SEO Driven Website and Content Audit Strategies and Tactics

Carmen Rane HudsonAgency, Content Marketing, SEOLeave a Comment

seo content matthew woodward

If you can't seem to get traffic to your website, let alone build an audience, then you might want to take a few hours digging into Matthew Woodward's website. He began doing both, and making money while he did it, from the moment he launched his. He's continued to grow the site even after launching Search Logistics, an agency that helps companies grow their own traffic.

Identify the problem, solve the problem, give the people what they want, build relationships, and keep it simple.

These are some of the core tenants that have driven Matthew's success and the success of his clients.

It's not much of a surprise to me that he's great at building relationships either online or offline. The transcript of our conversation doesn't do it justice. He had me laughing all interview long. You'll see the in the transcript, every now and then, I've recorded my own laughter just because noting it added clarity to what was said.

At one point, he even turned things around and started asking me questions! Get to know him if you get the chance, because you won't be sorry.

If you don't get the chance, well, just start here, by reading this interview.

You'll walk away with plenty of gems that you can start using right away.

On simplifying SEO for beginners with easy to use spreadsheets

Carmen: You built these incredible spreadsheets that are simple enough for beginners to use, even if a person isn't good at keyword research or data analysis. What was the process you used to create and perfect those tools?

Matthew: I've been helping people simplify SEO for awhile. And one of my life mantras, not just SEO mantras, is keeping things simple. The spreadsheets are born out of first my own manual processes that have evolved over time, and then I've looked at, "Where can I automate things and make things quicker and easier?"

So the sheets I released recently were just the latest rendition of that. Well, they weren't actually as polished as they are now, but I made them all shiny and decided to release them to help anyone that's struggling with either keyword research or link building, Those are the two main problem topics people have. When you're starting any SEO campaign, you need to know what keywords to attack first and which backlinks to attack first.

So, that's kind of why the sheets exist. If anyone signs up for them, it will make it so you can build a complete SEO strategy in terms of keyword research in link building in around 5 or 10 minutes. So it's a huge time saver, gives you great insight on your SEO plan, and it doesn't cost you anything!

On getting started in SEO

Carmen: Always a plus! Did you start in August of 2012? On that first month in your income report?

Matthew: Yes, the blog itself started August 2012. Yeah, long time ago now.

Carmen: You had over 2000 visitors in that first month of launch. How did you score those early quick wins?

Matthew: As much as I'd like to be able to tell you how intelligent I am, like that's how I planned it and all the rest of it, that's not what actually happened!

What actually happened was a combination of factors.

The reason I started the blog was that I was fed up with seeing rehashed or outdated SEO advice being thrown around. It's kind of sticking with me. At the same time, I was heavily into black hat SEO, and Matt Cutts, who was the head of Google Webspam at the time, kept saying, "Oh, forget about link building, just build quality content that people want," and blah, blah, blah.

I decided to do exactly that. And well, yeah, the success was an accident. In forums at the time, lots of people were talking about tiered link building. Nobody had really covered a tutorial or done anything in detail about it. So I decided that was what I was going to do. It just so happened that tiered link building was what I was doing at the time.

So, I was like, "Huh. I'm just going to record what I'm doing. I'm not doing anything special." Or I didn't feel like I was doing anything special.

I just recorded what I was doing, which solved a common problem, and that was it. We got 2000 visitors in the first month, but more importantly, $600 profit. We got 4500 visitors in the second month, and more importantly $4,600 profit. It wasn't because I planned it. It was just a complete accident and lots of different elements coming together at the right moment.

On tiered link building

Carmen: Can you give us a brief overview of tiered link building?

Matthew: Tiered link building is, to cover it for anyone who's not familiar with SEO...

If one website links to your website, that essentially, in very basic terms, casts a vote. Google search results are almost a writ of election. When you're building links to your website, you're essentially just building more votes.

It's not strictly true, but in basic terms you can say that more votes equals higher rankings, or more links equals higher rankings. But a vote from The New York Times is worth more than a vote from me, for example. So when we go into tiered link building, what we're doing is manipulating the voting system.

