5 With… Bill Hartzer, Search Engine Optimization Expert
Bill Hartzer is a successful writer and search engine marketing and search engine optimization expert who has created hundreds of websites over the years, beginning in 1996, with the establishment of his company’s online presence. It was during this time that Bill learned about the Internet and how much power Internet search engines had in helping customers and potential customers find his company’s website.
Bill has over 17 years of writing experience, including as a television writer and a computer software company technical writer. Hartzer utilizes his writing and online skills to create websites that are compelling and useful to clients and their potential customers. Bill’s primary focus is on business to business search engine optimization, but he is also experienced in optimizing business to consumer websites.
Bill Hartzer’s many accomplishments include:
– Founder, Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (www.dfwsem.org)
– Owner/Author, Corporate Web Site Marketing (www.corporatewebsitemarketing.com)
– Administrator, Search Engine Forums
– Frequent Speaker, Search Engine Strategies Conferences
– Frequent Speaker, WebmasterWorld’s PubCon Search Engine and Internet Marketing Conference
Bill has given me quite a bit of helpful tips and advice for several of my websites, both on private forums and on his blog, BillHartzer.com. It’s great that someone like Bill helps people build successful websites, and it’s nice that Bill happily helps those who lack the experience in the SEO arena.
1) EJS: With so many people calling themselves SEO experts, how do you distinguish between those who are and those who aren’t? What questions should a domain owner ask before ordering services from a SEO company?
BH: Great question. You’re right, there are a lot of people out there calling themselves “SEO Experts”. While there’s no SEO “license” or official “certification” for SEOs like there are licensed plumbers, lawyers, and other professionals, the Search Engine Marketing industry has been trying to get some standards in place. SEMPO (www.sempo.org), the Search Engine Marketing Professional Association, has courses that provide for certification, and both Yahoo! Search Marketing and Google AdWords have their certification programs. Vizion Interactive has an SEO RFP that has a lot of the information that generally should be included when you’re thinking of hiring an SEO: (http://www.vizioninteractive.com/search-engine-optimization-request-for-proposal-rfp/).
To distinguish between a “good SEO” and a “bad SEO” (if there is such a thing), you’ll need to ask for references and proof that they’ve done their job and know what they are doing. If you hire someone to build an addition on your house they most likely you’ll want references and photos of their work: the same goes for hiring a reputable SEO company.
2) EJS: How important is a domain name in ranking high in the search engines, and how much does the extension matter?
BH: I believe that every domain name has an equal “chance” to rank high in the search engines. That said, though, many of the factors that search engines consider when determining search engine ranking involves humans: and when people are involved in making decisions (like deciding to link to your website or not), some domain names will have an advantage over others. If you use a domain name that fits the content of your web site (one that has its main keyword in the domain name), there’s a good chance that someone linking to you will use that domain name (the keyword in your domain name).
So, for the search engines that give a lot of weight to ranking factors that includes the anchor text in links, you’re going to see a benefit from that. Some marketing experts prefer to market a brand name; thus they use the brand name in their domain name. Ultimately, I believe it can definitely help both from an overall marketing perspective (both online and offline) and from a search engine ranking perspective to be have a category-killer domain name.
The .com, the .net, and the .org TLDs generally have an equal chance of ranking well in the search engines. The only real difference is using a ccTLD, where the major search engines give preference to certain countries in search. If you’re in the UK and using Google.co.uk, Google expects that you prefer to see UK search results, which includes .co.uk domain names as well as others.
3) EJS: How has the search industry changed over the last couple of years, and how have you coped with the changes?
BH: There always seems to be various “fads” that come and go. We’ve had “reciprocal links”, “web directories”, “bid directories”, “social media”, etc. etc. that have come and gone. There are really only half a dozen major web directories left, Google tells us not to exchange links, and social media sites seem to be here to stay. Ultimately, it’s the content on your web site that will keep your search engine rankings. It’s important to have more content on your site than others in your niche; and to add content to it on a regular basis. It’s the ability to create great content that has allowed me to cope with the changes in the industry. Sure, it’s okay to test out the latest online marketing “fad” to see if it brings any ROI. But don’t forget the content.
4) EJS: What free SEO tools do you recommend to domain owners who are developing websites?
BH: There are all sorts of free SEO tools out there. Many of them actually exist that are part of the search engines themselves. For example, a “linkdomain:domain.com” search at Yahoo! will show you all of your competitor’s backlinks; use that information as an SEO tool to see where your competitors have links (and where you don’t). Set up Google and Yahoo! alerts to make sure you’re on top of your industry: watch your industry and add content to your site when something comes up that interests you. Your own web stats will give you lots of good SEO-related information about your web site, your visitors, and what they like and what they don’t like. Other SEO tools I like:
- OptiTools (OptiSpider, OptiLink)
- Traffic Marks
- Domain Tools
- Google Insights
- Google Trends
There are a lot of great free SEO tools listed here:
5) EJS: What services do you offer to domain owners who would like to improve the rankings on their developed domain names that they have passively developed (not full businesses, which would recommend?)
BH: I recommend that domain owners who want to improve rankings first look at their web analytics. See where their traffic is coming from. Take a look at how many pages they have indexed in Google (using site:yourdomain.com). Look to see if the number of pages on your site is close to how many pages your competitors have on their sites. Make a plan to create the content or figure out how you’re going to get someone else to create that content for you. Analyze the backlinks to your website. How many links do you have that are from sites that are on the same topic? How many links do your competitors have that are on the same topic (e.g., an automotive site should link to another car site, not to a dating site).
Once you’ve done some quick analysis, determine if you’ll need more content on your site or more links to your site: or both. I certainly can help domain owners with link building and content building and writing services. Or both. There are also many different things to “fix” on most sites, which would include most of the “on-site” factors, such as title tags, search engine friendly URLs, and other on-site issues that plague most content management systems nowadays.
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