Hiring Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Firm

March 2, 2010

Google make’s sense of hiring an SEO

SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization” or “search engine optimizer.” Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site. Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners, including:

  • Review of your site content or structure
  • Technical advice on website development: for example, hosting, redirects, error pages, use of JavaScript
  • Content development
  • Management of online business development campaigns
  • Keyword research
  • SEO training
  • Expertise in specific markets and geographies.

Keep in mind that the Google search results page includes organic search results and often paid advertisement (denoted by the heading “Sponsored Links”) as well. Advertising with Google won’t have any effect on your site’s presence in our search results. Google never accepts money to include or rank sites in our search results, and it costs nothing to appear in our organic search results. Free resources such as Webmaster Tools, the official Webmaster Central blog, and our discussion forum can provide you with a great deal of information about how to optimize your site for organic search. Many of these free sources, as well as information on paid search, can be found on Google Webmaster Central.

Before beginning your search for an SEO, it’s a great idea to become an educated consumer and get familiar with how search engines work. We recommend starting here:

If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you’re considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site.

Some useful questions to ask an SEO include:

  • Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories?
  • Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines?
  • Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business?
  • What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe? How do you measure your success?
  • What’s your experience in my industry?
  • What’s your experience in my country/city?
  • What’s your experience developing international sites?
  • What are your most important SEO techniques?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • How can I expect to communicate with you? Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?

While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index. Here are some things to consider:

    • Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

      “Dear google.com,
      I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

      Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

    • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.
    • Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you. If an SEO has FTP access to your server, they should be willing to explain all the changes they are making to your site.
    • You should never have to link to an SEO.Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.
    • Choose wisely.While you consider whether to go with an SEO, you may want to do some research on the industry. Google is one way to do that, of course. You might also seek out a few of the cautionary tales that have appeared in the press, including this article on one particularly aggressive SEO:http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2002002970_nwbizbriefs12.html. While Google doesn’t comment on specific companies, we’ve encountered firms calling themselves SEOs who follow practices that are clearly beyond the pale of accepted business behavior. Be careful.
    • Be sure to understand where the money goes.While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they “control” other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn’t work with Google because our advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results, but be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
    • What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?

One common scam is the creation of “shadow” domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client’s behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor’s domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.

Another illicit practice is to place “doorway” pages loaded with keywords on the client’s site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the SEO’s other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and its other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or illegal content.

    • What are some other things to look out for?
      • owns shadow domains
      • puts links to their other clients on doorway pages
      • offers to sell keywords in the address bar
      • doesn’t distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear on search results pages
      • guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
      • operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
      • gets traffic from “fake” search engines, spyware, or scumware
      • has had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google

There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. It’s far from a comprehensive list, so if you have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means, feel free to walk away if the SEO:

If you feel that you were deceived by an SEO in some way, you may want to report it.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit: http://www.ftc.gov/ and click on “File a Complaint Online,” call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to:

Federal Trade Commission
CRC-240
Washington, D.C. 20580

If your complaint is against a company in a country other than the United States, please file it athttp://www.econsumer.gov/.

Related SEO & Search Engine Optimization Links:
SEO Company – Santa Rosa, CA
SEO Services – Santa Rosa, CA

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Quality Score According to Google

February 27, 2010

Google’s Quality Score will impact your Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns.

Hear more about your Quality Score straight from Google.

Google Quality Score

“The AdWords system calculates a ‘Quality Score’ for each of your keywords. It looks at a variety of factors to measure how relevant your keyword is to your ad text and to a user’s search query. A keyword’s Quality Score updates frequently and is closely related to its performance. In general, a high Quality Score means that your keyword will trigger ads in a higher position and at a lower cost-per-click (CPC).”

Learn even more about Google’s Quality Score here.


Google Goes Social

August 13, 2009

Google eyes a piece of the social network pie with iGoogle.

Google LogoAmidst a search engine overhaul and talks of Facebook’s aim at Twitter, Google (GOOG) is attempting to expand their already gigantic family of web experiences. By adding social gadgets to iGoogle, you can have the social features and functions of some of your favorite networks right on your homepage.

Will Google’s new social initiative get any traction?

