SEO has become more important than ever, what with Google introducing new innovations into its search engine result pages. Just consider all the changes in the last couple of years — Panda and Penguin updates, Hummingbird, Google Local Search, Local Carousel — quite a handful if you’re not an online professional yourself. That makes it essential to hire the right SEO agency that’ll take care of the SEO aspects of your website.
So, how to go about finding out the right people? After all, SEO has acquired a bit of a bad name as there are SEOs and SEO agencies that make all sorts of outlandish promises and adopt unethical practices to try and improve a site’s ranking in search results. The criteria to weed out the bad guys include: those who give “guarantees” about getting your site to the top of a search result page within a short time frame, those who focus too narrowly on accomplishing single end results such as a good PageRank, those who talk about creating lots of links to improve your site’s search ranking, and those who claim they can produce viral content.
The above is of course not an exhaustive list but it gives a general idea about the kind of SEO agencies that are best avoided. Don’t go for guys who promise you the moon.
The white hat SEO professionals can be professional, yet small. Interact with a potential partner SEO agency to learn about their techniques. The right SEO agency will take your inputs about what you do and work like partners. The real SEO professionals know that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to take care of every client’s needs. Content is king today and the true SEO professional will stress this aspect and work with clients to develop a content strategy for them.
Social media in all its diverse forms helps spread the word about any kind of business. A social media strategy can only be developed in partnership between the SEO agency and the client. Nobody can “plan” a viral video. The best you can do is to try to be innovative and creative in creating messages about yourself. If a video is funny enough, then it may go viral.
The right kind of SEO agencies will have a step-by-step program of what they plan to do in terms of SEO for your website. SEO stretches over long periods of time: not weeks, but months. It’s not a one-time act but a series of persistent actions. The good guys (the ethical SEOs) may not offer to do the job for you “at the cheapest price.” Sure. Clients should understand and appreciate that true quality costs money. No brain surgeon (or plastic surgeon for that matter) goes around marketing his or her services as being the cheapest out there. Excessive focus on “cheap” SEO services should in fact make you suspicious about an SEO agency’s credentials.
Google is trying to serve up the best results for those using it for search. As Google users learn to use it in newer ways — whether long tail search, more natural language queries, finding restaurants or movie theaters or other businesses in a specific locality — Google also is getting better at deciphering the underlying intent of the user and serving up results accordingly. Remember that some parts of the Web are close to being 20 years old. Some of the top news organizations in the world — The New York Times, CNN, Financial Times — have had a presence online for more than a decade now. Same with the top e-commerce players like Amazon. Google gives a lot of weight to this sort of longevity in determining rankings. The lesson being: you cannot just climb up the rankings in a few months. But local businesses obviously have different targets: they just want to show up in the search results when someone makes a search related to their product in a specific area. SEO agencies will help with cracking that sort of challenge.
Basically, talk to a few potential SEO agencies that you have shortlisted and ask them to tell you some real world stories about how they solved some SEO-related challenges. This would give you a sense of what they are capable of. As you interact with potential partners, you will get non-verbal cues and other hints as to how good or bad they are. Finally, go for what your gut feeling is. As long as the SEO agency puts its best foot forward, you need to give them and the process time to show up the good results. Hey, after all, cruise liner trips too can end up … well, badly.
Business owners, whether small or large, need to understand what they are really getting into when they look for SEO. It is necessary to look for firms that focus on the results you care about.