Search Engine Optimization Firms – Good Qualities to Look For

Search engine optimization was easy back in the 90′s. You could use techniques like keyword stuffing to rise to the top. Those are now known as unethical methods, and would get your website banned now.

In truth, SEO is an art form these days. It takes attention to detail, and lots of knowledge in order to get the job done right. That’s why it is important to find a search engine optimization and marketing company with good qualities such as using only ethical, white hat methods, and good communication.

To begin locating a good SEO firm, first you should find out how much knowledge that they have. An experienced SEO expert will know about the following topics:

  • On-page elements such as anchor text, clean comment code (avoiding keyword stuffing), nofollow links, meta tag elements, CSS and JavaScript file usage, page naming, alt text, and site maps to name a few.

Anchor text means the text that you see when you click on a link. For example, if your website is about dog grooming, then those keywords would be in the anchor text which is clickable as a link.

Anchor text is good for search engine optimization because it tells the search spider what to look for on the following page. This is often why you will see keywords being used on a service page linking to the various company offerings.

Comment code should be descriptive for development purposes. It should not be created for additional keyword placement opportunities.

A comment code is not visible to a regular visitor of a website. One would have to view the source code of a web page in order to see HTML based comment code. Server driven PHP comment code however, wouldn’t be displayed at all, and would not matter for SEO purposes.

Nofollow links are links that are using the following HTML format:

rel=”nofollow”

What a nofollow tag aims to do is prevent a search engine from bleeding your PageRank to a page you are linking to. In other words, it is basically a way of linking to another page or website without “associating” with it.

Meta tag elements include the web page title, description, keywords, and other items. Back when search engines were created, they would simply take your title, description, and keywords for what you said they were. It made search engine ranking much easier. Now, search engines tend to take them into account, but will not necessarily use them in their listings. Instead, they will sometimes pull text from your web pages for their search results.

Many search engine optimization firms will claim that meta tags do not make a difference. That would be a false claim however, and certainly tells you that they may not be as knowledgeable as they think. Search engines still want to see meta tags. They simply use them in their algorithm in a different way.

If you do not include meta tags, then the search engine will rely entirely on what you have on your actual page. But if you do include meta tags, it would actually help you more than if you left them out. There is a catch however. Your meta tags should actually match content which is on your web page by a good percentage of 80% or more. The higher the match, the better. An idea would be to take a couple of sentences from the page in question, and pasting that into the description. This works best when some keywords are included in those sentences.

Remember, search engines these days hire hundreds of PhD’s to modify their algorithms. These people are innovating new ways to prevent their search engine results from being manipulated. This means that there will be many SEO firms that do not even know how meta tags are included in the algorithms today. This was something I learned personally through over 20 years of search engine optimization hands-on experience.

CSS and JavaScript files are important for including code. It is considered sloppy to place this code in your web pages directly. Such code clutters the page, and places the meat and potatoes known as content further down the page.

The CSS file is named with a .css extension, while a JavaScript file is named with a .js extension. They are often placed in their own sub-directories on the server, and linked to within the page code, or “included”.

Page naming is important. One note about search engines is that they want you to create content for the user, and not for the search engine. That is how you rank well for certain keywords and keyphrases. If you have a contact page, it should be named contact.HTML or contact.php for example. Your services for dog grooming should be on a page titled, “dog-grooming.HTML”.

Alt text is a code placed on an image so that text can describe what the image is about. Sometimes when hovering over an image, you will see that text pop up temporarily while you are hovering.

An excellent reason to ensure that alt text is on your images is because a blind person may be on your web page. Their specialized software will read out the text on the page for them, but when it finds an image, it is looking for alt text to allow it to be described to the visitor. Without it, you are not reaching all of your potential readers.

Site maps are a good way of helping visitors reach all of the pages within your website on a single page. You will often find site maps for visitors on the footer links (or bottom) of a website.

Google Sitemaps is another option. It is not exactly “user friendly” for visitors, so a separate sitemap for them would be recommended. However, Google Sitemaps is something which is automatically updated and placed in a format known as XML which makes it easy for Google to crawl.

  • Link building methods such as manual directory submission, article copywriting and submission, press release distribution, social media networking, link wheels, and guest blogging.

Directories are places where some visitors look through when trying to find information or companies. It’s highly recommended that your campaign has a manual directory submission session going on for backlinks and traffic.

Articles, like the one you are reading now, allow for an author to generate backlinks and gain traffic. An example can be found underneath this article which contains a link to my business.

Press releases can be published on free and paid distribution websites. They are similar to article websites, but mainly used for company promotion rather than providing indirect information. Sometimes, press releases are picked up by news agencies in order to gather stories to report on.

Social media networking is important for traffic. If you intend to be serious about your SEO campaign, you will need to ensure that you have social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and others. What does the SEO company know about these social networking websites?

Link wheels are a way of linking multiple popular websites together to create a “spoke wheel”. Sometimes the link wheel is as small as 3 websites. Others can be much bigger. Each website is then linked one-way to the website you are trying to build backlinks for.

Guest blogging is a must for backlink creation by having an author link attached to your article. It is also a key method of generating traffic to a website, or lead page.

In the past, I have appeared on many guest blogs. Some of them were popular, such as ProBlogger. Others were smaller, and were found by talking to other bloggers.

Another good way of backlinking is by blog commenting informatively on related blog articles. Many of them allow you a place to add your website name and URL.

