Stephen Harris, Consultant,
Stephen Harris has been involved in the Internet marketing space since the late 1990s — initially
as director of e-business technology at ADP, creating the first e-business platform for small business
payroll services. Since then, Harris has designed and managed affiliate marketing programs and
worked at DigitalGrit, an online marketing agency. For DigitalGrit he devised and provided project
management processes to search marketing for large-scale, big-brand companies.
Harris’s hands-on experience with SEO and online marketing has been as a consultant for the firm
he started — SPH Associates. The firm is focused on small businesses. And this venue has led to his
beliefs about conversion-based thinking for SEO.
Jerri: Where do you see the current state/importance of SEO?
SEO is very important . . . at least that is what business owners think. I receive calls where
they say they need SEO — but in truth we learn that they need more effective web design and even
paid-click programs. This does not mean to dispel the value of a top ranking — for credibility and
indeed traffic — as per the EyeTool/Did-It study. (You can find this study at
I also see a ton of snake-oil salespeople, or people who simply give the client what they asked for
without actually listening to what they need. There are people who claim they will submit your
web site to the top 200 search engines. There are some that say they guarantee top listing on a few
of the top 200 search engines but would never make such a claim for Yahoo!, Google, or MSN
([those companies] represent around 98 percent of all searches). These snake-oil salespeople make
it hard for legitimate SEO professionals to earn trust in the small and mid-sized business space.
However, it is clear that the top three or four search engines are so ingrained into our way of life —
we use Google as a verb — that it is important for businesses to design their web sites not only for
effectiveness and usability, but to get long-tail benefits.
Jerri: Could you please explain to me what you mean by long-tail benefits?
It just means that well-written, readable, and relevant content will help the site appear
highly ranked on obtuse or lesser used search terms. But in accumulation all these “little used” terms
can add up big-time. I think that natural, well-written content that speaks to the reader will allow
for long tail — rather than content that is gamed (or abused) for the top keyword that the SEO
specialist is trying to achieve results for.
Jerri: What can organizations do right now to improve their SEO?
Work backwards — examine your web site and make sure your house is in order. Make sure
your content is quick and tight but yet readable — and do the SEO basics (title tags, image tags, and
the like). This all by itself will help your site to be relevant and relevancy is key to Google success
and of course conversions.
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