Let’s be honest – we’ve all been there. Whenever we start something new, whatever our age, it can be tough to navigate and adapt to.

On Wednesday 4th November, Dixon Jones was joined by a panel of experts, where they dove into some of the most common SEO and technical mistakes that they have seen SEOs make and how you can avoid them.

Your Panelists

Dom Hodgson, Founder of Little Warden

Laura Hogan, Owner of Sweet Digital

Laurent Bourelly, SEO Consultant at Laurent Bourelly SLU

Transcript

Dixon Jones

Hello everybody. Welcome back to another edition of Old Guard vs New Blood. This time, it’s about rookie mistakes, so for the old guard, I’ve got Laurent Bourelly. Hi, Laurent.

Laurent Bourelly

Hello, bonjour.

Dixon Jones

Who I’ve known for best part of 20 years, I think, and myself. And in the new blood, we’ve got Laura Hogan. Hello, Laura.

Laura Hogan

Hello.

Dixon Jones

And Dom Hodgson, who I put on the old guard last time and he got really offended, but he’s got kids that are that this high, so he’s definitely of the younger side, certainly.

Dom Hodgson

Hello, everybody.

Dixon Jones

So thank you very much for coming in. We’re going to be talking about rookie mistakes that you make in SEO or people make in SEO, and some of us make those mistakes well into their old age as well, so we’re going to pick on a few of those, and also find out how we can avoid some of those.

This event as always, is sponsored by Majestic. That’s why I’m wearing the T-shirt, and if you haven’t been to Majestic recently, I actually had an up-to-date demo of Majestic Monitor, which is a different product that they have and it’s really slick now. It’s really looking like a nice product, so if you want to really be able to dive into influencers and find out influencers by topic or genre, or amplify your audience by finding people that are similar to any particular person, then try Majestic Monitor. It’s a pretty cool tool.

Laurent Bourelly

It’s very good. I like the Majestic Monitor, especially if you look at all the social accounts.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, yeah. Exactly.-

Laurent Bourelly

Very cool. Very cool for that.

Dixon Jones

It’s a clever piece of kit. It’s kind of a mix of BuzzSumo and Sparktoro and stuff, and all mixed around. So it’s kind of cool. It’s majesticmonitor.com, is that. Anyway. Guys, right, why don’t you guys introduce yourselves? Why don’t we start with Laurent, and then move up my screen anyway? So Laurent, tell us about you.

Laurent Bourelly

I’m a strange one, because I was born five minutes ago in English. I started talking with you on SEO Conspiracy the podcast, but I’ve been doing this for a long time, but in French, since 2004, basically. I started making money with my own website, then moved on to more on the consulting side. I’m not only wearing a black hat for show, it’s also to remind myself where I do I come from. I’m not ashamed to say I know black hat SEO, but I also can do high-class content marketing, so the entire spectrum, all the tools at my disposal.

Dixon Jones

Cool. And Dom, you’re wearing the white hat.

Dom Hodgson

Thank you, Dixon. I’m Dom Hodgson. I’m not a strange one. I am the co-founder of two award-winning products, Kerboo and Little Warden. I’ve been doing this for [deliberately muffled] years, and yeah, I just missed Dixon, so he asked me to come and chat to him. I didn’t know it was being recorded. He just said, “Do you want to come and talk to me?”, and I thought it’s lockdown starting, we’ll just have a chat.

Dixon Jones

And Laura, how are you, and thanks very much for coming on this show. Tell us about yourself.

Laura Hogan

I missed the note about wearing a hat, so I don’t have a hat on.

Dixon Jones

You’ve got a cool background as well, so you’ve thought about your background.

Laura Hogan

Yeah, I’ll be middle hat. So yes, I’m Laura, and I own an agency called Sweet Digital. We’re based in Birmingham, as you can tell from the yammy accent, and we just cover the full spectrum, primarily SEO and PR side of things. I won’t tell you long I’ve been doing it, because that would disclose my age.

Dixon Jones

You are definitely in the young category compared to Laurent and me. It’s not a problem. Yeah, we seem to have had a fairly broad range of accents. I’m not bringing in David Bain, who’s sitting back in the background on this one to listen in, because that’ll just confuse everyone with yet another accent. So we’re going to carry on with him, but he’ll jump in if I really mess it up that much, I’m sure.

Guys, topic for today, rookie bloopers, rookie mistakes for SEO. Before I get into asking you what your favourite bloopers and mistakes are, why don’t I start by asking you, Laura, how can people avoid rookie mistakes? What are people going to do to stop them from jumping and crashing and burning in SEO?