So one website links to your website...

But then we get lots of other websites to link to the website that's linking to you, because that strengthens the power of that website's vote. So if you've got two scenarios:

1. One website's linking to your website.

2. You've got hundreds of websites linking to one website that links to your website (which is tiered link building).

That second scenario has significantly more weight. It's more rigged, if you like. You're rigging the election.

So tiered link building was showing people how to build that structure of websites that link to each other that ultimately all link to you. Kind of like a reverse pyramid scheme. We've got everyone linking up to your website.

Carmen: Okay. So it's kind of a "rising tide lifts all boats" sort of thing? You're increasing the domain authority of people who have linked to you in order to increase your domain authority?

Matthew: Yes, of course. That's exactly it.

On audience driven marketing at a personal level

Carmen: You've got some strategies of going straight to where your target audience "lives," and engaging directly with them to build traffic.

It seems more relevant than ever now that Google itself has become the primary competitor for most websites.

Why do you think more people don't do that? Is there an efficient or accessible way they could transition themselves into that kind of strategy?

Matthew: Okay, well, again this is something that I didn't plan to happen. I kind of just discovered it.

In building the blog back in 2012, the whole point was, "If I listen to what Google is saying, and they're saying, 'Forget link building and just build quality content', well...I couldn't use traditional SEO methods to rank it. Which would have been to build links to it."

That forced me to go into communities and engage with people on a one-on-one basis. Much like you might do at a conference and you're speaking to people and they're saying, "Oh, I've got this problem" and then you're like, "Oh, well, this is how you solve it. Actually I've got a video that shows you in detail."

I was essentially replicating that conference conversation online in different communities and forums. Because the most powerful SEO weapon was taken away from me in the experiment, which was link building.

So I went down the path of relationship building. The easiest way to do that: forums, Facebook groups, Quora, and things like that.

Now, you're right. It has become more relevant than ever, because we're living in such a noisy world now that personalization really stands out. If you go through the effort of actually writing a response to someone that solves their problem that, in my opinion, is the strongest type of relationship you could possibly create online. You're creating a virtual student-teacher relationship.  I don't think you can build something stronger than that.

The problem with why more people don't do it, and why you don't see businesses doing it much is, well, first of all it doesn't directly translate to return on investment (ROI). It's not like Google Adwords where you can say, "Okay, we spent this, these clicks, these generated sales." It's not as precise as that.

Secondly, businesses have to really trust the person they put in charge to go and live in those communities and engage with people. Because they're in essence becoming the public voice for the business. Once you've got the cost of having someone to do that, the fact that you can't really, directly track it to ROI, and the fact that they've got to really trust someone - meh, that's some pretty big barriers for businesses to get over when they've got other options available like SEO or PPC or social media where you can kind of get a bit more of an ROI on it.

That's why you don't see too many businesses invested in that. But they should, because once you create relationships with people they become brand advocates for you. They shout about you and they tell all their friends. Yeah, you can't measure that, but you're touching people. You're helping people. Ultimately that's going to align to increasing your bottom line.

Carmen: Do you think there's any kind of business that just absolutely could not use that strategy?

Matthew: That's a good question. It's actually a question I've been asked before. You know, even if we were going into some of the... let's say... "embarrassing adult niches," without naming them!

If there's a niche for it, there's a community for it. If there's a community for it, you can be a part of that community. I don't know. Can you personally think of any niche where there isn't a community around it, no matter how weird it is?

Carmen: No!

Matthew: There's a community for everything right? Like whether it's "weird Volkswagen cars from a specific year and model," all the way through to things we probably shouldn't mention in this conversation...

Carmen: Bronies! All the way to bronies!

Matthew: Yeah! Yeah. If there's a niche there's a community. So just get involved in it. Yeah. You've got no excuse.

On his own website redesign, revamping the content, and optimizing for SEO

Carmen: Okay! So, switching gears just a little bit, you recently overhauled your blog completely. It no longer looks and feels like a traditional blog. But it's working. It looks great. It's easy to find the content.

