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|Questions to ask SEO company|
I would like some suggestions on specific questions or types of questions.
I have narrowed down 6 SEO companies to 2, and I'm in the final stages to where I will be choosing one of them. I would like some help on what types of questions I should ask that would help me decide which one to pick. Anything critical, or usually overlooked, or any specific questions would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance ...
>>Always make sure you that you get a win-win deal. Motivate the company by paying per click or per sale.<<
Obviously, this assumes your objectives are direct sales of a product or 'service', rather than other marketing/communications objectives which cannot be directly measured by clicks or sales.
SEO is often not an exact science. Therefore, paying someone by click may encourage a strategy of delivering 'quantity not quality'. Again, this all depends on your company's own, individual marketing objectives. The SEO company or consultant should be experienced enough to offer advice on what can be realistically achieved against your objectives, or contribute to your own objective-setting process. This where the skills of the more rounded, business orientated SEO consultant comes into play. If you need to generate many product sales for a low or medium value item which does not require a lot of evaluation, then long-term, 'true' SEO may not actually be the right channel for you to choose. A pay per click campaign may be more appropriate. There are other options.
My 'mantra' is always that the clients' objective are king. Today (or any other day) a one size/response fits all will only deliver a certain type of client and company.
I tend to find that a company who 'just wants to be No.1' and does not want the bother of thinking (with our help) about who their customers/clients are and where they want to be, will often have a very 'transactional' relationship with their suppliers where the lowest cost (and often the least value) wins - at least in the short term for both parties!
This also has implications for our objectives as SEO's. Do we want lots of quick turnover, moderately profitable clients (with enevitable churn) or clients who want a longer-lasting, more consultative approach which may not deliver profits as quickly?
A question for our own marketing?
Re. Message #16 from pageoneresults.
You've put together some excellent questions pageoneresults, as would be expected. Your Question #9 is by far the most important once a company has narrowed down its search to a few SEO companies.
>> 9. Can you assure us that the optimization strategies and
>> methods that you are utilizing fall under the criteria of
>> Best Practices for the SEO/SEM Industry? Can we assume that
>> this means no penalties for our website? Penalties could
>> include, but are not limited to; removal from the search
>> engines or directories index, or a possible Google
>> PageRankô penalty, also referred to as PR0.
I recommend attaching a rider to your contract which requires the SEO company to stay within the stated rules for the major search engines. This gives you legal recourse if you hire a shady firm and your site ends up being removed from a search engine.
If a firm engages in forbidden practices described on these pages, even if they can give you nice sounding explanations for why they do it, just avoid them.
Google Dos and Don'ts:
AltaVista's Policy Concerning Manipulation of Search Results:
AltaVista Advanced Search Tutorial: Combatting Spam
Open Directory: How To Add A Site
(Note the rules about duplicate and mirror submissions).
Re. Msg #'s 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, etc.
Overture, who's database is hundreds of times larger than Wordtracker's database, reports that the top phrases are search engine optimization and search engine placement.
In SEO, the way to demonstrate competency is to win for the top SEO search phrases. Sure, not every one of the searchers are looking for services, which is why it is critical to win for the search phrases which definitely indicate the behavior of potential clients looking for an SEO firm, which include search engine placement services, seo services, and search engine optimization services.
Also note that when you search for search engine optimization or search engine placement, it is easy to see which sites are offering tips and which are offering services.
Finally, I have to say that winning isn't everything. Separating yourself from others in the top results by offering a well-designed site shows that you won't have to resort to creating washed-out web pages just to get your client to the top.
My 2 cents.
You have to ask yourself what steps you are willing to take as well. Sometimes a client will hire an SEO firm, then not make any of the changes suggested. As the webmaster you know what is doable. Consider asking what types of things they might recomend so you can determine if they are reasonable, but don't expect em' to give away the farm up front. In a large company other people (CEO, branding, product managers, etc... often want to throw in their .02 which can get in the way of the webmaster making changes.) If stuff has to be aproved by a bunch of people this can draw things out and cost time and $$$.
