions from confused webmasters about how to make their sites search engine friendly, my husband suggested that I make my replies available to everyone by creating an online course about the subject. So I drafted a concept course, got together with some industry colleagues and SearchEngineCollege.com was born in 2004. Now here we are 7 years later, with students in 52 countries! It’s been an incredible ride.

In your opinion what makes a great SEOer, knowledge, know-how, etc

Above everything else, the best SEOs are absolutely fascinated by what they’re doing and are at least a little geeky. I seriously think you have to be completely in love with the process to perform great SEO. You have to be excited about the potential outcome you can achieve for your clients, you have to be patient, flexible and willing to tweak code at 1am. You don’t need a degree, you don’t even need programming knowledge, but you have to be excited about SERPs and willing to dig to find those gold nugget keywords that can deliver your client great converting traffic. If you don’t jump out of bed excited on the days you deliver performance reports to clients, you should probably get out of search altogether.

If you were looking to hire an SEO company, what 3 things would you look for apart from results?

  1. Transparency is a biggie. If a SEO company can’t or isn’t willing to show you what exact methods they’re going to use to improve your results, chances are they’re doing something dodgy.
  2. Honesty – the best SEO firms aren’t afraid to admit they screwed up, chose the wrong keywords, left a hyphen off your 301 redirect, forgot to update your sitemap etc. It’s all an education – SEO firms aren’t dealing with absolutes, they are always learning and tweaking to test the search algorithms. Occasionally they get it wrong and the better ones will tell you when this happens rather than cross their fingers and hope you don’t find out.
  3. I like to ask SEO firms how they measure performance and how they regularly report back to their clients. It’s all very well to say they *get results*, however anyone can get traffic. Anyone can get rankings. But these mean nothing unless they equate to actual conversions and/or income for the client. What is their success benchmark? Have they discussed with you what YOU want out of the project? Have you decided what a conversion is for the site? How will these be measured accurately? What are the performance goals for 3, 6 and 12 months? Which stakeholders will receive the reports? These type of questions are important to ask SEO companies.

What are the 3 best SEO techniques you know when it comes to local search?

  1. Optimize your Google Places listing using keywords, testimonials, photos, video
  2. Get your customers to write/blog testimonials about your product/service, integrating geographical qualifiers
  3. If relevant to your market, create custom product pages for each region you target e.g. city/state/country/

Which 3 forms of link building to you find the most affective and why?

  1. Again the testimonials from happy customers
  2. Article marketing and syndication
  3. Manual submission to theme-based search engines and directories directly related to your product/service e.g. travel portals

In terms of SEO, what 3 things would you advise an individual / company implements right now, blog, social etc?

  1. Don’t stop tweaking. Whether it’s for PPC or SEO campaigns, keep testing, adding keywords, changing headlines, tweaking META tags to aim for better results, more traffic and more conversions each month.
  2. Establish a Google Places page & verify your site with Google Webmaster Tools.
  3. Conduct extensive, detailed keyword research for your market to determine what your audience searches for rather than guessing

If you could change one thing about SEO, what would it be?

The unbelievable ignorance of some media agencies about SEO and their blatant spread of misinformation about the industry

Where do you see search going in the next 5, 10, 15 years?

In a direction we least expect. Less focus on SERPs and more focus on search/social blended data appearing in-site. Less traditional search, more community and crowd sourcing

If SEO was a colour, what would it be and why?

Purple, because it is so divisive. People either love it or hate it. Plus it’s kinda geeky.

If SEO was an animal, what would it be and why?

A ferret, again because it’s kinda geeky, sneaky, not traditionally popular and it’s appeal kinda sneaks up on you. Plus it can give you a nasty bite if you’re not careful!

Give me 3 reasons why Search Engine College rocks and people looking to learn SEO should sign-up?

I think what I’m most proud of about Search Engine College is that it gives absolute beginners a foothold into the search industry that (let’s face it) can be extremely confusing and kinda cliquey. Anyone with a curiosity about SEO or PPC can dive into our beginner courses and learn everything from the ground up, minus the industry jargon. There is SO much information out there about SEO in particular that many people just feel completely swamped and don’t know how to get started. Our courses provide that starting point.

The search engine marketing courses are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and offered entirely online, to be taken at a student’s own pace, in a time-frame that suits them.

Something unique to SEC is that students have the choice of taking a tutor-led Certification course, where a tutor is assigned to track their progress, grade their assignments, give them feedback and award formal certification should they qualify; OR a self-study course, where all assignments and activities are self-graded and no certification is awarded. This flexibility is something that potential students really appreciate.

Note: I couldn’t finish this post without saying a massive “thank you” to Kalena for taking the time out and answering my questions. To find out more about the courses Kalena and her team offer, jump over to Search Engine College now.

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