Don’t sell your soul to dodgy SEO firmsPosted 10 April 2011 by Sandy Cosser
So, you know that you need search engine optimisation (SEO) if you want to be competitive online, but with all the stories of SEO snake oil around you’re not sure who to trust. There are a number of unethical and morally bereft SEO agencies that promise you first page rankings within a matter of days. They might even offer you a fair price. But they probably won’t give you a breakdown of their services or provide you with a detailed strategy that covers all aspects of SEO, or include analytics reports that contain more than copied and pasted graphs.
Signs that an SEO company is not on the up and up
- It sounds too good to be
You want to rule Google. You want to own that number one spot. You want traffic to go through the roof and the conversions to follow. You want it all yesterday.
Dodgy SEOs know this and exploit it. They’ll promise you first page rankings in Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, Dogpile, Excite, LeapFish and hundreds of other search engines. What’s more, they’ll promise you these awesome results within days. Sometimes they’ll even throw in a money-back guarantee. If you’re really on the ball and reply within a specified period they might even knock off a chunk of their price.
No one can guarantee you rankings. Rankings are determined by a range of factors, all of which take time to come into effect. So, not only is it impossible to guarantee rankings, but it’s impossible to guarantee a quick turnaround time.
Yes, genuine SEO will take time, but it will save you time and money in the long run, as you won’t have to untangle all the mess left behind by a company without scruples.
- Vaguely defined strategies
An SEO company with something to hide is typically hiding it with good reason. If the agency you’re considering isn’t up front about what it intends to do and how it intends to do it, the chances are that its methods are not entirely above board.
It’s very important that you ask a lot of questions and if you’re not happy with the answers then follow your gut and look elsewhere.
Some questions you might want to ask include:
- Does the company conduct a full website analysis, including navigation, coding and links?
- Does it conduct competitors’ analyses?
- Is copy writing included in the services?
- What is the company’s approach to keyword research and insertion?
- Does the company offer additional services to complement SEO?
- What kind of results can be expected and in what timeframe?
- How will results be measured?
- How often will reports be issued?
- What will the reports entail?
- Are case studies and testimonials available?
- What are the preferred methods and techniques?
You might also want to find out what they think of Google’s guidelines. Cagey answers could imply shadowy practices.
- Too much hustle and bustle
If an SEO agency is in a rush to get you signed up and isn’t willing to give you the time you need to consider the offer on the table, you might want to look elsewhere. If closing the deal is all that matters and no one takes the time to fully explain processes to you or get to know you, then the chances are that once the contract is signed your business will be put on the to-do pile.
A proper SEO firm will take the time to get to know your needs and goals. It will take pains to ensure that you understand what is required from both of you to make the process work. At the end of the negotiations you should feel like your business is in good hands.
- Link obsessed
Links are an important part of an SEO strategy, but they are not the entire strategy. If an SEO agency seems unduly focussed on links and doesn’t have any qualms about how they are acquired, walk away and do so quickly.
Other aspects that a good SEO firm should incorporate include:
- Content development.
- Online business development.
- Conversion optimisation.
- Online reputation management.
- Integration of onsite and offsite strategies.
If the strategy is too limited in its focus, the results will probably reflect the fact.
- Red light words
There are some words or phrases that should set alarm bells ringing. These have to do with practices not endorsed by Google. In fact, they have to do with practices that could see your website banished from the online world.
- Doorway pages are designed to target particularly high ranking phrases but then lead visitors to another page. They are bad.
- Cloaking is a process that involves showing search engines and website visitors different pages. It is sneaky.
- Keyword stuffing entails inserting as many keywords as possible onto a web page without any consideration for content quality or readability. It is repugnant.
- Duplicate content is the practice of using the same (or incredibly similar) content over different URLs. It is cheating.
The bottom line is that if an SEO firm doesn’t make you feel comfortable, don’t use it. Your website is a reflection of your business and if you engage in dodgy SEO practices (by way of your SEO) then search engines will assume that your business is dodgy.
You may have heard the tired phrase that says SEO is not a magic bullet. Well, it’s not. Search engine optimisation is a long-term process that won’t deliver immediate results, but it will provide you with long-term gains and help establish your reputation as a credible, reputable business enterprise.