Everett Sizemore has been involved with SEO as an e-commerce business owner, marketing agency employee, independent SEO consultant and as an in-house SEO manager. He has managed the SEO department at Gaiam, Inc. since 2007 and continues to provide consulting to select businesses from time to time. Everett writes about SEO on www.Esizemore.com, and industry publications like Search Engine Journal. He has been a panelist and speaker at industry conferences like SMX, RMDM, and Denver SEMPO.
1. What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being able to work from anywhere. I currently work from my home office on a 15-acre farm in rural Virginia. While I am tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, my employer is in Boulder, Colorado. I can take my laptop to a beachside condo in Florida for a month when the snow gets too much to handle here, or I can go to Ohio and stay with family for a few weeks. As long as I have Internet access and a phone, the world is my office.
2. Your website says “Farmer of Organic Vegetables & Keywords”, what’s that all about?
The last thing in the world that I want is to be stuck in a cubicle or living in suburbia. I don’t want a high-paying job in Silicon Valley. I don’t need to drive a BMW. I have a pick-up truck and a little farmhouse instead. I’d rather see our cows, donkeys, chickens, guineas, dogs, cats, rabbits, deer and turkey than the CEO of the latest startup. I’d rather spend my spare time pulling weeds in my garden or making my own soap than paying to walk in place on a treadmill.
But I’m also on the Internet at least eight hours a day. I subscribe to dozens, possibly hundreds, of blogs. I stay up-to-date on the latest SEO and Internet marketing trends, attend and speak at technology and business-centric conferences, enjoy strategy meetings in the corporate boardroom… So my life is sort of a dichotomy, and the “Farmer of Organic Vegetables & Keywords” phrase is meant to keep me grounded. As for the “organic keywords” part, I’ve never really been that into PPC. I see the value in paid search, but I don’t like the idea that once you stop paying you stop showing up. It’s the same reason I like growing perennials in the garden. Plant them once and they come back every year.
3. You are now working full-time for one of your past consulting clients, how did that happen and was it a hard decision?
Yes, it was a VERY tough decision. Our contract had run out and they offered me the job. They had been a great client to work with and the terms of their offer were very appealing. I was a little frazzled at the time from having to deal with sending out invoices, bookkeeping, proposal writing, and all of the other stuff that goes along with running your own consulting business. But I also liked my freedom, and I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I weighed health insurance against the feeling of being my own boss; 401k against the potential for unlimited income; a steady paycheck Vs the monthly anxiety of collecting checks to pay the bills…
My consulting business had gotten to the point where either I had to hire some people to help out, or just stop taking clients for awhile. Everyone gets to that point if they are lucky. But I was offered a third option that seemed the right one at the time, and I haven’t regretted it since. That was back in 2006.
4. What was most effective for you in landing new clients? (marketing technique, networking, blogging, or something else)
Word of mouth was the most effective way for me to land new clients. In order to get that WOM marketing up and running I had to do the best I could for my clients, and network with others in the industry. At the time there were very few competent and trustworthy SEOs and a whole lot of snake-oil salesmen. It may still be that way, but I’m sure there are a lot more skilled SEOs today than there were a few years ago. Then again, there is probably a lot more demand for them as well. Either way, if people trust you they’ll vouch for you. One job well-done usually begets another.
I would also recommend going to industry events. If you do SEO, go network with web designers, and vice versa. Don’t always hang out with your own kind, but try and branch out. Don’t go to “sell” yourself. Just make friends and have fun. The rest will come by itself. And having your website rank in the top five results for whatever it is that you do doesn’t hurt.
5. As an SEO expert can you share a more advanced technique or mistake you see many people making or not capitalizing on?
Video SEO and Rich Snippets. How many of you have an XML video sitemap that gets your videos to show up in the universal search results on Google? How many of you use micro-formatting to enable rich snippets on your websites? For instance, star-ratings for product reviews? I also see a lot of people messing up entire sites by not using the rel=”canonical” tag correctly, or by trying to “sculpt page rank” using nofollow tags on their internal links. Not enough people are taking advantage of Webmaster Tools by Google and Bing to do things like ignore certain query strings in URLs, or control which Site Links show up in the search results for your brand.
As for local, brick-n-mortar businesses, that is a whole different ball-game and you should definitely check out people like Mike Belasco, David Mihm, Andrew Shotland, Matt McGee for the latest advanced techniques there. Also check out Blue Hat SEO and their posts on “Advanced Whitehat” techniques and Advanced Analytics. For instance, I learned how to isolate the keywords that were sending me the most traffic from the second page of Google search results while reading the Bluehat SEO blog. Those are what I like to call “diamonds in the rough”.
As for eCommerce SEO, you can get a big list of tips on my website from a post I wrote last year. It was voted by other SEOs as the best SEO post of the year in the 2010 SEMMYs . Mostly it is just a list of mistakes I’ve made and hard lessons learned. Some are common-sense and some are more technical. It’s a “kitchen sink” sort of post, so I’m sure everyone can find at least one or two tips they can use.
6. You’re a busy guy working at Gaiam, running your blog and US Recall News and tending to your veggies …how do you manage it all and could you share a couple of tips on productivity?
Actually, I don’t manage it as well as I’d like to. My wife always tells me I need to stop burning the candle at both ends. I recently closed down my personal Facebook profile. An SEO without a Facebook profile !? But I try to figure out what is saving me time and what is wasting my time. Chainsaws and Scripts save time. Television and Facebook waste it. I don’t have television, but I do have a chainsaw.
7. What technologies or software do you use that you can’t live without?
Roboform, SEOMoz Pro Toolset, Central Desktop, Microsoft Office, Firefox and a myriad of plugins, WordPress, my iPhone when I’m traveling, and a hand-powered grain mill.
8. Do you usually work in a fixed location or do you work on the road a lot (cafes, other cities, etc?) and why do you do so?
I usually work in a fixed location here at home. I could be at a cafe in town, or I could be working on the porch right now while watching my nephew feed the chickens. But I don’t. Why not, I don’t know. Now that you mention it, I think I’ll do exactly that…