For the fourth interview of our series, we’re delighted to welcome Phil Braddock, the Internet Marketing specialist from Salsa Internet in Brunswick, Australia. Phil took our questionss and ran with them producing a wealth of useful SEO tips and tricks for Joomla!
1. Hi Phil. Could you tell us a little about yourself? How did you come to Joomla? What’s your background?
Hi Steve. Firstly, thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed! My background is in IT Web Systems design, and architecture, and also a bunch of IT Management roles. I started my career in online Directories working for Sensis, the Australian Yellow Pages company, where I spent 8 years in the 90’s working on search and database engines of various types (Directory Assistance, Data Matching tools, worked on Australia’s first White & Yellow Pages sites and managed the IT teams looking after the local Altavista.com.au mirror, and white/yellowpages.com.au for a while). I left yellowpages in 2000, and then moved into a small publishing company as a partner, building a large online document imaging system for the Australian property information industry, and then worked on a team building a large web based risk & compliance management system using Java/Tomcat/Turbine and various other apache Jakarta projects.
So I guess a fairly diverse IT background but most of my recent IT experience has been working with open source systems. I came to open source software after one of my team (a really talented IT practitoner by the name of Mark Edwards who worked for me at Sensis) convinced me that altavista.com.au would run better on 3 compaq proliants running LAMP, which was bleeding edge at the time, rather than the 2 DEC Alpha 16 cpu 8400’s we were using back then. …I confess I was skeptical – but he ran up a proof of concept, and it worked beautifully (so we cut it into production in late ~98) – a really fun project to be part of.
I came to Joomla via PHP Nuke –> Mambo –> Joomla. (I used nuke for a while, then I recovered haha). A few years ago, I met Peter Lamont from Miro a couple of times (we’re both based in Melbourne, Australia, and got to know some of the history of the Mambo story….it was very interesting to hear about the different perspectives in terms of the origins of Mambo, and how it evolved…. and to get an understanding of a different "side" of the Mambo story than you read in the forum posts.
On a personal note, I’m married to Marcelle and we have 3 kids, Emily, Jacob and Liam who are all under 10yrs old and just a delight. Between family, and racing Nissan Skyline GTRs in my spare time, and then Salsa Internet – it all keeps me pretty busy.
2. Have you worked or designed with other systems apart from Joomla? If so, how do they compare?
In the late 90’s I had a fair bit to do with Documentum, and ATG Dynamo so got to see Content Management from the larger scale implementations early on – then got into smaller website CMS systems with PHP Nuke because at the time (~2002) it was one of the more popular website CMS’ around….then the explosion occurred in CMS’ and so now there’s an abundance of great CMS tools to choose from.
Of course the big end tools (Documentum et al) are in a bit of a different beast than the smaller packaged CMS’, and aren’t really website management tools – they’re more of an enterprise toolset for implementing very large custom solutions. The skillsets required to implement them (Java / C / Oracle) properly and the budgets required are simply massive, but if you have a huge platform or product to manage with hundreds of thousands of users, stakeholders and complex permissioning, content workflow and other such challenges, then of course they are good tools for the job. Having said that packages like Zope, and Alfresco are pretty impressive these days and if doing that sort of thing today, I’d almost certainly take the open source route.
Without wanting to sound too negative, PHP Nuke was a bit of a problem for me. It was exciting early on to be able to do some basic content management through the sweat of my own brow, but security plagued my Nuke experiences (there’s only so many times you can be "owned" by a 13 yr old script kiddie and keep your your sense of humour), and the tool just wasn’t flexible enough in terms of ability to present well-styled content in different ways on a site. Mambo, once I started using this (in 2003) was a breath of fresh air. I really love the Mambo/Joomla templating system and modules/components infrastructure, and I’ve found Mambo/Joomla to be a powerful but simple toolset in terms of the ease with which you can create a great looking site with plenty of flexibility around how it’s presented.
3. What are the origins of Salsa Internet and what’s your role there? What can we expect to see from the site in 2007?
While at Yellowpages.com.au, I had the good fortune to do a lot of work with a boutique web consultancy called Cambridge Technology Partners, which was a very exciting firm to deal with in the 90’s. It was at this time, that I met Adam and Alfred (my partners at Salsa). There were both working in technical roles at Cambridge. Alfred and I had the entrepreneurial itch, and we had a shot at creating a couple of business opportunities after the dot com bust – eventually going into business with Adam in 2003 to build eCommerce stores for Pizza shop owners to allow them to take orders online – Salsa was born.
Like most businesses – where you end up is rarely where you started, and so Salsa Internet evolved quickly into a open source website development company. Early on we dabbled in every open source tool under the sun from osCommerce, Zencart, phpShop, phpGroupWare, phpSurveyor, Bugzilla, FlySpray, phpNuke, and SugarCRM. Eventually we realized that our ability to focus on a small number of customer needs allowed us to be far more effective. We moved on to Mambo & osCommerce as the mainstay of our website development, and then in 2006 we stopped turning away SEO and SEM customer needs (we used to refer our clients to 3rd parties for these requirements), and so Salsa is now focused on Website development, and Website marketing (oscommerce, Joomla, PPC Marketing & SEO).
