When it comes to search engine optimization, our Senior Project Manager Sean Deets is who we count on to make our clients happy. Sean’s been a member of our Philadelphia web design company for 8 years and has learned the ins and outs of the industry. I sat down with him for an interview. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Why do you like working in SEO?

A: “It gives me the ability to help businesses grow online and compete in their industry. I am a competitive person by nature and always had a deep rooted interest in marketing. SEO allows me to tap into both of those resources. The most rewarding feeling is when you hear from clients that they landed a big client, expanded their office, or they had to hire additional people. Knowing that your work has a real life impact on a company and their employees is what motivates me to keep learning and improving.”

Q: How has the SEO process changed since you began in the industry?

A: “Search engines are constantly changing the way they index and rank websites within their results. These changes require SEO professionals to stay current on all of the latest industry news, implement the best practices, and utilize the best tools available. When I first started working in the SEO industry in 2001, the ranking algorithms were a lot less complex than they are today. Back then you only needed to focus on the actual website and make strategic updates to the Meta tags, content, and continuously add new content. Today, that strategy would leave your website buried in the search engine results and potential customers would have a difficult time finding your business online. There are literally thousands of factors that search engines use to influence rankings. Moz does a great job of summarizing these influences in their yearly Search Ranking Factors report.”

Q: Do you have any favorite blogs/websites you visit often?

A: “There are a lot of great blogs and websites available for people who want to learn more about SEO. Here are some of the ones that I trust and read often:”

Search Engine Land
Search Engine Watch
Matt Cutts

Q: If you had to describe the world of SEO in one word, what would it be?

A: “SEO is very complex which makes it difficult to try and summarize the industry in just one word. Though most of my experiences have been positive and rewarding, there have definitely been some challenges over the years. Unfortunately search engines will only tell you the best practices but never share their algorithms that are used to rank websites.

Since I am being forced by our Content Manager to answer this question, I would have to use the word “battle.” I know that this may seem a little extreme at first but think about it for a minute. All of these businesses are fighting each other to get the highest rankings on search engines because of the direct influence it has on their business. Imagine the impact that a number one ranking for the most important keyword phrase would have on your business. All of the additional traffic could result in more business, employees, and growth for your company.

Now imagine the opposite happens and your company drops off the first page of results. What impact will that have on your business and employees? This is why search engines have to constantly update the way they rank websites because people are willing to do anything to try and cheat the system or find a shortcut. Eventually search engines will find out these tactics and punish them in their result which is why I strongly believe in doing things the right way. Developing a great strategy, working hard, and understanding the industry will always lead to great results.”

Q: What are the best qualities an SEO specialist can have?

A: “Patience, hard work, persistence, and having a great understanding of how the SEO industry works. What SEO professionals and business owners always learn over time is that there are no quick fixes or paid services that you can use to manipulate the rankings that will have a long-lasting impact on the rankings. The industry is always changing and you need to have a great strategy in place that you continuously evolve and improve. All of the hard work is going to pay off if you do things the right way and are patient with the results.”

Q: Briefly describe some elements of a search-friendly website.

A: “A few years ago I instituted a major change on how I optimize a client’s website from a SEO perspective. Previously I would always focus on the SEO value first before I would consider the usability for a visitor. Although this method would get a lot of people to your website, it usually results in a higher bounce rate, lower conversion rate, and can cause confusion for the visitor.

Think about your business and customer first before you worry about which keyword phrases you are going to optimize on your website. This will help to build a very search-friendly website that is easy to navigate and help improve the overall user experience. SEO is only one part of internet marketing and you need the website to sell people on your services. There are a lot of ways to gain traffic to the website outside of SEO as well.”

Q: What are your favorite go-to SEO tools?

A: “Here are a few SEO tools that are needed to have a successful SEO campaign:”

Google Analytics
Google Keyword Planner
Google Webmaster Tools
Open Site Explorer

Q: During a Performance Review Call with a client, what’s the first thing you address?

A: “How is business? Before going any further in the conversation, it is very important to know how things are going on their side before discussing a strategy or the performance of the campaign. If the client has any concerns then I want to make sure to address them right away and determine what we need to do to correct them. If things are going well, then we can start talking about the campaign next. Remember that every client is different and focuses on different aspects of the campaign. Establish goals up front and make sure you clearly understand the client’s expectations.”

Q: What’s better – 10 links from one website or one link from 10 different websites? Why?

A: “This all depends on the quality of the website that is sending a link to yours. With any link building campaign, you want to focus on the quality of the link over quantity of the links. One link from Wikipedia is going to carry a lot more weight than 10 links from a low quality website or 10 low quality websites. Always try to establish links from high quality websites that are relevant to your industry.”

Q: List a few major SEO “don’ts”.

A: “Here is a list of things that you should not do:

1. Don’t purposely try to manipulate the rankings.
2. Don’t use duplicate content on multiple pages.
3. Don’t create duplicate websites.
4. Don’t look for shortcuts or paid solutions.
5. Remember, if it doesn’t feel right, then you probably don’t want to do it.”

Q: What’s the difference between on-page and off-page optimization?

A: “On-page optimization is any optimization work that is done on your actual website. This can include updating Meta tags, content, building new pages, or working on a blog. Off-page optimization is any optimization work that will benefit your website without making changes to your actual website. Link building, social media, directories, and so on.”

Q: What do you think the future of SEO will be like?

A: “Honestly, there are a lot of directions that SEO can go in the future. Right now we are seeing more elements being added to search engines that are pushing the organic results down the page. This includes paid ads, map results, instant answers, additional site links, addresses, phone numbers, reviews, and much more. Google is experiencing a decrease in traffic due to more people using apps, social media websites, and directories. SEO is definitely important to any campaign, but the future is in internet marketing.”