Search engine optimization in Philadelphia is dominated by a few large agencies, with small companies doing the majority of work. The city is in the cross-hairs of both media and technology, and many Philadelphia SEO consultancies expect the “local” search optimization firms to move onto a national stage. I’m one of the few known for expertise more outside the city than inside. We choose to stay small and choosy about clients we find synergy with for long-term partnerships.
SEO Expert: Master of Google’s world or a pseudo-specialist stuck in the old world of “Black Hat” techniques that are unnecessary today?
Philadelphia’s tech sector is set to expand dramatically with the opening of the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center. The city’s proximity to New York is a boon. Many overestimate the importance of Silicon Valley as the center of the digital revolution: They miss out on the importance of NYC in digital media growth.
The larger agencies in Phila, such as SEER Interactive, are already known nationally and internationally. Firms like Greenlane SEO and Trinity Insights are poised to benefit from the growing, close-knit digital media sector in the city. They contribute to the digital marketing community. Their prices may increase from these content marketing costs: you decide.
There are too many firms in the Philly still using old-school practices and pitches to attract and retain clients, so please don’t engage an expert who is all about guarantees of ranking. We all know SEO is the best bang for the buck, but measuring success requires deep data analysis experience.
The typical Philly SEO consultant is on top of constant changes in how to help websites rank via outreach and understanding machine learning. The sector is smaller than in other cities, but there are more thought leaders here per person. Experts understand how to create content that hits the right creative and emotional buttons for people and the logical, structured outcomes that Google Search— a robot of sorts— uses for criteria.
Ranking high in Google was always about understanding the complexities of their algorithm vs. Google’s directive to just create good content. I’ve always thought it insulting that the search engine giants say an SEO pro should ignore their wizard behind the curtain: an algorithm. The Philadelphia Inquirer would never be so presumptuous as to say we can not influence what lies behind their curtain: journalists and editors. With AI and machine learning, Bing and Google step into a new era of evaluating “great content,” but these more accurate systems for ranking web pages still have tons of bias. ClickStream SEO experts use new principles so the logic of semantic relationships in content is thorough, complete, and holistic. The AI Google is using is not like a human editor judging an article for subtle, A+ creative writing.
I started this piece in 2012. Since then I’ve been lucky to meet many SEOs in the city through work at SEMrush and later through data-driven research using Google Search metrics. The SEO focus is so much about outreach today that many of the Philadelphia experts look almost like PR pros. PR folks not doing SEO seldom think of link equity, but should. It’s a KPI their clients may imagine only lives in the SEO silo. In fact, at an SEO Grail Meetup in Olde Town recently, I found people actually hiring PR professionals to do their content marketing outreach. Can you think of anyone with better media connections to get stories published in press or blogs? The other obvious trend people spoke about was how strong demand is for their services.
The folks that cry about SEO being dead display cluelessness. Consultants in the space today are very often the quarterbacks for other digital marketing, with social media experts, for example, taking their lead. Six years ago some of the most successful marketers were bridging the gap between digital and off-line advertising. Mid-way through 2017 there’s no excuse to still have a gap between the two. Now the emphasis is uniting other messaging between internal digital specialists. Link building guys (and gals) work with data “journalists.” This brings the statistics pros from U Penn together with the folks over at SEER interactive, for example. That’s one of the dozens of expertise areas that are coming together in Philadelphia.
Managing expectations between a Brotherly Love search engine optimization practitioner and a company that hires him is as challenging today as when the SEO industry was in its nascent stages. Signals affecting search ranking are even more complex today than ever, client expectations are often more demanding, and many independent SEOs manipulate realities, using the complexities to obfuscate whether tactics they employ are useful. Every week I meet someone that claims to be a Philadelphia SEO consultant and tells me there is a direct correlation between social media signals and search ranking. Wrong in 2018, and was never the case.
This week I was at an event at Table 31, at the bottom of the monolithic digital God of Philly, the Comcast building. Social media is part of a larger “content marketing” strategy. Links on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and Google Plus have little to no value in bolstering the link juice/power that helps a website rank. Yes, Google will follow the links and they may help a webpage get ranked faster, but they don’t effect how high a page is ranked. Google plus shares and links result in more results but ONLY to the circlers and followers of the individual or brand that made the post.
The complexity of work done by SEO consultants makes prospective clients look for guarantees that are unrealistic. Two weeks ago at the Hard Rock café, Philadelphia I met the owner of a very successful test preparation business that would see a huge benefit from SEO work. We had a long discussion about a “pay per performance” model to pay for Internet marketing work.
I think the best analogy I made for him relates to how this kind of guarantee would work with a PR firm: Are they paid based on the quality and quality of news stories they are able to generate? Absolutely not. To do so would be to take on all the risk of a client’s marketing campaign. Agencies have enough risks in the way they operate. Results from PR campaigns are unpredictable. The bottom line is if a PR firm or SEO practitioner’s results are viewed over time, their base-line success should show measurable results.