Saturday, January 9, 2010

Should You Use an SEO Consultancy or Do It Yourself?

Specialist marketing firms live and breathe search engine marketing and understand fully what it takes to generate traffic for your site and to achieve a top ranking. By investing in the services of one of the many highly skilled SEO consultants available, you can reap considerable rewards, but you need to have the knowledge to choose the company that is right for you. There are a number of companies who will use underhand tactics to attempt to promote your site, or who will not promote your site well at all. You should start with the basics when you approach an SEO company. Ask the consultant to explain the difference between a directory and a search engine (which you, of course, will know after reading this book). Then ask what type of approach will be taken when the company optimizes your site – which should be done within the site's existing structure. SEO consultants should be able to explain to you how the different search engines find their content, and have a good working knowledge of web design and development – including HTML and Flash.

Credible SEO consultants should outline a plan where they will spend time working with you to develop the relevant site keywords and phrases that you expect people to use when searching for you. Consultants should also be skilled in writing quality concise copy. Building link popularity for your site is another important service provided by SEO consultants, as it will boost your ranking on certain search engines – in a nutshell, you should make sure any links you exchange with other sites are relevant and that the consultant does not use automated linking software. Be very wary of consultants who advocate 'spamming' techniques, such as using hidden text on your web pages or submitting your site multiple times over a short period of time. They will only be found out by the search engine in question, and thus run the risk of getting your site banned altogether. Legitimate SEO consultants will work well within the rules set by the search engines and will keep up to date with these rules through industry sources.

An investment in professional SEO consultancy is likely to be cheaper than one month of a print advertising campaign. For your investment your site will be optimized across three to five key phrases. Your contract will probably last from six months to a year, as it will take this long for the optimization to take full effect. Expect your chosen SEO consultants to be able reliably to inform you about the latest rates on all the pay-for-placement engines. If you choose correctly, your SEO consultant can save you a considerable amount of time and effort, and will generate quality targeted traffic for your site.

Watch out for companies that offer guarantees against rankings achieved. Many of these are pretty worthless and generally have a number of 'let-out' clauses. There is no guarantee of success, but there are ways to greatly increase the odds of being ranked highly. The main factor in measuring the success of an SEO campaign is the increase in traffic to your website.

You need to ask yourself a few questions when choosing an SEO professional. Is it the consultant's job to increase your sales? Is the consultant there to increase your traffic, or just to get you a high ranking? Most SEO professionals would agree that they are there to get their client's site ranked highly, and many will state up front that this is their main aim; however, generally speaking the first two options will result as a knock-on effect of having a highly ranked site. What happens if this is not the case? The client will often assume that high rankings will immediately result in extra traffic and additional sales, but in some cases this does not happen, and the finger of blame is pointed. So who is to blame? The answer will lie in what the original agreement and expectations were between the SEO consultant and the client.

There are a number of reasons why sales or traffic might not increase, and these may be the fault of either the SEO company or the client. For example, it would be the SEO company's fault if the wrong keywords were targeted. A client's website may be listed highly but for the wrong keywords and search terms, and therefore would not generate any relevant traffic, or any traffic at all. So make sure you agree on what keywords you are going to use first, to avoid any conflicts later on. There is no real excuse for an SEO professional to target the wrong keywords, especially after having consulted you and doing the necessary research.

There are two immediate ways in which the client could be in the wrong. First, the client may decide that they know best, fail to pay attention to the SEO advice offered, and choose unrelated keywords for the website. It is up to the client to follow the advice of the SEO consultant. Second, a client may have a badly designed site, which does not convert visitors into sales; an SEO consultant can advise on this, but in the end it is down to the client to act and to commission a site redesign.

If you choose to use SEO professionals, be patient with them. You need to remember that SEO is a long-term process, and it will take around six months before you have any real measure of success. If you are not happy with the results after this time, then it is probably time to move on.



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