A site for a company that does 2B is probably pretty large. 24k for a year sounds rather inexpensive, IMHO. At agency rates (Est. $150.00/hr) that is 160 hours. Can one person work 40 hrs/week for 1 month and do the SEO required for a year? (OR multiple people combine for a total of 160 hours)
Cut that rate in half and you get 320 hours. Time will probably be billed for meetings, emails and travel if necessary. Chances are the project will involve multiple people, tech, research, content dev, client service. Those hours may get eaten up really fast.
An agency will probably want to see a minimum of $75.00/hour for their work and likely higher.
Seeing the agency site ranking for SEO related keywords is not important in the least.
[edited by: skibum at 2:31 pm (utc) on July 23, 2002]
Thank you all for your feedback, I've gotten more information in this short amount of time, than I ever could've imagined getting.
I have a question about something one of the companies said, that I haven't heard before.
XML feeds, he spoke about doing XML feeds which are newer in the industry, and said they give faster results. He also stated that most companies don't do this.
How true is this statement? and what are your thoughts on XML feeds?
Read this thread regarding XML and SEO [webmasterworld.com]
XML feeds are offered by Inktomi, AltaVista and maybe LookSmart. They are generally for sites with 500 min pages (AV) to 1000 (Inktomi). Don't know what the L$ deal is. They make rankings less dependent on the actual site becuase they feed data into the XML feed that influences rankings.
Instead of an inclusion fee you pay per click. Stop paying and the pages probably get removed and the traffic stops.
See Inktomi Index Connect [positiontech.com]
AltaVista Trusted Feed [altavista.com]
some companies are able to aggregate a bunch of clients into these programs so a smaller number of pages per client can be placed in the index.
[edited by: skibum at 3:06 pm (utc) on July 23, 2002]
Nobody has mentioned any of the fluffy stuff here.
Often my decisions to do something are based on gut reaction. You get a good feeling about a company and therefore you just go with it.
In my opinion you can end up getting so tied up in knots asking so many questions and still end up making a bad choice, or you could ask no questions and make a good choice.
You need to align the objectives of your company closely to the profile of the company.
We don't get involved in any adult or gambling stuff. We're not prudish and turn away a lot of business of this nature. It just doesn't sit right with us. Not only that but talking to SEO companies that do adult or gambling sites, they say, it's time consuming, the webmasters are demanding in the extreme, it's competitive (not that a good scrap bothers us).
Ultimately, an SEO company and their reputation lives or dies on the results they get for clients, but not always using crude measurements of rankings or traffic as the barometer.
Often the clients we pick up may have results that are not good because the client has tinkered, or got a friend who did something, and ended up getting sites blacklisted. There might be a whole bunch of fire fighting to be done first before you can start to fire prevent.
SEO is not a magic wand, it can take months to turn results around. The best you might do is get a site that was totally invisible before to 50th for a high volume keyword, if that generates good results in terms of sales, newsletters etc.. is that bad SEO ?
There are plenty of resources around to help companies in their selection. Due diligence is the name of the game. There have been some recent directories where SEO companies have been vetted prior to inclusion, which might make those companies better choices, but then again it might not. I really would say not to get too carried away. Use The Force as they say in Star Wars, you'll probably end up with the right company.
>XML feeds are offered by Inktomi, AltaVista and maybe LookSmart.
You can add ATW/Lycos and Teoma to the list of Trusted/XML type feeds.
A lot of SEO companies don't do this sort of inclusion yet - but it is quite popular with larger companies. Provided it is set up correctly it can offer the following:
Very fast inclusion
No changes whatsoever to the client site - everything is done off the page.
Tailor-made meta tags (which are actually used) for the page through the feed.
Inclusion of deep content.
As pointed out previously, it is a pay-per-click deal - so, it can be very suitable for some clients, not for others who prefer a flat rate.
Is it effective? If set up properly - very. After all, the search engines only earn money if the listings are clicked on ;)
|Overture, who's database is hundreds of times larger than Wordtracker's database, reports that the top phrases are search engine optimization and search engine placement. |
In SEO, the way to demonstrate competency is to win for the top SEO search phrases.
I've found the my espected results always seem to match up with Wordtracker dead on and not Overture, so I stopped using Overture as much.
