Search Engine Optimization Basics…
Most of us will know by now that SEO is in fact a basic acronym for “Search Engine Optimization” or even “Search Engine Optimizer”. All businesses will at some point consider the option of hiring and SEO guru, however most do not realize, just how BIG the decision is. The simple fact is that whilst any true SEO guru will in fact improve your site and save you time, there is also that risk the SEO could in fact damage your site and perhaps more seriously your reputation.
A recent comment from our friends over at Media Wilde, highlights this:
SEO is one of those amazing concepts and chalked full of valuable data, that if you don’t understand it or find it the least bit interesting, it will lose you, and that can be detrimental to your business if you are web based.
Darby Gates – Media Wilde
Generally most SEO consultants will offer other services to help boost your site performance and reputation.
Analysis of your site content or structure. Technically advanced advice on website development, (normally in a report format). Site and Online Content development plans Structured Management of online business development campaigns In-depth Keyword research SEO training for your business or staff Expertise in specific markets and geographies.
As a base line for this article, we are going to use the basic rules and ethics of Google.
At this point it is important to understand that all Google search results are organic based, by this we mean that Google do not accept any payments in order to increase your page presence or ranking withing within their results feeds. The results shown in searches are noturally producted using their algorithm systems. It does not cost anything to to appear within Google’s results pages, Google even provide all site owners with a number of free SEO tools including Webmaster Tools, Official Webmaster Blog and Google’s own discussion forum, (although the tools are free, you will need a Google account to use some of them). These tools are all designed to enable SEO to become a more simplified method of marketing for the basic business owner. So we have pointed out that all Google search results are placed free of charge, and you are perhaps thinking, “but that is not true“, the fact is, it is true, Google only accept payment for adverts to be placed near search results under the “Sponsored Links” banner. Whilst the premise is search based and results driven any company can use various Google systems such PPC in order to have their “Advert” placed near the search results.
As we mentioned, most business owners at some point or another look at the option of out sourcing SEO or attempting to do their own SEO work. Either of which is perfectly viable and logical. However before you even start playing around in sea of SEO rules, regulations and even tools, we highly recommend that you do some research first to avoid causing more damage than good. As we are using as the guide for learning SEO tactics and rules, what better place to start than within Google’s own content.
Google Webmaster Guidelines Google 101: How Google crawls, indexes and serves the web.
Before you embark on your new SEO marketing adventure, try to review the above several time to ensure that you understand it and it’s content. By this time you should be in a far better position to decide if you can do this yourself and more importantly you have to time to do it correctly, or if perhaps hiring an SEO consultant is the preferred route for your business. Regardless of the route you take, in order to gain the maximum leverage when undertaking this project it is also worth considering a site re-design or re-launch. It can not be stressed enough how important it is to have your SEO plan in place prior to any launch, therefore working and building on a good solid SEO foundation, if you are employing an SEO consultant, they can work on a practical search engine structure with you. Most SEO consultants will consider working on existing sites on the basis they have something to build on.
If you have opted for the later option and wish to sub-contract your SEO work out, again, you should do some research and use a trusted SEO consultant.
Useful questions to ask an SEO include:
Do you have examples of your previous work you can show me and can you share any success stories? How often do you check Google Webmaster Guidelines? What online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business? What kind of results can we expect to see, and in what timeframe? How do you measure the success of your SEO plans? What do you know about my industry? What experience do you have in my country/city? What’s your experience developing international sites? What do you consider your most important SEO techniques? How long have you been in SEO business? How can I expect to communicate with you? How often will you be providing reports back to us detailing the results and future plans? Will you warn us in advance if changes are needed to our site?
Whilst SEO consultants will provide great valuable services to their clients, just like any other other industry the unethical SEO consultants have given the industry a bad reputation due to their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate the search engine results. Methods that basically violate the guidelines of most Search Engine systems and generally result in a negative footprint for your sites ranking in the search engines.
A few points to consider:
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:
Your website: http://www.?????????????????.com/ is missing out on at least 300 visitors per day. I came to this page via Google but it was hard to find as you were not on the front page of search results. I have found a website which offers to dramatically increase your traffic to your site: http://??????????.com/web-traffic/. I managed to get over 10,000 visitors per month using their services, you could also get lot more targeted visitors than you have now. Hope this helps 🙂 Take care.
