BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Meet Harry Wormwood, SEO expert ...

This is another of those books that was made available to me by the good folks at Wiley … one of the best sources of books on marketing, social media, etc. A few months back, my contact there sent out a list of new books coming out and this was on that, and I figured it would be an interesting read, as I'm such a dinosaur when it comes to SEO and stuff like that.

As regular readers of this space will no doubt recall, I ran my own publishing house for a decade, starting back in the 90's, so I have a rather hands-on perspective on the book biz, and “author wrangling”. I bring this up because this was one of those cases where a more assertive editorial hand would have improved the book. I can't recall another book which so clearly brought up the classic quote (generally attributed to Vince Lombardi): “act like you've been there before” … in the original context, telling players not to overly celebrate reaching the end zone, but in this case something like “don't be so impressed with yourself just because you've got a book out”!

While the “peacocking” tones down as Win the Game of Googleopoly: Unlocking the Secret Strategy of Search Engines progresses, in the early parts Sean V. Bradley sounds like Steve Martin's character in “The Jerk” being so impressed that his name is in the phone book … with his repeatedly pointing out belonging to some speaking organization, and now being published (hey, once in the introduction would have covered it - really). Between that and the endless mentions of his hot model wife, it's real easy to dislike the author from the get-go here.

He's also a car salesman … he dropped out of college and ended up selling cars, and because of his youth, got assigned to doing the dealership's web sales … in which he excelled. However, it's hard for the image of the “ethically challenged” car salesman (think Danny Devito's role of Harry Wormwood in Matilda) to not hover over this book, because everything that Bradley advocates comes from a “cash first” profit-driven standpoint … plus almost all of his examples involve car-sales sites, which is his area of expertise.

Frankly, I'm not sure that the majority of this book's material is particularly translatable to other industries … I spent a lot of time turning his instructions around in my mind to see how they could be applied to organizations and projects that I've been involved in, and frequently couldn't trace out any direct parallels. On the other hand, every car dealership in the country should (and probably does) have a copy of this book by this point, as it's certainly a doctoral-level course in how to push car sales on the internet.

While the specifics are largely focused on how to move that SUV, the broad strokes on the search industry are fascinating. For instance, Google is so huge that it's unique monthly visitors are just about equal to the next four (Bing, Yahoo!, Ask, and AOL) combined, and that's not counting that the #2 “search engine” in terms of traffic is Google's own YouTube! Google gets 1.1 billion unique visitors per month, which means that over 15% of all the people on the planet use Google at least once a month (and YouTube gets almost as many). Between Google and YouTube, they get over a hundred billion searches per month. The point that he's making here is that there really isn't any “plan B” … you're either maximized for Google, or you're picking up the crumbs.

So, it's Google or nothing. The next thing he does is break down the Google page … which I was not familiar with in this context. These sections are PPC (Pay Per Click ads), Organic Results, Local Search (G+ Business listings), News articles, and “Top 10 Results”. He cites some really amazing (frightening?) statistics here … for instance, only 5 percent of searchers will go past the first page of Google results … which he notes: “If you are not on the first page, you are statistically invisible.” Another shocking figure is how low the click-through is on the PPC listings … these are the money machine for Google (pulling in $55 billion in 2014!), but only 6% of searchers will click on the PPC listings. Frankly, I found this staggering, because I'd have doubted that (statistically) there were anywhere near enough people using the search engines who were smart enough to recognize an ad when they see it … yet 94% of the folks being served PPC ads pass over them to get to the other listings on the page.

Needless to say, he uses this as an illustration of just how essential getting those high first-page listings are, since you can't even realistically buy your way into getting clicks.

This leads into some serious “how to do it” material on domain names, key words, geo-targeting, title tags, heading tags, etc. … including his recommendations for software packages to walk you through the system. This section could be called “why I hate SEO”, because (as a writer) it all comes out as such a mess of keywords and product mentions that there is no way to make it look like anything other than … well, a scam. However, I guess the world is a LOT more interested in grabbing the dollars than making pretty prose, so I'm no doubt in a minority who think it's a horrible thing to do to words (a domain that he seriously holds out as good is the massively unwieldy … but he points out that “exact match domains” are efficient if the words that folks are searching on are in the damn URL). He gets deep into keyword research (and tools for same), but notes that one has to be careful to not “keyword stuff” one's site because Google (thankfully) has gotten its programs smart enough to see that happening.

As the phrase goes: “It's all about the Benjamins” … or at least in the author's world. Here's a quote, which, quite rationally, throws whatever ethical babies might have been in play with the bathwater (when discussing SEO strategy for heading tags):
I am going to focus on what Google wants. As mentioned in Chapter 2, it's all about Google. No egos, no distractions, just focus on exactly will appease Google, and you will be successful.
Now, to be perfectly honest, I bookmarked this section for my own edification, as I have never been fond of using “H tags” because in web1/web2 sites those headers just looked ugly and made pages both look bad, and like every other damn page on the web. However, these days with the ability to dictate the look with CSS, those tags are less gross, and the SEO use of them would, indeed, seem to be called for (if making the page read like they were written by an idiot savant).

He goes on into how to optimize graphics and videos (he's very big on videos – recommending car dealerships to do endless versions of these to grab the most search volume). His recommendations for SEO work on YouTube pages is very interesting, and is one of those things that should be useful across most industries … it's another piece from reading the book that I've already put into action on some YouTube channels I manage. Of course, he also goes on at length on car videos … how dealerships should do dozens of variations with names of local towns, or how x model is better than a half-dozen comparable competitors' models (and a version done for every town name in the region, etc., etc., etc.).

Social media is a blood sport in Bradley's world as well:
Every time you have one of your pages ranked for a search, it means another page (possibly a competitor) is ranked lower. You want your social profiles to rank for branded searches as well as unbranded searches. … The biggest mistake that so many businesses make is that they try to do too many social sites. … In fact, by focusing on the right ones, you'll be able to maintain the highest chance of dominating on search.
In this context, “the right ones” start with G+, simply because it's Google … he also goes into depth on strategies for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Flickr … but some of the stuff he says is so “sleazy” - like if you don't have at least one “action per hour” to a post on Facebook, you should delete it and post something else hoping for engagements to trigger the algorithm to build visibility. He notes the elements that are judged by that algorithm to justify more views … which he notes only run 5-10% of your likes/friends (if that!) “organically”.

One of the last things he deals with is responsive and mobile web designs. He strongly recommends against having a separate .mobi site, as it will cut your traffic in half, and totally mess with the way Google directs your traffic. Personally, one project I've been working on just switched from a basic HTML site with a WordPress blog attached to a Ning site because the new version has built-in responsive design (and Google is just now changing the rules to make this a big plus).

Anyway, verdict on Win the Game of Googleopoly - some really good material, but in a generally insufferable format. I'm sure if you flushed your scruples down the toilet and let Harry Wormwood Sean V. Bradley, CSP (can't forget his speaking accreditation, can we?) train you to game Google, you'll vastly improve your SEO results (your soul, maybe not so much). It's been out since January, so should be in the brick-and-mortars, with the online vendors offering it at a slight discount. I'm glad I got the info that's in this book, but I can't say I enjoyed reading it!

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Tags: book review
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