There's only 20 SEO firms in the World who are going to place in the top 20 positions in Google for the term "search engine optimization" yet there are probably thousands of people in the world are reasonably good at SEO.
cjtripnewton - When you say *the way* to demonstrate competency in SEO is to win for the top SEO phrases, do you mean "one way* or the *only way*?
If you were hiring an SEO firm, would you pick an SEO who had the #1 position in Google for the term "search engine optimization" for their firm over an SEO with great references who got their client the #1 listing in Google for the terms "s*x" or "weight loss"?
There are two sides to that coin. Another point of view that some have expressed is that they are busy gaining their clients top rankings and therefore have less time for their own sites....and some, as expressed earlier in the thread, don't even want top rankings.
>>When you say *the way* to demonstrate competency in SEO is to
>>win for the top SEO phrases, do you mean "one way* or
>>the *only way*?
One way. Definitely winning shows that you can do what you say you can do. Showing a potential client all your wins for your clients' sites helps, but many companies list their "terrific" results. Often those terrific results just happen to be in non-competitive areas. Clients understand this, especially clients who have taken an hour to visit SEO firms' sites.
Regarding winning for "search engine optimization" or "search engine placement", you take the first page of results and look at their sites. The question becomes, can they do it with a site that would please your average creative director, or do they resort to writing a dissertation?
>>they are busy gaining their clients top rankings and
>>therefore have less time for their own sites....and
>>some, as expressed earlier in the thread, don't even
>>want top rankings.
Not having enough time doesn't seem like a reasonable explanation to me, and I've never heard a firm with a top ranking for the phrases "search engine optimization" or "search engine placement" say that they would like to be losing those battles.
>>>>can they do it with a site that would please your average creative director, or do they resort to writing a dissertation?
Another question worth asking might be, can they do it with tactics that won't get them banned if caught, or do they have to use deceptive techniques?
And the question I might ask is why would I do that, and create a roadmap of how to get top rankings, for anyone to decipher?
|In SEO, the way to demonstrate competency is to win for the top SEO search phrases. Sure, not every one of the searchers are looking for services, which is why it is critical to win for the search phrases which definitely indicate the behavior of potential clients looking for an SEO firm, which include search engine placement services, seo services, and search engine optimization services. |
I have to disagree vehemently.
I am pleased with my #5 and climbing out of over 3 million pages, but its not an "SEO" term. Yet is most assuredly as competitive. Actually, as I write this, Google shows me 354,000 pages for search engine optimization, and 375k for search engine placement, compared to 3,890,000 for "my term".
Therefore, according to cjtripnewton, I must be incompetent, or incapable, unless I am misreading the criterion for proof that I can do this. :)
In addition, the time and effort it takes to do this is sometimes not worth it. I'd rather get paid, real cash to do this for clients, or sell product. After having top ten rankings across the board in this same arena for over a year, and measuring the inquiries, and subsequent ensuing business it was not worth a !@#%$.
I am now fairly careful to stay well below the radar, and market our services other ways.
YMMV, of course.
Ask for bad references. As in, companies who were not happy with their work. I have done this with some really big firms, and those that actually provide it end up to be the best.
[edited by: Tapolyai at 11:22 pm (utc) on July 23, 2002]
This competency based assessment..
Is it done just using Google, or is it across the board ? According to Wordtracker Google has 23% or so of the search market, which means they don't have the other 77% (even though we could argue that point).
In the UK we spell optimisation with an s and not a z.
If you use Overture as your measure, then the ones at the top of their pile will be the companies prepared to pay the $10 or so per click to be there.
Busy painters never get to paint their own house. Busy hairdressers often need a haircut.
I am very surprised at the number of experts here who say that the search engine position of their own website is unimportant.
The arguments for this viewpoint:
a) We're too busy
b) We get our business from other sources
c) It's too competitive
d) We might get banned from Google
Likely response by a potential client (whether verbal or non-verbal):
a) If you're too busy to work on your own site's positions how are you going to find the time to cope with managing ours?
b) So SEO doesn't work for you? Why will it work for us?
c) So if you work for us you won't tackle competitive 2 or even 3 word search phrases!?
d) Hmm, maybe some truth in this. Maybe not. You're not prepared to risk your site, but you will happily take money to risk ours! Yes, but there's 'special algo' - presumably Web Monkey have a special excemption pass!?
