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Published on April 30, 2009
It's a sensational title, I know, but the underlying message it delivers is true; if you work with the wrong optimisation company to improve your search engine rankings you could end up being blacklisted for months or even years by the search engines.
"So how do you decide who's good and who's not?" I hear you ask. Well first, let's just step back to look at some key elements of optimisation:
On-page optimisation techniques. These include changes to the TITLE and META tags, the page content, the links between pages and the links out to other sites.
Inbound linking. These include links from directory sites, sites related to your industry, a few sites not related to your industry, blogs, social networking sites, and more.
Articles and content. These include on-topic articles about your business or industry that can either be placed on your web site or on a 3rd party site with a link back to your site.
This isn't a complete list, but it is fair to say that they do represent a large proportion of what is done. Three bullet points makes it sound quite simple and quick to do. However, the reality is quite different ' optimisation is a highly complex and highly intensive processes. It is neither quick nor easy to be a master in achieving top placed rankings for your company.
So when you come to judge a company's ability to optimise your site, look out for the following:
Price. If it is too cheap to be true, then that is probably is the case. We have heard of clients who have paid for cheap optimisation deals only to find that the whole task has been done completely using automated tools are about as effective as doing nothing. Optimisation is a manual task that can only effectively be completed with manual intervention and review. Of course, automated tools can assist with some support tasks but can never be the mainstay of the campaign.
Speed. Be wary of companies offering guaranteed Google listings in a matter of days as the primary feature of their service. The only way this can be achieved is through pay-per-click advertising. Indeed, we have seen clients that have paid for such services only to find that their so called 'optimization' campaign was nothing more than pay-per-click though and through.
Techniques. There is good optimisation, bad optimisation and ignorant optimisation. The first of these are companies that will do everything by the book, never using techniques that will likely cause the site problems now or in the future. Bad optimisation is the opposite; companies that deliberately use unethical optimisation techniques that might generate you the results in the short term, but in the longer term will result in your website being banned and blacklisted by the search engines. Finally, there is ignorant optimisation. These are companies that just give bad or outdated advice - not through any attempt to deceive but simply because they haven't kept up with the latest changes in optimisation (a frequently changing industry). Such companies may inadvertently cause your site to be penalised by the search engines and at best will not help you to see the returns you desire.
Whilst Price and Speed are relatively easy to spot, Techniques is much harder unless you are technically aware. So how can you identify a bad or ignorant optimisation company?
Ask for examples of positions achieved in highly competitive fields. By highly competitive, we mean that if you search for a term and there are 1-2 million or more search returns.
Next, ask to speak to the clients that they are demonstrating positions for. When you contact them, find out how long it took to achieve those positions, how often the SEO company provides reports on positions, how often they offer advice on how to improve the positions further through things that can be done on the site.
What you are seeking to find out here is that the client's top-placed positions didn't happen overnight but over a period of months (or even years), that they have been maintaining those positions for some while, and that the SEO company provides at least bi-monthly reporting and at least quarterly advice on site improvements that will help with better positions. This demonstrates via a non-technical means that the SEO company is using best practice ' it isn't an absolute, but does provide you with a good rule of thumb
Visit the client's web site with the top positions and select Edit -> Select All from your browser's menu bar. When you do this, does any text on the page suddenly appear where previously you couldn't see it? This is a very old practice, but some companies still believe that it works for top-placed positions. If you see this, find another company.
Finally, ask the optimization company how they build links. Do they (a) Use automated programs to build links (bad), (b) Manually build links from selected websites without investigating the sites that they link from other than making sure it has good 'PageRank' (bad), (c) Manually build links from selected web sites, checking each site to ensure that it is reputable, has a good inbound link structure of its own, is related well to your industry, and has good 'PageRank' (good).
If you select a search engine marketing company well, you can expect high ranking positions and a long and prosperous relationship together. However, if you select badly the effects can be long-lasting and potentially devastating. For example, it is known that Google has the ability to store copies of your site from the day that you created it. This means, copies of all of the techniques you have used to optimise it. We also know that Google actively penalises sites for breaching its best practice guidelines in ways that deliberately and unethically try to manipulate the index. On that basis, the next logical step is that as the volume of sites grows, Google could start to give sites that have always been ethical in their approach better treatment and positions that sites that at some time or another have used more dubious methods. On that basis, we recommend that from the earliest moment you seek out an use only the best, proven optimisation companies that you can find.
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