What kind of links can you safely build for SEO benefit?

So it’s been about 6 years since I’ve posted on this blog.  Wow!  Well I’ve been busy running a growing agency and had other priorities.  Hence the default WP template here and lack of general direction and purpose.  Anyhow, I’ve recently (mid-2013) sold my ownership in the agency and will be serving as an advisor/consultant moving forward, which means I have more free time in my day-to-day to provide verbal discourse such as the below.  Enjoy!  🙂

Question:  What kind of links can you safely build for SEO benefit in 2014 and beyond?

Simply put, none.

It’s depressing to say that, and I think just a bit “unfair” too, but just because I don’t like the situation doesn’t make it less true. Continue reading

Blog Themes and Widgets

Customizing a blog is so much easier today than it was just 1-2 years ago.  It was a headache back then.  The separation of content and design (CSS movement) has played a big part in this.   So has the ability to customize and use custom domains on third-party hosted services like Blogger and WordPress.com, as well as the use of “widgets” which enable you to add code elements and other components without directly editing the source files.  Man if I had that ability just a few years ago!!!

As of today I am re-purposing JonPayne.net.  It will now be more of a general site just about… well… myself.  Arrogance aside, I’m doing this b/c I simply don’t have the time to maintain this blog, and honestly its not been very coherent in general.  I’ll still post occasionally to this blog, but my new blog on lead generation will be my “main blog”.  This will be more of a profile site about yours truly, with the occasional post about whatever.

PS – I found my snazzy new WordPress theme thanks to this guy’s blog.

Oh yeah, another blog (Lead-Gen SEO)

Just created one on Lead Generation & SEO as a way to test out Blogger, and it seems as though I’m taking an interest to it. I don’t have time to manage one blog, much less two… but I’ll figure this out as we go along. This site may turn into more of a professional “about me” sites, with the occasional post… whereas the other blog will be more topically-focused.

Maryland Tech Tax is Repealed… Awaiting Governor’s Signature

Got an email and saw this on several blogs as well…

The Maryland General Assembly has passed a repeal of the Tech Tax. Now Governor (ug) O’Malley just needs to sign it, which he is expected to do. Very happy about this. Here is some more info on it…


Tech Council of MD

Washington Post

Dataprise, Inc. applauds the repeal

…just a shame it took so many people spending so much time to convince the General Assembly that trying to sneak by a bill at the last minute without making the public aware is not a good thing to do, especially when it targets small businesses who provide so many jobs and economic stimulus to the region.

Growing a Service Business… Without Adding Clients

I just ran across a piece about growing service firms “from the inside out”. I believe this piece was specifically written for law firms, but in running an internet marketing agency I find it just as true for my situation and clientele.

Look inward to branch out. Take a look at the firm’s top clients over the last three years or so. How many of your services are used by each one? There may be an opportunity here. If you have done stellar work in one practice area, your client will most likely be amenable to hearing about other practice areas that apply to their business. To outsiders, expanding your business with an existing client shows that they value and have confidence in you, and in turn, serves as a law firm marketing technique. It also builds your resume and track record in the practice in which you would like to augment.

I have a number of law firm clients so naturally I browse this industry a bit, and often find that law firm marketing strategies are really just professional service strategies… except the whole concept of “legal marketing” is a bit new, so some tried-and-true concepts can get further legs in that industry.

Let’s provide a little translation to the arena of “web marketing”:

Practice Areas = Services
Resume = Portfolio

Basically the general concept is that its often better to build revenue by further serving your existing client base. I believe there are several other good reasons for this, not mentioned above as they are perhaps not as important for a large law firm as they are for a small internet marketing agency:

  • you know your current clients pay their bills on time… new clients might not.
  • you already know how much attention and communication your current clients demand.
  • they are generally already pleased with your service, and thus a positive bias heuristic kicks in… they believe you do a good job at one thing and will likely believe that you do a good job in many areas.
  • at least for me, its easier to handle a smaller number of clients than a larger number of smaller clients.

Learning SEO in College… Trade Schools, etc.

Another comment on an SEOmoz.org post that I made, which I am recycling as per usual:


 I will argue that all formal education is always at least 5 years behind the appropriate "real world" education.  Its probably more so with fast-moving industries, but even true in more steady fields.

That all said, I think you may just not be looking hard enough.

I personally have a Bachelor's degree in E-Business from Towson.  Check out the courses.  And I graduated ALMOST 5 YEARS AGO!  

Again, its not the most relevant.  No they don't teach practical applications of SEO.  But then again that's no different than how my roommate who was a Com Sci major couldn't program a lick of code.  Lots of theory. 

Colleges and Universities are typically places that teach theory and the process of learning more than practical job skills for early-career success.

