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My name's Joel Kelly and I live in Halifax, NS.

I'm a 20something guy doing digital and social media strategy for a Halifax-based marketing agency.

I'm a vegan nerd and marketing asshole.

You should follow me on Twitter.

Contact me about whatever (like, say, your marketing questions) at

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

SEO in Halifax

I recently proposed SEO services and was told that my company's rates were much too high. Which was a little shocking because I'd basically cut the price in half because I thought it would be a really interesting project to work on, and a great win.

The impression I got from my contact is that they essentially ended up going with the proposal with the lowest price. Not an entirely rare thing for a company to do, but SEO and internet marketing in general seem to be really overlooked and misunderstood means of advertising in this city.

Halifax is in Atlantic Canada. According to comScore, Atlantic Canada leads much of the rest of the country in the per captia people online, and the time they spend online. Canada is a world leader in these same measures. Meaning Atlantic Canada is a world leader. And yet they just don't get it...

If you're a business in Halifax, you need SEO. If you're a business in Halifax, you should be advertising online. That's where your customers and prospects are, for almost any product or service you might offer.

People here are online, a lot. It's really that simple.

Obviously much of the numbers for the region could be skewed by the fact that we have so many post-secondary education institutions, meaning that we have a disproportionate number of the most web-savvy demographic in this city. But those people have friends, they have parents, so even if they might not be your audience, they know your audience. If they see your message they can inform the people who need your message.

To neglect the internet is a silly, silly move. No matter what target you're after.


Anonymous said...


Your blog is very informative n helpful .. thanks…..keep it up.

Chris Van Patten said...

I'm curious what exactly you mean by SEO. I've always been a big proponent of organic SEO, which I also like to call "passive SEO". Basically this just means (in my mind) smart coding practices (header tags, good meta tags, nice descriptive titles, that sort of thing) and then organically building community (it's what we're doing at FOSSwire). Passive/Organic SEO is slower and requires a lot more patience, but in my mind (and I think the stats back it up) it builds more stable and long term results.

It seems you look to provide more active methods - what practices are you sharing with your clients?

Joel Kelly said...

Well the issue is that we're often dealing with sites that were built before there was a focus on SEO, or sites that simply ignored or weren't aware of the right way to do it.

Plus, these are usually companies looking to sell products, like, as soon as possible, so waiting for communities to organically slowly build around them isn't really what they're looking for.

So, for instance, this particular site had a single title tag used throughout dozens and dozens of unique pages.

I personally focus strongly on on-page content when I start my site audits, and then look at the code, and, like you said, make sure that everything's been done properly.

However, we certainly offer and suggest more than that, for instance targeting on-page copy to rank for specific terms (properly using H1 tags and internal-link anchor text, for example).

And then there's link building, off-site link maintenance, optimizing site maps... and so on...

I really all just depends on the particular client's goal.

Anonymous said...

In this region SEO is slowly catching on with companies as they realize the value it offers. And while some are realizing the value in the service they are failing to loosen the purse strings.

I've been doing it for a few years now and 90% of our clients are foreign.

Joel Kelly said...

Which is something of a shame. I mean, come on people! As top-level domains become more and more confusing, the URL as something that people will actually remember gets less and less important. You're just going to *have* to rank well for your relevant terms... A shame that companies could be so slow to realize this...

Anonymous said...

SEO is nonsense made up marketing talk for doing hacks instead of good design. Charge lots of coinage and then profess it works. It's garbage, nonsense. Nobody NEEDS this service. If you have a solid site with solid design and solid content and you take the time to build a community (if it's relevant to your business), you don't need these flim flam men to help you.

Joel Kelly said...

"If you have a solid site with solid design and solid content and you take the time to build a community (if it's relevant to your business), you don't need these flim flam men to help you."

And if you don't have those things? Look, like I said before, these are usually sites that weren't designed all that well in the first place. SEO is cheaper than a full redesign and does work. Sometimes we do recommend that sites just, you know, start over.

But at the end of the day, SEO can often be a solid investment to increase your ranking. And yes, my friend, conversion tracking has been done by many firms many times, confirming that better placement in SERPs has increased their business.

Basically what I'm saying is that you're wrong.

Anonymous said...

You're right. If you don't have a good foundation, by all means, bring on the flim flam men. And I'm sure they'll "be cheaper than a full redesign" - but not by much.

As to whether SEO "works", I challenge you to publish a post that illustrates that it does - via multiple independent market studies. The SEO definition of "works", as you offer it, is that it boosts ranking; whether one collects a few more page impressions because some bunco artist leveraged his friend's blogs for links or offered to set a few meta tags is not success, it's a few more tally marks.

The real world definition of success is whether it enhances my business. And SEO is nonsense for 90% of the businesses out there.

Joel Kelly said...

So is your point then, that boosting traffic wouldn't or couldn't correlate to a boost in sales? Or that traffic generated through "flim flam men" is of lesser value?

"And SEO is nonsense for 90% of the businesses out there." "Nobody NEEDS this service"

Which is it?

Anonymous said...

Joel, Great Post....

Is it possible that Mr. Anonymous misunderstands SEO, can't do it him self or maybe suffered at the hands of a crap SEO person...

SEO is not the business of "flim flam men" or what ever Mr. Anonymous said. Fortune 500, Global and Successful companies use SEO cause they see it as a value add to their business.

Curious, Why do people always hide their identity in comments? What are they afraid of?

Anonymous said...

Supposedly boosting traffic through the actions of these overpriced Flim Flam Men isn't proven to correlate to a boost in sales.

Nobody needs this 'service'. The only people who care about it are the suckers buying it and the insular crowd of snake oil salesmen offering it.

Craig said...

Flim-flam, snake-oil. You can't be serious. Talk about use of empty vernacular to bloat things.

Here's another: Anonymous

Step out and give up some personal viewpoint. There's must be some reason why you have this viewpoint and I'm sure it will give some great value to your opinion. I'm all for debate (I'll take what ever side you want to instill conversation). Just give it some sense of where you are coming from to give this audience/readership an understanding of your reasoning other than...Bold font.

Anonymous said...

I'm puzzled by Mr. Anonymous. He makes me think of the old "this is your brain on drugs" commercial.

This guy can't be serious or for real and judging by his inability to answer any questions he's more than likely crazy.

Search Engine Marketing works, hopefully Mr. Anonymous will move from the 1940's and get with the times.

Anonymous said...

Awww, all your shyster buddies love you - funny that they are in the same line of 'work' - ad placement, SEO scams. If you're puzzled, Snell, or your friend has tired of these comments, that's too bad. Don't you have a booze night or golf tourney to arrange?

I have no obligations to answer questions, any more than your chum has an obligation to accept the challenge I made: publish a post that proves - via multiple independent market studies - that SEO translates to real sales - not web impressions. He can't because it's bunk.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is getting interesting. Golf tourney or booze night, none of those in the works.

Once you get the balls to leave your name and not hide behind the anonymous banner let me know.

Webconomist said...

Gotta come out of the shadows now;

Anonymous - be brave and stand up and prove that SEO does not work, back up your statements with evidence. Otherwise your argument is hollow and vapid.

SEO is part of what professional marketers know as The Marketing Mix. SEO will fail if the resulting Landing Pages or site doesn't support the message in the SEO search. Additionally, SEO is a sustained activity.

Marketing is a Managed Investment providing returns over time, SEO is part of that Managed Investment, it's part of a whole marketing strategy. That's how it provides results.

If it didn't provide results, large companies with damn good metrics who evaluate their spends, wouldn't waste $$$ on it.

Go get a Marketing For Dummies book and some coffee.

Todd said...

I've 'stumbled' upon your blog and find this comment soup entertaining.

It looks like Anonymous may be from a long line of dissenters.

I have some questions for him/her:

Did you see the value of the yellow pages in the 70's?
Have you ever bought anything online?
Have you ever researched anything online?
How did you find this blog?
Does your browser homepage have a search function?
When will you graduate kindegarten?

Just joshing with the last one, but you can not use the internet without using search engines, so how come you can't process the connection between search engine use and the importance of being on the front page.

Search engines are the yellow pages for the global village, if your not found your dead, it's that simple.

Kimberly said...

This certainly isn't my area of expertise but one would hope that common sense would prevail in the industry.

I don't prescribe to the notion that any one solution is the be-all and end-all of a company's success. However, a successful organization grows through change.

