Well done search engine optimisation, often called SEO for short, is designed to allow websites to show up in search results when people search for products and services rather than simply company names. The idea is that people looking for things online are able to find a business website without any prior knowledge of the business or its name. There are all manner of tricks and techniques which fall under SEO, but the good sustainable methods (also sometimes called “white hat SEO”) are based around the idea of making your website easier for search engine to read and understand, meaning they rank you higher in searches for appropriately relevant terms.
It is not uncommon to decide to outsource SEO to external marketing agencies and other companies, but there are far too many dodgy types out there who like to take companies seeking SEO – especially local and small businesses – for a very expensive ride. How then does one actually go about finding a good, honest and legitimate search engine marketer?
It is actually incredibly easy to find a decent SEO agency online. Go to a search engine like Google or Bing and type in “SEO agency.” Ignoring the paid ads at the top, whichever firm has landed at the top of the search results are what you want – they must be pretty good at SEO or their own website wouldn’t be so high in the natural listings!
To narrow things down a bit, you could try extending your search. Say you live in Essex and want a local agency – just type in “SEO agency Essex.” Or if your website is specialised and you want particular help with it you can add your industry or site type – “SEO tourism” or “SEO eCommerce” for example. This can be a great way to find niche SEO agencies who have specialist expertise in your field.
Sometimes SEO agencies (or at least people claiming to be SEO agencies) try to solicit companies by sending them emails or submitting contact forms with various enticements and offers. However if you see something like this come in then it is best to ignore it – if a company which supposedly specialises in search engine optimisation is reduced to spamming inboxes to get business rather than, say, doing SEO so their own website ranks highly and people can find them anyway, chances are they aren’t very good. The same is true of SEO services advertised on paid ads at the top of search engines or on banner ads on other websites. If their search marketing is any good, why are they having to pay for their placements?
Another thing to bear in mind is to steer well clear of any SEO agency that promises you “top position for x keywords” or something similar. Nearly all modern search engines used personalised searching, meaning that everyone sees websites in slightly different ranking positions depending on their personal search history. Absolute rankings are a thing of the past, any anyone claiming to deliver this kind of service is lying through their teeth. Modern SEO will use sustainable “white hat” techniques in order to bring useful traffic to your website, not use exploits and dodgy tricks, which will constantly get them slapped by search engine updates like Google’s infamous Panda and Penguin algorithm changes.
Once you’ve found an SEO company that looks mostly all right you’ll need to ask them some questions before you leap into their services. As well as the usual checks like existing client list and testimonials, it is a good idea to speak to someone directly on the phone or in person. Here are some good questions to ask them.
- Who does their search marketing work? Is it handled by in-house staff? Do they do any outsourcing, especially to foreign companies? A lot of agencies outsource to cheap link builders in Asia who tend to produce very low quality work that can have a negative impact on websites in the medium to long term.
- How often do they report, and what format do these reports take? Any professional SEO agency should be providing regular updates to all its clients, along with written reports detailing actions taken and progress made.
- What kind of skills and qualifications do they have? Take a look at their existing client lists for any recognisable big names, and see if they have anyone who is Analytics qualified. Some companies even use quality standards like ISO 9001 which is an excellent sign.
- What else do they do? A lot of these companies are primarily website designers who are resellers for outsourced SEO services to boost their profits. It is better to look for an online marketing specialist to ensure you get a good quality service.
If you don’t have the money to hire a professional SEO agency there are other options available. Some companies will let you pay for a one off website review to make recommendations on how to improve your site from a search marketing perspective, or you could research current techniques and ideas to do SEO for yourself.
Many online marketing methods are in fact startlingly simple. Boost your domain authority by getting other relevant sites to link back to yours. Get a backlinks boost as well as general marketing benefit by using social media like Facebook. Keep your website full of regularly updated and good quality content to encourage people to link to you as well as grow the site’s visibility and importance. Use a good, solid SEO plugin for your content management system, and make sure your website’s code is error free.
Remember you’ll get a natural boost from modern search engines if your website is
- Well designed, easy to use and nice to look at
- Full of good, up to date and useful content designed for real people, not search engine robots
- Free of errors, fast loading and devoid of spammy ads or buggy code
Happy website marketing, everyone!