Search Engine Optimisation Guide
If you have a web site, chances are you have been hassled by up to dozens of ‘search engine optimisation’ companies offering, for a fee, to get you into the number one position on Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines.
We would nearly all love to have our top keywords and phrases rank number 1 in the search engines, but who do you believe? How to tell if they are fly-by-night rip-off artists?
To help solve this dilemma, let’s run through a checklist.
Are they too cheap?
Most of the good search engine optimisation firms in the UK will be charging you several thousand pounds per annum. The exact amount depends on many factors, including how large your site is, how many key words or phrases you want to be ranked highly and what industry you are in. Don’t believe someone who tells you they are going to get you to number 1 in Google on a very competitive term like ‘credit cards’. No, not for any money.
Generally you get what you pay for. A full analysis and an initial round of site optimisation is going to set you back somewhere between £1000 to £3000. If you have a larger site or are in a dynamic industry, you will probably be looking at an ongoing contract.
What services are they providing?
Some provide just search engine optimisation services. Others provide just pay-per-click (PPC) consulting and management. Others provide both, be aware that charging structures are very different for both these areas.
If you want immediate traffic, the SEO firm might be able to set up a pay-per-click strategy for you that might encompass say, Google AdWords, MSN and Yahoo Search marketing campaigns. You will usually be asked for money to cover the first period, say one month’s worth of clicks. On top of that there will be an agency fee which might be a fixed amount per month, or it might be based on a percentage of you total monthly PPC spend.
Search engine optimisation, on the other hand, involves analysing your site in depth, building new pages, improving the code and keyword density of all pages, and increasing links to your site from other authority sites. This all takes time, and it may be several months to see any effects. If it works it is great because 1] your users get a better website and 2] you get free traffic from the search engines natural listings.
Are they guaranteeing you something?
Just be very careful here. Search engines change their algorithms frequently, and it is not that easy to get a top position in a top UK search engine in a specified period of time. OK it can be done for specific phrases for most clients, but if they are actually guaranteeing something, read the fine print very carefully. We got done over once after being promised 20 top keyword positions in 10 top search engines. It just so happened those search engines were based in Australia and Korea and other far-flung places we really did not want any visitors from.
Are they white hat?
As opposed to black-hat. We are talking about good practices that search engine companies like Google and Yahoo approve of. Like building lots of relevant content, talk to people with other related good quality sites and try to get them to link to you. Do a Google search on webmaster guidelines for more information. There are a whole plethora of SEO companies in the UK that will eagerly take your money and add you to their own link brothel. Sure you may get up the rankings for a short while. Just don’t be surprised when your site gets penalised for buying links and you get slapped with a minus 30 Google penalty. It’s easier to get out of a 1000 ft crevasse.
Check their customers
The SEO company will probably offer you examples of sites they have optimised for clients. Ask them for keywords they have got up the rankings in the top 3 – Google, Bing and Yahoo. Bear in mind that Google is the most important on account of the fact that they handle around 80% of all web searches in the UK. Then ask them for the contact details of the client and check it out yourself. We once called a client who was adamant the keywords given had been there a long time before the SEO company were appointed. They had fired the firm for costing a fortune without producing any results in a year.
Online news providers (sometimes referred to as online PR companies) are providing a very useful SEO role in that they create customised news for clients, whereby a stream of unique news feeds appear on client websites, completely tailored to that organisation. News articles are 'peppered' with key words where possible and help propel sites up the organic search engine rankings. Newsvend is perhaps the most well-regarded custom news company in the UK.