SEO has come to have two meanings in common parlance; search engine optimisation or someone who performs this task.
If your website depends on organic traffic from search engines then you need your site to rank as high as possible in search results. This is the logic behind search engine optimisation, but the waters are muddied by SEO agencies that use tactics that are designed to fool Google and Bing, so-called black hat tactics.
Every SEO agency claims amazing results; some claim impossible search engine rankings in ridiculous timescales though. How do you find a SEO you can trust?
I asked a group of SEO experts on MyBlogU.com and their responses are summarised below.
I do SEO for a client and in house, I have paid someone to do my SEO in the past, before I knew better.
I started just by trial and error, much like most anyone else. There is a ton of bad information and bad practices out there, including “cheating” methods. I grew up as an Internet marketer over the last few years and stick to content marketing both on-site and off. The key is really finding a niche and keyword targets, that is really how to find success in Internet marketing.
I use SEMRush to find and target keywords for the sites I manage.
SEO is not “hard” if you know your targets, after that it becomes about getting your name out.
They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating and that’s certainly true for SEO. So called experts in SEO should be able to demonstrate their skills in getting a website onto page 1 of Google and have that site stay there.
There are so many resources out there that can be used as a reference for SEO. Sites like MOZ.com, Search Engine Land, Search Engine, GJournal and indeed the Google Blog to name a few.
SEO is a simple process made complex by the number of Black Hat techniques that still work. The search engines would have you believe that the way to achieve a good place in the search results is to produce well-written, engaging and shareable content.
This approach is completely white hat and over time will provide results for any website but you have to be prolific in your content production and it has to be exceptional.
They’ll also tell you that all of your inbound links (backlinks) need to be natural and to stay away from paid links of any kind.
The white hat approach has a problem though. Business owners just starting out want to get on page 1 today, they can’t wait for 6 month to a year to get significant traffic to their new website. This is where the SEO Expert comes in.
Stepping outside of the white hat approach a little can see you get page 1 rankings in weeks rather than months but this is a dangerous process and one that should be understood completely if you allow your SEO Experts to go that route. At some point any identifiable footprint left by SEO work will be found and stopped. There is a chance that if you just take that approach and do get “found out” that your site could be assigned to the 100th page in the results and thus your business knocked into oblivion.
The answer then is to understand that the non-white hat approach should only be a part of what your SEO Expert does for you. Other completely white hat techniques need to run alongside the dubious techniques in the early stages and take over completely as your project progresses.
Questions to ask your SEO Expert:
- Will you list our site in Directory sites (much care is needed as this is frowned upon in certain circumstances)
- What is the process to create backlinks. Ask about quantity, velocity and site quality. It’s not good to assign 10,000 backlinks to a new site in week 1
- What social media platforms will be employed and why
- Will PPC advertising be used
- Will you use the Keywords Meta Tag? Why, Why not?
- Can you show me 3 sites where you have achieved good results
- Show me 1 site where you have not had great success (every expert will have at least one of these, it may be due to client budget but it will be there) Ask them what went wrong or what stopped them ranking.
- Ask about the latest Google algorithm updates and compare their answers against some of the well-known resources.
A good SEO expert will be honest and open about success and failure and have a good background for the reasons for each success and failure.
Its only last year I thought to build some traffic from other websites through guest blogging but due to time constraints I was not able to proceed. Every time I asked few people if they could help they suggested some high-priced SEO on-page and off-page SEO packages. The price was not my only issue; it was the way the links were built was the main concerns, as damage caused by badly SEO’ed work is irreversible.
I contacted many SEO agencies through guru.com , elance.com , freelancer.com and I did find many experts who have been doing good work in SEO field. With always changing Google updates and Panda rules, some were not quite sure how they should handle SEO work for clients.
The best option I could see now is freelancer.com to find a cheap SEO agency that has been doing good work with a large number of good reviews from different clients. Reviews can be wrong to some extent, but there were some genuine SEO agencies that were really working towards client benefits. I did find them and their methods were quite acceptable. Most agencies now concentrate on guest blogging to play safe.
