There are five important phases to good search engine optimization:
1. Keyword Research
Of all the keywords you may assume are used to research your firm’s product/service on search facilities (engines and directories), 99 percent of the time you will be wrong. It always amazes me how people actually use the search facilities, but it’s rarely the way we think they do. So, this is the essential starting point in SEO.
2. Optimizing Your Web Site
This includes rewriting your pages with the SEO keyword/phrases inserted with at least a 2.5 percent keyword density, as well as rewriting the meta tags that are in the hard coding of the pages. If someone promises you 13 percent keyword density, for example, your pages will read terribly with the keyword appearing too many times. It decreases the professional feel of your site and will lose you sales. Plus, the search facilities will penalize you for too high keyword density. Questions you’ll want to ask an SEO provider are:
a. How many pages are included in the fee?
b. Will the provider review periodically in order to edit the pages for better keyword results?
c. Will they be creating new landing pages; and if yes, are they included in the fee?
d. Who will have ownership of the rewritten text and landing page text? (You should require that you retain ownership and ask for it in writing) This also includes any domains created just for the SEO marketing, if this is done.
e. What impact will this have on your current site?
3. Site Submission
A provider should be submitting your site to the major search engines and directories. Questions to ask:
a. Do you submit each individual page or just the index page (home page)?
b. How many times will it be submitted and how frequently?
c. To which search engines and directories will the site be submitted?
d. What type of inclusion free only, paid only or both?
4. In-Link Marketing
Also known as link popularity, many search facilities view links back to your web site as indicating that your site is popular on the web, giving it a higher ranking. Unfortunately, there are several linking schemes on the web that can do you more harm than good. The search facilities are looking for “quality” back links. These are links back to your site from a site with a related topic. For example, if you are an attorney, the bar association may have a link to your web site on their site. That is a quality back link.
The popular scheme now is the articles placement scheme, where you write an article with a link back to your site and place it all over the web. Google has gotten wise to this scheme and has rewritten their algorithm to exclude any site with such back links. One site owner I know now shows up in Google only if you search on his domain name. All of his marketing had been using the article placement scheme. Though other search facilities still include sites using this scheme, they always follow Google’s lead and are expected to soon exclude them, as well. The questions to ask a potential provider are:
a. Exactly how are they going to create back links? If it sounds like a scheme, beware!
b. Do they do only global back links, or are they willing to do regional or even local back links?
This is important if you do business only in a limited area. You would still want some global back links (sites that serve a global community; continuing with my previous example, Martindale-Hubbell back link for a law firm web site), but only at pertinent sites with the remaining back links being regional or local.
5. Tracking and Reporting
Will the provider be tracking the results of the optimization? How often can you expect a report and what will be in it? You need to be aware of your return on your investment (ROI).
Some other areas of SEO to know are:
If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. If you are being promised to rank in the top 10 search results, then read the fine print of your contract before signing. What are the stipulations and exceptions to this guarantee? Reputable SEO firms usually guarantee only to increase your rankings; because of the constant changing and variety of ranking algorithms used, a provider cannot guarantee a specific ranking placement. Additionally, they generally only guarantee to increase traffic with no conversion guarantees. Why? Because much is dependent upon you, your web site, your offerings and name recognition to close a deal – over which the SEO provider has no control.
How long has the provider been doing SEO? What type of customer service is included? Do they offer to sit down, face-to-face meetings to discuss results? Do they have the temperament to take the time to explain what each element of SEO means?
3. Fee Structure
Are their fees based upon each itemized element of SEO, or do they offer package deals? Do they offer discounts for long-term contracts? To regular customers?
4. Your Competition
Does the provider do business with your competition? (Many specialize in certain fields or industries.) How do they handle the confidentiality? If in the exact same business, will keywords differ between competing firms? Are they willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement?
Even though you don’t plan to do SEO marketing yourself, it’s extremely important to know the above information. This knowledge can mean the difference between hiring a professional and getting the results you desire – or inadvertently hiring an amateur with little to show for your efforts.
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