Search engine optimization (SEO) is a hot topic and a confusing one since there are many misconceptions and preconceived notions. In my recent article, I discussed in greater detail the so-called secrets of SEO. In short, SEO is the process of sculpting your website’s pages so they have more topical relevance and topical authority to the search engines so you will outrank your competitors.
If you want to invest in SEO, there can be a significant payout. However, it is easy to get taken because there is so much confusion around the topic. Additionally, while some service providers have good intentions they may not have enough experience or understanding, especially in more competitive markets.
While you don’t have to really understand how SEO works to hire a consultant, it does make sense to be knowledgeable enough to hire a really good one. It’s easy to be fooled by tech-speak and make the assumption that tech-speak equates competency.
Here are four questions to help you find a consultant that has integrity and knows what they’re doing.
1. How do I know which keywords to target in my SEO campaign?
Bad answer: We recommend targeting as many keywords as possible and their synonyms and misspellings.
Good answer: First, it’s important to note that not all traffic is good traffic from a conversion rate perspective. It’s better to have a lower volume of highly qualified traffic than it is to have high volumes of low quality traffic that won’t convert. Given this we use Google’s keyword tool and your site’s historical analytics to identify keywords with the highest search volume and greatest propensity to convert.
If commercial intent for a keyword is questionable, it can be easily tested in a pay-per-click campaign before investing in a long haul SEO campaign for a word that only produces tire kickers.
2. Can’t I just put my keywords into meta tags and get ranked higher?
Bad answer: Yes, we will load all your keywords, even misspelled variants, into the keywords tag field.
Good answer: It’s a common myth that optimizing your site exclusively involves putting targeted keywords on your pages. This is what’s referred to as “on-page optimization”. You might have read before that all you have to do for good rankings is load (or stuff) all your keywords, even misspelled variants, into the keywords tag field. While on-page factors matter, the majority of SEO factors have to do with external links to your site.
Stuffing the page’s copy and the meta tags is a waste of time and could result in a ranking penalty. Title tags are the most important factor on a page and should include your most important keywords. Body copy should include your target keywords and variations of them sprinkled naturally throughout. It’s also a good idea to include them in meta descriptions, image alt tags and headline tags.
3. How much of an increase in traffic can I expect from your SEO work?
Bad answer: When we achieve a #1 ranking for your site you will capture nearly 100% of the traffic available for keywords you’re targeting.
Good answer: We can predict an approximate increase in traffic based on specific rankings being achieved. However, there are no guarantees and precise prediction is impossible. We use Google’s keyword tool to estimate the amount of traffic available for targeted keywords and then based on a #1 ranking we can assume future traffic. An AOL study done years ago and recently confirmed showed that a #5 spot receives as little as 5% of the traffic available via search, while #1 receives as much as 35%. With Google’s new blended search results, predicting traffic share is even more difficult as recent eye-tracking studies show. There are many factors in addition to your search results position that influence ‘the click’.
4. I heard that Google algorithms are constantly changing? How do you keep up with the changes?
Bad answer: They change all the time and we know someone at Google that gives us inside tips.
Good answer: It is true that the algorithms change often; however, most changes go unnoticed. In our experience if you follow Google guidelines, adhere to SEO best practices as accepted by most industry professionals and don’t participate in producing low quality duplicate content and/or spam links, then algorithm updates typically aren’t a major threat to your site or your rankings.
Occasionally, Google makes a noticeable update that has a widespread effect and it becomes a hot topic, like the Panda update in 2011. We keep up with these changes in multiple ways. We read a lot of industry blogs and daily news regarding search and we also attend conferences dedicated to the SEO profession. Additionally, we have tests that we run internally to validate our methodologies.
Image Credits: Rajiv Patel