Come on guys! Just because we're not on the first page of Google doesn't mean we're not experts in our field (there are only 10 slots after all) - but lets not convince ourselves we don't want the top positions. It just doesn't wash.
Again, an issue for our marketing.
I would ask the client how they initially contacted my company. In my case, it's usually referral or other means rather than being in the top 5 'search engine' type phrases. I try to practice what I preach and target niche or 'value added' phrases which I believe will be relevant and searched for by my 'ideal clients'.
I hope that this illustrates my understanding of how to target and reach the right clients using the most effective channels - yes, this may mean that there are other ways to reach a client (even for a SEO) than SEO itself!
I think this sorts the pure SEO companies from those who can offer a more rounded approach to promotion and communication using the internet/web to meet a clients' objectives. Nothing wrong with being 'just an SEO company or consultant', but I don't think you get anywhere saying to a client that SEO is 'the only way'.
I would like to know how the company in question located and contacted the SEO companies they considered?
ish, you said...
> I am very surprised at the number of experts here who say that the search engine position of their own website is unimportant.
I would not say that it is unimportant, but, the traffic those types of terms bring is mostly unqualified. My personal site used to sit in the #3 to #5 position for Search Engine Optimization. I can tell you right now that 99% of the leads from that position were not ready for my type of business model, nor were they able to afford the costs associated with their campaign requirements.
So, spending the time necessary to battle for those coveted top ten spots for the terms mentioned, is in my mind a waste of time. Oh sure, its great to have the exposure and be able to prove to your clients that you can compete on competitive SEO terms. But, I'd rather show them client positions for two word phrases with over a 1MM results.
Its a viable method to measure the success of the SEO/SEM consultant and/or company, but it should not be the only one. There are many other factors to look at.
Not too long ago I received an email from a company rep that was lurking at WMW. He informed me that his company uses 30 some odd SEO companies to promote their clients (They are a lead generation company) and wanted to know if I was interested in doing the same.
They were looking for "well rounded" SEO'ers that could optimized for all major search engine's, do PPC and submissions to directories.
I quickly realized that they in fact had 30 some odd, web design/hosting companies that could add a few hundred keywords to a meta tag (which sufficed the SEO requirement) and then exclusively did the PPC routine. This is to many web site owners including this particular company what an "SEO" is.
In a funny sort of way, their belief wouldn't be that wrong, since the object of SEOing is to generate targeted web site visitation so that the company maximizes its online exposure and in the most efficient way possible for that particular situation. Is the method of achieving that goal more important than the goal itself?
|Nothing wrong with being 'just an SEO company or consultant', but I don't think you get anywhere saying to a client that SEO is 'the only way'. |
I think this statement is a little redundant.
I don't think I've ever gone to an airport and heard anyone say "flying ... isn't the only way to travel, maybe you should try a train instead?".
If the client came to an actual SEO company or consultant, it's usually because this is what they want and not because they think there isn't other forms of marketing, online or otherwise.
Agreed Fathom, but I have gone to a travel agency with the objective of a good holiday and been given options to achieve this which may or may not involve flying. As you said, it's the way in which to achieve the goal of targeted, qualified visitors rather than the mechanics of the process.
My point was that if a company has unrealistic expectations or objectives for just SEO it is a marketing decision for us (after we have done our upmost to prove our professionalism and understanding of the medium) to say either 'no, this can't be achieved' and walk away or say 'SEO will help you with part of your aims, here are some other methods which we can help you investigate'.
Personally, I would rather not devote time to the clients who will not see further forward than an 'IT solution' or 'meta-stuffing'. I would rather leave them to the web design company you mentioned.
I don't see how customer's refference can say anything about your chances for achieving top rankings today. You may have suceeded because it was long time ago, or because the competition in the field that you promoted for was very low, but success in bringing traffic (thru SEO, of course) to site that sells blue dancing shoes only, doesn't prove anything about your chances for bringing web hosting site to the top 10 ranking in Google.
