The Wordtracker Academy

Interview with Peter Kent, author of Search Engine Optimization for Dummies

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Illustration for Interview with Peter Kent, author of Search Engine Optimization for Dummies

Key Points

  • Local concept – people forget that their geographical location should be part of their keyword list. Stating where your business is based and which areas it covers will boost search engine rankings within a short space of time.
  • Don't assume keywords. Do keyword research first to achieve a more focused SEO strategy and to remove abbreviations from your site.
  • Target those communities who are talking about your product. Strike up a conversation with bloggers and forums and promote your site and services through them.

Peter Kent is a renowned SEO expert responsible for a number of books and articles, as well as CEO of a successful consultancy firm. He talks of his frustrations at an industry he believes is now mostly scam, and of how small businesses can achieve great results without having to rely on expensive or time- consuming content.

If you are unfamiliar with Peter Kent's name, just check your bookshelf. Remember when you bought Search Engine Optimization for Dummies? Well, he's the guy responsible for that book.

Kent's book is going from strength to strength, with the third edition published in June. In many ways he's a breath of fresh air because he doesn't just theorize about SEO - Kent practices it every day in his consultancy work.

Like a lot of people in SEO, it wasn't his first love. Throughout his mixed career Kent has collected a number of job titles; geologist, oil industry worker, nearly a dot.com millionaire, author, web developer, online marketer and now SEO consultant.

SEO scammers

It took Kent 18 months to convince his publisher to let him write SEO for Dummies back in the early noughties when it was a little known technique. Today it's popularity continues to grow, but SEO still has an image of 'anybody can do it'. This, Kent says, has led to the industry being hijacked by charlatans.

“Over the last few years as I speak to more clients and hear their stories, it has led me to believe that 80% of the business is scam.” Kent qualifies this remarkable statement by adding: “By that I mean that 80% of people in the business doing SEO consultancy are either running an outright scam, or they thought it was good to get into SEO because it's a hot area - but they don't really know what they're doing.”

This conclusion comes from Kent's own experiences of hearing business owners come to him with “horror stories” of how they have spent large chunks of their budget on optimizing their site, only to find that little if nothing has been done to achieve better rankings.

SEO for Dummies allowed people to learn techniques quickly but Kent admits that for a long-term strategy, businesses would need someone else. That 'someone else', in Kent's eyes, must not be a web designer. When Kent talks about web designers attempting to do SEO the frustration in his voice is clear. “I have never met a web design company or web design consultant who understands SEO,” he says bluntly.

For Kent the use of web design companies for SEO is the main source of those “horror stories.”

Kent says it is common for him to take on clients who have already received SEO from web designers. “I'll look at it (their website) and I see that it hasn't actually been optimized in any kind of way. Or, someone will say to me 'Is my site search engine-friendly?' I have a look at it and then go back to them and say, no. A few days later I'll hear back from the company telling me that the web design firm is now charging them $2,000 to make it search engine friendly.”

So what's Kent's advice? “Don't trust web designers as far as search engine optimization goes - even if they tell you they understand it, they don't. I used to say that a few understand it but I'm still waiting for them.“

Content is king.... sometimes

It's clear that Kent is someone who talks from experience - he knows what works, but not only that: he can tell you why it works. His time working on the coal face of SEO has led him to be creative with those clients who cannot rely on the traditional methods of boosting search engine rankings by generating content for their site.

Kent gives his top tips on how to conquer SEO without content:

“If you have a store that sells candles, you can play a few games to get links; like creating a software download library, for instance, and anybody who wants to be in the download library has to link to you. Let's be honest - if you have a candle site, are you going to be able to build something that is going to attract millions of links pointing at your site? Probably not.

“The reality is that you need to go out there and build links.”

Ways to do this include registering for web directories and issuing press releases and syndicated articles.

It's not all SEO says Kent, only one of the techniques he has used (with great success) in community marketing, as he explains.

“This guy I was talking to had a sports equipment store. He doesn't think he has a lot of competition because this is an up-and-coming sport in the US.

“He said there were people blogging about this sport, so I recommended he go to the bloggers and to those on forums, and strike up a rapport with chatty messages that don't look spammy. Introduce yourself and your site, tell them your story and say that your site will be of interest.

“Some of those bloggers will check the site out, write about it and link to it. Once that happens go back to them and tell them about your services, your products, or a promotion you are running.

“Ask if they would be interested in using or reviewing the product and send them a sample. Keep hitting them in that way.

“If it's a big blog you can ask them if they want to run a competition for their readers and no one else. There are so many ways you can work with these people.”

SEO for Dummies has long been regarded as a great starting point for people. We asked Kent to give the quickest and best SEO techniques that can be done instantly:

  • The local concept – if you have a local business, put up a contact page where the local area is listed. If you have a business in Denver, Colorado you should put your address on the site. But you don't just want traffic from people in Denver, you want it from around the state. I often tell clients to say at the bottom of a page 'serving other towns and cities', and name them.
  • Understand your keywords. Do keyword analysis, don't assume. I always tell people to spend a few bucks and get Wordtracker, spend a few hours, dig around, and do it properly.
  • It's interesting to hear that people are obsessed with abbreviations. They think it's important but when they do proper keyword research they often find that the same abbreviation means something different to a different group of people.

To find the keywords you need to optimize your own site try out the free Wordtracker seven day trial.

About Rachelle Money

Rachelle Money is a freelance journalist based in Scotland, UK, who worked for Wordtracker from 2007-2009. She wrote extensively about keyword research, search engine optimization and link building

Rachelle is a contributor to The Web Content Recipe book

Nowadays, Rachelle is Communications Manager at Scottish Renewables.

She graduated from the Scottish School of Journalism in 2005 where she was awarded an internship with two national publications - The Sunday Herald newspaper and The Big Issue magazine.