I met David DeSouza, fellow meetup organiser when he came to my Search London meetup. I wanted to find out more about his meetup group and his SEO work in the United States.
What is your meetup called and how many do you hold a year?
The Meetup group that Jason Cohen and I organise is called the DC Search Engine Marketing Meetup Group. Until recently we would have a meeting every month, but since moving to North Carolina it’s less often, maybe every 2/3 months.
The group has some great members who have a genuine interest in the subject and who are willing to share all that they know including: Bill Slawski, Mark Alves, Dan Hinckley, John Nichlson, Katherine Watier, Deborah Ager, Dave Oremland and many more.
Are there many SEM events in VA or USA?
There seem to be a ton of SEM events in the US but surprisingly few in the Northern Virginia/DC area. This is the reason why myself and Jason Cohen started the DC SEM Meetup group.
What is the search market like in the US?
Compared to other countries that I’ve had experience with, the US is still dominant in terms of both SEO and PPC competitiveness. With Google pushing the organic SERPs further down the page in favor of revenue generating PPC ads, it only makes SEO more challenging.
From a relative perspective, I would actually say the UK is more competitive than the US considering the market is five times smaller. There are only 10 spots in the SERPs and if you aren’t listed in one of those places you may as well be invisible.
Both in the US and UK people still seem to be attracted to head terms despite the tail holding many times more traffic and conversions. One advantage of the US market is a dominant site in one niche, for example a site about ‘sales tax’, can leverage its authority to rank for the countless variations based on each state, i.e. ‘sales tax California’, ‘sales tax New York’ etc.
What does your company specialise in?
My company specialises in helping people claim back tax overpaid tax. We have created a free guide here and also offer a service where we help people claim the tax back if they do not want to do it themselves.
Do you work much with the other English speaking countries?
I mainly focus on the US and UK markets, though I have worked on a site in the Canadian insurance niche.
A friend of mine is a music producer and we have partnered to create a site where we sell the music. The site is global and is targeted to all English speaking countries through both PPC and SEO.
What link building do you do?
I have become more risk adverse since Google has been applying stricter filters and banning more sites without warning.
How did you get into SEM?
Unlike being a doctor, teacher or lion tamer, no one really dreams of working in SEM when they are young. SEM is one of those things that you fall into. After I left the UK to live in Australia I created a website. I soon realised that having a website without any links was like owning a shop in the middle of the dessert without any roads going past it. I read everything I could find on SEO, testing and trying different strategies. I was captivated, watching my rankings change on a daily basis, it was quite addictive to continually improve them and the number of visitors that came to my site.
What do you do outside of work SEM/SEO?
I love travelling and running. I’m trying to combine my two passions by running a marathon on every continent. I’ve ran the New York Marathon in 2010, the Pissa Marathon in 2011 and I’m hoping to run one in Columbo, Sri Lanka and Melbourne Australia next month.
I have recently started a new project called Matching Donations. The site is like a Groupon for charitable giving, helping people’s donations go twice as far.
What do you like the most about SEO?
I love the fact that you can outrank big companies who have millions of dollars in marketing budgets by being more creative and agile.
What do you like the least about SEO?
The rub with the industry being fast moving, is that you are always wondering if today will be the day that Google releases a new algorithm update and wipes your site out. As long as you diversify your tactics and sites, it doesn’t have to be too much of a risk but it’s always a worry.
What is the future of SEO in the US?
With PPC becoming more expensive and SEO being given more space in the SERPs, I think it will only become more competitive. The ironic thing is that Google has created a great deal of fear, uncertainly and doubt with its recent algorithm changes, messages, penalties and filters. This FUD has resulted in a push of “deoptimizing” strategies to make sites look more natural. A new industry of negative SEO has also sprung up to make competitors look over optimized and get them filtered as a result.
Google has tons of data and I also believe that they will start using this more and more to help determine if a site is what a person was looking for.