For most web site owners, this is a rhetorical question. Any web site that has been set up to promote a businesses products or services needs traffic to ensure it’s success.
And what better way to create this flow of traffic, than to have your web site feature at the top of the worlds most popular search engine.
Google, according to various studies, currently serves around 40% of all searches done on the Internet, with Yahoo! and MSN in second and third place respectively.
Many companies choose to try and achieve this with the skills they have in-house, but for many this is not possible. Either they don’t have the skills, the time or even the inclination to do it.
Search engine optimisation can be a very time consuming endeavour and for most companies, time equals money.
One option that many decide to go for is to outsource the search engine optimisation (SEO) to a company that specialises in this type of work. This means that they themselves spend very little time sorting it out and they are then instantly buying in a wealth of knowledge (depending on the search engine marketer’s (SEM’s) amount of experience) on the subject. A level of knowledge that would normally take months to and sometimes years to garner.
So what should you look for in an SEO company?
What’s their portfolio like?
The first obvious thing to do is to look at their current portfolio of clients. How many do they have? What do they do and what phrases should they be featuring for? Do they actually feature for these phrases?
If you cannot find a portfolio list, or after having spoken to them they will not provide you with examples of their previous work, then they probably have something to hide!
If they do provide a list of clients, they will almost certainly have contact details on their site, so why not give them a ring and get the low-down on the SEM.
However, the results are not the be-all and end-all of making the right choice.
What methods does the SEM use to get these results?
It’s all very well employing an SEO company, getting some good results initially and featuring highly on the search engine results pages (SERPs), but what happens if you then find that your site has been ‘black listed’ by Google for using tactics that contravene their guidelines?
Getting banned by Google, or any of the other major search engines, is a very real danger if the company you go with uses what are called ‘spamming’ techniques, an example of this happening can be found here.
No matter how much of a boost this SEO company gave your site initially, if this happens, the damage to your site’s long term traffic is going to be almost irreparable. Getting back into Google once banned can take months, if not longer!
Here are 3 popular methods to look out for:
1. Keyword stuffing.
If you visit a site and somewhere on the page there is a large list of keywords that does not represent any useful information for the visitor, it is almost certainly there purely for the search engines. Keyword stuffing may also appear in tag that are not visible on the page, for example in the ‘alt tag’ of images, or in ‘noscript’ tags. If you view the source of the page (‘View > Source’ on the toolbar at the top of the browser (if using IE)) and you find a list as described above that was not anywhere on the page, beware.
2. Hidden text.
This is usually in the form of the keyword stuffing list above, however, the colour of the text has been changed to match the background exactly of at least very closely. To find if the site is doing this usually all you need to do is click anywhere on the page and ‘select all’ (Ctrl+A), any hidden text will now be visible.
3. Doorway pages.
These are pages that are created for the sole purpose of featuring on the search engines, links to these page are usually hidden somewhere on the pages throughout the site. Quite often they use one or both of the previously mentioned methods to feature highly, in addition to this they will frequently use browser redirects to stop the visitor from actually seeing the page, which in most cases are very user unfriendly.
An extension to this method is the ‘satellite site’, where there is one or more additional sites, that consist entirely of doorway pages and often sit under a domain name stuffed full of keywords.
Is the sales flow being compromised?
It is important that an SEM can strike the right balance between optimising for the search engines and making the site usable for the visitors and in fact a powerful sales tool for your company.
If you visit a site and find that the copy on the pages is difficult to read and that they repeat certain phrases too frequently, then it is likely that any potential customers for that company will also have these difficulties and be put off.
Is the site easy to navigate? Do they look professional? It’s all very well getting hundreds of people to visit your site every day, but if 99.9% of them get turned away due to poor sales copy, or difficult navigation or by finding it too difficult to get to what they are looking for amid all the SEO copy, then it will all be in vain.
Search engine optimisation and web site usability should go hand-in-hand.
There are many other things to take into consideration when selecting a good quality SEO company, which I will discuss in future articles, but if you follow these basic rules, you won’t go too far wrong.
WNW Design always ensures that our client’s sites stay well within the search engine’s guidelines, and that each site is not only designed to feature highly in Google (and other search engines) but also turn those visitors into customers.