What was your role, and where did you work?
One of the well-known logo design companies hired me as a search engine optimization manager, and I filled the role for several years before choosing to start my own business. When I was hired we were already ranking very well for hundreds of design-related terms, but were struggling to keep up with the fierce search competition for key phrases like “logo design.”
I worked in the company’s main office with a team of six search managers. There was quite a number of employees that worked in the building with us, including logo designers, sales reps, and a few web designers/programmers. For privacy reasons I cannot give an exact location.
What tasks were the search team responsible for?
The team carried out several key activities to help achieve and maintain a #1 search engine ranking for the term “logo design.” These activities involved creating keyword-rich pages, submitting the website to directories, and contacting bloggers and design websites for link exchanges (we would link to them from one of our lesser-known blogs or smaller one-off websites and they would link back to our main website with keyword-rich anchor text). We knew we were giving them a link that was of less value than what they were giving us.
As well as the salaries of the search marketing team, the company would spend an absurd amount of money each month on links from high-profiled websites.
A lot of the search staff clearly had no idea how to optimize a website for the best search results, but because the company was investing so much in search campaigns we were ranking within the top two positions for hundreds of high-volume keywords.
For every dollar invested in a search campaign we would regularly get ten times that amount back.
Can independent designers out-rank such companies?
Competing for quality keywords would be difficult to do today, but it’s definitely not impossible. After leaving the logo design company I’ve worked with several freelance designers. We’ve found a lot of ways to outrank the big spenders.
The main SEO mistake made by big companies is they ignore the power of great content. Instead they focus on paid campaigns and “grey hat” practices. A small design blog with a remarkably helpful design article (one that is optimized not just for search engines, but real human beings) can very easily outrank most design companies.
Did these grey hat SEO practices ever result in problems with search engines?
The practices were grey hat simply because a lot of them had never been tried before. We worked closely with companies like SEOmoz to ensure we were pushing boundaries as opposed to pushing buttons. Occasionally, however, we’d see some backlash from Google as a result of something we did (embedding actual links in image formats, for example), but we never faced a penalty.
Subscribing to the SEOmoz pro tools helped me several times, although you can find free alternatives elsewhere.
What SEO tips can you offer independent graphic designers?
If you want to win the “logo design” search game against the larger companies, my advice is three-fold:
- Focus on building quality content for your website
- Network by helping other designers
- Hang in there
View the post that led my interviewee to get in touch: The folly of logo design SEO.