What was the "Aha moment" or realization that inspired that change, and what have the results been?

Matthew: Well mostly, my readers told me that the change needed to happen. I have lots of good content on the blog that's all been built to solve specific problems. That's like 250 tutorials. The problem with WordPress is it's just a list of posts, right, in sequential order. Even if you use categories and tags, it doesn't really do a good job of connecting people's problems with the solutions of your content.

If someone arrived on my home page, they'd need like 5, 6, 7, 8 clicks to get the solution to their problem. And that was kind of against the mantra of why I started the blog.

I was almost cannibalizing my own mission! 

When I thought about it, blogs are just selfish, really, by design. It is literally just a list of content. Here's a most-recent piece of content or reason you should "look at me." Very selfish by nature.

So, I wanted to focus on connecting people's problems with solutions as quickly as possible. That really formed the whole inspiration for the change.

Carmen: I also liked how you clearly identified the different potential clients on your home page.

Did you use your readership to identify those clients? You've got three different personas there.

How do you approach that so you're appealing to everybody that needs to be appealed to?

Matthew: I'm directly targeting SEO, blogging, and, well, the "make money online niche," which I decided to call the "Work" niche because "make money online sounds spammy, right?"

It's just synonymous with spam and junk, and it's almost inherent that it means passive income.  I didn't want to call it that. So I called it work. Like you gotta do something to get paid! So that's why I called it work!

But SEO, blogging, and work - and I actually cut off some of my audience which was conversion and email marketing, because I audited the audience. I sent out a survey, I asked, "what topics do you like?"

SEO, blogging, "make money online," unfortunately, were the top three - so I kind of rolled with that. I went from "make money online" - no, no that's terrible to "hustle," which I thought was great when I came up with it!

But then I thought, "no, that's kind of spammy as well." Sounds like selling something out the back of your car on the freeway kind of thing. So then I went with "work." That means you've gotta do something!

There's too many people selling false dreams in the digital marketing world. That's how I segmented the audience. I literally just asked them, and they segmented themselves.

Carmen: I did notice a distinct lack of sports car and beach photos on your site! Even though I'm sure you could get to the beach pretty quickly.

Matthew: I have a beach about 50 meters from my house on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, so yeah. I've got the photos - well, not the car, but the beach. The beach I can do every day, no problem! But no, I don't like to do things like that.

Look, you've got a problem, I want to solve it as quick as possible, that's it. I'm not interested in anything else beyond that.

Carmen: That's probably why you're so effective.

Now, you said you revamped all your content on your site. You said that you were taking high-quality work and making it even better. So, considering it was great content before, what were some of the steps you took to update each piece?

Matthew: One of the biggest problems with writing a lot of content is maintaining a lot of content. It's all very well and good creating an awesome, awesome, awesome long, in-depth article, but it quickly goes out of date.  When you've got 250 pieces, there's something going out-of-date weekly.

I hadn't stayed on top of that really. We had to go through every single piece and look at what needed updating.

That included text, images. You know sometimes you'd be like: "Oh, this tool has a free trial," and now it doesn't have a free trial - those kind of things. It wasn't about adding to the content, but making sure the accuracy of the content was there. That was the first step as such. Then we started looking at different opportunities that we could enrich what we already had. Both from a human perspective, and a search engine perspective.

We did that first by optimizing for search engines - looking for opportunities to rank for featured snippets.

Now, featured snippets, you might have seen them, you do a Google search - usually if you do a Google search it starts with, "Why," or "How," or "Are," or "Is."

You'll get this weird #1 result that takes up quite a decent amount of screen space and is above all of the other organic results. That's a featured snippet.

big question words for SEO

So, we decided to try and optimize for that, by going through each piece of content and literally looking for when we've used terms like, "Why," "How," "Are," "Will," "Does," "Do," "Can," "Should," "What," and "Is."

If you've got any of those words in your content, you can usually just make them a heading tag. Do a little search for them in Google. See if anyone's already ranking for a featured snippet. If they are, just copy what they did.

If their featured snippet has 50 words, make it so yours has 50 words. If their featured snippet has five bullet points, make it so yours has five bullet points.

