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Having a website that is not easily found is like constructing an elaborate billboard on a deserted island. It may look great, but it’s certainly not going to help you very much.

So by now you have determined you need help and need to hire someone to help. The question is how do you determine which search engine optimization (SEO) company is better then another. They all say the same things but when you try and compare them their approach and skill levels are very different. To help you with this, we have written this article explaining some of the aspects of SEO, including what services are important and what is just sales hype.

Let’s start by defining what search engine optimization is; search engine optimization is the improvement of your websites construction and content in order to improve your visibility within online search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing (MSN). Visibility is often referred to as rankings can be measured in several ways; the problem is that many of these measurements may not be measuring the most important factor in determining your success.

It is an established fact that to be successful on the Internet your business requires a strong visibility (presence) in the ‘results’ returned by search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Professional SEO companies utilize techniques to make a website more search engine friendly. The easier it is for a search engine to read your website the easier it is to improve your visibility it is very difficult to have one without the other. Accomplishing this task is not easy and that’s why you should carefully research any website promotion and SEO consulting company that you are considering working with; in the long run, it really pays to work with ethical SEO experts who know what they are doing.

There are two main aspects to SEO:

1) Onsite Optimization – Website Optimization
2) Offsite Optimization – Website Reputation with the search engines and other websites

Onsite Optimization

The onsite optimization aspect of SEO is the work performed by enhancing and optimizing your website.

Onsite optimization helps the search engine not only find the website page but also to recognize that the website page is very relevant to a particular topic. It enables the search engine to understand exactly what your website is about so it can be displayed in the search results for the appropriate keyword searches.

On-site optimization should include at a minimum:

  • Site design analysis
  • Server setup and configuration analysis
  • Tuning your pages, domain name, file names
  • Keyword research
  • Write keyword rich concise content
  • Navigation and menus
  • CSS optimization
  • Site structure optimization
  • Search engine friendly site maps
  • Internal link optimization
  • Testing and improving content or source code quality
  • Minimizing flash content
  • Many other individual factors that when combined, make a difference

Most companies will perform Keyword Research and suggest they will optimize your website for those keywords. Indeed, a primary way to obtain rankings within search engines are through the development of targeted ‘keywords and keyword phrases’ that are relevant to your particular business.

However the real art of effective SEO is far more then simply keyword research and making sure those words are found in the content and tags of your webpage. Ideally, SEO is more like a form of search engine reputation management; to ensure that search engines see your website as an authority on a specific topic and in turn, provide high rankings for your website in the search results.

Offsite Optimization

The second aspect of SEO is offsite optimization.

Offsite optimization concentrates on increasing the number of inbound links and the description of the current links leading to your site.

Off-site optimization includes at a minimum:

  • Finding other websites that would benefit from linking to your website. (Note: you need something that would benefit their visitors; why else would someone link to your website?)
  • Indexing reviews to ensure the important pages on your website are properly indexed in the search engines
  • In-bound link text evaluation

Most companies don’t realize the profound effect that good, high quality ‘inbound links’ from other websites can have on their search engine rankings.

Link Building (aka Link Popularity) is a crucial element in attaining top rankings in the ‘organic / natural’ results returned by the search engines. The search engines see inbound links from quality websites as a vote or referral that there is something worth seeing on your website.

In order to rank highly in the search engines both onsite optimization and offsite optimization needs to be conducted.

The Checklist of SEO Services to Look For When Hiring

Below is a checklist of some of the main services that should be offered by any SEO company you plan to work with.

  1. Website and Server Analysis – There are many reasons as to why your webpages may not be indexed by the search engines. Before optimization for your site really begins, you need to be sure that there is nothing stopping the search engines from properly indexing your webpages.
  2. Keyword Research – What are the keywords and phrases a customer would use to find the goods or services you offer? And more importantly what word searches will result in a sale or ‘conversion’. The most generic keywords are rarely the most effective at generating sales or conversions.
  3. Optimization & Content Writing – Whether it is decided to rewrite the content on your current pages or adding new product specific pages with written content, your website needs to have written text that search engine ‘spiders’ can read that shows your website is relevant for specific keywords based on the keyword research.
  4. Site Maps – The internal link structure needs to be clean and efficient. Internal link optimization is an effective method of grouping similar pages in order to clearly define your websites categories. A site map will allow easy access for a search engine ‘spider’ to view all the pages on your website for indexing.
  5. Inbound Links – A link building campaign should be performed depending on how many links you currently have and the type of website. Google in particular puts a great deal of value on the amount of quality inbound links pointing to your website.
  6. Reports – Today ranking reports are not as important as visitor and conversion analytics. Optimization should improve over time both the number of visitors to your website and the conversions that occur and a good analytics program will monitor and report this through visitor traffic and conversions ( sales)
  7. On Going Updates – Search engines are constantly refining the algorithms used to determine rankings and competitive businesses in your field are optimizing and adding content to their own sites. With this in mind, SEO cannot be considered a one time or short-term process. Once you attain desired results you constantly need to improve to retain those results

If you are not sure about an SEO company then ask for references. You are allowed to see what kind of work they have done for other businesses.

Finally, when it comes to price remember these two proverbial adages.

‘If you pay the cheapest price, then you are going to get what you pay for.”

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

These adages are relevant to SEO marketing just as they are to all other aspects of life. Don’t risk your companies’ success to the lowest bidder. Would you fly in an airplane built by the lowest bidder?

If the SEO Company makes too many promises or guarantees its work, and sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Written by Richard Stanton and Chris Genge

Carissa Krause

Carissa Krause is currently a marketing and project specialist at 1st on the List. Over the years she has worked with clients on a wide range of projects that include areas like local SEO, backlink profile review, content development, social media, and more. Whatever the project may be Carissa focuses on achieving greater efficiencies and putting plans into action.