What You Should Know Before
Choosing an SEO Services Provider For Your Web Site
Let's qualify what you are about to read by establishing the situation. Let's assume that you want your web site to rank better in the main search engine's organic, (natural) results* and you are considering purchasing or subscribing to SEO services from an SEO firm or web design firm.
*Note that the sponsored links, or "pay-per-click" ads at the top, in the right margin, or at the bottom of the search engine's results pages are not "Organic" results. Organic rankings are the search results listing web site based on the search engine's respective rankings down the middle of the page."
First, you should be prepared to hear a variety of opinions, theories and strategies. Since there is no one definitive authority or regulating body of any kind on SEO other than very experienced individuals who are generally hard to locate and very expensive to contract-with, you will find yourself speaking with various individuals and firms who will explain to you how their particular program or approach to Search Engine Optimization will improve your search engine rankings. As someone who knows little if anything about this particular industry, you will most likely find making a decision on which firm to use a little bit difficult and end up basing your decision on things like report with the representative or costs, which is not necessarily the best criteria to use in a decision of this nature. For this reason, we believe it will be helpful for you to understand some of the fundamental aspects of SEO before you begin the interviewing process.
"We'll make your web site #1 in Google!"
Without at least 30 minutes of explaining exactly how they will do this, if you hear this, put your sneakers on and run. This is a wild claim that you hear all the time from so-called SEO firms who cannot even begin to achieve such results their are claiming to be able to achieve without a serious examination of your current web site and a carefully planned strategy to get you there. There is no one thing any Search Engine Optimization firm can do to quickly make your web site rank #1, especially without reviewing your current web site and developing a well-thought-out plan.
Understanding the use of Keywords and Key Phrases:
Another point about the claim of "Making your site rank #1 in Google" is that it is an unqualified statement. For example, if we optimized your web site for the key phrase "Purple Pigs", it would not be difficult to achieve top rankings in all of the major search engines. Why? Because no one is optimizing their web site for that key phrase. On the other hand, if we optimized your web site for "Home Builders", it would be considerably more challenging to achieve top rankings in any market because of the competition and use of that phrase. Rankings are largely dependent on keywords and key phrases, how they are used, and a great many other SEO techniques to reinforce their proper use. A reliable firm will address this in depth within your SEO Strategy.
Choosing Keywords and Key Phrases That Will Work:
Any Search Engine Optimization firm worth their salt will help you select the best keywords and key phrases for your web site and your target market. They should ask you about your goals, the areas of your web site that are the most important for you to promote, etc. Then perform the research necessary to advise you on which keywords and key phrases are actually being used the most by searchers who are seeking your products or services. They should also advise you of the competition level for each of the words and phrases they recommend. This information combined with your goals will allow you and your SEO firm to select the best keywords and key phrases to use in their optimization efforts. If a firm says to you "Tell us what key phrases you want us to optimize with," again, put your sneakers on and run.
"Meat" Quality Content is Still King!
A bit of an odd way to describe web site content, never the less appropriate for my next point. It is not reasonable to expect to achieve high rankings with a small web site, or even a large web site with limited content in an industry where you are competing with web sites that are loaded with product information, industry information, and interactive informative features, and more, "Meat". No SEO firm will be able to help, in spite of what they suggest. Web site value and thus rankings are generally achieved the old fashioned way. By starting with an attractive web site that is constructed and coded properly, that is easy to navigate, that is very informative and helpful to individuals who are interested in your site's subject matter, and that is properly optimized with the keywords and key phrases that searchers who are interested in your subject matter are using. Your site must be equal or greater in "Meat" than your competitors in these areas in order to be competitive in the organic rankings and have the foundation to begin an effective optimization effort.
More on Your Competition:
In terms of geographically targeted SEO and companies with web sites that are targeting customers in their local market. It is imperative to consider and understand the web sites that you will be competing with. Your SEO firm should also be able to give you a reasonable explanation of the competitive environment you face and what will be needed and necessary to compete and beat the web sites of your competitors.
A Quick SEO Case Study:
We recently took-on a web site construction and SEO project for a small start-up sign company. They were facing competition from all of the major national chains and many local competitors in their industry. On the surface it would seem that their small ten page web site might have a difficult time competing. However, in this case they were lucky. Their competitors' had not optimized their larger web sites. By identifying the key phrases that searchers we using in their industry and market, and by correctly optimizing their web site with those phrases, we were able to launch a brand new web site and domain name that within just a few weeks landed them at the top of the rankings for their key words.
How Long Does It Take for Proper SEO to Produce Results?
Everyone wants to be #1 as fast as possible but you will need to exercise some patience and be prepared to invest in an ongoing program if you want your web site to achieve and maintain good rankings, especially if your industry is one of the more competitive and marketing oriented industries. Inspect what you expect but giving your SEO firm the freedom they need and complete access that permits them to effect any change or adjustment that they feel is needed, will help effect improvements.
If your web site is more than a few years old and has not been touched for some time, the search engines know this. Your web site developed a reputation as a stale web site. Because of this, the Search Engines are not "Caching" and ranking your pages very often, in some cases for months at a time because they have learned that it doesn't change very often. When this is the case, when your SEO firm begins to make changes to your site, it will take a number of weeks to retrain the search engines that your web site is being updated. Once they realize this, they will start caching, evaluating and re-ranking your pages regularly. On an active web site, Google will visit the site and all pages daily, and "Cache and Reevaluate rankings as often as every 4-5 days. Retraining the Search Engines can be frustrating but you'll need to be patient. If your firm is properly optimizing your web site, the search engines will suddenly notice all of the updates and cache and reevaluate your entire web site. This is when you will see a noticeable jump in your site's rankings. Then over the next two to three weeks rankings bounce around a bit while the search engines realize that fresh content exists throughout your web site. You should wait no longer than 90 days at the most for this noticeable improvement to take place.
If you or your web design firm have been keeping your web site's content fresh and up to date, and your pages are regularly being visited, cached and ranked by the search engines, you should see a noticeable bump in your rankings within two to three weeks after your new firm begins to optimize your site.
How to view the "Cached Date" of your web pages in Google:
Select a page in your web site and note one of the Keywords or Key Phrases that are being used to optimize that page. Then perform a search in Google using that key phrase to find that page in the Google rankings. Once you find the page in the rankings, you'll notice a small green drop down arrow at the end of the green web page address. If you click this arrow, (See below) you are given two links; "Cached" and "Similar". If you click "Cached", Google will show you a snap shot of how your page looked the last time they cached it. And at the top of the image, Google provides the date and time they cached the page. By keeping an eye on this, you can learn how often Google is reevaluating your web site and adjusting your rankings.
As you begin to make your decision about your Search Engine Optimization firm, consider this: SEO is part science, part skill and part intuitiveness. What we mean is that a true SEO specialist will employ knowledge, analytical skills, and intuitiveness weighing and deciding on what action to take based on all conditions and factors. This takes time, careful analysis and text composition, among many other things. Often as we've mentioned, you will see an overall improvement in the rankings of all your keywords and key phrases, but when you start getting up into competing with the sites that are optimizing as much as you are, an increase of two or three positions for a couple of your key phrases could take hours of effort. But a few positions could also result in thousands of dollars in new business.
We encourage you to explore the rest of our web site and call us 904-482-0246 if you have any questions about our services. We would be pleased to hear from you!