Search Engine Optimization is a fairly nebulous concept that most people only partially understand. While grasping the entire process is not mandatory in order to hire an SEO firm, it is essential to know how educated the prospective SEO specialists are, and what they should and should not do.
So far, universities have not created a degree specifically for SEO, but a good Search Engine Optimization specialist spends a lot of time researching search engines and strategies available to get a website listed quickly and highly. This research can take anywhere from 20% to 75% of a full 40 hour week, depending upon the activity of search engines like Google and MSN. The rest of the time is spent putting this knowledge to use on client websites or educating others on the best practices for website optimization.
Like accounting or law, SEO is a very specialized industry with lots of possible pitfalls that only experts can help you avoid. When you hire a company like Blizzard Internet Marketing to perform your Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization, you need to trust in that company and know that they will listen to your goals and work to achieve them for you. In other words, you should tell the SEO what you want to get out of their work, and then let them work just like you would with a lawyer or an accountant.
When you hire an accounting firm to do your taxes or a law firm to write a contract, you would not hire another firm to do the same work over again. SEO works the same way; the results of duplicating efforts could be worse than just two separate copies of a contract. Hiring two SEO firms means that you not only waste money, but that the achievements of one may be cancelled by the second; you run the risk of destroying hard earned rankings.
With this in mind, below are the 13 things to keep in mind when hiring an SEO:
- If the SEO promises a certain rank in the Search Engines, they are lying. No one can promise a certain rank, those are only controlled by the Search Engines and no one else.
- Guaranteed Search Engine submission means about the same thing as guaranteed rankings… nothing. We submit clients to over 1,000 search engines, but that does mean that a site will be added to any particular search engine’s index of sites.
- Many places claim to have Certified Search Engine Optimization Specialists on staff, but watch where they are certified from. Check out these certifications and ask questions; some certification companies are bogus, but some are very good. One certification that we do trust is one administered by the Search Engine Workshops, a program designed and run by three highly respected, knowledgeable, and experienced search engine “gurus”.
- Check the SEO’s website and see what phrases you think they should rank for in the search engines. For instance, Blizzard Internet Marketing mainly targets “hospitality websites”, which Blizzard ranks third for in Google. For “hospitality website design” and “Hotel Internet Marketing”, Blizzard ranks first. Look for industry terms on the SEO’s homepage and see how the site ranks for those key terms.
- Do some background research on the SEO. Check with the online Better Business Bureau and be sure the company is in good standing. Ask your peers and even competitors if they’ve had any experience with the company. Search for that company in the search engines and read the results you find.
- If an SEO company cold calls or cold e-mails you to offer their services without prior business contacts, be wary. Most competent SEOs are able to get business through referrals and networking contacts.
- Carefully look for what they are offering you. You should be able to get a written contract with specifics of what the company is offering. If anything sounds odd, it most likely is.
- Watch out for terms like “Link Networks”, “Multiple Sites”, “Guaranteed Listings” or other similar phrases on their site or in any other advertising.
- If the SEO is unwilling or unable to explain what they are saying in terms you can understand, they most likely do not understand what they are saying either.
- Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is not a new thing and it does work. If a SEO tells you that Google, Yahoo, and MSN PPC do not work well, and that they have “the best pay per click program” that does not use usual channels (like Google or Yahoo,) or that pay per click is a new thing, they are bending the truth at best… at the least, they are taking advantage of your money.
- An SEO should freely explain what they want to do to your site, and outline the benefits of their techniques. This does not mean that they should give away trade secrets or go into specific details on how they work. It does mean that they should be able to explain, in normal, non-techie language, why whatever they want to do will help.
- Remember, you do not have to make a decision right away. If the SEO wants an instant decision, they are being pushy for a reason. If we see something that threatens to get your site removed from Google, for instance, we may stress the urgency of a decision, but will not tell you that you have to decide right away.
- You should be able to contact the SEO easily and in a number of ways. E-mail, web forms, phone, and voice mail are the least you can expect. Here at Blizzard, we offer all of those, plus you may even have an entire team working on your account, as well as an operator who will answer the phone during normal business hours.
While these are handy tips, the most important thing to keep in mind is that if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Fortunately, Google has put information in two places to help. Check out their list of things to watch out for, and their webmaster guidelines (much of this article was excerpted from that). Also, make sure that you have a good website tracker to track who comes to your site to see if the SEO is really working. If you have questions, please contact your Promotion Account Manager or Team, or email@example.com if you’re not already a Promotion client. We are always happy to answer questions.
Josh Green – Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc.