Part of excelling in business is focusing on your core competencies and knowing what tasks you can delegate or outsource to others. Passing the torch to a company or employee who specializes in the areas in which you don’t have the time, skills, and/or experience to handle is a smart decision.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a service that many small business owners choose to pass off to a marketing agency, and rightly so, as SEO is a time consuming and technical practice. However, if you choose the wrong SEO company, they can get you blacklisted faster than you can say Google! Before you hire another business to handle your SEO, make sure you know enough about the practice to identify whether they are reputable or just blowing smoke.
Before You Begin Your Search
Before you even begin searching for an SEO agency, do your research! Learn what SEO is and how a modern Search Engine Marketing
(SEM) strategy should work. As with any research you perform, make sure that you trust only reputable sources and you cross reference your facts in order to be sure that they are 100% accurate. There is a wealth of misinformation out there on SEO, so don’t be fooled! In addition to SEO practices, read up on the most recent Google updates, Panda and Penguin. Learning how the updates work, what types of content Google values and the practices that they discourage will give you a better sense of proper SEO techniques.
Knowing your facts will allow you to call shenanigans on disreputable SEO companies trying to get your business.
Questions to Ask Your SEO Company
Now that you’ve done your research, you’re ready to start looking for a reputable SEO agency. Before you sign any contracts, ask the questions below. Their answers will tell you whether they are the real deal or just tricksters out to make a buck.
Do You Buy Links?
This is a major red flag. Google’s Penguin update led a major crack down on websites with unnatural inbound links, which are links to your website on another site. Google will drop your rankings, or even black list you, if you have too many inbound links from poor quality websites, such as those built for the sole purpose of storing links purchased by other companies. Google values links built only on websites that they have determined to be credible, such as news sources and social media sites.
How Do You Get Around Google?
Now we’ll be the first to admit, this is a trick question. The answer here should be, “We don’t.” A modern, reputable SEO company will work with Google, creating quality content that users will find valuable rather than spending time on shady tactics attempting to “trick” Google.
May I See Some of the Websites You’ve Optimized?
You’ll be able to perform a quick test of the credibility of the company simply by looking at the websites they’ve optimized. If the keywords they used are extremely obvious, either over mentioned within the copy or worse, just listed over and over again for no apparent reason – a practice known as keyword stuffing – this company is not for you. The copy should be written such that it reads well to the user, not for the sole purpose of ranking in Google.
If you’re considering outsourcing your SEO, and we highly recommend that you do so, if you have not received SEM training, make sure that the company you hire is trustworthy. Do your homework and ask the right questions to ensure that the business is legitimate and not just giving you a lot of BS just to make a quick buck.