I’d love to share the back story to this but unfortunately I can’t. Anyway, I’ve been asked to recommend a seo to somebody who’s looking to compete in a spectacularly competitive niche. After twenty minutes tying myself in knots I thought – sod it -Ã‚ I need to get this down on paper… well sort of.
EDIT – Forgive me for this a lot of it is kind of cobbled together but that is how my brain works – better out than in (probably).
Knowing what I know? How would “I” choose (or even recommend) a seo?
Would “I” find a seo agency on Google? Totally IRONIC, but no.
I don’t want a seo who ranks top in Google ONLY OR MOSTLY because it has links from client sites (even though they might, at last, be blogging now). EDIT – I mean lets face it every seo co has links from some clients, even us, but it makes up a minuscule amount of our link profile. We don’t take links from SEO clients though – only web development jobs – EDIT. They ( a seo company who ranks just because of links from client sites) won’t be able to bring those guns to bear for my site… ever. Probably. Of course there are seo companies there in Google that deserve to be there too – which makes it a minefield for me. EEK – and stay well clear of Google News!
“I” wouldn’t go with a traditional ad agency who does seo. I used to be an in-house seo (the only one) for an ad agency (who was at the time no1 in Google for ad agency terms of course). I remember staying up for 3 days straight once…. ah I have fond memories of noscript abuse before I read Google’s guidelines. Generalisation of course – there will be good seo working for ad agencies (wonder where they will end up?)
“I” wouldn’t go with a web development company that ‘does’ seo because frankly making good websites is about 5% of the job done. Of course, while a good site is incredibly important, in a competitive niche it’s all about link building and/perhaps rather website promotion. Making an seo friendly site in 2009 has never been easier with all the free seo advice published online, why every body offers it. Of course, we are a seo co who does web design and development. It’s a tad of a dichotomy. It’s hard to work out which is which. A seo friendly website should be a bog standard in 2009 – but it still isn’t.
“I” would avoid like the plague a seo company who cold called me (do ethical seo companies cold call these days?) We are burst to the gunnels with work, and we’ve never asked anybody ever for work. some might defend cold calling – fair enough. Show me the testimonials from clients that say ” I was cold called by this seo company and I am thrilled with the results” and I will change my mind. (I’m not just talking about the guy starting out either of course – where it MIGHT be acceptable).
“I” would avoid unsolicited emails offering seo services as little better than confidence trickster spam. Even Google says this is what to do. There’s little satisfaction in any guarantees in this game.
What If the SEO has big brands as clients? Big Brand SEO is far, far different from in the trenches seo for clients who don’t have any links to begin with. For my mind it’s EASIER (if the brand in question has a lot of domain authority just waiting to be unleashed (or partner sites) – but of course that’s a generalisation – depends entirely on the site in question and the competition. Be prepared to get your wallet out though to feed that cash cow. I might might change my mind in the future, but i don’t plaster my clients all over my home page because simply – I don’t want Tom, Dick and Harry to know who they are, or be seen as responsible for their entire link profile.
What If “I” can’t find them at all on Google? I’d question if they know enough about generating decent links to compete in the wild wild west of the seo keyword terms vertical. If they are nowhere on that, they haven’t taken the opportunity to prove their mettle in an obvious competitive arena. Hey, I know the mantra – “we’re too busy to go for our own terms using white hat methods)”. What – you’ve always been too busy? You have no terms? You have a crap website? No authority at all in Google for any term? You don’t have one person in your agency that’s passionate about SEO to write a blog? Or get involved in forums helping people out? That’s what passionate seo peeps do in my experience – share it. So I personally would need some semblence of passion on their own site.
What about looking for SEO in Forums? Some of the people who shout loudest in forums are those looking for business. Sure, there are good folks in there, and I won a client 2 years ago in a forum who I have still got, worth nearly Ã‚£xx,xxx.xx to me, but i had to get involved in an inane, petty and bitter catfight to win it – sod that. Now I only spend time in forums to help folks out to frankly to build our brand and mind share. In fact, I’ll be spending my time in the next month at the SEO Dojo where I receive no compensation at all and wouldn’t take any.
…and that’s the GOOD advice in forums. Some tell you to check Google, some tell you to actually type into Google “the best company in the UK”. Hmmm, no that’s just because somebody with a trusted site has written a post about that term. There’s no way anybody can say they are the best seo company anywhere without looking like total fools.
What about SEO who criticised other seo in private? I’d be wary of any seo who claimed to be better than anybody else, or privately criticised another seo company because frankly, most seo companies don’t know the workings of any other seo company. It’s a sign of desperation for me. So is publicly outing a competitors strategy, just for the out. That comes with experience though i think.
What about those SEO who are acclaimed best? See above point. I’d prefer experienced at any rate but nobody knows how much pressure these top seo guys are under at any one time.
What about paid membership sites? I’d only get involved in these as a paying customer if I was serious about doing the work myself or had someone I trusted or employed to action the advice in these forums. SEO and LINKBUILDING is hard work and all the tools in the box doesn’t make you a carpenter.
What about seo companies with excellent reviews on review sites? Hmmm… dig down past those excellent reviews and nearly all the time you’ll find exactly why they needed those good reviews. (No, honestly)
Would I go for pay-per-performance seo linkbuilding? Well, you might think that will get me working, but my priority will always be with the clients who drop a cheque on my door mat every month. I wouldn’t ask a plumber to install a shower and expect him to get paid after I have ten showers. A seo should be able to give you some form of real testimonials – and you should make contact with these people. I am willing to ‘take a flier’ on some projects – but I have enough of them at the moment – a lot with clients i have worked with over the years too -Ã‚ to consider any more.
If I typed something (kind of obscure) into Google and got an exact match domain back with the exact same search as my query I’d skip past the first couple as its far easier to rank an exact match domain in most sectors – you don’t even need to be a seo to do this.
What about SEO Bloggers? Hmmm… that’s me. Being a seo blogger doesn’t mean your a good seo. I know plenty of good seo who don’t blog. I blog simply for content for my site, to connect with like minded folk, for sales, and because if anybody thinks i don’t know what I am doing they can hold me to task right here (and I learn something) and I build a site and community (can I say that?) of folks with a passion for marketing online. I think blogging is the best creative form of social media and may always will be. The blog is important to me – in fact, my subscriber count is probably the one thing online metric I care about these days (apart from natural – or nearly natural – links).
What about Pay-Per-Click or sponsored results? Well, “I” wouldn’t ever use some of the companies listed there. Of course, it’s an advertising channel (one we never use) and it’s an easy way to drum up business. I just prefer to somehow validate clients – they should find us. I don’t want to use the scatter-gun approach in this sector. I’d rather try and build a brand and let them come to us… Of course, time will tell if that is a naive strategy.
SO What Should You Do?
First educate yourself and make sure you have reasonable expectations. SEO is about billable hours, not Ã‚£100 per month programs. The more budget you have, the more hours you will get. A first phase SEO strategy can be conceived in a few hours but need 100 hours to deploy it. If I was spending thousands of pounds I’d spend weeks researching any potential seo (which is why recommending one is not so easy for me).
“I” would try and identify Passion in a seo – corny as it seems, and not just because it’s in the copy of their home page. Anybody needing SEO (or rather LINKBUILDING) in a competitive niche needs to understand nobody knows how Google works (although the basic recipe for seo success have been the same for years). I’d go for a small company and work with them for at least a year (assuming early indications are positive) but there are risks even here. I would ask for references.
SEO is so different these days. in fact, SEO is so 2003. It truly is about search engine marketing these days and the more than ten ways free ways to get into Google results. It’s not just about getting better positions on narrow terms, though sometimes it is depending on what you’re getting paid to do.
I’d spend time trying to find those in the industry with a passion for seo, and of course, to correctly identify those, you might even need to be a geek in it. Even then, those who are social in the seo world don’t necessarily make the best seo (but who you know in seo land can get you links and advice – just as in the real world).
OK so I’ve probably insulted everybody in that round up and I didn’t even particularly mean to (maybe even myself in a couple of cases). I hope I’ve got the tone of this post correct because I am certainly not try to tarnish anyone. But this was a post borne 100% out of me trying to tell someone how to identify a good seo.
And while I have a few peeps in mind i may contact…
Knowing what i know (and if I didn’t?)
I’m glad I’m not looking for a seo company.