Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has quickly become the single most important element for bringing quality traffic to a website. Of course there are other means, including online ad campaigns, redirected traffic, and various search engine ad word campaigns. However, the only method that provides lasting traffic improvement is organic search engine optimization. There are hundreds of firms purporting to do SEO, however choosing the correct firm can be difficult without the right guidance.

SEO SpecialistImportant Considerations

There are many factors to consider, here are the most important considerations when selecting a potential SEO provider:

  • Approach and Methodology – This the most critical element, an effective SEO campaign must include ALL of the following elements:
    • Keyword Analysis – A keyword analysis is a review of your site and sites that are competing for the same traffic. The final analysis should provide you with numerous keyword phrases and the relevance, traffic, and competition for each phrase.
    • Strategy Determination – The keyword analysis is used to determine an effective strategy that includes selecting the right keywords, outlining content modifications, and a partner linking strategy.
    • Content Modifications – It is very rare that an existing website does not require any modifications to content which includes SEO compliant page titles, descriptions, various tags, body text, site maps, and several other critical elements.
    • Partner Linking – This is the most critical element when it comes to executing the SEO strategy. A good SEO campaign typically has three phases of inbound partner link acquisition; an aggressive early phase (1st 3 months), less aggressive second phase (next 3 months), and finally a plan for self sustaining additional link acquisition. Nearly all professional SEO firms insist on using a database driven partner link management system.
    • Monitoring – Organic SEO campaigns are impossible to manage effectively with a comprehensive plan for monitoring both keyword phrase rank, traffic, and conversion rates. Phrase rank monitoring is the single most critical element and can only be done using a graph based analysis tool. Click here to learn more
  • References – A good SEO specialist is going to be more than willing to supply a long list of references. Most of the top firms have a client list right on their websites. Do not be afraid to make a few phone calls and get some feedback from their clients. It is important to realize that SEO campaigns can last for many months, be sure to ask the reference how far into the campaign they are. There is usually not alot of rank improvement in the early phases.
  • Software experience – The very best SEO specialists have three or more software applications that they use to do traffic, content and competitor analysis, site map generation, partner linking, and most importantly rank monitoring. These can be applications they have purchased, subscribe to, or have designed themselves. SEO specialists that create their own tools are typically more efficient and effective than others. They are able to keep costs down by using automated tools to handle what has traditionally been a significant manual task.
  • Monitoring – Any search engine optimization specialist will include a detailed plan for monitoring keyword phrase rank, traffic, and conversion rate. This plan should include periodic reports that are sent both to you and the specialist so that you can understand the process and review the progress of the campaign. The best monitoring plans include email reports for keyword phrase rank as well as access to historical data including graphs (critical). Click here to learn more

Warning Signs

Any of the following signs are a cause for serious doubt about your potential search engine optimization provider:

  • An offering to increase your traffic in 30 days or less – Significant organic search engine rankings cannot be achieved in less than 30 days and typically take 60-90 days and much longer. If search engines like Google allowed that, you would never be able to get the same search result from one to the next. Good organic rank is awarded to a site through time and is directly related to your content and the quality/relevance of inbound partner links.
  • No mention of a keyword analysis – True organic SEO campaigns start with a comprehensive keyword analysis. Though you can provide valuable input in this process in terms of what keywords you think are effective, a good SEO specialist will insist on doing an analysis to discover all the other relevant phrases as well as the traffic and degree of competition for each phrase.
  • No mention of partner linking – Partner linking is a critical component in any SEO campaign. The quality, relevance, and quantity of inbound partner links have the greatest effect on keyword phrase rank. Any effective search engine optimization campaign must include a detailed strategy for acquiring, exchanging, and maintaining inbound partner links.
  • Offers to build new content that you don’t own – One of the best SEO strategies is to create new domains with original optimized content.  These domains are used to drive traffic and phrase rank to the core site.  However, it is absolutely critical that you own both the domain and the content so that your investment is protected. 
  • No educational materials – The best customer for an SEO specialists is a customer that understands the elements, timing, and costs involved in the process. All professional search engine optimization firms provide access to information that will allow you to quickly and easily understand the process.
  • No mention of content changes – Nearly all websites require modifications to content including SEO compliant page titles, descriptions, various tags, body text, site maps, and several other critical elements. This means that the SEO specialist must be willing to examine and propose corrections to your website.
  • No discussion of traffic and conversion rates – A good SEO specialist will want to know about your current traffic and conversion rates. It is impossible to determine an SEO strategy without first establishing baseline data for the site.
  • No mention of monitoring – The entire search engine optimization process takes several months (or longer). The only way to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the SEO campaign is by using professional keyword phrase monitoring tools that include graphs. Click here to learn more
  • Any mention of “free” tools – Though there are some free tools that are effective for one time tasks such as generating site maps, any other free tools should be greeted with caution. “Free” tools have a bad habit of suddenly becoming paid tools or disappearing altogether. Many of them require you to give the providers your contact information or worse yet a Google SOAP API.
  • No client list – A client list that you can use to obtain references is an absolute must when selecting an SEO specialist. Many providers simply appear at a client, made some modest gains, and then either disappear forever or re-appear under another name.
  • Cold call or blind contact – Though a very few reputable search engine optimization providers do traditional marketing (including cold calls and email blasts), most do not. SEO relationships last a long time, especially when there is a demonstrable ROI. Nearly all of the top pros rely solely on referral business and potential customers contacting them directly.