Making the right decision when choosing your SEO partner has major consequences for your business and your bank account. The difference between a boom in organic traffic and a decrease in Google rankings comes down to choosing between a good and bad SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, specialist. But with the right SEO partnership, businesses in any sector can increase sales and decrease their advertising budget -- all while improving user experience.
Every company offering SEO related services promises results but few deliver on that promise. To be the exception when it comes to delivering on that promise a SEO partner must take an approach that ensures quality results that meet YOUR business objectives.
There are lots of 'unethical' approaches to SEO that can actually get you banned from search engines. Unfortunately, some SEO companies still use these as a 'quick-fix.' Unfortunately, you get left holding the bag. Make sure the SEO company can explain their approach in terms you can explain and if they can't you should keep searching.
Before locking into a contract with a new SEO firm, here are tips every business owner should look for:
First, they should demonstrate that they understand your business need.
Just giving you a questionnaire is not enough. At the beginning of any engagement, they should take the time to understand your business objectives. Your business is unique and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach rarely actually fits every business. By taking the time to understand your business they should be able to tailor their services to best meet your business objectives as well as your budget.
Second, they should use a proven model of optimization that offers 'realistic' expectations.
Ignore marketing hype like "Rank #1 in Google in 24 hours” Search engines do not make public the process or rules they use to crawl, rank pages or index website pages. Further the processes and rules change often as the search engines attempt to increase the value of search results. Of course, if your keyword phrase is "one of a kind white unicorns hand made by a grandmother in Peoria" then you actually have a good shot of # 1 ranking if anyone actually ever searched for that. Otherwise, it takes time and lots of work to get high rankings.
To compensate for this lack of public information, an SEO partner should rely on a proven model to ‘uncover’ the rules.
- Analyze – Determine where your pages rank today. From this you can learn what may be ‘right’ about these higher ranking that can be applied to other pages.
- Target – Every web site is unique. Rather than a set of ‘canned’ optimization recommendations they should determine the right optimization options for your website. To accomplish this, they should use a range of methods:
- Expert Review. While many SEO partners have great in-house experience, they should also turn to other experts who study search engines to determine the most likely ‘rules’ used to determine how pages are indexed and ranked.
- Best Practices. They should look at the top-ranking competitors in your space to determine how they optimized their pages, particularly those aspects that could influence page rankings.
- Learn as they Optimize. They should consider implementing changes to larger sites in stages. Start by optimizing your highest value pages first, then, based on the results modify the optimization approach if needed before continuing.
- It’s More than Google. While organic search results are a key portion of any optimization effort, they should know that it takes much more to get quality traffic to your website. They should be able to help you go beyond the search engines to find your new traffic.
- Optimize – They should be able to provide the detailed information you need to understand what needs to be done to your website. They should also be willing to let you make the changes rather than forcing you to allow them to make the changes at substantial per hour fees.
- Analyze - SEO is not a one-time effort. Your business changes, your competitors change, your prospects and customers change and the search engines refine rules. This means you will need to periodically review your ranking and re-optimize your site. You should expect your SEO partner to provide 'follow-ups' to ensure that you got results.
Third, their approach should be comprehensive and include all the aspects that bring traffic to your website, not just search engines. Make sure they will provide
- Detailed Site Analysis - You need to understand from where your site is starting.
- Keyword Analysis - All keywords are not created equal. They should help you understand which ones to use, and as importantly, which ones not to use.
- Page Structure Recommendations - Content, headers, keyword placement, it all matters.
- Engine Submissions - Each engine is unique. 'Submit a link' programs are not effective.
- Paid Search - The internet is like any business, sometimes 'free' isn't worth even that.
- Reciprocal Links - As with keywords, all links are not created equally.
Finally, the right SEO partner should work hand in hand with you to make sure the changes recommended for your website are the best fit for you. They should share their approach to making the changes to your website and should be flexible to make changes in a way that best supports your business needs.
Selecting a SEO partner can be intimidating. With all the marketing hype, it is easy to get fooled. In the end SEO is like any other business service you use. You should be able to understand the benefits, and limitations, it offers and make an informed decision about how to invest your money.
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