We went through all of the posts and did that. That's been really good, because we started to crop up in lots of featured snippets and steal them away from our competitors.

That was how we optimized for the search engines. In terms of optimizing for the people, as we were reviewing it, I noticed the content was kind of boring in some places. Lots of paragraphs, no real styling to it, nothing breaking it up. We went through and we used a plug-in called WP Shortcode Pro to add lots of different styling to the posts.

Now if you go on the homepage of the blog, matthewwoodward.co.uk, click through to "SEO," which is one of the little square panels on the left. When you scroll down and then click on "what is SEO," you'll see a great example there of how we added visual pop to a post to really make it stand out and keep people engaged. How it looks, how it's styled, how we used lists, how we used highlight in bold text, video, and everything like that.

That post there, that "What is SEO," was the model for all of the other posts and pages and how we styled them.

We went out and added that visual pop across every post and piece of content, just to make it a little bit more engaging for people. That's had some good results so far.

The last thing that we did was add a Table of Contents.

Now, you might have seen, if you've been browsing around blogs in the last couple of years, it's become a popular trend that there's often an expandable table of content that takes you to different parts of the post. This is great, because it helps users find the solution to the problem that they want, which is exactly what I'm aiming to do. But it also means you get extra links in Google search results called "Site Links." It gives you extra visibility from search, but once people are there, it really helps to connect them with the solution to their problem.

sitelinks in Google SERPs example

Historically on my blog, at the start of posts, I had a "What will you learn," section. It does what it says on the tin, it says what people will learn.

I replaced that "What will you learn" section with a "what will you learn" section driven by a table of contents. That has seen lots of site links popping in on search results on Google.

To do that, all you need is a plug-in called Table of Contents Plus. It's completely free, you just install it. I have manual placement enabled, I just drop the short code where I want it to appear, and that's it. It literally takes about 5 seconds to add it to a post, but the benefits of doing so far outweigh the effort. Like, if you're not using a table of contents on your content, your post, your pages, go do that right now. Like just pause this and go and do it! You're missing out. It's so quick and easy to deploy, and brings so much value. Just go and do it right now.

Carmen: That's awesome!

Matthew: So in summary there, what did we do? We made sure our content was still accurate, we optimized for featured snippets, we styled the posts out a little more, using WP Shortcode Pro, and then we added a table of contents. That's the revamp process we went under for the content.

Carmen: On the matter of featured snippets, and the reason I'm asking this is - I actually tried voice search for the first time on my PC yesterday, and it read me a whole featured snippet. Did you have to kind of sound bite those? Do you have to do it with an eye towards "this will sound good when read by the fine, fine Google assistant lady?"

Matthew: Well, that's the beauty of Google. Because you can just do the search, and see what already exists. When you're doing a search on Google voice search, they're reading a list back to you, you know that you also need a list, a similar list in your content. If they're just reading out a paragraph of text, then you need a similar paragraph of text.

The way that you can work out how they've done it is you can literally just look at their page, look at the competitor's page they pulled the snippet from. Usually it's an H2 or H3 tag that's like: "What is SEO," and then the next line is, "SEO is..." So that's it.

Just use the power of observation if you're going to go after those. Well, what's ranking right now?

Then just replicate it on your page.

I don't know if you've got access to Ahrefs, you can literally look. Okay. Which of my pages are currently ranking in the top ten? Then if you just go through those pages and look for featured snippet opportunities you can usually quite easily steal a lot of featured snippets away from people.

On internal linking and personalization for SEO

Carmen: Huh! On the matter of internal linking - What's your advice on structuring that, or doing that? Is there a threshold of over-saturation or do you want to get as many internal links as is natural to do?

Matthew: With internal links, I wouldn't say that you want to go completely overboard with it. But you want to do as many as make sense to helping your readers. Now, in general on those websites, the home page holds the majority of the SEO weight. It attracts most of the backlinks. It has most of the authority. The most important thing to remember is that you're linking to your most important pages from your home page. You want there to be as few clicks between your homepage and your most important pages as possible.

