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SEO Expert series: Mark Nunney

Posted by Rachelle Money on 13 Nov, 2010
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SEO expert Mark Nunney on optimizing content for a bigger online market share and to increase profits.

Key Points

  • SEO is a combination of many processes working together to serve a well thought out strategy.
  • Content is the key to long-term success.
  • In SEO your goal should be to secure a share of online business and make a profit on it.

Wordtracker would like to introduce our very own expert in Search Engine Optimization, Mark Nunney. Journalist Rachelle Money kicks off a special interview series with Mark, in a Question and Answer article where she picks his brains on top tips for SEO work, emerging trends and advice.

“I’ve been working in SEO since 1999. I was a specialist magazine publisher and I worked with experts in subscriptions marketing. I’d also done some programming at University. In ‘99 I launched a translation agency and we needed an SEO agency, so we recruited the most professional SEO agency we could find and I instantly knew they were awful. The person working on our account was clueless and we got rid of them. I did it myself.

“I did this for a year and then was naïve enough to think I could do it for a living. I wanted to live near the coast and go surfing, so moved to Cornwall (in England). I got two jobs straightaway - they're still clients - and since then I haven’t stopped.”

Rachelle: Did you think SEO was the 'The next big thing?'

Mark: “I knew SEO had great potential back then and the techniques haven’t really changed, but I’m noticing that people are starting to catch up. I can see that what was an obscure knowledge is now becoming more mainstream. I’m pleased to say a lot of SEO agencies out there still get it completely wrong which means there’s still room for me”.

Rachelle: Which sites do you do work for?

Mark: "We've recently taken on the challenge of the car insurance market for Sainsbury's Finance.

“StepChange the UK national debt help charity that advises on debt problems, bankruptcy and debt management plans.

“With Tesco's garden centre chain - Dobbies - we've been having a lot of fun recently with the hugely competitive garden furniture niche.

“We work with DotComGiftShop, which might be the coolest gift shop on the internet, we're helping sell Mothers Day gifts at the moment.

“We also have Thinking Managers, a business management website which is our own site, and it’s currently getting 100,000 visits a month. And, having made many other site owners wealthy, we are launching a number of our own sites."

Rachelle: If I wanted to come up with a 'Best Practice' model of SEO, what are the top 5 things I would do?

Mark: “Best practice is hard because unless you’ve tested two possibilities ‘in combat’ in a number of different situations and over time, how do you know which is best?

“Here’s my best practice: first, SEO is not about individual things like working your page title tags. SEO is a combination of many different never-ending processes working together to serve a considered plan and strategy”.

Here are 5 stages in SEO:

  1. Keyword research and strategy
  2. Site structure and navigation
  3. Content - and lots of it, including the link worthy
  4. Link building
  5. Monitoring

Rachelle: Are the Americans further ahead than the Brits when it comes to SEO?

Mark: “American companies are ahead. The UK online market is still very immature and naïve, and when UK sites do have SEO, it’s often poor. Working in the UK is good because working in the US is now hard.

"I guess Americans have always been marketing and sales orientated but as to why that is is for someone else to answer.”

Rachelle: What trends are you noticing in the SEO industry?

Mark: “Two trends stand out for me. First, social media. Sites like Digg, Facebook, Youtube, StumbleUpon and thousands of others can be used to promote a website and get direct traffic and indirect links. This can be powerful. It's sad to see examples of great Public Relations work using these techniques, and at the same time a neglect of SEO basics when employing it. The big debate (for another day) is how much social media can challenge search engines as the main source of traffic.

“It’s also becoming necessary to have good content for long term success. It’s always been obvious this will be the case. Google is slowly removing the benefits of poor or spammy content and links, and that’s great for those of us who have built sites by putting quality content first. That to me is the most important trend. Things people were getting away with like crappy links and poor content aren’t working anymore.”

Rachelle: How do you sell SEO?

Mark: “It’s very hard because people don’t know what it is, or even trust it. It’s like me telling you - ‘here’s something really good, you can’t see it, you don’t even know if it’s going to work and you might not even see it for a year.’ So why would you spend proper money on that? You’ve got to believe that it will work and if you do, you need to trust whoever it is that’s doing it.

"You either trust the SEO agency because someone has told you they are good or you trust the paraphernalia of the stuff they put on their websites."

Rachelle: When someone comes to your SEO consultancy, what should they be aiming for?

Mark: “I’d say that my goal for SEO would be to secure a share of online business and make a profit on it. If a significant chunk of your market is online or is going to be, you need to get a piece of it. Then I’d temper that with some advice, because so many times I see companies who think they can get it with almost no effort. If you think like that then you are trying to break the laws of economics, and you'll fail”.

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