Great ! You chanced upon SEO and are thinking of doing it. ( SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, is simply the practice of putting your website on the first page of Search Engine Results Page for search terms related to your product/service.)
Unless you are an IT nerd, or have someone in your company who is, choosing a SEO company can be a daunting task. There are so many jargons involved such as on-page SEO, backlinks etc. Everyone sells the ‘same’ thing but at various prices. Your company’s growth is at stake and you want to make the right choice.
I have seen businesses that drag on for months and months without being able to come to any decision. The time spent on SEO work itself would have provided results for the company! Speed is crucial to a company in today’s fast paced world. Here are 10 things(dont worry, its laymen) that will aid you in making your decision.
SEO in name
I remember reading the news about a particular education institution in Singapore offering degrees that are illegitimate. The poor students who hold certificates from that school ended up being dismissed from their positions in their respective companies.
Well, this is what illegitimate SEO can do to your business- being “dismissed” from Google.
No one will hang a signage outside their company that says “ we are fake”. How do you then differentiate whats legit and what is not?
Its hard, but you can have an idea by asking these 2 questions:
Do they have client’s website that is still up in Google results page after one year ?
Are they offering excessively cheap prices for their SEO services ?
Tactics to be used
Ineffective SEO is also outdated SEO. Look out for old SEO strategies in the proposal you receive. An example would be submission to article directories. It used to work very well as a SEO strategy but has since been killed by Google , as announced by Matt Cutts from Google webspam team.
Companies that do not live and breathe SEO will not have the means to follow the trend and update their strategies all the time. Look at the strategies to be used. This is a way for you to suss out the serious from the not-so-serious players.
There is no official certification on SEO. Google doesn’t provide it, neither does Yahoo or any other search engines. You may have seen Google Partners accreditation and those are testament to the experience of the agencies on SEM(Search engine marketing) which is the paid side of Google marketing only. Indicator of SEO expertise really boils down to results.
I know, this only makes your decision-making process even more laborious as differentiating who knows their stuff becomes nearly impossible. That is why some actually resort to learning basic SEO prevent themselves from getting cheated.
Big vs small
There are gigantic SEO agencies out there. There are also one-man shows. Given the same price, many would gravitate towards the giants, so here is the other side of the coin that I would like to present. SEO is anti-market, which means that the more a particular strategy or network is being used, the less likely it will work.
Sites such as Ezine articles used to be a great SEO booster, until too many people came onboard and got it axed by Google. Companies with a massive number of clients will use economy of scale to reduce their costs, but can end up limiting your SEO results.
I was given one shopping advice by a friend of mine which I found to be extremely valid – Dont buy a shoe from a clothes retailer.
In the SEO world, it is common to find different companies factoring SEO as part of their package to sweeten the deal or as a upsell. These companies may or may not even be IT-related businesses. SEO moves so rapidly and has undergone drastic changes over the past few years, a SEO specialist can hardly catch up with the industry, let alone a part-time SEO provider.
Don’t forget, making shoes is different from making clothes. There may be exceptions but generally, being good in one doesn’t spill over to the other.
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Difference between SEO and SEO
SEO packages can vary greatly from one company to the other. Due to Google’s repeated emphasis on the importance of user experience, SEO has become more all-encompassing. SEO in the more conventional sense includes only linkbuilding and tweaking of on-page factors on the website, but has now evolved to incorporate web design and content development for optimal user experience.
Strictly speaking, it is not part of SEO, but a more holistic SEO consultant will also think about how to make your user feel like a king when landed on your website. The good side effect of this is that holistic SEO can also indirectly push up your conversion rate. That means ka-ching for you too.
I know, you want to engage a SEO agency that has produced some results within your industry and it makes perfect sense. However, bear in mind that conflict of interest may come into play. A SEO company should not be helping more than 3 clients rank for the same set of keywords. Some companies that want to protect the interest of their client only take one client per niche. Check if your SEO company (especially big ones) already have too many clients competing for your keyword.
Lets be clear, SEO and rankings doesn’t always lead to traffic, conversion and ultimately revenue. If you rank for a low search-volume keyword or one devoid of buying intent, then the sale will come, but in 100 years. Ideally, the SEO company should not only show you their past successes in terms of ranking, but also actual traffic and business results.
They can track all these by looking up the analytics data. A skilled SEO practitioner is not only a technie but also a businessperson who monitors the results and takes into consideration potential revenue. Upon analysis, in some cases, SEO is not suitable for your business and should not be carried out. That brings us to the next point.
Do they know your business
SEO is both science and art. A good SEO should not only consider marketing from the technical perspective but also the business point of view. You can tell that through their selection of keywords. Normally, SEO consultant will provide you with an initial list of suggested keywords to target. They should be asking questions to further their understanding of your business.
Through a deeper level of insight, one can dig out keywords which are low-hanging fruits that competitors are missing out on. There’s no point reaching the top of the ladder only to find it leaning against the wrong wall. The choice of keywords selection can make or break your SEO effort and it starts with an understanding of your business.
Do they know their stuff
SEO companies guard their exact methodology like a Coca-cola recipe. Hence it is unlikely they reveal exactly which websites they use to build backlinks, but they should be able to provide a general overview specific to your situation. Why is your website not ranking ? Is it indexed in Google ? Is it penalized ? Is it filled with too many images ? This is where you can gauge if they know what they are doing or just outsource their work.
Last but not least, if everything else fails, fall back on your guts
I learnt about this from a client and I find it to be very useful in running my business. He approaches a hiring decision with his guts and is right about the person 90% of the time. Its the same with employee, vendor or even partners(both in business and in life).
Likewise, the other party may check all your boxes, but if something doesn’t feel right, then you wanna give it a 2nd thought. This stuff is not just fluff, by the way. Your ‘guts’ is the workings of your subconscious mind toiling on the background doing its supercomputer calculations, as Malcom Gladwell discusses extensively in his book ‘Blink’.
So, there you go ! Equipped with these 10 points, you have become a savvy SEO consumer. You are not just choosing blindly but making informed choice about your company’s growth plan. All the best!
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Ted is the director of Ice Cube Marketing. His insights on marketing has been featured in AsiaOne Business, Singapore Business Review , e27 and TechinAsia. He graduated with a 1st class honors degree in Business IT from NTU. While not planning campaigns for clients, he enjoys a good read on books related to psychology.