Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the SEO companies Category

Should You Hire A Search Engine Consultant?

Should you keep SEO in-house or outsource it to a consultant? Gord Hotchkiss, CEO and president of Enquiro, a search marketing agency, and the chairman of SEMPO, a nonprofit organization serving the search-engine marketing industry, says the answer is somewhere in between. In an article in Forbes Magazine’s web site, he advises against any small business owner relinquishing control of their web site. But he points out that SEO consultants bring solid value to the small business owner, and a partnership is the best approach.

That partnership approach is at the heart of how Rank Magic does business. We don’t “take over” a client’s web site. Instead, we provide recommendations and instructions to be implemented by the small business owner and his or her web designer. That way, there’s no relinquishing of control while we add our value to the process. <Read the full article>

10 Signs That Your SEO Consultant Is a Quack

Jill Whalen of High Rankings® is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings® Advisor search engine marketing newsletter. Jill’s handbook, “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines. Jill specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, site analysis reports, SEM seminars and is the co-founder of Search Engine Marketing New England (SEMNE) a local networking organization.

In another insightful article, Jill explains how to tell if your potential SEO consultant is on the up & up or not.

10 Signs That Your SEO Is a Quack

There are so many SEO/SEM firms cropping up that talk a good game but don’t deliver results. This is in part because there’s so much information that is freely available about search engine optimization. On the surface, SEO sounds easy — and it really is — once you’ve had a number of sites to experiment with. What’s even easier than SEO, however, is discussing SEO as if you know what you’re actually doing (when you don’t)!

Here are 10 signs to watch out for that may very well indicate that your potential SEO is a quack. Please note that one of these individually may not be bad, but if you notice more than 2 or 3 of these when speaking with any SEO company, you may just want to head for the hills!

1. Your SEO company talks about Meta tags and Google PageRank (PR) as if they are the magic bullet to high rankings.

For the most part, there’s no reason to even bring up the keyword Meta tag nor toolbar PR in a discussion about what needs to be done to get better search engine exposure for your site. Both of them are issues that quack SEO companies will talk about because they actually believe they are the key to SEO success. They are not. I’ve discussed in previous articles the Meta keyword tag’s lack of importance, so I won’t go into that again here. In regards to PageRank, increasing the little green bar graph’s number should never be the ultimate goal of a professional SEO campaign. A good campaign will automatically increase your real and true PageRank (as measured by Google) without your specifically setting out to increasing it on your own. Since PR doesn’t bring you traffic and sales (nor rankings), increasing it should not ever be the main goal of your campaign. This fact is of course lost on SEO quacks.

2. Your SEO company’s site (or those of their clients) has the same Title tags on every page. Sounds crazy I know, but I’ve seen this more than once!

I once got a client who had previously used a very major SEO company that most people have heard of. They had been with this firm for a whole year, and yet the Title tags on every page of their site were all the same (the name of the company). Since Title tags are probably the most important (and easiest) thing to change on a site, any SEO company that can’t do this one basic thing for their own site or their clients’ is most definitely a quack!

3. Your SEO company talks only about optimizing for the “long tail.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with long-tail keyword phrases, as they can bring a lot of traffic when all is said and done. But you don’t need an SEO company if those are the only phrases you’re interested in — you can do it yourself just by writing articles. Your SEO company should not be afraid to optimize for the actual keyword phrases that most people would use at the engines to find your site. Yeah, it’s gonna take time and money to go after the most competitive keyphrases, but there’s usually a happy medium. Most sites have plenty of phrases that are somewhere between long tail and highly competitive. Those are the ones you definitely want to target.

4. Your SEO company tells you it’s ALL about links (or ALL about content).

SEO isn’t ALL about anything. It’s about lots of things all added together to make the perfect combination for your site. A linking campaign alone will never be as effective if you neglect your on-page content, and vice versa. Be sure that your SEO company looks at your site from all angles and makes sure all your bases are covered. Otherwise, they’re probably a quack!

5. Your SEO company tells you that you need a linking campaign even though you already have tons of links and are a well-established popular site in your niche.

Not every site needs every SEO service out there. Just because your SEO company likes to sell link-building doesn’t mean you actually need it for your site. Why should you pay for something you don’t need? The same thing goes for sites that already have great, well-written, optimized content. If you’ve got that, perhaps you just need a linking campaign to help boost your traffic and sales. Don’t allow an SEO quack to fix what
isn’t actually broken.

6. Your SEO company is almost surely 99% quackish if they tell you that they can rank your brand-new site in Google for keywords that will bring you traffic within a few months.

In fact, if they claim they can do it in less than 9 months, they’re either inexperienced or lying. Google has an aging delay that is most certainly related to the age of the site, as well as a certain trust factor. It is only the very rare and wonderful site that can get around this delay. But if your site is like most, you’re going to have to look to the long term for your Google results, regardless of what the quacks might try to convince you of.

7. Your SEO company never mentions that they may very well need to redo your site architecture so that your important pages are prominently featured within your site navigation.

In this case it’s very possible you’re dealing with an inexperienced, quack SEO. This is usually something that is not a quick fix, so most quacks are reluctant to discuss it with you (if they even know it’s important). But if your site architecture is not search-engine-ready, everything else you do will have much less impact.

8. Your SEO company can’t provide you with any quality references.

This one pretty much goes without saying, but do be sure to get references, and do be sure to actually call them. Yeah, a reference may very well turn out to be their cousin, but you should be able to get some feel for the company you’re choosing if you can at least talk to some references.

9. Your SEO company tells you that you have to have a DMOZ listing or your site will never be able to get high rankings.

Sure, a DMOZ listing is great, but it’s a link just like any other. Submit and forget about it. If you don’t get in, it’s no big deal — there are plenty of other links you can get instead.