Laura Hogan

Sometimes it’s really just as simple as taking your time with things. There’s a piece of research that said that we make 118 mistakes a year on average at work, which is about two a week if we break it down. Sometimes it can be just as simple as taking a step back, not rushing with you’re doing, and just taking that extra bit of time in the project that you’re working on. And that can just help to reduce them because you’re not putting that haste and pressure on yourself.

Dixon Jones

That’s interesting, two a week. When I was full timing in Majestic, I remember talking to a fellow colleague within the organization. I said, “The difference between the two of us,” because he was on the developer side. He doesn’t make mistakes. Developers, when they make mistakes, things blow up. “So the difference between you and me is that you do one thing well every day, and I do seven things and three of them go well, so I make four mistakes a day.”

That’s basically my … I guess that’s kind of the marketing hat. I crash and burn, but it’s not so catastrophic, although I’m sure it could be. Anyway, Dom, why don’t I go on to you? How do people stop making mistakes? If this isn’t a prompt for an advert mate, I don’t know what is.

Dom Hodgson

Kerching! Yeah. I just dropped something, and it was just … I’ve got four more left. Obviously, it would be an easy way to plug my product, littlewarden.com, but I would say that monitoring what you are doing, not just using littlewarden.com, but also using Majestic, using things like Sitebulb, running these on a regular basis, looking at the differences. These tools can be used to save time and to worry about mistakes and to fix them, but they have to be done regularly. You can’t run them when you’re launching a site and then ignore them. So when they warn then you’ve got to have a process in place, and it’s all about processes because mistakes will be made, but everybody makes mistakes. Two a week? I’m lucky if I get less than four a day. It’s ridiculous.

But once you have a mistake, it’s about putting a process in place and saying “Okay, we’ve made that mistake. How do we make sure that this doesn’t happen again, and it if does, what do we do about it?”

Dixon Jones

And what do they do differently in France, Laurent? How do you avoid mistakes there?

Laurent Bourelly

They don’t care. We take it differently. We know that we can’t avoid mistakes. The only problem is instead of being passive about it and waiting for the mistakes to happen, maybe we can try to be … I think it’s 80% a mindset thing. It will happen, so now it’s about how do you react? How do you find the solution? How are you able to adapt quickly? And of course, avoid as much as possible, but it’s infinite. And sometimes, you already decide right now, and tomorrow a developer will change the robots.txt, and it’s not good any more.

Dixon Jones

Excellent. Yeah, it’s true. Well, actually that’s going to come onto my … I was going to dive into some mistakes. I’ll tell you my favourite one out of the box. I have been in SEO a long time, and my first SEO, my first agency, started in 1999. Back around then, was the very first dot.com boom. And boo.com were the one. I don’t know if you’re old enough, Laura, but boo.com was the one that was going multimedia, and was suddenly changing it from a flat text with nothing on it, and it was great and it was big, and they were really bigging it up, until the day that they went bankrupt, and that was the start of the whole crash.

I looked at their website on the day that they went crash, and the very first thing I did was view source, and there in the top line of the meta tag on the home page of the index.html or whatever it was, was robots, noindex, nofollow. And I thought, “Honestly, you’ve gone out there and you’ve … Not even in robots.txt, so you’re right on the home page there, you’ve just blocked every bot, including the search engines, and you expect to make money.” So that was my first ever proper blog post actually, was how boo.com really screwed it up.

Laurent Bourelly

Dom, did you name Kerboo in homage for boo.com?

Dom Hodgson

No. That’s what happens when you name something based on the available domain names.

Dixon Jones

Okay, so guys, that’s my pet one and my favourite. So why don’t you jump in and who wants to go first with their pet rookie mistake?

Laura Hogan

I’ll go. One for me is tracking.

Dixon Jones

Tracking?

Laura Hogan

Yeah, because how can you know the impact of the work that you’re doing, and the fixes that you’ve made, whether it’s technically, even down to running social campaigns, or your PR and your link campaigns … How do you know if it’s working if you haven’t got tracking in place? The amount of clients we come across when they’re just onboarding with us, and they don’t have Tag Manager or even Analytics, Facebook Pixel, not even basic event tracking or e-commerce setup, just blows my mind. And they’ve been working with people in the past, but this has never been set up.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. That’s a good example. Just on that, just because I’m on the Majestic-sponsored event, you can set up campaigns in Majestic, and it’s quite a good idea to do that right at the start, because if you’re going on a link-building campaign and you’re going to be there for a while, then being able to see what’s happened at the start, and being able to see how that develops over time. Once you’ve got an account at Majestic, it’s pretty much free to do, so it’s a sensible thing to do, so tracking, I agree.

