How to avoid bad Seo Services from disgruntled SEO firm
A few months ago I got a letter from a disgruntled SEO firm after I called out their blatant disregard for Google’s quality guidelines on my company’s blog. After the threat of a defamation suit and consulting with two lawyers, it was determined that I was probably in the clear but was left with the question of whether I wanted to foot the legal bill if they decided to take me to court. After grinding my teeth into dust for two days I decided to take the post down. Steam is still coming out of my ears as I type this.
You see, I work in the SEO industry and unfortunately it’s full of people who claim to know what they’re doing but actually suck at it. But if you’re just an average Joe, you’re probably not armed with the tools to sort out the people who are rock stars from those who have no clue, or those that had a clue about how Google worked…in 2003. In an effort to thwart the growth of these snake oil salesmen, I’ll share a few tips that will help the average person determine if their SEO vendors or potential vendors actually can do the job for you.
Follow these steps to make bad SEOs sweat
- Ask to see some sites they’ve done SEO for. This is key. Once you have some example sites, you can apply the rest of these bullet points to review their work.
Check out the major on-site SEO factors like title tags and body copy. Do they use good keywords? Do the keywords make sense?
- If the site you’re looking at sells sporting goods, the home page should use obvious references to these keywords. It should say things like “the area’s best sporting goods store” or “discount sporting goods.” Product category pages should also use keywords. So, if there’s a main page for hockey equipment, you should see text that says things like “hockey gear” or “discount hockey equipment”. If there’s a subcategory page for hockey sticks, you should see keywords like “Easton hockey sticks” or “composite hockey sticks”. These keywords should definitely be used in the title tags, as well. Title tags are what you see in the tabs of your browser when you visit a page. This is the most important on page factor within Google, and all of a site’s important pages should have nicely SEO’d tags using keywords that should be search engine AND user friendly. Here’s what a good title tag would look like (taken from Whitespark.ca, a local SEO tool provider) – “The Best Local SEO Tools and Software. Trusted By Thousands. | Whitespark”. They want to rank out for “best local seo tools”, “local seo tools”, and “local SEO software”. You only have roughly 75 characters to work with in a title, and they managed to get variations of all of those keywords in, plus their brand name. This speaks to search engines AND users. The user piece is important because Google uses your title tag as the text in the clickable link when your page shows up in search results, as you’ll see in their snippet below.
If the company in question’s title tags are the same on every single page of their example sites, or are incredibly long, rambling lists of keywords stuffed nonsensically into the title, this is a major red flag.
Ask them about their link building strategy (or citation building if you’re a local company). This is where you really separate the haves from the have nots. If someone is going to charge you each month to do SEO, they should be getting links or citations for your site, or chances are they’re ripping you off. Most non-SEOs who claim to know what they’re doing won’t have a good answer to this question. Or, and in some cases this can be *much* worse, they may have the wrong answer that will cause some major damage to your website’s long term search health. If they respond with any of the following ways to build links, run:
- Blog comments. These worked in the mid-2000s, they don’t work now. When automated, these can be seen as Spam by Google and get your site penalized.
- Directories. Sure, there are a few good directories in most industries that are valuable to get links from, but if their strategy is to get you into a million directories that look like this http://www.nta-tu.com and aren’t even remotely related to your industry, you’re once again running the risk of getting in trouble with Google. On the other hand, don’t shoot them down if they want to get you into very niche specific directories that people use. If you’re a construction company and they want to get you on a site like this – http://www.construction-index.com, go for it.
- Link exchanges. Don’t do it. Just, don’t do it.
- Link networks. If they say they have a proprietary network of sites to get links from, that’s not good. Google works hard to sniff these networks out. You want real links from real sites.
- Create content (with no plan on how to promote it to get links). Some companies do a nice job of creating content and then promoting it via social media, or by pitching it to the media or other bloggers in your industry. Just know that creating content with no promotion is like screaming into the void, it won’t get you very far in most cases.
Link building is a really important piece of the puzzle, and any company that doesn’t have a plan to do that is probably going to rip you off. Ask for examples of high quality links they’ve gotten for competitors, or ask them a few example places that they would try to get links from for you. I know for a fact that if you ask me that question, I could send you at least a short list of some example prospects in a few minutes. This list should be something you look at and think, “Okay, this looks like a real web page on a real website that someone might actually use. It also looks like something that would possibly link to our site.” That last piece is important. If you’re a local shoe store, you’ll be getting links from different places than a website like Nike.com, who will be in the New York Times and other places you’ll never get near. If you want to do some research on your own, take their client websites and put them in a tool like Open Site Explorer and take a look for yourself at the links their client sites are getting. Do they look like quality links, or is it garbage?
There are a million other points I could make on this subject, but as a newbie, these points should give you some solid ground to have you ask some smart questions throughout your vendor search. If you have more questions, you can always call me.
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