An Interview With Barry Adams
Can you introduce yourself; tell us a little about you and what you do.
I’m Barry Adams, and despite my very English-sounding name I’m actually a Dutchman. I live and work in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where I’m the senior digital marketer at Pierce Communications. I enjoy a modicum of notoriety in the SEO industry for being a foul-mouthed contrarian, though I’d like to believe I’m generally a nice guy.
Not being one to get caught up in all the hype, what piece of advice would you give to those getting carried away?
Keep your head down and carry on doing things that work. This industry does get carried away too easily, and usually on hypes that end up having precious little substance, and an awful lot of time and energy can be wasted on chasing those hypes instead of delivering actual value to the client websites we work on.
Why do you think the SEO community gets so carried away so easily?
I think it’s because we’re a content-driven industry, and we’ve run out of things to write content about. We’ve blogged about everything and everyone and have run out of new things to say, so whenever something genuinely new arrives we all pounce on it and blog it to death several times over. In the process we – sometimes inadvertently, sometimes deliberately – create hypes around these new developments in our eagerness to write something novel. Be it Pinterest or Penguin, everything new that comes along is subject to this cycle of hype-isation.
I was once talking to a friend, whose friend had set up an SEO company and their main tactics were to send all their contacts an email asking them to search a particular query then find their clients website on page 8 or whatever and click through to it as this would help with rankings. What is the funnies/most worrying thing in SEO you have come across?
I come across some genuine howlers now and again, often from new companies trying to gain a foothold in the SEO industry. A recent one involved a company professing their main SEO strategy was adding the client site to the footer links of a whole range of sites they’d previously developed. Genuinely double-facepalm worthy.
What’s the worst thing you have seen a client do?
Not bothering with a strategy. Many clients want to use various online marketing tactics like SEO and Social Media because they feel they have to, otherwise they’d be missing out. But very few clients actually bother to answer that most basic of questions: why would people use your website? What makes you different and unique? What is your added value? A client that fails to answer that question adequately is a client we’d hesitate to take on board, because we’ve learnt that digital marketing needs a marketing strategy – we can’t operate in a vacuum.
In your awesome post “Google is not your friend” you mention how Google is your enemy and basically spreading brainwashing propaganda and how it is using SEO’s to their own advantage. Could you give an example of this? Schema?
Schema.org microdata is one of the most blatant examples of search engines like Google getting us to do the hard work for them. They use the – very limited – carrot of rich snippets to goad us in to implementing semantically rich mark-up which makes it ridiculously easy for search engines to properly index content. The search engine can then re-use this content in various verticals such as maps and shopping comparison. The site owners themselves get precious little in return for it.
Another example is the recent hype around paid link penalties that Google seems to be dishing out. Cutts and his team have slapped some of the more blatant offenders with manual penalties and spread a lot of propaganda around it, aided by some of the bigger SEO blogs, and suddenly we’re all scurrying to cleanse our backlink profiles, effectively doing Google’s webspam team’s work for them.
What’s your biggest hiccup if any? Ever burnt a site??
I can honestly say that I’ve never burnt a client site, ever. I’ve worked on burnt sites though, when they brought me in to fix the damage done by someone else. I have managed to burn some of my own sites, usually entirely premeditated, to explore what it takes to get a Google slap. And I’ve learned that, even in this day and age of anti-spam algorithms named after monochrome animals, it takes an awful lot to get a site penalised.
What do you think is the most over looked method of both on-page and off-page?
Getting the basic information architecture right is an aspect of optimisation – both for search and for user experience – that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Great websites are invariable built according to best IA practices, with the right naming conventions, the right structure, and effortless user flow from entry to conversion. That needs to be in place for a website to be truly successful, otherwise a lot of the traffic you send it will go to waste.
Also when it comes to linkbuilding, people discredit old-fashioned directory submissions. There was some disinformation being spread recently about directory sites getting de-indexed, and that turned out to be a lot of fuss about nothing. That whole hype thing again we mentioned earlier. The fact remains that getting your site listed on quality directories still serves as a solid foundational linkbuilding method, and has for years. I don’t see it becoming obsolete any time soon either, as Google still relies on citations from such business directories to feed in to their own local verticals.
What’s the most overrated that doesn’t seem to disappear?
Probably keyword density. It refuses to die, but it really should. If you worry about the keyword density of the content you write, you’ve got your mental SEO process seriously mixed up.
A little more about Barry..
Barry is the Senior Internet Marketer at Pierce Communications in Belfast, where he provides SEO and online marketing services for a wide range of clients across Ireland and the UK. Starting out his career as an intranet content manager, Barry has worked in a wide variety of positions including corporate webmaster, web consultant for SMEs, and in-house SEO specialist for a large regional newspaper. Barry is a regular contributor to State of Search and Search News Central, and has an irregular technology column in the Belfast Telegraph. He also teaches SEO and PPC for the Digital Marketing Institute.
You can follow Barry on Twtter @badams