Choosing a SEO Partner
That title makes this sound like a SEO dating website blog post. The reality is that choosing a Search Engine Optimization partner for your business is much like choosing a partner in life. One must tests your potential partner’s theology to be sure it matches your own. In the world of online marketing, there are two camps: White hat marketing that’s above board, and black hat marketing which isn’t. Many small businesses fall victim to black hat providers. How do you spot a black hat provider? Google gives you great direction here. The following advice is taken directly from Google’s SEO handbook
The Out of the Blue Approach
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:
“Dear google.com, I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…” Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.
Guarantee of 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 our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.
Doesn’t Tell You What They’re Doing
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.
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 — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.
Do Your Research
While you consider whether to go with an SEO, you may want to do some research on the industry. Google is one way to do that, of course. You might also seek out a few of the cautionary tales that have appeared in the press, including this article on one particularly aggressive SEO: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2002002970_nwbizbriefs12.html. While Google doesn’t comment on specific companies, we’ve encountered firms calling themselves SEOs who follow practices that are clearly beyond the pale of accepted business behavior. Be careful.
Follow the Money
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 our advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results, but be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
Other Warning Signs
- 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
- As had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google
If you think your current SEO provider is using any of these tactics, give us a call at our Provo Utah office at (385) 312-1555. It wont be the first time we’ve taken these sorts of calls. We have many businesses tell us that they have these sort of back hat companies trying to solicit them for their business. Don’t fall for the high pressure sales approach that many of these companies take. Do the homework and use the above guidelines to make your final decision.
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