Hiring a search engine marketing company

by Gemma Maidment on 1 May 2005

If you've got the time to put in, anyone can effectively optimise a website for the search engines. However, it makes sense to hire a search engine professional when your time is better spent doing what you do best: running your business.

Where to start? Selecting a search engine marketing company can be a daunting task. To help you, we've compiled a list of features your prospective suppliers may offer you. Follow our advice for each one and you'll hopefully end up working with a great search engine marketing company!

“We'll submit your site to 25,000 search engines”

Our advice: Run away!

Any search engine marketing company that claims to submit your site to more than four or five search engines is not submitting to search engines at all. Most likely, they're submitting to free-for-all pages or they're spamming directories. Currently, the only search engines with significant traffic are Google and Yahoo! and to a small extent Teoma (used by Ask Jeeves). You don't have to submit to any search engines - they'll find your site by following links to your site.

“We offer a directory submission service”

Our advice: Keep listening!

There are search engine professionals who'll prepare and submit your listing request to the major web directories as well as industry-specific portals. This is a valuable service - a well written description as well as a carefully chosen directory category can improve your chances of getting listed quickly and accurately.

Directory listings are valuable links that add to your link popularity and can send traffic in their own right. Many web directories are still free but several have paid options that can speed your review. Directories such as Yahoo! and Business.com are paid listings only. Directory submission specialists can let you know what options and fees are available.

“We won't change a thing on your site”

Our advice: Run away!

Companies that do their search engine optimisation off-site by building a mini-network of sites or pages on their own site that point to yours aren't really optimising your site. They may send you traffic, but when you stop paying, the traffic goes away. You can do that yourself with PPC listings!

Other companies create software-generated ‘doorway’ or ‘information’ pages - these pages are often created with nonsense words sprinkled with keyword phrases and meant to appeal to the search engine algorithms. The key is that they're only for search engine spiders to see, not humans. They may work for a short while, if at all. The problem is that these pages have no links pointing to them and aren't very important in the eyes of the search engines, therefore they're not very effective.

The most dangerous companies will tell you that you won't ‘see’ any of their changes - they add hidden links, hidden text, and other tricky techniques designed to fool search engine spiders. Some create different pages that are only shown to search engine spiders - this is referred to as cloaking. These techniques can and will eventually get your site penalized or banned from the search engines.

“We can optimise your site for the search engines”

Our advice: Keep listening!

A professional search engine marketing company is likely to work with you on keyword research, change your tags, your copy, possibly your links and other code on the page. They will optimise the page making itfriendly to both people and search engines while making it relevant to the keywords you've agreed upon.

They may recommend you remove splash pages, frames, Flash navigation, JavaScript links, or other things that interfere with the user experience and hinder search engine spiders. While there are workarounds and techniques that can help with situations like these, they are not the optimal solution. Even if you choose to leave search-unfriendly elements on your page, your search engine marketing company should point them out to you and advise you of the best option.

“We guarantee #1 listings in the search engine results”

Our advice: Run away!

No one can guarantee you a #1 listing in the search engines' algorithmically determined results for a specific term. The search engines don't have special agreements with anyone that allows them to choose where your site will appear.

Often the guaranteed terms are ‘guinea pig’ terms - words no one is searching for or optimising for that even a guinea pig could get you #1 search engine rankings for! Remember that a guarantee doesn't mean they have to achieve the results - simply that they'll give you your money back if they don't.

Other companies guarantee rankings on PPC terms. That's easy enough, you just have to have a big enough wallet to be #1.

“We guarantee improved results”

Our advice: Keep listening!

A good search engine marketing company should be able to guarantee that they'll improve the performance of your site in the search engines - you shouldn't be worse off than when they started. Really good companies should be able to improve your conversions, not just your traffic and rankings. Isn't that the ultimate goal?

Don't be surprised if, after a search engine marketing company works on your site, your traffic figures decrease. Don't worry - traffic doesn't pay your bills; in fact it actually costs you bandwidth. The quality of the traffic you continue to receive should be improved - more sales or conversions in relation to the number of visitors.

The ideal situation is achieved when you narrow your search visitors to people who are interested in your site and they are easily able to find the information they want. This is more likely to occur when you stop focusing on unqualified but high traffic keyword phrases and start focusing on terms that really relate to your site.

Go with your instincts

Don't let a search engine marketing company change your pages for the worse - slapping keywords on the page here and there may improve your rankings but decrease sales. Search engine optimisationtechniques should complement and improve your site and good search engine optimisation copywriting will improve the focus of the page without losing the marketing edge.

You should feel confident that the search engine marketing company you hire knows what they're doing and is willing to explain what they'll do to your site and why. There really aren't any secrets in search engine marketing anymore - you can spend a few hours reading at any of the major search engine forums to find out how things work. If a search engine marketing company isn't willing to tell you what they plan to do to your site to drive more traffic, you may have a mess to clean up later.

Ask for examples of the search engine marketing company's other work; it's the best way to see what they do and how. Don't just look at the ranking reports, take a look at the page and make sure it reads well and isn't using sneaky tactics. Above all, pick someone you trust.

This article was written by Scottie Claiborne. Scottie is the owner of Right Click Web Services, a firm specializing in usability, search engine optimisation, and Internet marketing.

Design & Promote says 10:55am 07 Jan 2016

This are great tips for customers searching for a SEO company. There are more optimal ways to do SEO and marketing those services can be different depending on the person or company.

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