  • Keyword research

Keywords are what people are typing into a search engine to find you. It is important to rank high for certain keywords, hence the reason for your hiring an SEO company.

A good SEO company will know how to do proper keyword research. There are various tools; some paid, and some free, which will allow them to do such research. An example would be the Google Keyword Tool provided by the AdWords system. There are premium software options as well, such as Market Samurai.

In order to do keyword research, the company would type in your main target keywords, and find keyword suggestions. Each keyword that comes up would show how many times that keyword is searched for a specific time period. That number may be daily, or monthly. The higher the number, the more likely that keyword is competitive and will be harder to rank for in the search engines.

Anyone serious about SEO knows that long-tail keywords are important for traffic as well. A long tail keyword is a keyphrase with maybe 5 words or more. There was a time when optimizers would neglect such keyphrases, leaving traffic on the table. Now, targeting long tail keywords are the norm due to the benefits of ranking and traffic. Does the SEO company you are engaging have a plan of action for targeting long-tail keywords?

  • Social media engagement such as responding to related posts and shared content, sharing related posts, responding to group messages, and publishing unique content on social media pages and groups.

One cannot simply post ads on social media and expect good results. Sure, you want to tell everyone about your offer and hope that they bite. But without engagement, you are essentially giving the public a feeling that you are spamming. Who wants to sign up to follow commercials?

A quality SEO firm will know how to engage with people. This means that they will be creating articles, related motivational quotes, recipes, or whatever else may be related to your niche. They will create related Facebook Groups and invite potential interested parties to join them. They will join other groups in that niche and comment on other peoples articles and posts. This is the essential tasks of engagement, and would mean the difference between being reported as spam, and generating quality targeted traffic to your offer.

  • Pay per click or per thousand views. A good marketing firm also manages PPC campaigns in AdWords and Facebook.

A PPC campaign is one where you are paying per click. PPM is paying per thousand ad views. In Google AdWords, you can create both kinds of campaigns, and an SEO firm should know how to do such a thing, as well as manage the campaign for maximum traffic with the lowest cost for generating such traffic.

Facebook and Twitter among other sites offer these types of campaigns as well. You can target a specific demographic through such a campaign, ensuring that only the people who would be most interest in your offer are the ones seeing your ad.

  • Affiliate programs to generate additional traffic and sales for your business.

If you offer a product and have a shopping cart on your website, do you have an affiliate program? A knowledgeable SEO company will know that an affiliate campaign will generate some excellent backlinks. Keep in mind that an affiliate’s job is to post their unique URL on as many related websites as possible in order to earn a commission on the sale. This can add up to hundreds, or even thousands of backlinks to your website. You can require specific anchor text in affiliate marketing.

The entire end result of an SEO campaign should be to drive traffic. That’s why an affiliate program will be beneficial for an SEO company to know how to manage properly.

  • The difference between static and dynamic websites, and content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and others.

Act an SEO firm what kind of CMS (content management system) they prefer. WordPress is one of the most popular because it is not only used for blogging, but actual websites as well. It is completely free to use for monetary gain, and highly expandable in regards to functionality thanks to the many plugins available for download.

Depending on how big your website may be, a static one can possibly do well. If the website isn’t going to be changed much over a longer period of time, then static is a good option. A static website is one where you will have to edit the HTML code in order to make changes in the future. A dynamic website is one which employs the use of programming code in order to display to the end-user. For example, WordPress uses PHP as the language which is popular with web developers (and easy to maintain).

  • Which shopping carts are expandable with customizations for SEO (i.e. Cre Loaded)

If you are creating an eCommerce website, it is important to note that many of them are not search engine friendly. Do you remember the information we discussed earlier regarding on-page optimization elements such as page naming? Many shopping cart solutions do not use keywords in their URLs. They have dynamic equivalents instead, which are not very search engine friendly.

Some shopping cart solutions offer expanded functionality through the use of plugins, or with core features, that allow you to have search engine friendly URLs. They also can have features for meta tag editing automatically, or through the administration process.

SEO company cost

A good SEO company will not be cheap. If you are looking to pay nothing up front, then expect to get what you pay for. In addition, companies that are eager to sign you up for as little as $200 per month may not have your best interest in mind.

Well trained SEO experts command at the minimum, $400+ per month. And that may be the rock bottom price which does not include everything I discussed here. An all inclusive price can cost over a thousand dollars per month, plus additional costs for pay per click campaigns.

Remember that search engine optimization and internet marketing are investments in your business. If you take it seriously, you can expect some excellent results. Play cheaply, and you can expect to close up shop in record time.

Communication

A quality SEO company will be readily available to discuss your campaign with you. Not just before the sales process, but after they already have your money as well. You can ask a company to offer you a trial option, in which you pay them on a monthly basis for a couple of months before signing a contract. This will give you an easy out in the event that the SEO professionals drop off the map once they are paid.

The company should respond to emails and voicemails within 24 hours on business days. They should have answers to important questions when they respond. They should also provide a regular report. Some of them do weekly reports, but most will offer monthly reports in a word, excel, or PDF file discussing what has been done for you thus far.

Conclusion

If you are looking for an SEO company that is going to take good care of you, and actually care about your well-being, you need to make sure they have the knowledge to get the job done. You want to know how much they know, but at the same time you cannot expect them to spend hours trying to convince you of their qualifications.

It is also important to ensure that you know what to expect in regards to cost, and communication with the company. They should have a respectable fee, and the communication that represents it well. Follow these tips, and you will succeed in the world of search engine marketing.