You can do the same with rankings if you want, if you’re a rankings person, but yeah, but if you don’t set a stake in the sand, then you’re just missing a trick. Six months later the customer’s going to say, “What have you done?”, and then you’re going to show them what your position is now, not where you’ve come along from. Yeah, okay. Tracking. Number one, yeah. Excellent. Dom, what do you want to jump in with?

Dom Hodgson

Like your Boohoo story, one of my favourite stories-

Dixon Jones

It’s boo.com, not Boohoo. That’s … Yeah.

Dom Hodgson

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m getting there. It was Ask Jeeves. So before they got rid of Jeeves, they had it as a personal search engine and all that, but they had this retirement party for him when they rebranded to ask.com. And they built this whole website of Jeeves going on holiday and everything like that. And then about six months later, somebody realized that they forgot to renew the domain name, and a porn site had bought that. So when you went to the Ask Jeeves retirement thing, you actually came up with a porn site.

I’ve had this a few times. I like to spend money on a bit of a domain name. I have to block myself from domain sellers occasionally and things like that for the auctions. But I have had it where … I used to run an event called LeedsHack, which was hack day, and Majestic actually kindly sponsored it a few times. One day I woke up and went to the website and realized that it was selling Chinese supplements. And I’d forgot to renew the domain name, and that has happened to me so many times.

The mistake that I see and the reason why we created Little Warden was because it’s happened to me, but it’s not just that. The rookie mistake that we see is when you take on a client, is not looking at all their assets. Because what people do is they look at the domain name and they go, “Okay, that’s great. We’ll sort that out.” But they don’t an inventory of all the subdomains. They don’t do an inventory of all the previous brand names. Have they merged with the company? Have they done something before? Have they created a little microsite?

I am a firm believer that Compare the Meerkat was created by an SEO agency to get a load of links, and they said, “Right, after six months, this’ll be over and we’ll just get all the links for it,” and it’s just blown up into what it is.

Dixon Jones

I suspect it was Teddy Cowell, who’s still around in the industry, but yes. Again, good, excellent. Laurent, would you jump in with a thought, opinion, thought, idea? So many.

Laurent Bourelly

I have so many. Okay, let me just mention the latest one that I got, which was a couple of days old, and then how I look at it from a global perspective. A couple of days ago, I got a call. Not a client, somebody who wanted a proposal. It’s a default thing in the server, in Apache. If you don’t set up well the redirect between HTTP and HTTPS, it was going to another domain, so the HTTP was pointing to a different domain.

Dixon Jones

Oh, that happens on a shared server situation, doesn’t it?

Laurent Bourelly

Yeah, yeah. And that’s from the server side. That’s not even from the front. That’s the latest. But then if I want to say … When I learned how to do SEO, how to audit a website, we didn’t have wonderful tools like Majestic and all the hundreds and thousands of tools we have today. We had a world-class crawler called Xenu Sleuth

And we had Google. That’s it. So you had to put yourself in the mind of Googlebot. Let’s start. First thing that I do, I’m Googlebot. I’m going to encounter the HTTP headers. There, there are a bunch of stuff. Already, let’s look at the line expires, which is by default November 1981, I think, something like that. So your page expires in 1981. That doesn’t make sense. Then there is also already a bunch of stuff in there. Then we move on to the robots.txt. Then we move on to the page, we look at the linking … And so on and so on. At every single step, there are a gazillion endless possibilities.

Dixon Jones

At the same time, just to come back with that one, there’s quite often a lot of things that we give out, or I used when I was agency side I suppose, that we’d give out as problems that need to be fixed, but actually Google knows the web’s broken all over the place, and they fix a lot of those problems without us having to worry so much. So it may be a bit more of an improved trust signal, but if 90% of websites haven’t fixed that 1981 problem, then Google’s obviously seen through it and fixed it and decided to ignore it.

I guess my point is one of the things that I think some SEO agencies do are they do the whole analysis, but then they give the whole analysis to the customer, and the customer goes, “What the …?”, and then just doesn’t do any of it, because they haven’t been able to surface, well, these are the low-hanging fruits, these are the things … I think that’s a rookie mistake for SEOs, would you agree?

