As a SEO, I think you can only make a sound decision once you’ve had a good long chat with the company – individual whose services you’re considering hiring. The most important thing to look out for are the promises – includes the ones they don’t make. This will tell you a lot about the SEO, his experience and whether he really knows what he is talking about.
Here are some examples of what you should look out for:
1. “I’ll definitely put your website on the top 5 results”
This is misleading and unrealistic to say the least. If you’re lucky, there will be a few hundred thousand web-pages competing with yours on any given keyphrase. Any of those *could* beat you to the top. SEO projects are dynamic and depend on many factors, which makes is impossible to predict results.
A good SEO will merely provide a guide as to what the results may be (or are likely to be) since they are beyond his control.
2. “Yahoo, MSN and the others”
If the SEO starts to promise rankings on search engines other than Google, beware! Why? Well… 1. Google holds 70% of the market
2. High rankings on Google almost always mean high rankings elsewhere, and a SEO should know this.
3. Other SEs are extremely easy to climb in comparison to Google.
4. This is an easy way to divert trick you into thinking you’re reaching a large share of the market, when in fact, if you’re not on Google, you don’t have much of a market.
A good SEO will briefly explain the most popular search engines and how they differ. Then he will explain why Google has such a majority and how his work will reflect this.
3. “I’ll create another website/domain name”
One ridiculous technique employed by several companies in the UK is to create a website (or a page on another website) that will rank highly for a search term, then use that page to link to, or even worse, redirect visitors to your site. What’s wrong with this? Well…
1. It’s a common ‘black-hat’ technique. Say no more.
2. It adds no real SEO value to your website/domain. If you end your contract they pull the plug and you’re back to square one (minus a small fortune).
3. One of the most important aspects of SEO is on-site optimization. It’s about how your content is delivered to the visitors and how your content is organized and what exactly your content is.
A good SEO will carry out a thorough analysis of your website’s code, linking and content then suggest how these can be improved for optimum search engine exposure. External links are a separate topic…
4. If the explanations are vague…
SEO is a huge field and there are millions of variables involved, but in my opinion it all comes down to content delivery. SEO is about getting all the fundamental parts of your website working as smoothly as possible so that your content organized, clearly defined and accessible to visitors and spiders.
If a SEO can’t explain in detail what his strategy is, then it’s likely to fail. I explain every detail of what I do to my clients, not because I want to bore them with jargon, but because SEO is actually made up of many very simple tasks, all of which can be understood by anybody who’s ever used a computer.
A good SEO will be able to explain every task to a lamer (non-technical computer user).
5.a) You’ll be #1 in searches for your company’s name, or…
5.b) You’ll be #1 in searches for “yellow socks delivery in london sw3 on Thursday afternoons by midday”
SEO should enable your clients to find your website before knowing it evens exists. Searching for your company’s name doesn’t require SEO – the user knows what he/she is looking for. This may sound obvious but I have been offered such a service from a SEO company, apparently approved by Google.
A good SEO will thoroughly research the keywords (and variations) most commonly used by people looking for your content/services. He will come up with a list of 2/3 keyword phrases and explain how he’ll target each of those individually. “blue fishtank delivery in london sw3 on Thursday afternoons by midday” should be “fishtank delivery” or “fishtank delivery london”, depending on how fierce the competition is…
6. “We’ll see the results in 5 months”
It does not take that long! If SEO is done via the appropriate means, you should be able to analyse results within a couple a weeks. In fact, much of the work to be done by a SEO can be thoroughly tested, tweaked, fine tuned and analysed even before the project begins. This means the SEO should be able to provide reports on many aspects of SEO even before the search engines update their ranking, which allows you to keep track of your projects progress. Being in the dark for months and praying for good positions is a thing of the past.
A good SEO will have a range tools/techniques (although he may not want to share these with you) that will allow him to keep you informed of developments throughout the project.