SEO Consultants - Evaluation Criteria
SEO is a growing, unregulated industry. SEO consultants run the gamut from excellence to scam artist. If you are looking to outsource your SEO effort to a consultant, you need to know how to evaluate them to avoid making a business critical mistake.
There are several red flags that should put you on guard when you are evaluating SEO consultants:
- SPAM e-mail solicitations
- Offers of guaranteed rankings
- Offers for automatic search engine submissions
- Offers for SEO that advertise no modifications necessary to your existing site
- Their website is banned from search engine or exhibits spam techniques
SEO Spam Solicitations
Established SEO consultants do not need to solicit your business. Their clients seek them out. If you are considering an SEO consultant that solicits your business via spam e-mail, be sure to check them out thoroughly! Search for their company name in the major search engines and also in several SEO forums.
Guaranteed (Top) Rankings
Search engines do not disclose their ranking algorithms. They do not offer SEO consultants "special relationships" that allow them favored or guaranteed rankings. Not every SEO offer with a guarantee is a scam, but the majority of scams offer guarantees. Be sure to read the fine print on any guarantee if you are considering an SEO consultant on that basis!
Automatic Submissions to Thousands of Search Engines
The major search engines do not require submissions. They use spiders to crawl the web and find your site. As long as there are other sites (that are listed in the search engines) linking to yours, the search engines will find your site. If you don't have any IBLs, the search engines will not keep your site in their index either, so there is no compelling reason to submit your site at all (whether automated or manually).
It does no good to continuously submit your site to search engines, especially if your site is already indexed. The majority of internet search traffic is handled by only a handful of major search engine back-ends powering all the major search portals (see this excellent Search Engine Relationship Chart):
So what kinds of sites make up the bulk of the thousands of search engines they are submitting to? Assuming that they are being honest in their submission claims (which may not be a safe assumption), the remaining sites are most likely:
- human edited directories
- FFA pages
- link farms
Continuously submitting a site to human edited directories is a good way to ensure that it gets banned for spamming. FFA pages offer you little to no value and link farms violate the guidelines for most of the major search engines and could get your site penalized or banned. Anyway you look at it, automatic submission "services" are a red flag that the SEO consultant may not be looking out for your best interests.
SEO Without Modifications To Your Existing Site
SEO consultants who offer to improve your ranking without need to edit your site may not be engaging in organic search engine optimization. They are usually employing one of the following strategies:
- Link building campaign
- Linking from their own portals, sites, or link farms
- generating doorway pages
Of the three, only the link building campaign (from independent sites not in the consultant's control) offers you long lasting results. With the other strategies, assuming they are able to increase your site's link popularity without getting your site penalized or banned, the day you cancel their service, they remove their links and your site goes back to where it was before you contacted them (or worse, they use the fruits of their labor which you paid for to sell to your competitors).
You should definitely be wary of any SEO consultant whose own site is penalized or banned from the major search engines.
Finding A Good SEO Consultant
Now that you know what to avoid, here are some tips on things to look for when considering a SEO consultant:
- Divulges / explains in detail what they will do
- Company representatives are accountable (on public SEO discussion forums)
- Tracks conversions as well as (or instead of) rankings
- Has been vetted by SEO Consultants and/or SeoPros
Divulges / Explains SEO Methods
Good SEO consultants do not claim to have secret strategies that cannot be divulged. They are willing to describe what they plan to do to and for your web site. If you plan to engage an SEO consultant, you should demand transparancy to ensure that spamdexing techniques will not endanger your long term internet presence.
Anyone can learn and implement SEO strategies. Good SEO consultants are paid for their time and expertise. They have the knowledge, experience, tools and resources to do the job better, faster and more thoroughly than the non-professional.
Company representatives are accountable (on public SEO discussion forums)
While it's not necessarily an indication that an SEO consultant is any good, those who maintain a high profile on one or more SEO themed internet discussion forums offer you the opportunity to research their post history. You can evaluate their knowledge, standing in the community and suitability for your needs. They may be more accessible and accountable as well with a public reputation to uphold.
Tracks Conversions As Well As (Or Instead Of) Rankings
Applying SEO solely for rankings only guarantees more traffic and higher bandwidth bills. SEO consultants who are looking out for your best interests will measure your site's conversions as well. Ranking well for keyphrases that bring untargeted traffic is a waste of time and money. Only by measuring conversions will you be able to measure and improve the effectiveness of your internet marketing efforts.
Vetted By SEO Consultants And/Or SeoPros
SEO Consultants is a Vortal for the SEO industry offering a searchable database of SEO consultants by geographic area. To be listed in the directory, consultant's web sites must comply with their Directory Submission Guidelines, which exclude the use or promotion of most spamdexing techniques.
SeoPros is an organization of search engine optimization consultants, and internet marketers adhering to a set of "best practices" for the search engine optimization industry.