If you make a list of your most important pages, or the ones that best align to your businesses' intent, goal, search volume, content, whichever for you are the most important pages - they should be linked to and from the home page.

Carmen: What are your thoughts on dynamic personalization and its impact on SEO? Are there any consequences or benefits from your perspective?

Matthew: That all depends on integration, and integration is often wildly open to interpretation. No doubt, dynamic personalization is going to fuel the old SEO and developer fight! The fire was dying down a little bit so they just found some new gasoline to throw on it. Yeah, there's lots of potential consequences. Because from an SEO standpoint you've got to decide what you're going to show to Google.

It depends on how you use the dynamic personalization. It can be used in a simple way, but it can be used to completely change the intent. If it completely changes the intent, how are you going to appease Google with one page that has ten different intents? It really comes down to an integration decision, and on a business-by-business level.

Now, from a purely SEO standpoint, in my opinion it would be better to build like an intelligent user journey that takes people through different pages, personalized to their journey.

Instead of having one page that dynamically replaces content for lots of different types of people, you have lots of pages and you send the right person to the right page.

That, from an SEO standpoint, purely technical SEO standpoint would be the best way. But again, not everyone's trying to rank pages they're using dynamic personalization on. Some people are. There isn't a black and white question to the consequences or the benefits. It really depends on how you choose to implement and apply it. But ultimately you need to decide what is it you need to show to Google. Because that's going to make the biggest difference in your implementation.

Carmen: So it's almost wiser to have a - I've seen this before, on some pages. "Are you here to..." I don't know, get your car fixed, or you here to buy a new car - and then that way they're like, yes, I'm here to do that thing, and then they go off in that direction.

Matthew: Yeah, and you can go from there. Even my blog does it, right? Hit the homepage at matthewwoodward.co.uk.

What do you want to learn? SEO, blogging, or work? Then once you go in the SEO section, it's like, "okay, what do you want to learn about?" Do you wanna learn the basics? Do you want to learn on-page? Do you want to learn about link building?

Within that, it's broken down even further.

So to me, that is dynamic personalization for user choice.

It depends how you want to integrate. There isn't a black and white right or wrong, because my business plan assumes each of those pages in the dynamic personalization process are their own landing pages I want to rank in Google. But if you're using like a quiz, probably you don't care and there isn't any SEO risk. It really depends on what you're using dynamic personalization for and how you do it.

On the state of a client's reputation and how it impacts their SEO needs

Carmen: Do you get clients occasionally who have a bad reputation in terms of negative articles? If so, how do you handle it?

Matthew: Well, if you're not getting negative articles written about you, you're not doing anything right! You know?

If someone's not ringing your bell, you're not doing something right. Yeah, of course we have that problem, I've had that problem, I guess you guys have had that problem at some point. It's just a natural part of things.

When you Google companies, they like to show a balanced result. Which quite often involves negative things! We've had some interesting reputation management clients in the time. I'd love to be able to tell you some precise stories, but I can't! But more or less the way you handle it is to focus on promoting the good in a way that overtakes the bad. That assumes that the good exists. It doesn't always exist!

Carmen: Right??

Matthew: Sometimes you have to create the good. But that's not always, it's rarely the case. There's usually some good.

Then you're just lucky in the fact that most people rarely go past the first page of search results and even less go past the second page. Because most bad press is triggered by brand names or terms, it's pretty easy to outrank content because the bad press isn't necessarily optimized to show up. They're not actively trying to increase the ranking of that content, whereas you are trying to actively increase the ranking of positive content.

That's the best way to deal with it. Create the good if you need to, hopefully don't, because otherwise what kind of client have you got? If you need to create the good, create the good and then promote it so it overtakes the bad. That's pretty much the top and bottom of it.

Carmen: Have you ever had to look at a client and go: I'm sorry, you're just going to have to go back and fix your business before I can even help you?

Matthew: (laughing) Look, as an SEO agency, we see an awful lot of stuff. We are very selective about the people we work with. Although we call it an inquiry form, it's essentially an application form. You'd be surprised at some of the people that come and they want to spend three, four thousand dollars a month, and you look at the site and you just know it's going to be terrible.

