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Get Your Rankings Kick Started in 2010

I thought it would be fun to ask a couple friends that I respect a few questions about Search Engine Marketing / SEO. Both Justin and Bob have been very successful in their real estate markets plus consulting clients in other verticals as well.

Bob Wilson has been a San Diego real estate agent since 1990. He has been a leader and student of the search world enabling him to stay ahead of the curve since 1998 when he launched his first real estate site. He also does consulting for other real estate agents across the country plus clients in other verticals.

Justin Britt is the Head-Web-Head over at Wasabi Marketing Elements and has been doing SEO consulting since 2001. Their clients are in real estate, travel, music, activities and sporting goods plus other spaces. He also over sees their online marketing and website usability for their clients plus is involved other online businesses. Justin is also a Geek Estate contributor.

Here are the questions:

What are the 3 most important things someone should do when starting out?
– Bob’s Response:
1- Read Steve Krug’s “Don’t make me Think” before they doing anything at all so they understand the importance of getting the information architecture right.
2- Get the information architecture right. If you get traffic, but it doesn’t convert, then nothing else matters.
3- Start with a small spend PPC campaign so you can get an idea of what traffic to target and have some results to measure and test. This will help you tweak not only your site architecture, but also the search queries you target. This will give you valuable info on terms that convert, and will generate some traffic to start with so you are not sitting around for 6 months waiting for that first lead.

– Justin’s response:
1- Before even thinking about building your website you need to get your SEO thoughts organized. Whether that means your doing the SEO work yourself or hiring a professional this is the first thing you need to do.
2- Get a solid keyword list going (using a small PPC campaign to measure and test traffic as Bob suggests is a tactic I use). Make a plan around these keywords for link and content development. Attack the long tail stuff first. Once your site is powerful enough, then go after the head.
3- Once you have your keyword plan, begin developing content. I’d say start with a minimum of 100 pages of original, useful content to launch your site.

What shouldn’t they do?
– Bob’s Response:
Do not start by making your plan all about going after the most obvious, most competitive terms, If your initial target is “city real estate”, it will be awhile before you see any traffic. The same goes for PPC. Starting off with the most expensive terms without first learning the nuances of how Adwords works is a fast and easy way to blow through a lot of money.

– Justin’s response:
Don’t start designing your site until you complete the first 3 tasks above. The first 3 tasks will help you understand the flow and architecture of your site. This will save you time and money because you won’t have to go back and change something that you forgot.

What questions should they ask before hiring a person or firm to do SEO for them?
– Bob’s Response:
1 – How long have you been doing this? Experience is huge. First hand experience with how the engines have evolved over the years cannot be underestimated.
2 – What is your experience in this vertical? Ask to see results for highly competitive terms. Anyone can rank for longtail.
3 – How will you get links to my site? What are your top 3 strategies? Show me examples. If they dont tell you because they think you will do it yourself, then move on.
4 – Will my links still be there when our contract is over? Many companies generate links within their own network of sites. Leave the company/network and you lose the links.
5 – Can you get me to #1 for “city real estate” during the contract period? This is not as absurd as iot sounds. It is a good way to see if they will blow smoke your way. Be very specific with your expectations. How they address these expectations will tell you a lot.

– Justin’s response:
This is a tough one. There are a lot of fast talking people who call themselves SEO professionals that are nothing more then spammers and scammers. I would make sure to ask…

1 – To see websites with successful ranking results for competitive keywords–preferably in the vertical you are interested in (in this case real estate).
2 – For references for the websites they’re showing you and make sure you speak with the website owners.
3 – How they plan to get you to the top of the SERPs. If the main strategy isn’t link building–don’t bother. Even if the main strategy is link building, you don’t want it to be spammy. So ask them about their link building strategies and how they will get links to your site. If it’s directory submissions, link trading and forum and blog posting only, be weary.
4 – If they’ll work on a performance basis. This will mean if the SEO pro succeeds you will have to pay them more then if you paid them up front, but if they don’t perform you pay nothing. I personally love working on a performance basis because I’m confident in what I do and like making that extra money or ownership interest for my hard work.

How important is the domain they are working with?
– Bob’s Response:
If its a new domain, then as close to an exact match for targeted terms is best. The domain name is less important if its older with authority and links.

