SEO is a very fluid industry that has a history of shape-shifting, leaving many who need these services in a tricky position when it comes to choosing an SEO company in 2013. The online SEO industry offers a cloudy mix of SEO tactics. Many are still being sold online as viable methods, despite their obvious lack of SEO value in the current SEO landscape that Google has terra-formed through its algorithms. Avoiding SEO companies that abuse and game both clients and the system is one of the first tactics you should adopt in your SEO strategy. Easier said than done – we are in murky waters here.
Aiming for Page One
The effort to get to page one includes a myriad of optimizations to content, media, website page structure, linking – the list is very long indeed. Standard optimization using regular and well-known methods includes adding keywords and tags and using social media to popularize the site. In the past tactics used by “optimizers” brought instant results and many were impressive. Getting to page one for any keyword within weeks were common claims and still are to be found in the recesses of the Internet. These optimizations either did not last long or, most likely, caused the site to be hit hard by Google, filtering out spammers and SEO gamers in their updates.
The different flavors of SEO companies
Resellers – they’re great at closing the deals, but simply outsource 100% of the work to their counterparts which leaves little to no room for flexibility. They bid on PPC, and usually talk a big game. These are more focused on traffic generation than SEO.
Cookie Cutters – typically larger companies with many past clients. They’re great at demonstrating their SEO prowess with sophisticated reports from clever looking SEO software. They usually have little up to date knowledge of trends sand movement in the industry/algorithm changes.
Followers – these are the medium sized SEO firms trying to be like the larger SEO firms. They want to be ranked on all the top paid SEO lists out there, and thrive on buzz. Their ultimate goals fame, industry recognition, and more profits; often at the expense of their clients’ mediocre performance or a short term result. They supply designer SEO reports from the same expensive SEO software as the Cookie Cutters.
The Guy Next Door – This is probably a guy or web design company offering SEO services as a secondary income. They can talk the talk and somewhat follow basic search engine guidelines, but may lack the requisite knowledge or resources to get sustainable results. They probably cannot afford mainstream SEO software like the larger SEO firms.
The Company Next Door – These guys are the smaller boutique-type SEO companies you see with an office next to a real estate agency, or local corner plaza. They usually have a connection with a few larger contracts that allow them to keep their doors open. They are little more than a storefront version of the guy next door and rely on image and marketing to survive. They will have the same banter as your average carpet salesman and often the same level of knowledge of SEO.
The Company You Should Stay Away From – This company will guarantee rankings, submit your website to thousands of search engines, directories and promises many other useless activities like a fast food menu. They offer thousands of inbound PageRanking links for $100, promise super-fast top of page one ranking and tout their methods as a lucrative industry secret that only they know. Yeah sure! Generally these are offshore enterprises using dubious tactics. Their backlink strategies can ruin a site SEO in the long term. Heaven help you if you get them to write your blog too, or market articles with your name on them, your reputation may never recover.
The Company You’ve Been Looking For – has references for you to contact and testimonials from real clients. They should offer a clear strategy which they should be willing to share with you -it’s no secret! This should be backed up by credible (and most importantly), uncomplicated information that you can easily understand. They will integrate a Social Media and SEO hybrid into your SEO campaign strategy. You should be able to read proper case studies to prove their worth, accompanied by regular reports from Google Analytics whose information can be trusted and not manipulated. They also follow search engine optimization and publishing guidelines and stay up to date with trends and algorithm changes. In addition, everything you pay for will be documented in a clear and understandable format. Their website will not look like a dollar store front window.
How Do You Measure SEO Success?
We measure our SEO success through traffic reporting, rankings in the search engines, and lead/conversion rates. Ultimately, did you get a return on your investment? The calculations are not difficult to make if you have before/after report on traffic. To check if you had a good ROI, you can simply look at the percentage increase in traffic. If that resulted in more revenue and a good position in search for appropriate keywords, then you probably chose well and can claim success.
SEO strategies have come a long way since the 1990’s. Successful SEO is now based on keeping up with algorithm updates, watching and reacting to ranking trends, and taking the appropriate steps to combat web spam (as viewed in Google’s eyes) on your own website. You would expect your SEO company to do this for you, but it pays to understand what they are doing and why before you pay out any cash for SEO. “If it looks too good to be true it probably is” has rarely been more appropriate.
SEO has always been a long-term effort for those who are successful at it. Choosing the right SEO company is largely about trusting that they are prepared for a long term effort, and knowing what that effort will involve. We all want to go viral and see those huge traffic numbers but in reality few ever do; if they do, it is usually very short-lived and hard to replicate. Making the right choices in selecting an SEO firm can require little more than common sense accompanied by an innate disbelief in SEO hype. A little background checking does not go amiss either. Always keep in mind that your SEO company is going to determine your online business success to quite an extent – Choose carefully my friends.