Dom Hodgson

That used to be how it was. They’d print off a report. They’d run it through … What was it? PowerSuite Gold or something, years ago?

Dixon Jones

WebPosition Gold for me, but anyway, yeah.

Dom Hodgson

That’s the one. Yeah, WebPosition Gold. And they’d run it through and they’d go, “Okay, here’s 300 errors to fix. Job done.”

We see that that has changed within agencies. They’ve got a lot more specific, and they’ve gotten a lot more, “Okay, if you do this, you do this, you do this,” and they’ll work with you. We’ve seen agencies get a lot more technical recently, but that brings it to the newbie mistake that I see is just relying on tools straight away. Relying on tools, and relying on things that you read on the internet. Trusting articles that were written years ago, and for a technique that worked in a certain circumstance that did this, and believing that if you do this under these circumstances, it will work.

Dixon Jones

Thanks very much, Dom. I’m hoping I’m getting better, but yeah, certainly 10 years ago, I was only 10 years into the industry. I was happily writing stuff that … I think I’ve got better. It’s the day I went to Majestic and they told me that actually making three mistakes a day probably wasn’t the ideal.

Laura Hogan

Yeah, you’re right on the tools front, and just taking everything you see at face value. That’s definitely quite a rookie mistake, and not looking into the context of things. We see on a tool okay, you’ve got these 404s or this is broken here. This page is gone. And it’s when people just send that without actually going, “Well, here’s how you need to fix it.” I’m sure we’ve all seen audits sent across that don’t actually have the fix in it or what the business case for that fix is as well. Audits need to be so much more than just, “Here’s what the problem is.” We need to be telling the decision-makers why they need to invest the time and effort into that. You’re not going to fix it yourself as the agency.

Dixon Jones

But ideally as an agency, it would be great if the customer would let you go and fix it yourself?

Laura Hogan

I was going to say, we’re really fortunate in that probably 90% of our customers do that, and we go and fix the errors ourselves. It gets things moving a lot quicker, which is nice, and it saves additional costs for them.

Laurent Bourelly

Yeah, but Laura, there is even a bigger problem, because I agree with this trust no one mindset, but especially don’t trust Google, especially anything rel-related. Why? Because we spoke about it with Dixon in the podcast. Those are Band-Aids. Everything rel invented by Google is a Band-Aid for people who don’t do a proper job.

Let’s take for example the famous rel next that suddenly … so they put it out, and I don’t know why, one day, one Googler said on Twitter, “Oh, by the way, it never worked. We were never able to figure it out.” What?

If you rely for example on the rel href flag, okay?

The proper way to declare a language is in the first line of code. Going back to how Googlebot proceeds, first line of code on the page is html lang=something. Except Google can’t trust that. You download WordPress. You are French. You download the WordPress from wordpress.org, so your theme is going to have language=English. So Google can trust that, because you say it’s English. Then it finds out it’s not English, so what the hell? So then okay, they put out this rel href lang, but still, it’s not the directive. It’s not even the signal. It’s a hint. It’s an advice. They are very good at figuring stuff out themselves, that’s for sure. If you look a little bit into crawling and how they can solve such difficult problems, but the problem is yeah, trust no one, and especially those Google recommendations.

I’m not talking about Google guidelines or no Google guidelines. I’m talking about those Band-Aids that they provide. Rel canonical is the number one reason for self-destructing yourself. Bad canonical equals self-destruction.

Dixon Jones

I think href lang is a very, very common problem, and I just end up going to talk to Bill Hunt every time, because he seems to be the world expert on href lang.

Dom Hodgson

Can I just follow on on the rel stuff?

Dixon Jones

Go on.

Dom Hodgson

Many, many years ago when you could be funny on the internet, we used to do April Fool’s days. We once faked a Google announcement on the blog that we’d announced, and we’d got tweets from Matt Cutts if anybody remembers him on this.

Dixon Jones

On this podcast, they’ll remember, yeah, yeah. 

Dom Hodgson

Announcing rel = counts twice, which was the opposite of nofollow, and if you were doubly sure, that you wanted the authority with this link. And we did it all, and it was funny, and it was clear that it was an April Fool’s day joke. But obviously with Kerboo, we scan links, and we found that two or three sites used it. And you’re like … And so we had to then take the blog post down, and then write, “This was a joke. Please do not use this,” because people will just read what they say on the internet and implement it.