You know, we only work with people that have got established sales channels that are functioning. When it comes to reputation management, there isn't anyone that we've refused, but there's certainly one I'm specifically thinking of that we definitely had a conversation about. Because it was touching on some things.

But we've had clients from high-end sex dolls all the way through to like construction companies. You name it. We've seen it all! Probably a little bit more than any of us ever wanted to see, actually.

On the state of the SEO industry and bad SEO that's out there

Carmen: Goodness! You spend a lot of time cleaning up after bad SEO professionals, too, when you're doing this. What are they doing that hurts their clients and that drives you absolutely crazy?

Matthew: I guess it's - the problem is, and this is a reason where literally if you go on the home page of our agency site, searchlogistics.com, most people that get burnt with SEO don't understand the three principles you need to understand if we take you on as a client.

That is, first of all, most people don't understand that SEO is a long-term strategy. We get inquiries like, "Oh yeah, I've got this business and it needs to rank for this, in six weeks! And I've got this much money to spend!"

Right?

Now, obviously, you're always going to find someone that will take the money. But it's not realistic and people get burned. But the reason they got burned is because they got ripped off by an agency, or a freelancer or whatever. It comes back to the root expectation that, look, SEO is a long term strategy. It takes time, effort, and patience. People don't often treat it like that. When you don't treat it like that, you get burned.

Quite often, we've had clients where they don't take SEO really seriously. SEO has the potential to become the biggest sales channel for your business. Not just the biggest sales channel, but doing more sales than your entire sales team combined. People don't treat it seriously like that. They just think, "oh, yeah, I'm just going to find someone at whatever agency that's cheap or whatever and just throw a little bit of money at it." It doesn't become a core business strategy and people don't take it seriously. That leads to people getting burned a lot of the time as well.

And then, the elephant in the room, effective SEO is not cheap.

If you're paying a few hundred dollars a month for SEO, then you're probably getting what you pay for. SEO requires input from writers, developers, outreach teams, designers, project manager, etc. All of that has costs, especially if you do it right.

So a lot of the times, when we've got clients that have bad results, it's usually because they also haven't been treating SEO as a long-term strategy or seriously, and they've been cutting corners on budget and costs. A lot of the times when people get burned (it sounds harsh to say it), it's of their own creation.

If you're going to get an extension on your house and five people gave you a quote and one guy was 20% of the cost of the others, but promised everything the others said wasn't possible, you'd be suspicious of that. You'd be like, "well, why are you 20% cheaper and over-delivering on your promises?"

You wouldn't hire that guy to build the house. SEO people, I don't know, they're just treated differently. That's one of the things that I see from cleaning up from bad SEO professionals, but they were badly hired in the first place. Does that make sense? I see it a lot. When we speak to clients I'm like, "Well, what did you expect?"

So we literally advertise that on the home page, "are we the right fit?" It's not you, it's me. You've got to agree with those points. If you don't, we won't work with you. That's it.

That stops, first of all, the client making a bad decision, and it stops us making a bad decision. We're only going to work with people that are serious and we know we can give results for. That's why we exist. To give results.

But when we do review campaigns from other agencies, one of the most annoying things I see is with their link building. Most agencies essentially are just buying links through resellers. But the problem is that agencies aren't necessarily doing quality control on the links they're buying. What do I mean by that? I mean that a lot of the people that are selling links, a lot of the services, a lot of the resellers, will say: "oh, yeah, we sell genuine outreach link building. It's $200 a post."

But more often than not, what it actually is, when it's delivered and you look and you spend a bit of time analyzing it, it's just a post on someone's private blog network, under the guise of a guest post. That's rampant within the industry. I've seen every trick in the book. I have bought links from everyone you can think of. Even if it is a genuine link, later on they do things like hide the guest post, or you can't navigate to the guest post from the site, there's no internal links to it, it's just to satisfy a URL level or they haven't no-followed the link but they've no-indexed the page in the meta header.

