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SEO Boy’s Super Friends Interview Series with Tom Schmitz of Portent Interactive

June 10th, 2009 | | Interviews, Nuts & Bolts of Optimization

We have been conducting a series of interviews with SEO experts who we think are awesome. The format of these interviews have been in podcast or via email. Today, we will share some wisdom from Tom Schmitz of Portent Interactive. First, allow us to tell you a little bit  about Tom:

Tom Schmitz is a SEO and social media strategist for Portent Interactive, an
Internet Marketing agency whose clients include AdAge, Attachmate and Trump
University. He began marketing on the Internet in 1996 and was already
online when modem driven bulletin boards and online services like Genie were
state of the art. Tom served as a not-for-profit communications and
development director for many years. During this period he introduced the
nonprofit sector to Web marketing and spoke at and organized technology

Now, let’s get to these questions!

SEO Boy: You mention in your Seattle PI SEO Dysfunction post that they made a
critical error by using a 302 redirect to their new domain over a 301
redirect. Can you tell us the difference between the two, what the effect
has had on this site (if you’ve kept up with it) and how companies can
prevent this kind of critical error in the future?

Tom: Well, first I’m happy to report that 301 redirects were implemented soon
after that article published, so all is well at www.seattlepi.com.

It’s important to understand that links generate and pass authority, the
type of authority that search engines use to decide which web pages or
documents are the most important or trustworthy. The more links a document
receives the more authority it receives. Pages that have high trust and high
authority pass greater trust and authority via links than less trusted
pages. So links are like votes, except that some votes count more than

As a longstanding institution, the Seattle Post Intelligencer web site at
seattlepi.nwsource.com had lots of authority. There were thousands of links
pointing to the home page and to articles pages. When they moved to
www.seattlepi.com, all of those links from other websites still pointed to
seattlepi.nwsource.com. So, even though all of the old Seattle PI content
was on the new website, the links, and hence the authority and trust,
pointed to the old one.

This is not an uncommon situation. Web sites change domains all the time.
Company names change. Mergers occur. Blogs move from hosted platforms to
self-hosted ones. There are many reasons to transfer web site content from
one domain name to another. The search engines know it too and have provided
a way to deal with it, the 301 redirect.

A redirect forwards a web site visitor from one address to another, from the
old URL, to the new one. The two types most used are the 302 Temporary
Redirect and the 301 Permanent Redirect. 301 and 302 are codes passed by web
servers, in the background, to Internet browsers and search engine spiders.
A temporary 302 redirect says, “Go to this new page, but don’t put this in
your permanent record. We’ll be restoring the old address soon.”  The 301
code tells search engines, “This change is permanent. Any authority and
trust you gave to the old address should now be given to the new address.”

301 redirects transfer search ranking authority. 302 redirects block search
ranking authority. It’s that simple. One final note, you can, and should,
use 301 redirects within a domain as well as between different domains.

SEO Boy: Regarding your post on long tail keywords being dead, do you think SEO
people should still try and rank for long tail keywords or focus more of
their time on the general keywords since they’re finding what they need
without searching for the long tail?

Tom: I wrote that article as an inside joke here at Portent Interactive. Long
tail keywords are immensely important.

  • They are much easier to rank for than more competitive keywords
  • They are more exact in meaning so they tend to convert better when the
    content and keywords match
  • They can be used as long-term building blocks to get higher rankings for more competitive keywords

The reason I wrote that long tail keywords are dead is because many more
people are optimizing their web sites for long tail keywords. Keyword
research is easier than ever, thanks to the search engines. This means that
the competition for long tails can be fierce. Web site optimizers used long
tail keywords long before Chris Anderson wrote his book. Back then it was
fresh powder. Today the long tail is well trodden. It’s still an important
strategy, but it’s not special anymore.

Ask yourself, “What are the new places where few web marketers look to where
I can find people whom I can convert into traffic, prospects and customers”
Today the answer usually includes social media sites like Facebook or
Twitter, not mundane long tail keywords. Here’s a hint – Facebook and
Twitter are getting pretty well trodden themselves. Can you find new answers
to this question? If so you can create a strategic advantage for yourself.
Find the fresh powder!

SEO Boy: In your opinion, what is the one aspect of SEO that will get you the
biggest return for your time spent?

Tom: It’s easy to answer, “Optimize your title tags,” or, “Get links,” but truly,
it depends on the content of your web site. I’m not being evasive either. An
authoritative business journal with lots of unique content is a very
different animal than a catalog site which sells the exact same drop
shipment products being sold by 1,200 other web sites. The business journal
is going to get links naturally while the catalog site will be hard pressed
to get organic links. So, for the business journal I’d recommend that it
teach its authors to write stories using words and phrases people search
for. For the catalog site I’d recommend rewriting all their old product
descriptions to make them unique or I might make them undertake a link bait
campaign to build domain authority or to embark on a social media campaign
that will inject the web site into less competitive search spaces like
Twitter search results.

It all depends.

Here’s a formula anyone can understand:

1. Look at lists of search engine ranking signals and become familiar with
the different factors. Here’s three lists.





(Search engines are not going to reveal their secret sauces so I’m not
endorsing any one list. Compare them. See where they agree or contrast. Then, use your own

2. Divide the signals into two groups, those which should come naturally
to your web site and page content and those signals that do not.

3. Set your priorities

  • Of the signals that do not come naturally, which are the most influential?
  • Of the signals that should come naturally, which fall short? Why?

An exercise like this, done thoroughly and honestly, can reveal the things
you need to emphasize in your SEO efforts.

And this concludes our interview with Tom! A huge thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer our questions!

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