Many businesses will have a website, whether it was made by a family friend or a professional company, an online presence is essential in the current economy.
With online retail growing six times faster than high street sales, and with a projected turnover of ~£37 billion by 2014, businesses are seeing massive online potential. This is encouraging many business owners to invest in a once relatively unknown marketplace and to ensure success for their business.
One very efficient and increasingly popular method of achieving this is through the website promotion technique of Search Engine Optimisation.
The process of SEO has been very beneficial for numerous businesses on the web, however recently there has been some bad press and in particular the NYTimes JCPenny article which had been published exposing the unethical SEO methods utilised. Due to this many business have become much more weary about finding a suitable and ethical SEO Provider. However businesses who are unfamiliar with Search Engine Optimisation can be easily mislead through buzz words such as White Hat or organic , which is why we are going to cover some important areas of SEO which will help you find a suitable consultant.
Utilising Local Search
As SEO can be carried out off location, many overseas companies have been set up to offer a much cheaper service. Typically these will be Indian or Philippine companies who will carry out the work proposed, commonly it is of a very low quality and often using automated solutions which will get flagged as spam. Many of the UK customers we have worked with have stated from experience that they have looked for the cheap solution but this usually sees no results or can actually damage the website reputation.
We always recommend looking in your local area for a reputable company or SEO consultant who will be able to manage the optimisation for you.
Employing Solid Keyword Research
A crucial part of SEO is defining your target keywords. These are the basis of any successful campaign, and will make the difference between increasing traffic by 1,000 visitors to increasing traffic by 10,000 visitors. When looking for an SEO consultant you need to ask them about their methods of Keyword Research as incorrect keyword targeting is not easily correctable. Many companies will allow you to select your desired keywords, but how do you know what people are searching for? One case study highlighted that many keywords for small business SEO were either unreasonable or redundant. This can occur when you are optimising a relatively small website for broad terms such as dresses , or can be encountered when optimising for keywords that no one uses. Both these techniques will encore massive costs before you start seeing any results, if at all.
You must make sure that your SEO consultant carries out keyword analysis for your campaign, and you agree on a proposed set of keywords before optimisation commences.
Are Your Results Guaranteed!?
We cringe when we hear that people are guaranteeing results and makes us a little bit suspicious at the same time. All good SEO consultants will know that there is no way you can ensure you will deliver on a guarantee. This is not a case of lacking confidence but rather a better understanding of search engine technologies. Search Engine algorithms are always changing and adapting and this can cause a website to jump up and down the rankings. Because of this there is no way to guarantee an organic result, but there is sneaky ways to still offer that guarantee. For example some companies will offer you a 1st page listing within 3 months. If after two months your site has still not received the boost they were expecting (very likely) then they can still get you a first page presence through a paid listing. Obviously this is not what you require and is only a temporary solution to the problem.
We always recommend steering clear of companies which offer a guarantee. You have to realise that SEO is marketing and results are always going to be a little vague.
An Auto Submission Campaign?
When searching for the correct SEO company for your business you will need to get information on what you will receive. Typical inclusions for SEO packages are a range of link building solutions along with a website analysis. One way companies are seeking to maximise their profits is by automating some of this solution. When automation is introduced you will often find a loss of quality in the service you receive, and this will show in the results. For example many companies will offer Automatic Submission to the top 50 Search Engines . Now this may sound great as it obviously allows people to find you through different methods, however it is essentially redundant. Most websites will be indexed by Google anyway (if your is not then see http://www.google.co.uk/addurl) and Google shares its website index with many of the smaller search engines. Therefore if you are included in Google then you will be included in the rest.
Be careful when companies state about auto submissions as this is a sign of a low quality service which Google is trying to battle against (just see the recent Panda update).
Link Building with Industry Relevance
This is a great question to ask when reviewing an SEO company and is a very important factor for a successful SEO campaign. When link building for a website it is always more advantageous to build links from relevant website pages. For example if you were selling mobile phones then getting a link from T Mobile would be priceless, however getting a link from a local builders website is not going to be as beneficial. When link building for clients a reputable company will focus on building quality links from industry related websites, this gives increased relevance and more authority to your website.
When looking for your SEO consultant then always ask to see a sample of pages where your link may end up and stay clear if they look like useless spam websites.
A FREE Website Review?
Many SEO companies will waive the fee for their initial website report, or they may raise interest with a free website SEO report. This is used to gain details on potential customers which can then be used when pitching the sale. They may state that its an in depth 40 page report which details many of the aspects they want to improve on your website. This gives the impression that they have evaluated your website and produced this relevant report for you. However that is never the case.
These reports are often generated from automated systems such as WebCEO and should not be trusted for any serious SEO campaign. Therefore even if you were to sign up based on a website report, it should really be evaluated manually to ensure it is accurate.
The SEO Pricing Structure
Having recently received pitches from some of the most notable SEO companies in Bristol and the South West I can say for sure that just because it costs more does not mean its a better service. This methodology has often been used as a rule of thumb for SEO companies in that you get what you pay for. However when it gets down to actually questioning the service and what you receive you start to pick up on who knows what they are talking about and who is just a salesman.
Ideally you should always speak to the person who is carrying out the work for you and ask them the questions directly. Often questions pitched to a salesman would be returned with confusing and vague answers which showed they did not know the full details of what they were selling. A good question we came up with was to get them to explain the canonical tag and how it is used in optimisation. If the answer was vague or incorrect then we would let them on their way. You would be surprised at how many of the top priced companies would stumble on this.
Industry Exclusivity Protecting Your Interest
If you have found an excellent SEO consultant, you don t really want him going off with your competitors as that shows a conflict of interest. Many reputable SEO consultants will ensure they do not have conflicting campaigns running at the same time as they will eventually be competing with themselves.
We actually heard one story where an SEO Consultant rang a local business about their regional SEO. Everything seemed quite positive from the first round of questions until they mentioned that were currently doing the optimisation for the #1 ranked client. This obviously seems like a conflict of interest as they achieved the desired results for their client, and then it seems they are trying to beat themselves by selling the same service to a competitor. How would you feel if you were put to the first position, only to be knocked off by the company that you paid to put you there?
We always recommend asking if your SEO consultant is currently working with similar industries or similar keywords. If you are that worried then they should have no problem signing an exclusivity deal for your industry.
Using this guide you can be sure to find someone suitable for your website optimisation, whether it is regional SEO or nationwide. There are many quality SEO consultants out there so do not be put off by the few cowboys. Just make sure you ask lots of questions, get testimonials and proof of past work that has been completed by them. This can often work well if you are searching for industry specific SEO Consultants as some will specialise in certain sectors such as eCommerce or small business SEO.
Always take your time in finding your vendor and if you feel the hard sell then walk away!
Nina Edwards is an enthusiastic writer and publisher for top companies such as LogicalJack SEO. If you are interested in an affordable small business SEO package then view the website http://logicaljack.com for more information.