There's just so many little tricks and things where it's gotten to the point that if I'm going to buy links, I expect that I'm not going to get what I paid for. I expect that if I order a Pepsi, they're going to bring me a Coke. You know what I mean? It's come to that point, like now I just say I'm getting Coke, I don't even ask for Pepsi anymore.

So, it's become that bad. And this isn't strictly an agency problem, but most agencies have a client butcher every month. They satisfy that client butcher by buying links. Most clients, all they care about is links. How many links you gonna build? That's all they care about, even though that's usually not the main problem that they're facing.

So agencies are doing that. They just blindly saying, "oh, ok, he's expecting six links this month, let's buy six links, or just send him the report." But they're not doing that quality checking. They aren't checking, "Ah. Are these links actually what we bought?" They're just sending them on to clients.

I guess the quality control side of it is often lacking. That's one of the annoying things. You've allowed a client to form false expectations. You've taken the money off them. You don't have quality control on what you're delivering. All of that in combination just makes a really bad, bad environment, a bad SEO environment. Unfortunately, it's commonplace. The barrier to entry to SEO is very low. It lacks regulation. It needs regulation. But that's what I see quite often.

Carmen: How would you regulate that?

Matthew: Great question, and it's something I've discussed with a few people actually. How is any industry regulated? How's the real estate industry regulated? How's the construction industry regulated? There has to be some level of regulation that could also apply to the SEO world. Whether that's some kind of qualification.

You know, if you're messing with gas in people's homes you've got a gas safety certificate to go and do that. Isn't there some kind of certification or qualification that could be introduced? Could there be a central collective of people to put that together or something like that?

I don't know. If it ever comes to light, I'd like to be a part of it.

But it's only ever been passively discussed. I mean. How do you think it could be regulated?

Carmen: You would have to - it's not just about knowledge. Because a lot of these people have the knowledge. I would think that there's an ethical side to it as well. It would almost have to be— I don't want to compare it to lawyers, because that seems kind of like a jump, but—they have an ethics board. There's a medical ethics board.

You would almost have to have that, because it's not a failure of knowledge if somebody says, "oh, well, I've got this client who just signed a $6000 contract that I'm going to go get them X number of links and all I have to do to fulfill that and get paid and to get those links." There's nothing in this contract about the quality, or what they'll do.

That's not a knowledge problem. That's a heart problem.

Matthew: Yeah. The problem is when you look at other industries, other industries have a solid input and output.You're going to construct that, and it's got a certain output. This is how it's going to be constructed. With Google, it's like, "Uh, yeah, I'm going to do this SEO campaign, and maybe at the end you'll get your extension, but I can't guarantee it."

There's no guarantee of the output or the result. That's why it's so hard to regulate.

And look, we've had clients that get hit by updates. There's not a single person on the planet that can guarantee your result in Google. Anyone who does guarantee any result, or even indicates that, you should be wary of. No one knows. Maybe there's a handful of people. Even if there's a handful of people at Google who know, so much of it's powered by machine learning now that even their knowledge is limited. You can't guarantee a result, because there's no clearly defined output. It becomes harder to regulate compared to, for example, the medical industry, legal industry, construction industry, or anything that has clearly defined input and output.

But one thing's for sure, it needs it! I don't know how it can happen, but it needs it, because otherwise it's not good for anyone.

Carmen: Yeah. Maybe some sort of focus on practices over output would have to be the way it goes. But that will be interesting to see if it develops and as those conversations unfold it's a good thing to watch.

Matthew: Yeah, but even then, practice - different practices that you can't - there's so many ways to skin the cat with SEO, and there's not necessarily a clearly defined right or wrong. It's not like you can look at construction and be like, "well, that wall's not built right."

You know? It's not - if anyone's listening - has some ideas for that? Please, we need it, help us!

If you want more of Matthew's insights—or if you do have some ideas to share—you can find him on Twitter at @MattWoodwardUK

About the Author

Carmen Rane Hudson

I’m a freelance writer and content creator who specializes in helping digital marketing agencies, SEO consultants, and local SEO gurus make their clients very happy.

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