I was a silent partner in Salsa until mid 2006, (Adam was the fulltime MD) when I joined full time as the ‘Search Marketing Director’ to build the SEO and SEM practice within the company.
In 2007, you should expect to see us launch a more formal blog, and start to release some more of our Joomla hacks, tips and techniques to the world at large. We have 8 developers at Salsa working all day long on Joomla and osCommerce sites and so we have developed quite a library of techniques for building all sorts of cool extensions and modules for Joomla and helping clients achieve specific website goals. We want to share more of this with the community. We’ve benefited enormously from the open source community, and I’d like to be able to give back where we can.
4. You come to Joomla from a strong PPC background, right?
Yes, I spent 2004 – 2006 learning about Google Adwords, and to a lesser extent Overture (now Yahoo Search Marketing). This, at the time, was exclusively for our own PPC advertising needs at Salsa ie we weren’t handling client PPC work until mid 06.
We got pretty good at driving well qualified leads to our website through Adwords, and learning about things like Landing Page design, ad copywriting, bidding strategy, and also the tips and traps around implementing conversion tracking, and analytics on Joomla.
5. What SEO resources would you recommend for someone working on improving the rankings of their Joomla site?
Enedia, a Melbourne based SEO firm have a really nice succinct checklist which is good from a generic on-site SEO point of view, but for Joomla specifically – I found this free eBook from Pathos-seo to be a nice beginners summary.
There are just stacks of resources out there, and a few other tools that I’ve found really useful in my travels are:
- Summit Media’s spider simulator
- Webmaster world (an awesome forum just generally for tricky SEO issues, and reading over stacks of quality discussions on the topic)
- Webmaster world tools (for keyword density analysis in particular)
- Yourseoplan (for some nice excel templates to use when doing SEO and wanting to track your results).
- Xenu link sleuth (for analysing link problems on sites).
- SEO Book have a nice list of tools
I strongly recommend using iTunes to do a bit of searching on SEO podcasts….there’s about 5 really great one’s out there that I’ve found incredibly useful, notably Danny Sullivan’s Daily Searchcast, Mr.SEO Joe Ballastrino’s podcast “forgedaboutit” are a couple I particularly enjoy.
With enough time, and Google searching, and podcast listening – there’s very little you can’t find out about SEO, but of course when we start out – we’re all impatient to know the answers….hopefully the above links help a bit!
6. What SEO strategies would you recommend for someone working on improving the rankings of their Joomla site?
I think the tried and true approaches are always the best place to start. The structure of your own Joomla site is within your control (where external inbound links are less so), so I recommend that people begin by looking at their own on-site factors. While not comprehensive or thorough – you could do a lot worse that employing the following simple techniques:
a) identify 8 – 10 2-word keyword phrases that are relevant to your business i.e. if you were in gardening – they might be "garden maintenance", "garden care", "landscape gardening" etc etc.
b) use a search volume/popularity checking tool to narrow this down to 3 – 4 2-word combos which have the greatest search volume to ensure you are optimizing for terms that will deliver you good volume of qualified leads
c) ensure your Joomla site can support unique page <title>s – I have a little hack here if you aren’t running one of the bigger SEF patches/tools – and ensure that these titles are well written. (A nice podcast with an episode on title authoring can be found here.
d) ensure you have unique meta descriptions and keywords using Joomla’s meta info tab in static content, and ensure these also contain your keyword combos – again, don’t "stuff" these full of duplicate keywords however.
e) ensure your website page wording / copy is well written, and makes reference multiple times to your important keyword combo’s (don’t stuff the page with keywords though, it needs to read and flow naturally).
f) submit a sitemap using google’s webmaster tools …be sure to only do this after taking care of your titles, keywords, and descriptions however otherwise you might get penalized through the sitemap submission process.
g) keep the content on your site fresh, and focus on building new content on a regular basis….blogging is a good technique to build fresh, relevant content, and importing relevant RSS feeds doesn’t hurt either.
This should get you on the road to a good ranking with Joomla (or any other site / cms)…..then focusing on building quality inbound links from other well built, and relevant websites will help do the rest. Regular article authoring and submission is also worth some focus.
7. If a client came to you with a new Joomla site and $1000 to spend on Search Engine Marketing. How would you recommend that they split up the money? PPC? Technical improvements on their site? Link building?
Well $1000 will only get so far down any of these paths, but how you spend it would in my view, depend on your situation:
If you are a well established business with a website that’s been around for a couple of years – then I’d definitely spend it on some basic on-site SEO ie technical improvements to <title>s, meta tags, page structure, headings, internal linking strategy. You can leverage your site’s history, and hopefully established trust and brand – to boost your online results through some better rankings.
If you are a brand new business, then I’d split it 50/50 between a PPC investment to kickstart your new site, and some basic on-site SEO.
