Deciding to hire an SEO agent / consultant is a big decision that can potentially improve your sites traffic and rankings as well as save you time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation.
Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO agent / consultant can do to your site. I have reviewed some useful hints / tips to keep you in the know about SEO.
Many Search Engine Optimizers, consultants and other agencies provide useful services for website owners, including:
- An SEO Audit – Review of your site content or structure
- Content development (how to rank using your content)
- Keyword research
- SEO training
- Internet / Online Marketing strategies
- Expertise in specific markets and geographies.
Keep in mind that the Google search results page includes organic search results and often paid advertisement (denoted by the heading “Sponsored Links”) as well. Advertising with Google won’t have any effect on your site’s presence in our search results. Google never accepts money to include or rank sites in their search results, and it costs nothing to appear in googles’ organic search results.
A great time to hire an SEO specialist or Agency is when you’re considering a site redesign, planning to launch a new site, want to market a new product / service or increase your bottom line. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site, depending on the market competitiveness.
Some useful questions to ask an SEO include:
Can you show me examples of your previous work?
Do you follow the SEO best practices?
Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business?
What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe? How do you measure your success?
What’s your experience in my industry?
What’s your experience in my country/city?
What’s your experience developing international sites?
What are your most important SEO techniques?
How long have you been in business?
How can I expect to communicate with you? Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?
Where is your company situated? Infrastructure? How many employees?
While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate google’s guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from google’s index. Here are some things to consider:
Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.
Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”
No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.
Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through Googles’ Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap.
Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.
Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you. If an SEO has FTP access to your server, they should be willing to explain all the changes they are making to your site.
You should never have to link to an SEO.
Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines, however if they are willing to implement a link building strategy; make sure that this is done with high traffic websites that have a good PR (page rank).
Be sure to understand where the money goes.
While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they “control” other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn’t work with Google because their advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results as displayed with the ‘sponsored links’, but be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?
One common scam is the creation of “shadow” domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client’s behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor’s domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.
Another illicit practice is to place “doorway” pages loaded with keywords on the client’s site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the SEO’s other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and its other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or illegal content.
What are some other things to look out for?
There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. It’s far from a comprehensive list, so if you have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means, feel free to walk away if the SEO:
- owns shadow domains
- puts links to their other clients on doorway pages
- offers to sell keywords in the address bar
- doesn’t distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear on search results pages
- guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
- operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
- gets traffic from “fake” search engines, spyware, or scumware
- has had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google
If you feel that you were deceived by an SEO in some way, contact me for a web evaluation or SEO Audit.