Etrafficjams is an SEO company in Clearwater, Florida. For two weeks I worked for them. Michael Pedone was the manager, and former owner. The company had been bought out recently by a Swedish SEO firm called GetUpdated and he had been retained to manage the US operations. In the short time I was there, my supervisor and senior SEO Analyst was Leona Griffin.
They have no on site SEO analysts. Everyone telecommutes. Both the SEOs that were working there in addition to myself had been there for at least a couple of years. Apparently turnover had been a big problem in the past.
Let me say that everything I saw when I was there was above board and was done in the client's interest. So if you are looking for an assassination of how they do SEO, look elsewhere. But, if you are an SEO analyst looking for employment, especially with the carrot of telecommuting held out to you, you may want to look elsewhere also.
Leona Griffin claimed to have ten years experience of SEO, and I have no reason to doubt that. She was extremely knowledgeable and confident in her abilities. Her results seemed to be excellent. She claimed that at one time she had been earning $12000 a month from Adsense web sites, but got out because she thought the sites she created weren't adding value to the web. Seems like a high minded and worthy attitude.
She wasn't infallible though. I think we got off to a bad start when I pointed out all the typos in the
documentation sent to customers. It was stupid of me, she probably wrote the documentation.
I remember her telling me that PageRank takes six months to appear in the green bar on the Google Toolbar. I have seen it come up in less than a month. But I didn't even mention the point, I was trying to get along with her.
And of course, she always referred to ALT tags. I know, 99% of people do, even though there is no such thing. There is the ALT attribute of the IMG tag, but no ALT tags. Again I didn't mention it.
She did give me a host of valuable information, but I did find her training style very difficult. She seemed to act like a game show host who says to the hopeful contestant, "okay now tell me what is behind the curtain." Without giving a lot of information leading up to the curtain, and also what the ultimate goal of the game was. Sort of like handing someone jigsaw puzzle pieces but not a picture of what the final solved puzzle would look like.
She did tell me that "there is no right and wrong in SEO, just spam and not spam".
But in practice, if I did something that wasn't the way she wanted then it wasn't good enough. My last active day there she kept hassling me about how I wrote a directory entry for a client. She gave me grief for some capitalization that I had apparently done in the title. Every directory entry I have ever seen tends to have the initial letter of the title capitalized. Just like most TITLE tags.
When I did a web site analysis, if my wording didn't match what she had, I was in trouble. Instead of just giving me the template text to use to communicate to the client that they needed a robots.txt file, I had to reinvent the wheel and come up with wording acceptable to her. I mean, just let me get on with the job, don't patronize me. Give me the goddamn template text and let me use that.
She was very nice when talking on the phone, but since our training was done chiefly using e-mail and MSN instant messaging, she came across as having a very maternalistic managerial style. Accuse me of sexism if you will, but some women manage men in the same way they manage children.
Etrafficjams: Contractors or Employees?
The real problem that I had with Etrafficjams, was the need for the "staff" to buy their own software and other tools. Leona had intimated that it was necessary for me to acquire what the company ordained, even if I already had spent the scratch to get my own. In any other company I have worked as a salaried employee, if I needed software to do my job, the company paid for it. Etrafficjams, which had been criticized as outsourcing its work to consultants (to vociferous protestations from Michael Pedone), apparently refused to do so.
When I have worked as a consultant, then I see it as my responsibility to provide my own tools, unless it was for a very specific request, e.g. I am not a Flash programmer, but if a client wanted me to crack a Flash movie into the Flash source, then I'd charge them for the software.
So, within two weeks of being hired, and being on probation, I was expected to buy my own software. It took about a week despite repeated requests to get a SalesForce ID (even Leona was on my side on that one). If the company wasn't willing to pony up the money for that, why should I have to go into the red on their account? I wrote to Michael Pedone:
do we have Enterprise or Multiuser accounts for things like:
· Web CEO
· IBP / Arelis
I have a lot of web design oriented software, such as Dreamweaver, HomeSite,
Flash, Photoshop, etc, plus other tools like SEOElite, Web Position 4, etc
all purchased with hard cash, so have brought something to the table
already, but it would be good to be able to get access to the additional
productivity from the ones mentioned above. Do we have any of those tools
available to us?
He responded saying that I should get Leona to contact him about it if I thought I needed something.
She got a bit bent out of shape that I had contacted him, even though the whole software issue was the 800 lb gorilla we had been ignoring. She was badgering me to make purchases saying that mechanics are required to have their own tools. Well, call me an SEO grease monkey then! I got around this by getting fully featured trial editions but apparently this wasn't good enough. The next day I got fired.
If a company wants people to buy their own software, or do things in a particular way, then that is their perfect right. The thing that left a bad taste in my mouth is how the termination was done. The word "weasel" comes to mind.
For three and a half hours from 9 AM, I was IMing, emailing and phoning Leona. I didn't get a peep out of her.
At 12:30 PM, Michael Pedone's assistant, Hallie called me to tell me that my services were no longer required. Poor woman, I was nice to her.
It was a bit disappointing that Mike Pedone didn't have the courage or courtesy to pick up the phone at 9 AM and tell me himself, instead of hiding behind the skirts of Leona's silence or Hallie's phone call. Just let it end like it started, with a handshake, no hard feelings. Leona could have kept herself high in my estimation by just letting me know I should contact him straight away but the high road wasn't for her that day.
I don't suppose anyone will ever read this, as apparently I am not very good at search engine optimization. But it feels so much better to have gotten it off my chest. I'd like to thank Etrafficjams for the opportunity, now if they can only get the human side of the equation correct and hang on to a few SEO analysts.
CJ Winkler Postscript
On Monday November 12, I got a call from a blocked number from someone identifying herself as CJ Winkler. She said that she was a consultant needing some SEO services for a client of hers. Minutes into the conversation her cover was blown when she started asking me about my time with ETJ. I don't think I had told anyone in the industry that I was starting with them.
I went along with the call because she was holding the carrot out of a juicy assignment and there was a slim chance that the call was legit. Just as the call was winding up I was going to ask her, 'so how did you know about me working with E Traffic Jams?" As I was about to, another "call" came through for her. How convenient.
Looking at my logs confirmed a sudden spike in interest in this page on that day from the Clearwater / St Petersburg area. I haven't commented here before because I was hoping CJ may call back. Not because I thought the juicy assignment may come through, but it would be good to nail her on this deception. What do you call someone who is paid to lie?