So you’re either looking for an agency to handle your web marketing or you’re already working with a team. Question: How do you know they know what they are doing? Sure, you can read their articles and blog posts, talk to some clients they preselected as references, and see that they are members of some acclaimed SEO organizations. But can you really tell whether or not your web marketers will be successful for you? After all, it’s not like they wrote the book on web marketing! (Full disclosure, this is my book.)
It’s hard because you’re relying on the “experts” to really have a handle on current search engine algorithms. And I’m sure, if you ask, they’ll know all the names of the latest Google algorithm updates. But that’s just industry speak that tells you nothing about their skills or ability to help you grow your business.
Red Flags to Watch For
If you know what to look for, there are a few tell-tale signs that your SEO team may not be up to par. Pay close attention to what they say and you may spot some of these old-hat SEO techniques that are no longer relevant:
1. They are Building Links Like It’s 1999
Link building of 2015 and beyond is not like the link building of even just a few years ago. While quality links still have value and are an important part of an SEO campaign, the way one goes about building quality links has changed. In the past, it was about mass contact. Now it’s about quality relationships. You can still get links from the old school methods, but it’s a lot of spinning of wheels for little payoff. Starting your link campaign with quality relationships nets not only good links but additional marketing opportunities later.
2. They Think Links no Longer Matter
To the other extreme, SEOs trying to appear on the cutting edge may tell you that today’s algorithms no longer use links as a metric in their algorithms. Unfortunately, that isn’t true (with the exception of one search engine that is trying to make a name for themselves). Google has tried linkless algorithms only to find that there is still value in them! And there will be for the foreseeable future.
3. You See an Image of MSN on Their Website
MSN? Oh, wait, you mean Bing! Some SEO companies like to display logos of all the search engines they’ll get you ranked for. Recently, I even saw one SEO with a HotBot image on their home page! Really? It’s not the number of engines that matter, it’s the engines themselves. Google is the whale, Bing and Yahoo are secondary. If the SEO is touting anything more than these three, they are scraping bottom trying to prove they get results. Unfortunately, the results they say they can get you don’t matter.
4. They Offer no Social Media Marketing Plan
SEO does a lot of good, but as a stand-alone service, it’s impact is extremely limited. Good SEO, which handles on-page optimization and website architecture issues, needs to be coupled with other web marketing services such as social media marketing. In fact, social media has pretty much replaced link building as the go-to method of building relationships that turn into not just links, but added promotion and exposure for your company.
5. They Offer no Content Marketing Plan
On-page optimization and architecture will get you so far. Sooner or later you are going to need to invest in a content strategy. People want answers and information. While I’m sure your site has plenty of that, it’s not always in the best format for the people you are trying to reach. Implementing a content strategy allows you to reach new audiences in entirely new ways, all of which can be optimized for better search exposure.
6. Their Content Marketing Plan is Based on Frequency Over Value
There is nothing wrong with producing a lot of content. Blog weekly, daily, or even hourly for all I care. It all has its merits. But the frequency of your content publishing should be based entirely around 1) your goals and 2) your ability to ensure every piece of content is quality. I try to write one significant blog post per week and one short post a day. But if I can’t get a quality piece together, I don’t make my goal. Why? Because my true goal is quality and value. The timing is less important.
7. They Still Try to Reach the “Right” Keyword Density of Their Optimized Content
There is no right keyword density for properly optimized content. In fact, keyword phrases play a far less significant role in on-page optimization than they used to. Today’s optimization is more focused on the topic of the page and creating an authoritative document on that topic. Today’s SEOs are focused on the bigger picture of delivering relevance and quality of information rather than the number of keywords.
8. They Think Keywords are No Longer Relevant
In spite of that, keywords are absolutely still relevant. Again, SEOs trying to sound cutting edge will say things that keywords no longer matter. They do. When creating content on a topic, keywords help you flesh out the content your audience is interested in. No sense writing about a topic that has little interest, or focusing on a topical niche that gets only a few searches. Instead, use keyword research to determine not only the language you should use that resonates with your visitors, but what areas of that topic that they are most interested in.
9. They Tout Rankings Over Business Growth
Rankings don’t matter. Shall I say it again? Rankings. Don’t. Matter. What does matter is business growth. If I can help you increase your online exposure and grow your business without getting a single keyword ranked, have I failed or succeeded? If you say failed, then you’re looking at the wrong metrics! Rankings are just a means to grow a business. I’m not saying ignore rankings all together, but focus more on the success that the SEO brings to the company as a whole rather than rankings for keywords that may or may not be delivering sales.
10. They Think Meta Tags Get Rankings
Meta tags haven’t mattered for rankings for a long, long time. But that doesn’t mean that meta tags don’t matter. They do. Well, at least the meta description tag does. SEOs still need to optimize your meta description tag, but not for rankings. The meta description is what the search engine displays when your website comes up in search results, so it’s important that the description compels people to click. Optimize it for clicks, not rankings!
11. They Optimize Once and Then They are Done
Optimization is never done. Even on small sites where we have run every tool through the site and fixed every site architectural problem, there are still tweaks and changes that can and should be made. Beyond that, there is almost always more keywords to optimize. A good SEO will keep going back to find out what didn’t work and make it better.
12. They Still Tout PageRank as a Measure of Success
PageRank as a metric of success has officially died. Google has announced they are no longer updating the public PageRank display. But it never really was a useful metric. At least not a success metric. Who cares if you went from a PR5 to PR6? That’s not what brings in business!
If you find that your web marketers adhere to any of these irrelevancies, that should raise an immediate red flag. It’s time to explore further. Where there is smoke there’s fire, and if they believe one of these irrelevancies, there is a good chance they believe more.
If that’s your web marketing team, don’t panic. Employing these tactics probably won’t hurt your web presence, but it won’t help, either. About the only positive thing to come from those tactics is keeping an irrelevant SEO employed! You may want to consider no longer subsidizing their inadequacies and find another team that doesn’t just do web marketing but does web marketing that gets results.
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