If you are looking for good SEOs to work on your blog you really need to be careful, because I’ve seem most SEOs claiming they are 100% white-hat and it was obvious to me that they were lying. The only way to spot that is to know a bit of SEO yourself.
A good SEO will talk in cold, hard facts – specifics info rather than generalizations and vague statements. People who post actual case studies, done by them are the ones to look for.
For instance this one person that kept insisting to me that he only does white-hat SEO with high quality links, soon admitted he was actually using Private Blog Networks to boost rankings (which are of course a black-hat technique and can get you severely penalized by Google).
I figured it out because I had a look at his portfolio and noticed two key things: From his client’s feedback, it was obvious he wasn’t telling anyone specifically WHERE his backlinks were coming from (they were all saying things like “I don’t know how he did it, but rankings went up almost overnight!”). The second thing was that keyword rankings were going up way too fast to be happening organically. This is great for a while, but often eventually leads to being harshly penalized and losing all of that hard work (or money).
So the way I got him to admit it was that after a little conversation about what I was looking for I insisted that he told me specifically what his link building strategy was. What he told me sounded just fine until he said “then I use my authoritative resources to boost rankings more quickly” – if you hear someone say “authoritative resources”, he’s probably talking about a PBN. That’s what I told him I believed he meant and he even admitted it.
In my opinion, there are many good SEOs out there, even if they don’t hit millions of visits per month they are doing a great work.
Being a good SEO has a wide range meanings: Many visits, ranking for a specific keyword, an increase in visits in a stable grow rate.
Experience is what sets a good SEO apart; ask for references from previous clients.
If you have some technical knowledge then you can easily find genuine experts.
First of all, you should provide them your website URL to be reviewed and then you can filter out the ones who didn’t send you the appropriate audit of your website or who made the audit report using free online tools.
Secondly you can ask them for a sample of their work related to your niche.
The third level of filtering would be the interview where you would ask him for the most challenging scenarios of the task at hand.
I have mixed feelings about SEO consultants. Most come up with entertaining stuff and I read those. The guys over at SEroundatable and SearchEngineLand manage this by simply telling compelling, insightful and entertaining stories backed by data.
But the one I listen to the most is Matt Cutts. I guess that if there’s anybody who’s worth their chops with regards to the topic it is the guy who sets the rules. That makes sense right?
What does Matt Cutts want?
What is Google’s aim?
Why do they make these rules?
Why are they secretive about some stuff?
After all, SEO revolves around Google. Yeah, you can go to Bing, Yahoo – but the traffic there is very negligible.
I think I have a basic understanding of what Google wants. They want natural conversations and interactions – mainly expressed through search queries and search rankings.
Let me explain further, these days, when I try to look for something and I see a verylongkeyworddomainname.com and read an article written by a fictitious person, I feel like I’m being taken for a ride. I don’t want to be taken for a ride. Sometimes, I just need the real thing and not to be sold on something that I’ll probably regret.
This game – this SEO game – only came into existence because of Google. Therefore, I believe that we should play by Google’s rules and if they want to keep the reasons secret – that’s totally up to them. It’s their game.
To me, best SEO consultant – will help to familiarize you with Google’s rules. That’s it.
Ask them the difference between an algorithmic and a manual penalty and what’s required to lift either. This often sees people fall short and can showcase gaps in their knowledge regarding Panda, Penguin and numerous other areas. A look at some of the stuff being circulated around the upcoming Penguin update is testament to this.
Everyone is an SEO Expert
SEO is like education, everyone thinks they are an expert because they have done a bit.
SEO is about getting the search engine rankings you are looking for using techniques that will not see your site knocked back to page 100 in SERPS by a penalty.
There are white-hat and black-hat techniques. Both types work in the short-term, but black hat methods carry a risk. When you are looking for an SEO you need to find out exactly what techniques will be used so you can weigh up whether any risk is worth it. Knowledge is power, so do not be fobbed off by vague answers and ‘It’s a trade secret’ excuses.
It’s your website and you are the only person whose interests are totally locked into its health, so you have the right to know what an SEO plans to do.