Choosing the right SEO company

Just type the term ‘best SEO companies’ in Google and see how many results you get. Depending upon your location, the results are pretty sure to be in millions in numbers. This deluge of companies offering SEO services, from the very basic, to a comprehensive package has led to people becoming confused and staying away from this wonderful service. I have worked in this field for over a decade now and have seen the evolution of SEO with my own eyes. Sadly, I have observed that the growth in the number of SEO firms has not corresponded with a similar rise in quality. This makes it essential that you choose the company you are going to trust with your SEO campaign very carefully.

What to look for

There are some things that you should keep in mind while searching for an SEO agency and you are sure to find a suitable one. Let us see what these are.

1. Experience – There is a time and place for new blood, and there is a time an place for experience. SEO is one place where you need the latter. Although I don’t have anything against startups and new companies (I have worked for a couple of them), most of them do tend to fall short of expectation. An experienced SEO firm will be able to provide you a comprehensive set of services and the work they have done with their previous clients would mean that your work is more likely to be error free. If you have your heart set on a startup, try them out for a small and non-critical part of the campaign. If they work out well, you can award the whole campaign to them the next time.
2. Reputation – This is linked to experience but is not directly proportional. Go out in the market and try to gather as much information about the company as you can. Ask for the name of their previous clients and ask them about the experience they had. SEO is an integral part of your marketing strategy and you need a company you can trust and work with without issues.
3. White hat – Avoid any company that suggests black hat techniques. Although such techniques are technically not illegal, they do violate the terms of agreement between your website and the search engines. If found out, your website can be banned and you might have to pay hefty fines. Believe it or not, I have seen two companies go under because of the fines levied on them. Stick to white hat techniques. They take some time to give results but are more effective in the long run.
4. Cost – Of course, how much the services is going to be one of the most important considerations. Because SEO is a relatively new field, there is a lot of variation in the fees charged by various companies. Do some window shopping and try to stick to your budget. However, do not let cost become the primary criteria. You get what you pay for and you will surely not like anything cheap for your online campaign.

It looks confusing, and hard…

As a business owner, you must be working with a number of other companies as vendors, distributors, and the like. You must have chosen them from a number of applicants. Choosing an SEO company is similar in nature. Know what you want, check if the guys you are talking to can offer that, and decide if they sound good enough to promise what they are promising. Your gut instinct should serve as the best guide to choosing the best SEO companies for your business.

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Tracking your SEO Company’s effectiveness

You are spending good money on your SEO Company and feel you have chosen one of the best SEO companies out there to do the job for you. But are you sure that the job is being done? I have seen many businesses rely blindly on their SEO agency and not get involved in their own campaigns. Of course, you need trust to work, but I personally think that this practice is a careless one. If you want to check if your SEO Company is, indeed, working for you, there are simple ways to confirm this.

Checking your SEO agency

There are two ways in which you can find out if the company you have hired is working for you.

1. Google Alerts – Set up a Google Alert on your company’s name. This ensures that every time a blog picks up your article, or a directory picks up your link you get a mail form Google. This way you can track exactly how your company is faring on the internet.
2. Google Analytics – It is a free tool which is easy to use. Ask your SEO company to setup an account and get the login id and password. You can login occasionally and check the activity happening on your website and also check what effect the SEO campaign is having.

Even the best SEO companies might slacken a bit is they feel no one cares. Make sure you keep yours on their toes.

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Search Engine Optimization – Behind the scenes

It is almost impossible to know what is happening in SEO algorithms. Search engines do not disclose much about them and all that SEO practitioners can do is use the best practices. The best SEO companies are able to do this quite well. However, there are a few things that are known to have an impact on rankings. Read on to find out what they are.

Five things that work

Through experience, I and other people in the field of SEO now know that there are five things that work and help you get a better rank in SEO. The five things are –

1. An optimized code – The code on the pages of your website should be well optimized. This is the first step towards ensuring a good rank for your website.
2. Optimized metatags – While metatags are nowhere as important now as they used to be a few years back, they are still a good way to earn some brownie points with search engines.
3. Alt tags and Header tags – Just like metatags, these tags too determine how high your website will rank. Using the right alt and header tags can make all the difference.
4. Keywords in the URL: – This trick too used to be as much more important in the past but is still quite effective. Make sure not to only stuff keywords; the URL should make sense as well.
5. Backlinks to your site – I have found backlinks to the client’s site are the best way to make SEO work for them. Of course, the links should be of a high quality and should not have been sourced through a link farm. They provide much needed credibility to your site and can be a great asset in your SEO plan.

What you can do?

Unfortunately not much apart from hiring a good agency the best SEO services will be aware of these factors and will be able to make them work to your advantage.

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Traits of a legitimate SEO company

The one thing that I can say without a doubt, after spending over seven years in the field of SEO, is that most SEO companies are not doing a very good job of it. This is not to say that there are no good SEO firms but I have seen many bad ones and many clients losing out because of the company’s incompetence. While it is true that any new field have many new players and the consolidation will take place gradually, the bad firms give the field of SEO a bad name and this makes many businesses miss out on the benefits of this new medium as they are apprehensive. If you would like to choose among the best SEO companies, there are some traits that you can look out for. Let us see what they are.

The best SEO companies would…

1. Reduce your dependence on advertising – SEO is a way of spreading your message in a targeted manner. No SEO company should be simply advertising your business all over the web without planning. That is the job of the guy distributing pamphlets on the sidewalk.
2. Not use junk mail – Spam is one of the most hated entities in this world. Anyone with an e-mail account receives hundreds of spam mails every day and if your SEO agency is looking to add to that pile, you should be skeptical of them.
3. Never use black hat SEO techniques – No self respecting SEO firm looking to make a mark in the industry would ever use black hat techniques. Although they are not illegal, they certainly violate the terms of agreement you have with the search engines. The results can be disastrous as I have seen companies fold up as they were not able to pay off the fines levied on them for using unethical SEO methods.
4. Never use link farms – Increasing the number of back links using link farms is a favoured method used by the less reputable SEO firms. The best SEO companies avoid this as it is deemed to be unethical and is also not a long term SEO strategy. A good SEO firm will only provide high quality and verified back links.

Is this all?

Well, there are many other traits that identify the best SEO firm but these should be enough for you to decide if the company you are looking to deal with is a good bet or not. Speaking for myself, I would also rely on my gut when I finalize the company but will not forget the points mentioned above.

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