10. Your SEO company’s site mentions that they’ll get you high rankings in AltaVista, Fast, Inktomi, Lycos, Excite, HotBot and the like.

If it does, you are 100% positively dealing with a quack! ‘Nuff said!


Can You Trust That SEO Company?

Below is an insightful and helpful article written recently by famed Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert Jill Whalen of If you’re considering hiring an SEO company, or if you’re trying to decide among multiple SEO companies, I hope this will help. The original article appears in High Rankings Advisor.

Trust is always a tricky issue, and one that is emotionally charged based on our individual experiences with others as we navigate through the maze we call life. In search marketing, trust issues are further magnified by the fact that the industry is still in its infancy and there are no set rules or regulations. Let’s face it, you’d be hard pressed to get a handful of SEO consultants to agree on a definition of SEO. Even amongst SEOs wearing the same hat color, there is often a giant chasm that divides us.

Where does this leave the person or company who wants to hire an SEO firm, but doesn’t know whom to trust? SEO A tells them one thing, SEO B another, and SEO C, D, E, and F completely different things altogether! Who is right? Who is wrong? Whom should they hire? Whom should they beware of?

Interestingly enough, according to an article I recently read in the Sept. 2006 Harvard Business Review (“To Trust or Not to Trust”), people weigh 10 different basic factors when deciding whether to trust someone. I found that many of them are those someone might go through before deciding to trust an SEO company with their business. For instance, one of the factors was how risk-tolerant the truster is. This one is important when it comes to SEO because there are certain risks involved with some SEO practices, i.e., those that are an attempt to purposely trick the search engines in some way. If those hiring the SEO firm are risk takers themselves, chances are they won’t mind an SEO firm who might want to push the envelope a bit. They may even welcome it, and not want to hire an SEO who plays it very straight. And of course, the opposite is true.

Another factor in the decision to trust was, “Does the trustee show benevolent concern?” Which simply means that they demonstrate that they care about the potential client and are concerned with helping them and their business, not only about making money for themselves. There’s of course nothing wrong with making money, but it’s definitely easier to trust those that show a genuine interest in the bottom line of their clients’ companies as well.

From a strictly SEO-company perspective, here are 5 additional factors that I believe businesses should weigh when choosing their SEO firm:

  • Does the SEO firm set realistic expectations about what they can and can’t do, or do they simply promise the moon? Smart SEOs under-promise and over-deliver, so watch out for those that do the opposite (and there are many).
  • Does the SEO firm have a proven record of success and not just for “long-tail” keywords? Be sure to check references in order to learn whether the SEO firm actually improved their clients’ bottom lines in some way.
  • Does the SEO firm provide recommendations for making your site better than it currently is, or are they attempting to do things to it that will actually make it worse for your users? This one sounds crazy, I know, but a good portion of SEOs think that it’s all about the search engines and not the users, and make bad decisions accordingly. Never, ever, ever let an SEO company do something you feel worsens your site’s overall usability or readability.
  • Does the SEO firm tell you what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, or do they just want you to blindly trust them? This one should set off a major red flag to you if you ever encounter it. Sure, you don’t need to know every last detail or to micromanage your SEO campaign, but your SEO should be able to explain their reasoning for why they want to do the things they recommend. If they can’t, or if their answers don’t make sense, then run (don’t walk) to the nearest door!
  • Does the SEO firm use *only* automated methods to achieve their goals? This isn’t necessarily bad; however, you need to be aware if this is what they’re doing. SEO is very much an art as well as a science, and because of this, creativity should always play a big part. It’s very difficult to be creative when everything you do is based on a numbers game. Just keep that in mind!

Like trusting a friend, a dentist, or anyone else, determining whom to trust as your SEO partner should not be taken lightly nor rushed into. Get to know the SEO vendors you’re thinking of hiring, ask them lots and lots of questions, and most of all use your gut and your own common sense to determine if you’ll be a good fit. If you are unsure, then keep on looking. There are plenty of SEO fish in the sea, and there should be a few who use the methods you believe in, who are within your budget, and who will work hard to help you accomplish your website goals!

How Do You Pick an SEO Company?

This is a question many people grapple with when they first realize they need help with their search engine rankings. The question was well-posed and the answer was right on the money. This is from SEO guru Jill Whalen’s High Rankings Newsletter issue 158, which seems to have expired from their web site. I found another copy of it over at Search Engine Guide.

How to Pick an SEO Company

Question: How does Company A, that is new to search engine marketing, assess Company B to hire them to manage their SEO programs? I’m seeing that there are companies making claims to put our company on the first page of Google — but there are black hat and white hat companies, companies that make the SEO program so obvious that the site gets de-listed. It seems just as complicated to pick a company as it is to actually optimize.

Jill’s Answer: You would choose an SEO company the same way you would assess any company you were going to purchase a service from. Check out people who’ve used them before and get referrals and that sort of thing. Find out how long they’ve been in business, and see if they’ll tell you exactly how it is they do their work.

What’s their methodology? Do you understand it or is it all geek to you? You can’t expect them to give you the exact specifics of what needs to be done on your site (until you’ve signed a contract and made a deposit), but if they say the way they optimize is proprietary, then run like the wind!

At the very least, any professional SEO company should be doing extensive keyword research, making site architecture recommendations, making copy recommendations, and creating Title tags. If a company seems to mention *only* Meta tags and submitting your site to search engines, but not the things that I previously mentioned, then you’d be throwing away your money if you use them. Even if you’re paying them only a small amount of money, neither Meta tags nor submitting to search engines will move your pages in the search listings. Those alone aren’t worth even a penny.

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Needless to say, we welcome inquiries about how we approach our SEO projects. We think you’ll be happy you asked.