The rapid proliferation of business operations and marketing via the Internet has resulted in fierce competition between websites for the users’ attention. It is thus of utmost importance that your website has maximum exposure, and search engine optimization (SEO) can greatly enhance this. What search engine optimization basically entails is the modification of a website in such ways that it achieves a high ranking in search engine listings for relevant terms to your product or service offering. A high placement for relevant terms should lead to more qualified traffic to your site.
The SEO process, however, is not a simple one, and should be left to the experts. Equally important is that these experts must be reputable. Aggressive and unethical search engine optimization tactics have resulted in many websites being penalized and even removed from search engine indexes. At the other extreme, inefficient and incompetent work will result in you paying for an insignificant change in your site ranking. Thus for the average businessperson who is not highly versed in search engine technology, the job of selecting a reputable search engine company can be a daunting and dangerous one. However, do not be put off – the Return on Investment of this marketing tool can be huge, in comparison with traditional marketing methods. The following suggestions will help to make the selection process simple and secure.
Although no company can guarantee you a number one position on all search engines, it is essential that you define goals in search engine ranking that you would like to reach. This will allow you to easily assess the success of the campaign at a later stage, while giving the consultant a clear idea of what you need. Decide if you require short term or long term optimization, as this will affect your budget and also point you to specific services suited to your goals.
For example, you may want to implement and maintain search engine optimization for your site on a long term basis, and you may want to have added to this a more assertive short term exposure for your business or product over a specific period. For this short term objective, services such as Pay-per-click (PPC) or Pay-for-inclusion (PFI) may be suitable. These services entail giving your site prime placement in either the actual search results listing or on the same page as listed high ranking sites, for which you pay a fee. It is not necessary to understand the intricacies of these systems and services, just be certain of your marketing goals and strategy, and what you intend to gain from search engine optimization.
The vast number of available firms may be intimidating. In order to narrow the scope, consider these suggestions:
You will need to carefully evaluate the companies during your initial search as well as during subsequent meetings or correspondence, in order to find a trustworthy and proficient firm. It is recommended that you meet the consultants in person if possible, so as to establish a better impression of their business practice. The following are crucial deciding factors which you should use in your selection process from the very beginning of your search:
It is recommended that you pick a firm that is experienced in the industry and has valid references and reports to prove it.
Check references to ensure that specific job claims were actually done by the firm that you are considering. Also ask these companies whether the search engine optimization agency delivered in terms of service and results. You will quickly discover if there is anything suspicious or unsatisfactory about the agencies by talking to their other clients.
The company should be able to show you reports clearly detailing success in search engine ranking for their current or previous clients.
Success is indicated by a good website placement across a range of the most popular search engines, for a variety of popular keywords or phrases. A high position for one unpopular keyword on one obscure search engine does not equal success. The reason for this is that SEO companies add key words and phrases to your site content and HTML coding for a search engine spider to detect. If these terms are hardly or never typed into search engines, their addition to your site is completely useless. In the same way, high ranking on an obscure search engine is meaningless. For current ratings of the popularity of search engines, investigate the Nielsen Netratings page at Search Engine Watch (www.searchenginewatch.com). Wordtracker (www.wordtracker.com) is a program that is helpful in determining the popularity of keywords or phrases as searched by Internet users.
The reports should also show that good results are maintained over a period of time (at least six months). SEO is a very competitive field, with search engines regularly changing their rules and structures, requiring that a site’s ranking be constantly monitored and any problems or decline in position addressed. When viewing these reports, enquire as to the frequency of reporting (it should be monthly), as well as the methods of presenting the information. Reports should contain unprocessed data in addition to comprehensible summaries of the data (e. g.in chart form which allows for easy comparison between variables) and suggestions for any improvements or adjustments.
Enquire as to the techniques employed to optimize sites. Steer clear from firms that use methods of redirection such as “cloaking”, “doorway” or “bridge” pages. These methods basically involve pages hidden to the Internet user that are heavily loaded with popular keywords. Many search engines, in particular Google, claim that these tactics are deceptive and unethical and they will heavily penalize (and even remove) sites that use them.
Your site should not need to link to the SEO agency’s site. This often implies a redirection method which is not only risky but will also potentially reduce the amount of exposure and traffic to your site.
Beware of companies that avoid your questions or are not open about their techniques – this usually implies dishonest business operations.
Make sure that the company manually submits websites to indexes, and does not use software to do so. They should also provide you with a receipt of submission. Also be careful of companies that plan to submit your site to thousands of search engines – this method prefers quantity over quality and is quite futile.
Do not buy into a service that involves searching directly from the browser window – this requires specialized software that most Internet users will not have.
The company should help you with selections of keywords and phrases which are relevant to your business and popular with search engine users. Check their optimization plans for your site, and the extent to which they may want to change your site content and design. Ideally you do not want to compromise on your site design or visitors’ ease of navigation. It is generally beneficial to employ SEO services at the beginning of your site development process, so that money does not get wasted on site redesigning.
Link popularity is another optimization strategy used, which involves linking popular sites to your site. However this is not a simple process and double check that it does not involve “free-for-all” “link farms” (mentioned earlier) which will only detract from your site’s exposure.
Quality and ethical business practice are two aspects that you definitely do not want to compromise on when it comes to selecting a search engine optimization company. Generally, a more experienced company will charge higher fees and should guarantee you a successful, low-risk campaign. Obviously younger companies exist that can do the same thing for a cheaper rate, but be sure that you are convinced of their competence and reliability before you sign them on. If in doubt, wait until you find a company that you are comfortable with.
Agencies differ in payment methods. Some charge a monthly fee and guarantee a certain amount of top 10 or top 20 results. Others make use of a Cost-per-click system which involves paying a fixed fee per every click made on your website link. This means that you only pay if traffic is directed to your site, although there is a danger of going beyond your budget.
Be clear on the quotation breakdown, ensuring that you understand which fees apply to long-term inclusion in search results and which apply to short-term advertising (such as Pay-per-click or Pay-for-inclusion campaigns).
Make the final selection and begin the search engine optimisation campaign proposal
After scrutinizing candidates according to the abovementioned factors, you should have a shortlist of potentials to choose from. If you are faced with a number of suitable prospects, pick the company that you are likely to get along with best, i. e. follow your gut reaction. If you do not feel particularly secure with any firm, rather hold on and keep looking. You will most probably be starting a long-term partnership with the SEO company, in which case you will want to be certain of your choice.
Before signing a contract, be sure that the agency will not simultaneously work with any of your competitors, as this could severely jeopardize your campaign’s effectiveness. You should also have full ownership of the optimized pages, in case you discontinue the service or replace the firm. These conditions should be stated in the contract. The contract should also state the company’s commitment in adhering to ethical standards of practice. Expect to wait at least 2-3 months before you see any results.
This article has been provided by the Approved Index . They have created a directory of Approved SEO Agencies that are based in the UK. Use their free site to compare and request free quotes for your search engine marketing requirements.