Trade schools and IT training schools like this one or this one can teach you the nuts and bolts of online marketing, etc. if you want to go that route.  Certainly you can also learn it on your own as well.

I've also found that many schools bring in outside professionals to give guest lectures to expose students to the "nuts and bolts".  I believe Rand has taught a few, and I've taught about a half-dozen myself.  Check out the powerpoint slides (bottom of page) if you like. 

I think you are simply expecting the wrong thing from a college (university) education.  Its about theory and learning to learn.  If you want practical skills consider a trade school or certification program.  Its not just you here though, IMO far to many people go to a university seeking "job skills" b/c that is simply the status quo in the US.  I would like that to change.  We need more technical people with tangible skills.

Another item I didn’t address here though is the issue of qualified teachers. There is already a huge shortage in business schools. Few available, willing teachers to teach SEO and Internet Marketing. Those who can are too darn busy.

SEO Popularity & Being Famous – Comments re: TopRank, SEOmoz

I found this post on SEOmoz which referenced this post on TopRank’s blog and posted a comment. As I’ll do from time to time, I’m going to steal my own content and paste it below… my thoughts on “being famous” in the SEO community:

Lee – excellent post. I know many SEOs who spend 50-75% of their time or more doing things to “be famous” in the community – writing blog posts, commenting (ummm…), creating articles, etc. As you have suggested, the expectation is that by doing those activities they will get new clients and make money.

But what about if you already have alot of clients? If you don’t need new business than it doesn’t make sense to spend 75% of your time on business generation activities (getting famous). Instead, how about spend time differently…


Yes that’s the key to making money. The key is doing work that you are paid to do. The more paid work (for agencies) or more work spent doing your own projects (affiliates, others) the more you will make.

But what about the “being famous helps you get bigger clients and raise your rates” argument?

Perhaps. But so too does “doing a good job for your current clients” and then getting solid referrals that produce bigger projects.

I think there is a ton of waste with all these newbies spending time blogging and writing articles. There’s too much to read, and not enough time to read it… or much less actually GO DO SOME WORK PEOPLE!

With that, I’m off to start doing some actual work 🙂

There isn’t enough room for everyone to be a celebrity in the SEO field. Nor does achieving that matter much, IMO. You can have a very successful career (as a consultant) by:

doing great work, producing great results
giving your time and attention to your clients
growing with your clients
getting referrals from your clients

Several years back I used to spend alot more time with SEO-related blogs, forums, articles, etc. I wanted to be famous in the community, to some extent. The day I stopped spending so much time on that is the day I started doing better work, having more time for clients and started making more money. Imagine that. Do actual (billable) work. Get actual clients. Make actual money. A novel idea!

Both Rand and Lee referenced an idea I do strongly – that its far more important to be “famous” for SEO outside of the SEO community than inside of the SEO community. I totally agree. I have a few good relationships in the Baltimore area with various marketing agencies, PR firms, etc. and among them… I’m famous, sort of. Enough for them to refer work to me, and that referral typically means bigger clients than I’d get without the referral, as well as a better close rate.

To me, I believe this is more valuable than having a bunch of newbie SEOs blog about you and get your article posted on Digg, which results in 10 service solicitations for crappy projects that have no business model.

Now concludes my 30 minutes this morning of non-billable work. I’ve made no money so far today. Thus, don’t expect another post for probably another 4-6 weeks, at which point I’ll reference my own comments on another blog again or copy/paste my reply to a client’s question on this blog to “get more play” for something I already wrote.


Maryland Sales Tax on Web Design & Computer Services

Fight The Tech Tax

Help repeal a bill that is currently in the Maryland General Assembly stating that sales tax of 6% must be collected on “computer services” effective July 1, 2008:

Link: Repeal MD Sales Tax on Computer Services

It will ultimately hurt small businesses b/c they are the ones who outsource and thus will pay the tax… large corporations do their design, programming, etc. in house and thus they pay no tax on it, since it involves no transaction.

Its clear this covers “programming” but I’m unclear as to whether or not it includes “web design”. My firm does mostly SEO which I would imagine we can argue (rightfully so) is a marketing service, not a computer service… but we do sometimes do a bit of web design as well… Update: It does include “web design”.


I had Bill Slawski take a peak at the legislation and he seemed to echo my disappointment with such a law. In my reply to him I wrote:

Thanks for giving that a look Bill. It seems dumb in so many ways. First off, if I raise prices for programming by 6% than I’m that much less competitive versus a firm in another state. Since (unlike physical goods) there is no cost to the consumer to choose a firm in another state, I’m now less likely to make the sale due to price competition factors. Thus, I probably will sell x% less programming projects and thus the state government will make less on my personal income tax returns since I’ll make that much less profit. This seems “penny wise and dollar foolish” to me, especially when you figure that my personal income tax rate is alot higher than the 6% sales tax.

Anyhow, too tired and time-starved to really give this the verbal assault it deserves.

It looks like it does include “web design”.

Until I decide otherwise… I think I may start charging an “SEO Setup Fee” and coincidentally begin offering “Free Web Design & Programming” with every purchase 🙂

Baltimore SEO Meetup # 4

Okay so its been two months since I’ve last posted and even then it was not very frequent. I think I’ve come to the realization that I just won’t be able to give much time to maintaining this blog. As such, it will remain a home for my random commentary about SEO, entrepreneurship and pretty much whatever else comes to mind.

Today I’m going to use it to give a quick plug to the SEO Meetup Group I have been “organizing”. We’re having our 4th event on November 29th (a Thursday) in Canton.

> Full Details – Signup and/or RSVP

It should be a good time. I made the tricky decision a few days ago to “re-focus” the group and we trimmed our membership from over 80 members to just over 50. I believe we have a better core group though now, as about half of the people on the previous list weren’t really heavily involved in SEO. The intention of the group is to be a way for professionals to share ideas with peers. Its not intended to be an SEO 101 course for someone who just started building their first website last week. Don’t get me wrong – if you are in that boat I wish you well – but you’d do much better to spend a couple of hours reading and digesting SEOmoz’s beginner’s guide to SEO than you would attending a meeting intended for those who have been actively in the field for a little while.

Q&A – PPC Content Site Distribution on Google

As has been my theme lately, here is an inquiry of a client for whom we set up a basic PPC campaign for a short period. The client wanted us to help set it up and then they would manage it themselves. Here is a parting question of sorts:

1. I paused some of the lower performers today.
[Jon Payne] Excellent. This should improve your efficiency. PPC marketing is all about continually stopping whats not working and doing more of what is working.

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Our Comcast Nightmare – Comcast SUCKS!

Executive Summary: Six months after we moved out of our old office and “transferred” our Comcast internet service to our new office, we were still receiving invoices for the old office… plus those for the new office. Finally they’ve stopped sending those invoices, though we’re still waiting on the refund we were promised. To make things worse, we just got an invoice for Cable TV at the old office. That’s right, we’ve been gone from there for 6 months but somehow we decided to order Cable TV for that office? Unbelieveable.

Detailed Timeline:

Timeline of Comcast’s Ineptitude:

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SEO Meetup Groups

In follow-up to the launching of our recent Baltimore SEO Meetup Group (my post | press release | group page) I’ve recently seen a few more groups start up.

Rebecca over at SEOmoz gave us a plug in her recent post about meetup groups, and it looks as though her town of Seattle now has its own group, as do Portland and Charlotte (organized by Keith), as well as Virginia – which, truth be told was my inspiration.

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DC / Baltimore SEO Meetup Group

Hi all – I just created a “meetup group” for those interested in SEO in the DC / Baltimore metro area. Check out the page via link below and sign up for updates if you are interested. We’ll give it a couple of weeks to judge the interest and then try to schedule something.

Click here to check out
The DC / Baltimore SEO Meetup Group!


Update – February 2009:
The Baltimore SEO Meetup Group has been tweaked a bit… we’re now making it a quarterly meetup for experienced Baltimore SEO professionals. By having it a little less often it makes it a little less of a time commitment on my end to arrange presentations, speakers, etc. I’m pretty swamped lately running my Baltimore SEO firm (which has a new Charlotte location) and so the time managing the group is a bit of a strain! That said, we’re very pleased with the response and love meeting all the other local SEO gurus in Baltimore and throughout Maryland!

Q&A: Getting a Website Crawled and Indexed

One of my associates recently sent me an email requesting:

One of the questions during the [recent sales presentation] was: “How often do search bots visit a site?”

I know this is a “it depends” kind of answer, but I’d love to get a paragraph from you on that so I can send it to them.

A paragraph or two? Nonsense. A half dozen? That I can do 🙂 My response:

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Q&A: Banner Ads and New Website Revenue Models

Its been forever since I’ve written, but that’s how it goes. Here’s another Q&A from an email I got today:


Jon –

I found your site from a general search of website developers. I am helping my wife build a rough pro-forma for a potential business. What I am curious about, and hopefully you might be able to share some insight with me, is an expected revenue target from advertising on a site (money made from a firm to post banner/ad on her site). Is there a rough ‘guesstimate’ on what “X” traffic would yield in terms of monthly or annual revenue from an advertiser? Can such a thing be a assumed?

Thanks in advance for your time.

My Reply:

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