Hear about it straight from Google.
“First, we’re excited to introduce social gadgets for iGoogle. Social gadgets let you share, collaborate and play games with your friends on top of all the things you can already do on your homepage. The 19 social gadgets we’re debuting today offer many new ways to make your homepage more useful and fun. If you’re a gaming fanatic, compete with others in Who has the biggest brain? or challenge your fellow Chess or Scrabble enthusiasts to a quick match. Stay tuned in to the latest buzz with media-sharing gadgets from NPR, The Huffington Post, and YouTube. To manage your day-to-day more efficiently, check things off alongside your friends with the social To-Do list gadget.”


New Google Search Coming Soon

August 10, 2009

Google Is Changing Their Search Engine.

Lego Google LogoThe household search giant Google (GOOG)  is changing their search engine. Lucky for us all it is for the better. With faster results, more results, and better results, analysts are speculating this new innovation is in direct response to Microsoft’s Bing.

Mashable did an in depth test comparing Google’s current search, versus their up coming search.

“While this test was nowhere near scientific, we do have some solid takeaways:

New Google is FAST: It often doubled the speed of Google classic.

New Google relies more on keywords: SEO professionals, your job just got a lot harder. The algorithm’s definitely different. It has more reliance on keyword strings to produce better results.

Search is moving into real-time: Being able to get info on breaking events is clearly a priority for Google and Bing. With both Twitter (Twitter) and Facebook (Facebook) launching real-time search engines, they needed to respond.

It’s partially a response to Bing: At least, that’s how we feel. This new search has a focus on increasing speed, relevancy, accuracy, and the index volume, things that Microsoft really hit on when it released Bing. It feels as if Google “Caffeine” is meant to shore up any deficiencies it may have when compared to Microsoft’s offering, though it’s been in the works long before Bing launched.

The new Google will only get better as features are implemented and developed. The end result is a better search experience for the user. Competition really does breed innovation.”


Search Engine Ad Click Through Rates

July 27, 2009

Click Through Rates can vary from medium to medium, ad to ad.

A recent study conducted in June of 2009 suggests your ad Click Through Rate (CTR) is also indicative of the search engine the ad is placed on.

Bing’s average Click Through Rate is well ahead of Google, and Yahoo holds strong in the middle of the pack.

Search Engine Marketing Ad Click Rates


Geotargeting Your Campaigns

July 21, 2009

Dialing your advertising spend down can improve your campaigns immensely.

Geotargeting Ad CampaignsWith the ability to Geotarget ads across the major platforms (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc.) marketers have the ability to take a microscope to every region of their campaign. Instead of blanketing the entire country or globe with the same cookie cutter banner or ad copy, we can (and should) create ads that speak to the region(s) they are being displayed in.

Not only will Geotargeting lend to a high Click Through Rate on some ads, but inevitably a higher conversion rate as well.


Pay Per Click – Optimizing Your PPC Quality Score Part IV

July 16, 2009

Optimizing your Google Quality Score takes strategy and diligence.

Once you are done creating a new campaign and satisfied with your negative keyword list you will want to set a date to revisit the negative keywords. SEM is an on-going task of maintaining your campaigns.

Get help optimizing your Google Pay Per Click Campaigns.

Pay Per Click (PPC) ExamplesIf you are lucky enough to have a good account representative you may want him or her to revise the negative keyword list. They usually do a good job of creating negative keywords, because of the wealth of information they have access to. They also have a vested interest in protecting your CTR. A higher CTR means more revenue for them, and you benefit from more relevant visitors.

Negative keywords can make or break your Pay Per Click Campaign.

So how many negative keywords should a campaign have? I would say start with at least 100. Google currently allows an unlimited number of negative keywords for each campaign. A negative keyword list can get very large, because an advertiser could use an almost infinite amount of words that is not related to the industry they represent. If you are just beginning to start a campaign you may want to dedicate half of a day to come up with negative keywords using your brain and keyword generation tools. Make sure you absolutely do not use negative keywords that an actual customer may use to get to your site. You do not want to lose out on customers because you were too zealous creating negative keywords.

Post written by Michael Villanueva – Pay Per Click Guru