The fact of the matter that Anonymous and his (?) comments are symptomatic of a greater problem in this city. And that is the malignant thoughts of the "old guard" who cannot fathom how newfangled tools could possibly have any merit and therefore should not even be considered. They're often the same people who thought having a company website was a waste of money ten years ago.

Frankly, the comments a) don't surprise me, and b) are probably from a troll. The fact that Anonymous decided to add personal jibes only highlights a weak argument as this is the basest form of debate.

Joel Kelly said...

So by booze night does he mean the meet ups? And I'm assuming the golf tourney thing is because of ITANs... So he's a local, surely. And if he considers them "booze nights" he either doesn't go to the meet ups or went and didn't like it. And the slight against people who do advertising is interesting, to say the least.

So I'm guessing it's a designer, likely, who doesn't believe in advertising or SEO. Huh.

Anonymous said...

If you don't like anonymous posts, disable them. If you provide someone the ability to comment anonymously rather than sign up, they're going to use it. Do you not know how blogger works? I understand you don't know how twitter works if you think someone needs to be a follower to read your twitstorm. Get on the trolley, will ya.

@Todd - no, yes, yes, email link, no, skipped.
@webconomist - will you autograph the book? guttersnipe.

It's swell that your box social pals are ready to defend this hokum, but aside from chiming in along the lines of "it's marketing 101", nobody has offered any proof it's nothing more than consultants charging fees for monkeying with tags. Now it's called one tool in a marketing toolbox, meaning the successes they claim may not even be related to this SEO malarky.

It's not the buyer who must prove the fish is fresh, that's the fishmonger's job. Flim flam artists are flogging something they can only defend with smoke and mirrors, they have no facts.

Joel Kelly said...

Had you read my posts you'd have noticed that I have yet to complain that you're posting anonymously. I merely think it's silly.

Anonymous said...

I noted that he was posting Anonymously, it is a way for people without a valid point or back bone to express themselves (allows them to pull ideas from their ass and share them).

Since Mr Anonymous is so sure of himself why don't we meet up some time? However since your just a scam or flim flam artist you will probably decline.

Mr Anonymous did you have some sort of traumatic experience or suffer a failure?

The industry and the companies that use SEO are validation enough, you've done nothing to back up your asinine claims.

Webconomist said...

Proof you're not a marketer and have no marketing skills Androgynous Anonymous is that you try to separate SEO from marketing as a stand-alone activity. Marketing is always about selecting the right mix of tools/channels/media to reach the intended audience. Hence the term Integrated Marketing Communications. Go buy that book and several coffees.

Yes, there are some scam SEO types out there; usually the ones who advertise their SEO services (defeats the point) and those that focus only on Google. That's as it is with all industries.

Thanks for the fun on a Friday. Even if you're being a bit of a pratt and a tosser. I think you're just stirring the pot anyway!

Anonymous said...

The asinine claim here is that SEO has value. It does not - it is a scam. All you insular cronies have done is comment how it really works - WITH NO EVIDENCE, despite repeated requests. Oh wait, one clown offered his favorite textbook. props to that twat.

I'm not selling anything, so I'd be hard pressed to be a scam artist. SEO people aren't selling anything either - just nonsense.

I'll see you at next month's beer bash, maybe you can have some real data backing up this racket by then. I'll wear an "anon" nametag.

Anonymous said...

Given your inability to show yourself here, express anything valid or prove that your anything more than a wanker I think we all stand a better chance at winning the lottery than you showing up at the event on August 28th.

Webconomist said...

Androgynous Anonymous, I'd have immense respect for you to join us Intelligentsia at our meetup. Brilliant! Even if you are being a bit of a ponce.

And where's YOUR evidence on SEO?

On a side note, it's an interesting study on the impact of localized Social Media usage.

Are we off topic yet? Thanks for the entertainment Anon. Enjoyed the thread, although I have a lot of catch-up work now!...mostly SEO stuff..

Ben said...

Man, if our meet-ups are considered beer bashes, I must be going to the wrong ones...

Joel Kelly said...

Yeah... beer bash is a pretty generous description. I mean, I was trashed, but that's only because I started drinking at work.

Todd said...

Oh dear , looks like we banjaxed that argument and have a bit of a foxy woxy, Using search engines (imagine!) I have found one study that makes the link between sales and seo for our little buddy:

PS: If Mr A. was educated in NS then I think we should use him as the case study for increased educational funding.