Blog could use some SEO

The NYT recently published a story, “Stuck in Google’s Doghouse,” about owner Dan Savage who sent a 4,000-word letter to the antitrust division of the Justice Department to fight against the Yahoo! – Google PPC deal.  Sourcetool is a free directory for industrial product websites. Mr. Savage was using Adwords to target relevant keywords and attract visitors who would then click on his Adsense ads to pay his bills. He used to make around $115,000/month from $653,000 in revenue.

When Google started increasing minimum Adwords bids, the jig was up for Savage. His Adwords placements fell and he got fewer visitors at the same price he used to pay (10 cents according to the Times). The website that was once an “Adsense site of the week,” was disgruntled with the service.  So Savage had his lawyer craft this thick document, which was sent to the Justice Department two weeks ago.

The only thought that came to my mind was “Why isn’t Savage doing SEO?” He was spending upwards of $500,000 on Adwords while making little effort (or so it appears) to have his website come up in the organic search results. With that kind of a budget and especially with the profit he was making, he could have easily spent some money on SEO consulting (or hire an in-house employee) to bring his site up naturally and “beat” Google at its own game.

Of course there would be a lot of SEO work to do. Before even getting into the details, here are five quick no-brainer suggestions for Savage:

Mr. Savage, instead of paying your lawyer or Adwords, do a little SEO to help your reduce your costs. Here is where you can start:

1.) Improve the content of your website. You need to increase your link-worthy content. Find experts to create content that people want to read. Make your website a true online resource with links to sites that only merit your attention.

2.) Fix title tags to make them more descriptive (and keyword rich).

3.) Get rid of your subdomains that are acting as sub-categories in the directory. They aren’t helping with SEO. And if that is not an option, then don’t link to their index pages (/index.php). Use “/” instead.

4.) Clean up the links to nowhere (i.e.

5.) Make effective use of CSS. The entire first paragraph on your homepage is in an H1 tag. Place your main header in an H1 instead.

With SEO, you could start charging for “featured placement” and the free submission area could become more popular as SEO’s get drawn in by your PageRank for their client sites.  And Sourcetool is halfway there already. With years of Adwords analytics, there is already plenty of data to target the right keywords.  And according to SEOMoz’s Page Strength tool you have a strong domain (plenty of inbound links).

You have a directory that is not completely full of spam that now has links to it from various news websites – most importantly The New York Times! What better time to start an SEO campaign?

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  1. AJ Mihalic said:

    This is a pretty old article, but I happen to know Dan fairly well, so I feel obligated to comment here. These are good recommendations, and you make a decent pure “SEO-no-matter-what” case. However, I think you’ve missed that Dan WAS doing SEO. In fact, that is actually one of the reasons his site was doing so well and his case holds so much weight. His listings etc were way better than similar competitors, like, yet they didn’t receive the same “penalty”. I imagine there are two major factors you’re blatantly ignoring so you can qualify your point with terms like “no-brainer recommendations”.

    1. Having your business model broken by a 10-20x P/L margin shift overnight, with no even acknowledgment that an answer is necessary is pretty demotivating.
    2. Google rather suddenly upped prices by 10-20x.

    That probably answers your question about why Mr. Savage isn’t doing the SEO you would be doing (for free I presume?). I also know for a fact that Mr. Savage would not respect the fact that this was published anonymously. I’m sure he’d like to know the author. Perhaps you can ask Dan if he would like to return the favor and have your personal projects and/or any online businesses SEO audited.


  2. Thank you for your comment, Mr. Mihalic. You are correct, it is a pretty old post. However, it appears to be in response to a much publicized incident covered by publications such as the NYTimes, and the author (BFM- consider this representative of our company) was merely pointing out better ways to use SEO to reduce costs.


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