How to Select an SEO Partner
You might have heard that your website needs Search Engine Optimization or “SEO” to be found in Google. You can read about a great website that went “missing” or a comparison of two websites’ performance, one with SEO and one without it. Assuming that you understand that having a great website is a good start but not enough in the internet economy, how do you go about getting that great website found? There are many offering SEO services. How do you select the right SEO partner for your business?
Some website developers or hosts will promise to “do SEO” for your site but SEO is not a once-and-done thing. Yes, there are elements of website development that a developer can do that will make your website search-engine friendly. And your website host (where the website resides) can do things to promote your site, along with the 50,000 other websites that they host. This is usually an entry in a directory listing that they maintain and that nobody visits. These are a very small part of the SEO process.
- Analysis: SEO starts with an analysis of your website. A good SEO partner will look at the design and content. Using advanced tools, a good SEO firm can determine what Google and other search engines think about your site right now, before beginning any SEO activities. A good understanding of what you want your website to do for your business is essential. Your SEO partner should talk with you and learn what your business is all about and what you want the website to change for you.
- Link Detox: From there, your SEO partner should check your website history. Are there toxic links connected to your site? Toxic links are links from disreputable sites that will negatively impact your search engine rankings because the search engines will associate those sites with yours. Even if you did not create or request those links, they can exist. Your SEO partner should find and “detox” these links by making a request to Google to disassociate them from your website.
- Keyword Analysis: Your SEO partner should perform a comprehensive keyword analysis and help you balance keyword selection with budget. Keywords are words or phrases that you want your website to be associated with so when people search for those keywords, your website appears on the first two or three search engine result pages. Sometimes the keyword that is most closely associated with your business is so competitive that to rank well in the search results would be a costly endeavor. A good SEO partner will help you understand which keywords will help and which ones will just cost you money. It’s all about balancing keyword selection and budget. The more keywords, the greater the cost.
- Local Knowledge: A good SEO partner will not only understand your business but also the geography of your business. Where are you located and where are your customers? If you are a national company with customers everywhere, it will be considerably more effort to rank well in search engine result pages. But if you are say, a New Jersey business and most of your customers are in the state, then your SEO vendor can focus on NJ. SEO is easier when the geography of your target audience is smaller. While it is not essential that your SEO service provider is located close to your business, it can help because they can understand the peculiarities of your locale. If you are a New Jersey business along the coast, you want your SEO provider to understand the concept of “The Shore” because all self-respecting New Jerseyans know that there is no beach in NJ, only The Shore.
- Manual Link Building: Any SEO campaign should contain a link-building component and a content creation component. These can work together. In the early years of SEO, companies would write programs that would generate thousands of links automatically. That approach worked for a little while, but Google now is savvy to these machine-created links. Google does not see them as legitimate links congruent with organic growth of a website’s influence. So now, if links to your website go from just a few to thousands overnight, your site will likely be penalized by Google. Google penalties are not fines. There is no fee. But the cost is that while your site should rank higher in the result pages, it will have a worse position because Google thinks you are gaming the system. The result could be less traffic to your website and fewer new customers finding you. A good SEO partner will handcraft links and facilitate a solid growth of links to your site.
- Content Creation: A skilled SEO vendor will create great content for your website. Some of it will be posted on your site and some will be posted on other websites but link back to your site. The use of infographics and blog posts can boost a website’s rank in the search engine result pages. Your best SEO partner will create this content and then post it strategically around the internet to relevant websites that will help your website’s search engine ranking. It is a complicated web we have woven but it is navigable and skilled SEO providers can help your website get found.
- Reporting: Finally, a reliable SEO vendor will provide regular reports and updates so you can track the progress of your campaign. Some business owners actively participate in the process, some do not. SEO campaigns tend to do better when the business is involved. Regular, accurate reporting helps the business stay apprised and involved.
- Expectations: When embarking on an SEO campaign, it is good to understand that SEO takes time. It could take months to get near the first page of Google’s search results for your selected keywords. And once there, it can still require effort to maintain that position. The websites at the top of page 1 did not get there by accident; they worked hard to get there and to stay there. Your competitors are working hard to stay on page one.
When selecting an SEO provider, choose one that provides an analysis and review of your website, keyword analysis, link detox, manual link-building, content creation, and promotion among their services. They should provide regular reports so you can track their progress. They should set realistic expectations for you so that you know what you are getting involved in. Most SEO campaigns that fail do so because the client is not involved and does not understand what service they are buying.