The unforgivable promise “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Search Engines“.
No matter how good the SEO consultant is with his sales patter, beware of SEOs that promise or guarantee rankings, claiming to have a “special relationship” with search engine companies, or claim to have a “priority submit” system with search engine companies. There is no priority submit for search engines. In fact, the only way to submit a site to most search engine sites is directly through their public Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do both of these yourself at no cost whatsoever.
Secretive Sales Banter:
Just like anything technical, it can become a minefield of terminology, that you simple just don’t understand. Never be afraid to ask question for an complete explanation. Keep asking until you are clear in your own mind that your SEO is using ethical methods. Some SEO’s have been known to create deceptive or misleading content on behalf of their customers, with things such as “doorway page” or “throwaway” domains, both of these alone could result in your site being completely removed search engine index’s. As your SEO consultant is representing your company, it is your responsibility to ensure they are using good codes of practice. Most SEO consultants will require access to your server through basic FTP, this alone is placing a great deal of trust in them. We would advise that you request a weekly diary in advance noting any changes they will be making to your server files and your site.
SEO’s with Linking Power.
Many SEO’s have been know to talk of the power of online marketing through “free-for-all” linking systems. Linking sites together through popular link sharing systems and schemes or perhaps submitting your site to thousands of search engines. Generally these are seen as pretty pointless exercises that have very little if any affect on the search engine results with the major search engines. These methods are seen as nothing more than money pits, you spend for little results.
Whilst you are considering to use any SEO consultant, we would advise you to do some basic industry research. Any basic search through the internet will yield results from various resources. We would advise perhaps check out the search engine sites and their support pages first, this way you know the information is accurate and to the point. Whilst you are doing your research, without a doubt you will find cautionary results that are being highlighted by the media. These are generally caused when SEO’s have used unethical business practices within the SEO industry. Do your research and Be careful.
Watch the Money Pot and know where your budget is being spent.
It is important to also understand where your money is going and to ensure it is simply being spent on “SEO Marketing” and not on “Company Advertising”.
These are not one and the same thing, as so many companies believe. Some search engine systems, combine various advertising promotions such “Pay Per Click” or “Pay For Inclusion”. It is important that you know the difference between these two systems. Whilst it is all good that your new SEO consultant can show your “Advert” on page one of bing. However are you sure that the results content you are seeing is in fact honest SEO marketing and not a simple paid for advert. In basic, the simple method to spot the difference would simply be the fact your “Advert” would not be listed in the search results section of the web page, it might be listed to the right of the results or perhaps even as a banner on the page. This is a well known tactic of SEO consultants in fooling you that you are getting good SEO results, however it is in fact an illusion. Remember you can always check your results on your own computers at any time.
Another well known code of practice with some SEO consultants would be to create “Shadow” domains that are claimed to funnel users to the site of the SEO choosing using deceptive redirect links. Generally these shadow domains will be owned and controlled by the SEO, who will be claiming to be working on your behalf. Baring in mind that business relationships do not always run smooth and can sometimes work out badly. Should this happen with your SEO consultant, the question is, what will happen to that shadow domain, in basic, the SEO will probably point the links to their other clients or perhaps worse for you to your competition. These sites are owned by the SEO and there will be nothing you can do about it. Should you at any time hear the term “shadow domains” or even the reference to that style of system, we advise you to say no thanks.
Another known illicit practice would be to place “doorway” pages fully loaded with various keywords on their client’s site. Generally the SEO implies that this will make the page more relevant for the search engine results page. The fact is, this practice is inherently false, individual pages are relevant to their core subject and not for a wide range of keywords. SEO consultants have also been known to add links to their other clients within the pages of your doorway pages. Doorway pages that are overloaded with keywords will inevitable drain the popularity of the links.
SEO warning signs.
What should you be looking out for?
The above list is by no means an in-depth view of things to look out for, these are simply some of the basics and perhaps more common. The bottom line, is simply trust your instinct and always be a position to walk away at any time.
SHould you find yourself in the position where you feel any SEO consultant has mislead you, you should make it your responsability to report it. Most countries have systems in place to protect businesses and consumers from such activities, but if they are unaware of it they can not respond.
You can use this link to report it online http://www.econsumer.gov/english/report/overview.shtm