SEO Q & A with Dave Cain

Whilst i’m very focused on writing about social media for obvious reasons, the growing importance of social media as part of the ‘signals’ which your dictate websites search results means i’ve spent the last couple of months learning much more about SEO. Both from a personal and professional stand-point.

So the following is a Q & A with Dave Cain, an SEO expert with over 10 years industry experience based in Nottingham.  The nature of the industry means there are millions describing themselves as just that, but from my communications with him, from reading his website and of course the answers below, it’s safe to say he knows his stuff! Enjoy.

Dave, please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you found yourself working in SEO?

Hi Paul, in a nutshell I’m a digital marketer, my core skill set is search engine optimisation (SEO), pay per click (PPC), search engine reputation management (SERM) and conversion rate optimisation (CRO). Along with this I also plan and implement social strategies (which is now an important part of SEO), dabble with web design, WordPress and front end development. I’m certainly not a jack of all and my primary skill is SEO, but I think to be a good search marketer, knowledge and a good understanding is crucial. How I got into SEO; basically to cut a very long story short, I originally wanted to be a web designer, but my flare for design wasn’t good enough, so I looked at other online avenues and found search back in the days of Yahoo, Alta Vista, MSN and a young Google.

SEO has been a growing industry for many years now, there are now thousands of freelancers, companies and agencies all offering services. What separates the good from the bad and what should we be looking for in a reputable SEO provider?

I think results speak for themselves, that is what SEO is all about. If I was a customer looking for SEO I want to see a mixture of local, national and competitive phrases within the agencies or freelancers portfolio.

You and I understand what SEO is all about, but to many it’s still regarded as a dark art, transparency and honesty is a must, is the agency or freelancer willing to share there techniques? Also look at price, does it seem to cheap, ask yourself “what would you do for £20 a month?” Like they say, you get what you pay for.

With the recent Google ‘Penguin update what changes should web masters be aware of that may affect their rankings?

To be honest, the changes aren’t new, Google has always told us about cloaking, buying links, mirroring sites, etc, they have just done another clean up and made the playing field a little more even. If you adhere to there search guidelines, you can’t go wrong.

Social media seems to be playing a larger role in SEO these days, what advice would you give business owners who want to optimize their social media profiles for SEO purposes?

Focus your profile at the user, make it helpful and friendly – don’t stuff your social profiles or persona’s with keywords and crappy content, make everything unique and relevant to you.

For the most part, social media links are ‘do-follow’ yet they show up in search results regularly. Does it really matter any more whether a link is do follow or no follow?

I’ve done an experiment around this and I found nofollow links from an authority source can be worth more than dofollow links from an average source. I tend not to worry any more if they are ‘no’ or ‘do’ follow. The other thing to remember is, if a backlink profile consisted of all dofollow links, would this look natural to Google? Probably not.

What are the three biggest made by webmasters in trying to rank their websites for their chosen keywords?

Great question;

1) Stuffing the META keywords tag with more and more keywords – come on this is so 2001!

2) Adding the primary keyword more within the content, so keyword stuffing in a nutshell.

3) Buying links – in 10 years of being in search I have never purchased a link, saying that… if you do want to buy a worthwhile link, get it from the Yahoo Directory, it will cost $299 a year, but Google sees this as trusted and authoritative link.

Where do you see SEO as an industry in the next 5 years. What do you believe will form the basis of search rankings?

Personally I believe there will always be a need and demand for a search engine and in-turn SEO. Whilst getting recommendations from friends and colleagues on social networks is great, there’s nothing better than looking for yourself and ‘Googling it’. What search engines will look like in 5 years, I’m not sure, possibly more social and personalisation but I believe the 10 blue links we see today will remain. In terms of rankings factors, I think social will be the driving force, hopefully video will play a bigger part some how and the more traditional link building methods we use today will be gone.

There has been a lot of talk of Facebook launching their own search engine, and with recent rumors that Microsoft may be willing to swap Bing in return for shares in the social network once the IPO has taken place next week, could Facebook genuinely challenge the dominance of Google?

Another great question, its difficult to see what Facebook will do next to be honest, like Google, they will have shareholders to please and more money to make. You’ve then got to ask yourself how are they going to do this without ruining the whole Facebook experience and cramming it with paid adverts. I really can’t see Facebook creating there own search engine, it will be more based around likes, shares, friends, recommendations, location, relationships and so on. It will probably be a different animal to a typical search engine as we know it, and with all this in mind I struggle to see how anyone could take on Google, especially with their search dominance.

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to Dave for taking the time to answers questions about search engine optimisation. You can read more about Dave and the services he provides here.