posted in search engine optimization on 23 February 2010
by Andrew Lang
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Signs of a Dodgy SEO CompanyIf my inbox is anything to go by, SEO is a huge growth market because I'm now getting around 10-15 mails a day (across my mailboxes) promising me better rankings from various service providers. Where are all these companies coming from? I guess it's because technically, there's almost no barrier to entry when it comes to SEO. Anyone can claim to be an SEO because the core activity of link building isn't technically hard to do.
As I highlighted earlier, a lot of these service providers who want me to get better rankings seem to be already suffering from lazy marketing syndrome - I just find it hard to distinguish one sales pitch from the other, and one gmail address from the other.
But this isn't to say SEO is just full of these "unknowns" who have no proof of their work, nor even a website to show for, or even a non-free email address. SEO is a real industry, and the best companies can be worth their weight in gold.
A lot of my customers also get a lot of these emails - even cold calls - from SEO firms with their various offers. After a number of conversations with my clients coupled with my own experiences over the years, I've finally gotten round to drawing up a list of things to look out for, and some recommendations:-
Signs of a Possibly Dodgy SEO Company
- They talk purely about links, and never mention on-page optimization
- They never divulge the nature of the links they will build for your site (normally mentioning that's a competitive secret) - they should be able to give you the nature of the kind of links they will build - e.g. unique articles containing links
- They outsource some or all of their work - this one's a real killer if they're outsourcing to non-native English speakers and they end up writing gibberish articles about your company. You normally won't know this until you get your first link report. Quality control is very hard to maintain if you outsource.
- They offer absolute guarantees for positions, and if they don't achieve them, they promise they'll keep link building for free until you do get your positions. No they won't - strangely you'll never quite get those rankings months - even years after your final payment - because they never engaged in that free link building in the first place. You already paid them and they got what they wanted.
- They talk about rankings without mentioning keywords. Talking about rankings without mentioning for which specific keywords is meaningless. "we can get you top 10 in Google" is a meaningless phrase. For what keywords?
- They care only about search engine rankings, not about converting your visitors to customers (see above point about on-page optimization)
- They won't give you a "starter" package - all the prices are costly and you must commit to 6 months+ link building. With a "starter" package of even a single month - you can see results if they optimise for longtail keywords. This is often enough for them to win your trust (that's a tip for SEOs).
- They over emphasise the bureaucracy of the proposed SEO campaign - you'll get 100 reports, all detailed, all this all that. Be careful because these reports shouldn't be in lieu of good rankings. In fact you don't need over-analysis to know your rankings have improved as you'll see that through increased visitor stats. Remember that's what their core service should be, not presenting elaborate reports (which are often generated quite easily, but make it look like they've done a lot of work).
So What to Look FOR?
- The SEO company has a track record, and can prove it
- They can give you a kind of "trial run" / "starter package" so you can get a sense of what's possible - often targeting longtail keywords over a short period of time
- They're focused on improving your website's goals (e.g. more sales, more signups)
- You should have a fairly good idea of what kind of links they're pointing to your website
- They do not outsource any work
- They're easily contactable - preferably talking directly with one of the SEO team working on your site
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