Dixon Jones

The weird thing about this is that … One of my things was Sunsational headlines that I was going to bring up as an example, but this is an example of really … The problem with April Fool’s jokes is that by April 2nd, people don’t think they’re a joke any more, and the content’s still on the website. I remember doing one on April Fool’s about how Google had crashed, and then of course realizing that actually, that wasn’t very funny the next day. So yeah, but sunsational headlines I think is another … going away from the technical side of things, I did wear many, many years back … a training day with a national newspaper and all their journalists. And it was back in the times when all of the journalists were running sunsational headlines like … Instead of it saying, “It’s the hottest day ever in Brighton,” it was sitting there saying, “Wow, scorcher!,” and showing lots of people on Brighton beach looking scorched.

They were just using funny headlines that then it was impossible for a search engine to understand or interpret, which I think is still a common thing for writers to this day.

Dom Hodgson

So are you saying that you’ve ruined the pun-based headlines on the internet?

Dixon Jones

I’m saying that Google has ruined pun-based headlines on the internet, because they can’t understand a pun-based headline, because the sense of humour of Google is … The people might have a sense of humour, but the machine, not so much yet. Not so much, no. Anyway, anyone want to jump in with another one?

Laurent Bourelly

Oh, I can keep on going on this. It’s not a rookie mistake. It’s a tricky one. Because of those catchy headlines and those play on words, you can totally lose the search engine. For example, my favourite example is “search engine”. If you write a post about search engine, but for example, your title will be Under the Hood of a Search Engine. Well, hood belongs cars.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, cars. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

Laurent Bourelly

Not search. And that’s one of the best ways to confuse Google.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. They get confused pretty easily that way. The casino industry has a real problem with this, because they’ve got casino games like Starburst and things like that, which have a completely different meaning, and certainly don’t seem to have a meaning related to gaming.

Dom Hodgson

You’ve also got the category, which is gaming. That is in itself … Is it related to casino, or is it related to consoles?

Dixon Jones

Well, I think the casino world have hijacked that category, really, so …

Dom Hodgson

But that depends on the context. That depends on the searcher, and that’s where the intent comes in, and looking at the search intent. Apple to somebody means something different to somebody else.

Laurent Bourelly

Exactly.

Dom Hodgson

And not remembering that is a rookie mistake. Using tools like AlsoAsked, so look at what people are searching for around your niche and around your area to look at what … How can I measure the intent within the query?

Laurent Bourelly

But don’t you think as that … At the end of the day, if we look at it, 99% of the mistakes are because SEO is still today just an add-on, okay? If it was the centerpiece, if it was taken seriously from the start, they would avoid 99% of the mistakes. But because it’s just an add-on that we put on because it’s time, and we speed up like Laura said … If you start from the beginning and you have time … I always say losing a little bit of time at the preparation makes you gain a lot of time when you execute the plan. So the good planning and the … It’s just a checklist, okay? Number one, number two, dun, dun, dun. And it’s tedious. It’s not sexy. You’ve got those hundreds of elements that you need to optimize, but that’s the job. That’s what SEO is about. We need to make the content more accessible.

Dixon Jones

I think there is a balance there for the business owner between an SEO wanting us to take longer and longer … And it’s the same with developers. Developers never want to put something live, because there’s always something that can be better about it, and they want to get further down the refinement. And if they had their way, they would never go live, and I think it’s maybe the same for an SEO. Where a business is usually time-dependent, saying, “Right, I’m sorry, but the first day of the World Cup is then, and we’ve got to be live.”

Dom Hodgson

I think Laurent’s point is, and it’s something I wanted to bring up, it’s where in the process SEO is. So what tends to happen is, “All right, we’ve built our new site. Now can we SEO it?” Whereas if SEO is an integral part before you even get to … All right, let’s look at wireframes. Let’s look at the UI, and let’s look at SEO within that UI and building it, and then the whole user flow. If it’s integrated, you have a much easier time.

A friend of mine just launched a new e-commerce thing, and he was like, “Right, I’m ready to go. Do your SEO magic.” And I’m like, “Ah, right.”

Dixon Jones

Yeah, I know. So Laura, how often are you finding that you actually get into that conversation before … Because you’re agency side. Before the whole process, or is it always too late in the process for you to do your best work?

Laura Hogan

To be fair, we’re quite forceful on it. Yeah, it’s proper like, “Come on.” Yeah. No, we kind of lay this in with our clients from the start, that we need complete transparency from them on exactly what’s going on. We get their marketing calendars and everything, so that we can jump in. And if we know that they’re going to start on a new site, we’re talking to the devs at the start, we’re talking to the design team at the start, because exactly as you guys just said, it’s such a smoother process.

You always get the odd one that doesn’t, and we’ve got it at the moment where a staging site has magically appeared that we found in one of our crawls. what’s this? It was a case of oh, they need to update to Magento 2, so they need to change things on the site. But they have been very good and said that it’s not going live until we’ve signed everything off and are happy with this.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Yeah, but you’re already starting late in the game already on that one anyway.

Laura Hogan

Yeah. We’ve very much just … I think the relationship with the client is a huge part of it, and I know that we all say we try and have really strong relationships, but the more open you are with each other, the more likely you are to know these things. It’s making sure you’re talking to them all the time. Whether it’s a Zoom, a phone call whatever, you need to just keep that line of comms open and make it more than just you’re a person sending them a report at the start of the month and stuff to sign off. To get to that personal level too. But I know everybody tries to do that, especially on the agency side.

Dixon Jones

We had a nice little comment by the way, just going a little bit off the thing from Brilliant Jazz, who says, “Brilliant background, Mr. Hodgson.” That is not a Zoom background, is it? [crosstalk].

Yeah, if anyone does have questions, feel free … If you’re in the Zoom call, please ask questions. If you’re on the Facebook chat and you’re asking questions and wondering why I’m not looking, it’s because I haven’t got the chance to look on too many different live streams, and so we will be popping in there and answering those questions in the chat with comments on Facebook. And then this is why I’ve got David with me, because next month hopefully, I’ll fix all that, and I’ll be able to answer these things live.

Okay, sorry Laura. Yeah, I absolutely agree with all of you that getting in early, very, very important. What about the other side of things, where SEOs have a tendency where if they don’t see exactly why something’s gone wrong, they have a tendency to blame Google instead of themselves. Do you think that’s a common problem? Obviously the three of you aside, but have you seen this in other SEOs before?

Laurent Bourelly

No, I think if you ask some of the Googlers, I know for a fact that … I don’t want to point out a specific country, but it’s basically an entire continent that is hassling them. I’m talking about India, because it’s always Google’s fault, and they are very active on social media and so on, and they can’t understand that it’s not Google’s fault if the site’s taken down. But they systematically … And I think as far as volume goes, yeah, it’s pretty aggressive too. I mean death threats and all.

I think at the end of the day, it’s very easy to make excuses, and yeah, Google’s fault, it’s COVID, Trump, whatever, I don’t know.

Laura Hogan

I was just going to say the exact same, like it depends. That’s our classic phrase, isn’t it?

Dixon Jones

Oh, that’s my pet hate, though. That’s my pet hate. I hate that phrase.

Laura Hogan

I hate when people say it, but even today, we were speaking with a prospect who has really low domain authority. They’ve dropped. They used to be in position four for a really high-volume term. They’re on page two now. We’ve kind of flagged it to them and had a chat with them, and they were like, “Oh, we brought this up to our current agency in April, and they told us that the best way to build our domain authority was to spend more on our PPC ads.”

Laurent Bourelly

Laura, if you say domain authority in front of Dixon, he goes a bit mad about that one. [LAUGHTER]… it’s worse than cursing, okay?

Dixon Jones

Page authority, I’m okay with page authority.

Laura Hogan

So told them that the answer was to spend more on Google Ads!

Dixon Jones

Amazing. Amazing.

Laura Hogan

Well, yeah. It was a case of blaming everything else.

Dixon Jones

Okay, so then another rookie mistake is trusting your PPC agency to do your SEO. That’s probably another rookie mistake there from a business point of view.

Laurent Bourelly

No, but even … I have amazing cases study of … I can’t tell you the name, but we’re talking about big volume, big website, lots of traffic. And we multiplied, we times eight, okay? Times eight. That’s a lot. Then the SEO goes to the boss and says, “Hey, can I have a raise?” SEO says no. SEO leaves. Site drops. They call me back. “Hey, can you save us?” I save them again. But yeah, take care of your SEO. If the guy is helping you do times eight in business, maybe you should reward him. Maybe it’s also the SEO’s fault to not negotiate salary, then something on the side with performance or bonus or whatever, but treat your SEO well, because if it’s on [Freewheel], even after doing the work, if you don’t do anything, eventually, it’s going just going to lose [inaudible].

