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April 5, 2007

Benj Arriola Interview

Benj Arriola is a search engine optimizaton (seo) and search marketing specialist from the Philippines. He’s also the man behind the isulongseophh project, and contests. I invited him to participate in this series as he brings a welcome perspective to the series.
He’s also been an early adopter of the Enquisite Reporting tool, and provided very good feedback, and suggestions.

Q. Benj, how long have you been working with SEO / SEM ?

For was 3 years although before that, I can say we were already doing some SEO but we did not know it was called SEO. At that time it was basically keyword spamming the copy, comment, meta tags and everything. This of course is different from what is known as general practice of SEO today.

Q. What’s been your favorite technique that you can no longer use due to algorithmic changes at Google?

Hmmm, this is a fun one, the 302 bot redirect.

Q. What percentage of your SEO / SEM work uses tools vs. manual work?

I use tools on many things, and the only time I would do manual work is with keyword research since I sometimes do not trust a single tool and I look at several ones and the manual work there is the combination and comparison of keyword research tool results trying to get the general picture. But I do not do this all the time if the target market is not that competitive.

Q. Has Google (or any other engine) ever made an algorithm change which made you very happy?

Let me see. I guess not. Since most of my sites that rank high, after an algorithmic change, they either stayed there so there is no more happiness to add to the existing happiness, or if a site went down due to an algorithmic change, then it made sad instead but challenged to put it back up in the SERPs. And if ever I do get an increased ranking, most of the time it was not due to an algorithmic change but due to some optimization technique. So I guess I algorithmic changes so far in my experience either temporarily made me sad or just kept me at my current happiness but no algorithmic change ever made me happier to call it very happy.

Q. If you could get an engineer at Google, Yahoo!, MSN, to each answer just one question about their algorithms, what would it be?

I may have several questions:

– The weight of on-page over off-page optimization for Yahoo, MSN and Ask (I seem to know the answer for this on Google)
– The level of effectiveness of LSI on Yahoo, MSN and Ask. I do not need to ask Google on this either.
– Are 301 redirected handle well with Yahoo, MSN and Ask? I still see a few problems with this.
– How often does Ask crawl and do index updates. Will Ask also participate in the movement?
– Why is blogspot and given a lot of weight on MSNs algorithm?

6) Why analytics are important to you?

It makes SEO/PPC worth your time and helps you guide your SEO/PPC efforts into better conversions.

a. How often do you look at them?

When the workload is low, like in handling less clients, I check them a bit more often, even as often as every other day. But when the workload is high, when there are a lot of projects being done within a single month, I sometimes barely get to check the analytics reports but if the reports have a good historical record, then it should not be a problem.

b. How do you suggest your clients use them?

There are different types of clients. There are those that just show me more sales is coming in, I am not interested in the numbers and they tell me that’s my job to do. But there are also hands on clients that want to know all the details. And I share them the reports by sending reports on a quarterly basis. If they are really the hands-on type of client that wants to see every movement, although I never had one like that yet, then I might give them login and passwords as well.

I believe the more data and complication you give to a client, the more questions they ask, and the more customer support you need for questions. I try to suggest that this is what I do, and this is my job to analyze these numbers for you and I will do appropriate action. And I will only explain in more detail if the client demands more information. I work this way because talking alone is a big time consumer and there are clients that the only graph they want to see is the revenue over time graph.

Q. What’s one tip you give all your clients about Internet Marketing – SEM / SEO / Email / links, etc.?

– (SEO) Internet marketing is not all about getting number 1 on Google and there are tons of other ways to market online.
– (Links) Do not buy links from some strange website you found online, please tell me about it first.
– (SEM) We can never say yet without proper research what works best for you, PPC, SEO, or both.
– (Email) Do not spam and keep building your opt-in list.
– Don’t expect results right away like after a day.

“You’re based out of Asia. How does SEO / SEM in your market vary from what is typically seen in North America”

The online buyers seem to still be predominantly from the US. And in Asian countries, websites are more of branding tools and sales still happens in the offline stores. I believe this is so because of several reasons:

1. Land area: Many Asian countries are small (except China which is very large) but Hong Kong, Singapore, are quite small. Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines although slightly larger, main businesses still concentrate within smaller cities. Being in a small area, buying something and holding it and scrutinizing it physically is easily accessible so might as well do a visual and hand-ons buying and just use the Internet for searching good suppliers and looking at product specs and service details. In America, the product supplier may be in Florida and you live in California, then you would really rather prefer to buy online.

2. The Asian culture of face-to-face bargaining: For some reason whatever a price of a commodity has, you may ask for discounts for no specific reason at all. It is a negotiating bargaining skill where some people are natural in doing this. This is not possible online.

Other point of views:

– Asian companies really interested in selling products online are usually selling to the United States or other countries and since shipping is more expensive, then most of the time you niche market are for large bulk buyers who are wholesales in the US.

– Service labor that does not require physical presence is what benefits most from SEM, since labor is cheaper and no physical goods need to be shipped. Like doing SEO for selling services like offshore programming, call centers, accounting and auditing, technical manual writing, copy writing etc.

– In America, you can make a fortune in Internet marketing by selling something small and stupid that can be bought by impulsive buyers. With all the buying power and online culture with a large population, you can sell things well. In some Asian countries something small and stupid can be seen in nearby malls and stores that are just a few blocks away and you would prefer to see it than buy it online since the country is small and everything is near each other.

As a kind of truthful joke, I sometimes say: “In the Philippines, just tell your next door neighbor what you are selling over the fence the whole country will know about it tomorrow.” This is very very exaggerated, but that just shows how much less need to promote online if your target market is people in the same country.

Thanks Benj!

Author:  Richard Zwicky is CEO of Enquisite Search Metrics, a state of the art system that offers detailed search engine traffic and search engine positioning reports, for free. Richard is a pioneer in the field of Search Engine Optimization, and shares his vast knowledge of SEO around the world, speaking at key industry conferences.