The July Raleigh SEO Meetup was our first attempt at an "Ask Us Anything" panel. The idea is to allow people to ask experts questions that have been stumping them.
We were lucky enough to have some of the smartest people in the world available. The participants were split between live at the event (hosted by our friends at Atlantic Creative) and dialing in via Google Hangout.
Jim Tobin, founder of the original social media company, Ignite Social Media. Jim's company helps some of the biggest brands in the world thrive on social media and generate real ROI from their presence there.
Shannon Mølhave, is a leading voice in the Triangle web design community. As a web designer and front-end developer, Shannon is passionate about creating positive user experiences across all digital platforms.
The evening's moderator and technical trouble shooter was Google+ expert Mark Traphagen. Mark stepped in to cover for me since I was out of town at the Search Exchange conference in Charlotte.
Jon Henshaw joined via Google Hangout. Jon is the Co-Founder & CMO of Raven Internet Marketing Tools for SEO, Social Media and Paid Search. Jon is well respected throughout the internet marketing community for his great insights, hard work and top-notch skills, not to mention his company's great tool set.
Ashley Berman Hale also joined in from Colorado via the Hangout. Ashley is the original organizer of the Raleigh SEO Meetup! Ashley spends her days as a marketing manager for Cisco, but loves SEO so much that she dedicates crazy hours to answering questions in Google's Webmaster Forum, so much so that she was tapped to be a Top Contributor.
There was some technical difficulties with the bandwidth during this event, but the information exchanged was excellent. This was one of those Meetups that could have gone on for hours with all the great questions.
Some of the questions were submitted before the event, the Google doc is still available here
Some of the questions:
How much should I pay for a website? Shannon says it's a tough question to answer, because a website can be almost anything. For a basic site from a freelance developer, you should start thinking around $3,000. Budget can go up from there.
How does a retired academic market a book on LinkedIn? Jim answered that you need to contribute to your community so that people can recognize your expertise. Jim was also asked about his new book, Earn It, Don't Buy It.
Any insights on video sitemaps? Ashley answered that video sitemaps are akin to regular content sitemaps in that they just list out the videos so that the search engines can find all your videos, but has no impact on how they rank.
Can you talk about no longer being able to scrape Google SERPs for rankings? Do you think it's part of a bigger Google goal to stop people from obsessing about keyword rankings? Jon replied that he doesn't think it's Google worried about keyword obsession, but more concerned with everybody and their brother scraping the SERPs. Jon went on to mention that Raven Tools made a strategic, long-term business goal to switch over to the AdWords API. He also talked about Google moving towards a unified API to allow people access to everything or nothing. Google is starting to set things up in a way that will make it impossible to do anything against their terms of service since they will be able to cut you off in one fell swoop.
Jon went on to explain that way back in the old days Google allowed rankings to be tracked via a Google API, and Raven Tools was one of the first apps to take advantage of that. Google eventually cut that access off to everyone using that API. Most tool makers at that time went to a manual scrape of the actual search results, which is technically against Google's terms of service.
Do you think using a double opt-in hurts usability? Shannon hasn't seen much official data on that, but as a UX expert she likes the idea of making sure people are actually interested in receiving your information.
Do you think we are at "Peak Facebook"? This is a great answer from one of the premier Facebook marketers (at 28:44 in the video). Jim's short answer is, "yes". He thinks we are at peak Facebook right now. Teenagers are no longer into Facebook. Adults are now saying they're not getting as much from it as they once did. Jim talks about when Facebook used to talk about the holy grail of advertising - where they would know so much about you they could pinpoint relevant ads at people... that never materialized. Facebook doesn't even talk about that any more, they talk about re-marketing, just like everyone else.
Jim thinks that Facebook will stay as the central platform because everyone is already on it. Jim also talks about the future of Google+ is promising but it's a little slow on the up take. Calls the integration of Local and Maps and Business as a game changer.
A follow up question came in about ranking within local search and maps. Mark talked about the newest feature for local search, the carousel. I then added the loss of query information when you use the carousel.
Jim takes a question about social media marketing in general. He talks about the overwhelming amount of work that is involved when compared to traditional push marketing.
Can I wait out a Google manual penalty, will it eventually just go away? Ashley Berman Hale answers that you can actually wait it out, but it may be a long wait and there is a good chance that it will be reapplied if you haven't cleaned up the mess that caused the penalty.
Online vs. Off-line marketing? Jim grabbed this one and talked about his own focused strategy that was based on how his company wanted to be viewed early on. It needs to be a mix of hard work online since most people start decision making on Google with live appearance thrown in where appropriate.
Follow up was about where are the best places to post content, Facebook, Google+ etc? Jim explains that at Ignite they think about the platform last and use Forrester's POST methodology.
What are some of the factors that can cause you to find yourself penalized by Google. When you ask yourself am I doing this to manipulate the rankings as opposed to am I doing this to delight my visitors.
Follow up question was about PR releases and article marketing. Ashley explains that you are rarely doing these because you think they are awesome, you're doing them for links. That's not viewed as helpful by Google.
What is the future of link building? Ashley says you shouldn't be "building" links, you should be "earning" links.
Two domains linked together, is that a problem? Jon gives the short answer - not a problem. Two domains aren't a problem. Google is only concerned when there are a bunch (think 20) domains linking together in an attempt to manipulate the SERPs.
Should I build a community online? Jim says only if it makes sense. Mark agrees. Don't build a broad community, build one that is hyper-focused on exactly who you want to connect with. Do something you're great at.
Another follow-up is about garnering reviews for your business. Jim mentions a company called zuberance.