Marc Heighway is a leading SEO consultant from the UK.  He runs SEO companies in Southampton and Bournemouth.  In this interview he talks about the current state of SEO and his plans for the future.

Hi Marc, great to meet you! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you became to be involved with the SEO industry?

Thanks for the opportunity Floyd. I was living and working in Switzerland for a large American company, heading up their online marketing department in Europe.

I was responsible for online results, and so SEO was something I had always had an interest in.

It got to a point in my career when I wanted a change, I knew I could offer SEO to businesses as a consultant, so decided to take the plunge.

So far it’s worked out very well.  I run an SEO agency on the south coast of the United Kingdom with offices in Southampton and Bournemouth.

I’m currently in the process of launching Expert SEO Southampton which will target that particular city for new clients so it’s exciting times.

How do you view content in SEO as a leverage in providing relevant search results and as a way of doing link-building in the advent of the recent changes in Googles Algorithm and penalization of Ann Smarty’s MyBlogGuest?

It’s interesting that you mention MyBlogGuest, as I followed that particular case quite closely.

I kind of felt a bit sorry for Ann, because I think anyone who runs an online business can be at the mercy of Google who can quite literally destroy a business in an instant.

However, I can see why Matt Cutts and Google were looking closely at the platform.

Whilst I didn’t use it myself, I was very aware that there were some poor quality link-builders using it, where their onus was on gaming the system rather than providing quality content.

Without any doubt though, and no matter what people say, links are still the core of SEO.  It’s the real metric that counts in my view.

However, it’s good to see that the emphasis is now on quality and relevancy rather than the old ways which played into the hands of spammers.

What do you think of Google’s approach to SEO? Are they being helpful by launching the disavow tool or do you think that this only gives more credence to negative SEO?

Helpful… yes, perhaps.  There’s a couple of ways of looking at it.

It’s either Google helping out small businesses get out of a penalty – but then there’s the flip-side that makes me think is it just another way for Google to aggregate data so that they can examine more closely any patterns so that they exercise even more control over search engine rankings.

Perhaps not a bad thing?

From my perspective though, I’d rather there wasn’t a Disavow process.

For me I just wish that Google would discount spam links, rather than down-grading a website for having them in-coming.

The reason I say this is because I’ve seen at first-hand how negative SEO can be used to harm a website.

It’s real, and it works – I know businesses whose competitors have done it to them.  Google should level the playing field and simply ignore any links that are spam or negative.  People are losing business over it.

What is the fastest way to generate backlinks?

Well, if you’re a spammer, then you’d use tools like GSA, SeNuke, and those kind of automated systems.  It can work, but only really as a short-term strategy.

For bona-fide SEOs though, there’s no real right answer to this one.

I guess the quickest way to generate links would be to create some content or campaign that was compelling enough to get viral and get linked to that way.

That’s the Holy Grail of any SEO consultant.

What is the best quick fix way in optimizing your website for SEO?

I would say content.

With new SEO clients in Southampton, sometimes all it takes is to review the website, get the Meta edited, content headings, and text set correctly with a good approach to keywords and you will see ranking increases.

Video can also be a massive bonus – it doesn’t have to be anything too complex either – for example here’s a video about SEO in Bournemouth that I put together.

You’d be surprised at how much business this can generate.

How do you measure your SEO success for a particular campaign?

For my clients is down to sales, conversions, and leads.

It’s all very well getting more traffic and better Google rankings with SEO – but if that traffic doesn’t convert it doesn’t really mean anything.

As part of the SEO process I work with my clients to make sure that their website is best positioned to get results so look very closely at how the pages perform.

What project that you’ve handled that gave you a hard time in optimizing yet you came out successful afterwards?

All of them! Seriously though, it’s hard work to do SEO right and to get results.  Thankfully though, the methods I am using work for my clients and should work into the future.

How do you keep yourself up-to-date in the current SEO landscapes and techniques?

I’m in a couple of online groups dedicated to SEO discussion. We share tactics, testing, and strategies.

Other than that I tend not to read too much about SEO online because there’s a lot of disinformation.

I have a lot of websites which mean I can validate any new changes and see how my clients perform and adjust accordingly.  I find that this is the best approach really.

Can you suggest any book, video, person, website that keeps you inspired in doing SEO?

There’s a couple. Garrett French and Eric Ward are very good – and both have published impressive books about SEO.

I am currently developing my own Southampton SEO Consultant website which I hope one day will stand up well against those type of names – time will tell.

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