– Justin’s response:
The domain you are using is extremely important. If possible you want to have an aged domain (with a history of backlinks and content related to your new site) to begin working with. Otherwise, if you start with a new domain you will most likely come across Google’s “sandbox”. Expect 10-12 months in the sandbox if you decide you go with a brand new URL.

When choosing a new domain, many people like to get keywords in their domain. While this does work I don’t think it’s as important as branding. With my site, I had the opportunity to use, but I chose because of the ability to brand “Hawaii Life” as a business and brokerage. Moving forward this will be important with Google. The more branded your business and URL are, the less likely it will be considered spam.

Would you suggest hiring someone to do SEO or do you think it is better to gain the knowledge to do it yourself?
– Bob’s Response:
It depends on the person. A top agent who spends most of their time on revenue producing activities and gets results from those activities would probably be ill-advised to do their own SEO. For them, a well managed PPC campaign may be the best strategy. They already understand ROI, and if they are not under capitalized, then PPC is probably the best fit for their business plan. The knowledge they can gain from the PPC campaign will give them a good base going forward if they decide they want to play on the organic side. If they hire it out, they need to have a good understanding of what will happen at the end of the contract.

If you have more time than money, then learning how to do this yourself is probably your only choice. The basics are out there and easy to find. The problem is that with over 5000 SEO blogs, there is also a lot of incorrect information out there. The folks that know what they are doing are generally not the ones freely sharing anything beyond the basics with daily blog posts.

My concern with most public SEO forums is that you often have the blind leading the blind. One exception to that would be WebMasterWorld. I would start there by reading everything that is written by one of the admins, Tedster. You will still see a lot of noise and garbage, but stalk the admins and mods and you will get good info.

There are a few private pay to play forums that are worth the money. #1 on my list is Aaron Wall’s SEO training program. It isn’t cheap, but it’s the best SEO training out there for the money.

– Justin’s response:
Personally, I think it’s better to do the SEO work yourself. This is because you love, live and breathe your business (or at least you should be). However, this is not a reality for most. If you’re a real estate broker or agent, the best thing you can be doing for your business is probably sales. If this is the case, I’d try and bring an SEO person in on a performance based / ownership interest contract. If the SEO has ownership interest and their pay is tied to the website’s performance, they will work harder to promote the website.

With the search engines always changing their algorithm, what do you think one should focus on going forward?
– Bob’s Response:
Quality content that will attract links.

– Justin’s response:
This really depends on where you are at with your website and the SEO of the site. The #1 most important thing (for the foreseeable future) will be quality content development which will attract natural links. If you already have great content but nobody is linking to you, consider a site redesign. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to get links when your site looks great. If you already have great link development then here’s what I’d focus on for 2010:

1 – Relationships – develop strong, long lasting relationships with related websites. These will pay off huge.
2 – Social Networks – This is not what everybody thinks so read on…social networks will not bring you nearly as much business as focusing your time and energy on search–but if you can get your website / business name mentioned often in social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter this could count as votes (like incoming links) in Google’s algo.
3 – Local – Google’s Universal search will often show up above their search results, so be sure to work on local.
4 – Site speed – Google has tools for this…use them.

Are incoming links or fresh content more important these days?
– Bob’s Response:
Fresh content without links wont rank well. Older content with links can rank extremely well.

– Justin’s response:
Fresh timely content can attract backlinks, but it’s hard to beat aged incoming links. Since you didn’t use the word “aged” in your question I’d say you need fresh content to attract new incoming links. So fresh content is more important.

Any closing words of wisdom?
– Bob’s Response:
Knowledge is power. A who’s who of search experts who know their stuff can be found here:
If you are going to read about this stuff, start with the ones on that list.

– Justin’s response:
Do not underestimate the time and budget it will take to rank in the natural SERPs. Work will likely take several years to really solidify your rankings. And unlike PPC’s where once you spend the money it’s gone, SEO work done on your website is an investment in your company.

I would like to thank both Bob and Justin taking the time to answer these questions. They definitely get it and have some great advise to share. Hopefully their answers will get an interesting and informative conversation going that can help you achieve great success!

If you would like to personally contact Bob or Justin you can reach them at:

Bob Wilson – 858-382-5820 or

Justin Britt – 808-826-0026 or

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