If your site is using frames, or built totally in flash, or other major SEO problems – then I’d focus my investment on addressing these issues ie technical improvements to the backend.
If your site was in good basic SEO shape, and your looking for medium term growth, then link building is the way to go….focus on inbound links only – reciprocal linking is far less valuable these days than it used to be. Focus on quality inbound links ie from content sites and /or articles rather than just directory site listings although some of this should be pursued also. Focus on trying to obtain links from sites who themselves have strong pagerank, or who have quality content and plenty of visitors.
8. A lot of people are declaring Yahoo’s PPC program irrelevant. Do you buy into the idea that Google has won? How do you try to split your PPC money?
Google is a juggernaut, but the game is far from over! There are a lot of factors involved, but for a client who’s seeking a higher click volume through PPC (ie where they have a large daily budget to spend) in an industry of "average" competitive intensity (ie where the cost per click is <= $2), I recommend Google every time. Google has the volume to be able to deliver far high click volume, particularly on niched or specialized terms where the client is targeting a local market or country.
Regardless of the stats through industry bodies – I consistently observe Google referring the vast majority of traffic to my client sites, and Google PPC delivering the cast majority of ad impressions when compared side by side to Yahoo.
Having said that Yahoo, and even MSN are far from irrelevant – especially where the client has a smaller budget to spend, and is working in a highly competitive industry (flowers, home services, finance, SEO or other similar competitive topics). For some of these industries cost per click on adwords now is well above USD$4/click – we pay USD$5 – $7/click for SEO terms in Australia…..where on Yahoo and MSN, you can achieve clicks at a FAR lower cost than Google (Yahoo is generally around 70% of Adwords cost, and MSN even cheaper……in fact right now MSN is worthy of a look given they are in their infancy and prices for some terms incredibly low). Therefore if there’s an abundance of click traffic for your industry, then targeting Yahoo or MSN to get more clicks for your ad dollar can be a very effective strategy. So it’s kinda horses for courses, and you need to decide which channels work depending on your budget, and the competitive characteristics of the topics you are targeting.
9. You qualified as an AdWords Professional? Could you tell us what that
involves? What was on the exam? Is it worth taking?
I found the Adwords Professional exam to be really surprisingly good, in that it requires a 75% pass mark, was run by a professional testing company (IBM/Prometric) and had a good broad range of Adwords topics covered – certainly enough to weed out those who were trying to just ‘game’ the test after only a few hours of reading. You need to have spent a bit of time using Adwords to get the breadth of subject matter – but it’s definitely something you could study hard for and pass with reasonable success. There’s a fee (~$75) to sit the test, but you can repeat it if you fail.
The test covered topics such as bid management (automatic discounting, definitions of different terminology), ad copywriting (permitted length and use of copy, and legal use of trademarks, url structures), account structure (campaign targeting, geographic / regional targeting, site vs keyword targeted ads, billing information), keyword matching, and other more niched topics (mobile / image ads). I was caught out by a few tricky questions in these more niched type areas ie I hadn’t done much mobile advertising(!) and things like credit / refund policies and processes…..but managed to get through with a reasonable score.
As to whether it’s worth taking the exam – I think this is very much a marketing benefit for those offering PPC services to the market. The Google logo implies a good deal of trust, and as a Qualified Professional you get your own little mini-site / testimonial page from Google, and a statement of capability – so if you’re serious about offering PPC services to clients, then I think this test is a must. It never hurts to test your own knowledge about Adwords by doing the test, but mostly I think this is really about presenting a strong face to the market in offering Adwords services.
To become an “Adwords Qualified Company" (as opposed to an "Adwords Qualified Individual") is a much bigger undertaking, ie you need to be doing 6 figure ad spends each quarter, so we’re not quite there yet as a company – but it’s something we’re working towards over time.
If you’re thinking of doing the Adwords professional test – then I can recommend (of course!) reading my free eBook as a good place to start. It wont answer every question you’ll get but it’s a useful overview, and a good learning tool for someone who’s been running an Adwords campaign for a while – but who wants to achieve better results. I found a lot of the eBooks out there overly verbose, and it took me a looooong time to accumulate some of these insights, I’m trying to give a bit back to those just starting out.
10. Do you have any new projects in 2007 we should be looking out for?
We are preparing to launch an “email to blog” product which allows non-technical users to blog by simply posting to a publishing email address. This will be a complete web 2.0 project, and we’re quite excited about its prospects. Blogging via email has been done by a few of the larger players, but in our experience nobody has made the signup process simple enough, and the email to HTML conversion (including attached/embedded images) reliable enough so that my grandmother can write a blog – and this is what this project is about.
Anyway, it’s mostly under wraps right now, but I’m hopefully we’ll be in the market by the end of Q1 07, so keep an eye on our site for a press release. Who knows – I might be sipping a banana dacquiri on the beach in the Bahamas soon after selling out to a rich VC firm for millions (…but then again – I might be slaving away doing SEO work for client instead – doh! hahaha).