Dixon Jones

Dom?

Dom Hodgson

I don’t think that’s ever going to be a solved problem though. There’s a reason that in the UK there are three SEO agencies every week that start, because you don’t need a degree, we’ll let anybody do it, is you hire some graduates that have just come in, you teach them about SEO, they work in it for a year or two and then they realize, “Hang on a minute. You’re billing them six grand a month, and you’re paying me two grand a month. Hang on, why am I not getting this?” And they go off and they start their own agency, and that’s what happens.

Unless you have some profit share scheme or anything like that, which a lot of agencies won’t do. The amount of agencies that we’ve got is going to outnumber clients very soon, because they are just multiplying. But again, I want to go back to the trust a little bit, because from the client side, they should also be verifying what the SEO agency is telling them. It’s far too easy to Google “SEO agency”, get a quote, they’re the cheapest, and go through them. But you should as a client, have some knowledge and have some grounding of what you want to achieve and what is feasible. Or at least hire a neutral third party to do that.

When I was doing freelancing, I used to actually audit SEO audits as a third party. So the client would send me the audit and go, “Does this look right?” And I’d go, “Well, that’s rubbish, that’s rubbish, but that’s real. That’s fine. You should be looking at that.” And once the client started to kick back a little bit and go, “Well, this doesn’t make sense, this doesn’t make sense,” the agency upped their game. And so it’s responsibility on all parts to actually do some research and put some effort in.

Laura Hogan

100%. And it’s definitely about being honest a lot of the times. SEO has a terrible rep, and agencies do, for not necessarily being truthful all the time. It’s so much about having that honesty with people, and if something isn’t going to work or isn’t working, just being … telling the client, being open about it, but coming to them with a plan.

Dixon Jones

So Laura, that comes on to the next point. Once you’ve found a mistake, let’s say I know it wouldn’t happen in your agency of course, but once you’ve found a mistake and it was the agency’s fault or something they should have highlighted or made … And it’s happened. Something’s happened. How do you deal with it? Or if you’re the customer and you’ve found it out, either way round, how should you go on from there?

Laura Hogan

Be honest. Call them up. I know we can’t do face to face right now, but pre-COVID, we’d always want to do face to face with people when talking through serious stuff. Don’t do the, “Oh, it depends. It was Google’s fault. We don’t know what happened.” Clients much prefer it if you take extra time and come back with a complete plan of action from it.

I think that’s the most important thing, having a conversation video face to face, talking through the issues, what caused it, what your plan is, and then follow up with the plan on email with timescales. Timescales is so important to a client when something’s gone wrong, because if you’re showing that you’re going to be putting this time in to fix it, and you’re not waiting three weeks to fix it, you’re starting tomorrow on it, it can help to really bring that relationship back and that trust back, because we do all make mistakes. Everybody does. But it’s how you deal with it that’s the key.

Dixon Jones

I think that’s probably key to account management now, isn’t it? I would have thought … I’m not agency side. Thank goodness, I hated agency side. It drove me insane. But I think that the idea of having a monthly call mandating the customer … If the customer and you don’t get on a Zoom call once a month to discuss the report … If you send through your SEMrush stats or your Majestic stats or whatever it may be, and just send it through and expect and assume the retainer will carry on coming forever … I think if you don’t have an active conversation once a month … It only has to be five minutes, really sometimes, but if you don’t have that conversation, you can’t get the vibe from the customer.

You can’t tell if the customer has paid Dom’s SEO re-audit company to check your work. You don’t know anything that’s happening in that, and you’re passing one-way information. You can guarantee that in that case, the customer isn’t reacting to the information. They’re just taking it and putting it in a drawer, because they don’t understand what’s big and what’s small. So I think that communication thing is incredibly important to keep your client happy for sure, mistake or not.

Laura Hogan

The reality is, most clients don’t read reports. We all know it deep down. We don’t like to admit it, but we know it deep down. They don’t read them. So just taking that 10 minutes to run through it, and at least run through where we’re at with the strategy, what’s next, and what you’re going to need them to get involved in sign off, that they can pencil in the time their side, can make a huge difference to the speed in which you can get things actioned and keep everybody smiling and happy. And also bringing sweets always helps with things as well.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, and honestly, I don’t think that the customer always wants to read or should have to read things. The customer should be able to, given the SEO agency and the developers between them, enough authority to be able to implement the changes as well. I think that’s a problem, a common rookie mistake for a customer, is not to give that authority to the people that can make the changes.

