Melanie Nathan: one-woman SEO show, link building master, bacon addict
You have worked as an in-house SEO at least twice. You have worked for an agency. And you have been an independent consultant for the past two years. What are the pros and cons of each kind of position?
Working in-house was definitely the most challenging as there was always very little budget and virtually no resources to work with. Also, being as I was just a small department within a larger company, the hoops I had to jump through to make even the littlest changes were frustrating. On the flip side, it was a great experience getting to educate my co-workers who were curious about SEO and what it was. My friend Tony Adam recently wrote a great piece about the trials of being an in-house SEO that I’m sure a lot of us can relate to.
Working for an SEO agency was my least favorite experience, but only because I’m seriously not cut out for the corporate environment. I really didn’t enjoy wearing business attire to work every day or all the phone conferences, meetings and schmoozing. I’ve always been more of a “mom and pop” type of girl. I really did love working with other like-minded people who already knew so much about SEO, though. It was nice not having to explain what a backlink was or what anchor text is or what “optimization” meant!
Through it all, I dreamed of getting out on my own and trying to help small businesses who couldn’t possibly afford huge agency rates. And I’m proud to be able to say, with CanadianSEO, I’m doing just that. Since I’m still just a one-woman show, managing my time has been difficult, and I often find myself spread pretty thin. Luckily, I have SEO friends who were once in the same boat, who I lean on. Often.
Do you have downtime?
Downtime? Hmmm. I’ve heard of it… but I’m still confused and frightened by it.
Being an SEO consultant is pretty much a 24/7 job for me, but only because, right now, I choose to make it that way. That’s because, for the first time in my professional life, I’m doing what I love, making a decent living and helping people all at the same time.
I AM learning how to find a good balance between SEO and, well, the rest of life. I’m afraid that being too wrapped up in my work will result in my family no longer finding me adorable or willing to bring me bacon (which may or may not be the secret to my link building powers).
How do you get new business?
The majority of my business is through referrals and word of mouth (which I love!), but I also get a ton of inquiries surrounding either blog posts I write, things I tweet about or updates I make on Facebook.
I‘ve been told it’s my casual, easy-going attitude that people are attracted to. I also get many emails from site owners who read something I’ve written and then feel compelled to contact me because they sense I’m an honest and ethical SEO. (To me this means that there are still a lot of people out there who don’t trust SEOs… buuut that’s a topic for a whole different post.)
I hope the day never comes where I have to actively start marketing my services to attract clients. I figure as long as I concentrate on providing the best service I possibly can and making sure my clients are 100 percent happy, things will just take care of themselves. (See how easygoing I am?!)
I read a 2008 interview with you where you said you wanted to focus on the Edmonton SEO keyword for CanadianSEO. How’s that working out?
Whenever I’m invited to do a guest post on another blog, I try to slip in some nice anchor text for my site. A few times, that text has been Edmonton SEO.
Aside from some optimization on my site, though, this is the only thing I’ve done (thus far) to go after that term. Still, I’m ranking Top 5 on both Google.com and Google.ca. I also come up Top 5 for some competitive “SEO Canada” terms.
I’m launching a new site design soon and I plan on getting serious about my rankings. In other words, competitors be warned!
Note: I also rank No. 1 for “shiny butter ass,” which pretty much makes me the best SEO in the universe.
Are most of your clients Canadian?
Surprisingly, the majority of CanadianSEO’s clients are Americans. Why? For one, it’s a bigger market and there are more agencies (who want to outsource to me). Secondly, I’m on a first name basis with more American SEOs than Canadian ones, and since I get a lot of referrals it only makes sense they would be US-based.
Whether local or worldwide, it doesn’t really matter to me where my clients are from. I always tailor my services to meet their specific goals and objectives.
Your primary expertise is link building. Why?
Simply put: link building is the aspect of SEO I find the most challenging… and rewarding.
Also, link builders are like the ninjas of the SEO industry and I enjoy the enigma surrounding it all. Is that bad? It’s probably bad.
I’m constantly performing SEO for clients in so many ways I feel that my current skills are being put to very good use. I do read all the good industry blogs and (try to!) keep up with all the Google changes. If there was another area of SEO I had the option to specialize in besides link building, I think it would probably be Local.
My other focus right now is on developing my affiliate empire.
What’s your pet peeve right now?
All the fear out there surrounding site owners getting links for their sites, and Google possibly not approving of them. Grr.
I have people contact me who are so afraid of making a “mistake” and getting spanked in the SERPs that they put all sorts of ridiculous stipulations on the type of links they want.
They don’t want that great sitewide blogroll link from a top industry blog because Google might see it as paid. They don’t want to be listed on that highly related links or resources page because Google might think it’s reciprocal, and they were told Google doesn’t like that anymore. They don’t want to be listed on that University .edu page because they’ve heard Google has devalued those and they’re a waste of time etc etc.
The truth is, every link has some value, and unless you’re blatantly buying paid links to improve your PR, you’ll be just fine.
Why spend valuable time scrutinizing each and every link you obtain when you can be using that time to develop fresh content, do some blogger outreach or develop other creative ways to attract links?
What was your most rewarding moment in business last year?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in some awesome projects with some terrific people. I’ve obtained some super rankings for clients in very competitive niches. I reached a few milestones and even used my expertise to put out a few fires. I would have to say, though, that being contacted by The Globe and Mail for an SEO interview (that finally was published this January!) was extremely rewarding. It made me feel as though my little company was officially growing up and all the hard work I was putting in was being noticed. Validation rocks!
Melanie Nathan is the founder of CanadianSEO, a search engine optimization company specializing in link building for competitive ranking purposes. Contact her today at firstname.lastname@example.org.