Laurent Bourelly

But to expand on what Laura said about honesty, because it could be taking a … Yeah, that’s a little bit … Okay, you want to … No. It’s real. A rookie mistake from SEO perspective is trying to always be right, and always trying to find out, to come out with an answer right away, because you don’t want to look weak by saying, “Hey, I don’t know, but let me get back to you.”

You have to do this. You have to be able to say … to be honest enough to say, “I don’t know everything, but for sure I’ll find out for you,” because otherwise you will come up with some kind of answer, and in my case, every single call is recorded. It’s mandatory by the client. I know what I’m saying. I assume I have the right to be wrong, and I also have the right to say, “Hold on. I need to investigate. Let me get back to you.” So don’t try to fluff it out, and you know what I mean? Because you don’t want to look like you don’t know. No, no, no. You have to not know. It’s impossible to know everything. So going back to honesty, but it’s for real.

Laura Hogan

Completely agree, yeah.

Dom Hodgson

I’ll give you an example with Warden, actually. About a year and a half ago, we had a server error, and it caused about two hours’ worth of data loss. Now, we looked at the logs of everything, and actually, it only affected two customers. And we could have just emailed those customers, and to be honest, they probably wouldn’t have noticed at all, and we could have got away with it. But rather than do that, what we actually did was we wrote an email out to every one of our customers saying, “We beeped up,” and explained what happened, how we’re going to fix it, what’s going to happen in future, and we emailed that to every customer.

Almost every customer replied back and said, “Thank you for your honesty. We really appreciate that.” And we gained trust because of that, even though it didn’t affect them, and even though there’d been data loss. The only complaints that we had was that we said a swear word in the subject line.

Dixon Jones

But that’s part of your charm there, Dom, isn’t it, I’d say?

Dom Hodgson

Yes.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. Okay guys, look, we’ve reached the end of our time again, so once again, I’d say thanks very much Majestic, for helping me put on these events every month.

I think the conversations have always been brilliant, and today has been no exception. I think for the first time, I’m actually organized enough to know what we’re talking about next time, and I think I’m talking about content in a month from now, so sign up on the blog post if you want to be there for all of them, and you get an email an hour before in case you’ve forgotten. If not, I’ll see you on the Facebook streams and stuff. But before we go, guys, why don’t you just tell people how they can find out more about you and where they go? Dom, do you want to go first?

Dom Hodgson

Sure. When I’m not suspended, you can get me on @TheHodge on Twitter, @ukdisdad on Instagram. Or just email me, dom@littlewarden.com.

Dixon Jones

Are we allowed to say on live air recording why you’ve just got suspended on Twitter?

Dom Hodgson

Oh, I made a suggestion about RuPaul’s Drag Race that they do an online version, and I used a word in there that the algorithm … Which is fine in the context of the show. I’m quite a big RuPaul Drag Race fan, but algorithmically, they said, “Ooh, that’s a naughty word,” and I had the option of deleting the tweet and being suspended on the naughty step for 12 hours, or appealing. And three days later, I’m still appealing. Principles, man.

Dixon Jones

Laurent? Where can they find you?

Laurent Bourelly

Seoconspiracy.com.

Everywhere, images, voice, video, MythBusting with Dixon Jones telling you the truth and nothing but the truth about SEO, the good and the bad.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Which is true. You can find me on there as well. Laura, where can we find out about your agency?

Laura Hogan

Ah, sweetdigital.co.uk for the agency, and then for me, it’s just @lauralouise90 on Twitter.

That gives away my age, actually. I’ll let you do the maths.

Dixon Jones

Okay, so thank you very much, guys. I really appreciate it-

Laurent Bourelly

Already, we have to go?

Dixon Jones

Yeah, I’m sorry. So guys, thank you very much for coming in. If you get an opportunity to pop into the Facebook group a little later and see if there’s any questions in there. But this will be live and available on the blog as well, so pick that up at blog.majestic.com. Guys, thank you very much, and we’ll see you in cyberspace, because we can’t see you in real life.

Bye, and thanks.

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Comments

  • Ionut Madalin

    Hy guys,
    What are the best future SEO techniques which you are using or plan for 2021? I was thinking to forget everything and do a lighthouse scan and get all in the green zone, because seems at least 2 of my bigger websites they lost many keywords, even if I`m adding daily fresh and unique content. So i decided to focus more onto lighthouse "rules".
    Thanks for your time.

    November 16, 2020 at 8:28 pm

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