Ish welcome to Webmaster World, I enjoyed your clever post. Truly I have been of the school to not want my own site promoted. Recently Iíve changed my mind about that and have decided to pursue self-promotion.
I like a) Ďcause it made me think.
I chuckled on b) because thereís the opposite reason I stayed clear of SEO for my site, because I know it does work. I used to feel that the search engines and directories were better off not knowing what I do professionally, promoting sites. Now, I no longer fear that.
Like pageoneresults suggests, C) isnít the problem although I think Ďsearch engine optimizationí used to be a niched keyword. Of course now itís evolved to the point that many niches have sprung from it. I fit better into one of those so the niche Ďsearch engine optimizationí isnít important to me and Iíll leave that to others who have made that their main focus.
And d) is one of the reasons I had a strong opinion yesterday in the Google and invisible text [webmasterworld.com]discussion. When working for a client I have to ask myself if this was something I would do with my own site.
What are the risks involved with our SEO practices. If I were to question someone today about their SEO practices I would definitely be asking them about the risks involved with every SEO action. Letís remember that folks are still mass submitting so we have a ways to go in educating the general and professional public.
Good points markd.
|'SEO will help you with part of your aims, here are some other methods which we can help you investigate'. |
Welcome to Webmaster World The_Ney. Thanks for posting.
I am the owner of a 3 person U.S. SEO company. Webmasterworld is daily reading for all of us at the office, and we very rarely post. However, in reading this thread during the past few days, I feel inclined to add a few comments.
Our firm ranks in the top-10 on the term "search engine optimization" in Yahoo, Google, Altavista and several other 2nd tier engines.. The value to us for these rankings is not in the new clients that it generates. Like one poster mentioned, many of the inquiries we receive through our website are simply not qualified to work with us. Almost 100% of our business is referrals. However, the value of having these positions to show off to our new "referral" clients is absolutely incredible. Showing a client top 10 and top 20 positions in the major search engines for one of the most competitive phrases on the web is priceless. This is not to say that it "closes the deal", but it offers the client tremendous reassurance, especially when we educate them about ethical SEO strategies and show them how our site, as well as our clients' sites, comply with SE guidelines. In short, these rankings add much needed credibility to an industry that is like a "black art" to even the most experienced marketing & web professionals.
Since our clients are almost exclusively referrals, someone that we have done good work for has already stuck their neck on the line by recommending our firm, and these results further validate their testimony. Seriously, it is one of the most important factors in the success of our business..
With that said, I truly do not understand how an independent SEO consultant or firm could claim to be a major player in the industry without this testimony. I believe that it is blasphemous for an alleged "SEO professional" to claim to be a confident believer & expert in SEO without investing the time and resources in their own website to obtain favorable results in the search engines. It just doesn't make sense.. not to us, and not to our clients. Many of whom have told us that a key reason for selecting our firm as a vendor was the testimony made by our past clients and the results that we have achieved for ourselves.
With this said, I believe that two of the most important questions a potential client can ask an SEO vendor are:
1. Can I see the results of several clients in competitive industries (naturally, the potential client should not be a direct compeitor to any of these references)
2. Where is your website currently ranked in the major engines on the competitive SEO terms?
The proof is in the pudding.
Thanx for the welcome.
To Mantis : I understand that the proof of previous success is something clients like to see (darn, because of that, we are showing it too), but as i said, i don't think that it proves anything about your SEO abilities. It just prooves that in the past you have succeeded in getting a top position. Maybe because of a weak competition, maybe because of using techniques that used to work then. It can also prove that you are a very nice guy that answers e-mails promptly and that you won't steal any fo the client's content, or indulge in some sneaky SEO practices (which is important) but regarding your abilities to bring any future sites to the top positions you may as well say "I swear i can".
Chances of ranking high can be measured only after you have started working on clients site.
Nice post mantispraying its an interesting argument.
Your point 1 is the most convincing for me.
> 1. Can I see the results of several clients in competitive industries (naturally, the potential client should not be a direct compeitor to any of these references)<
The proof is in the pudding as you say and the pudding for companies that have their heads screwed on is ROI.
> 2. Where is your website currently ranked in the major engines on the competitive SEO terms? <
I dont agree with your point 2 which goes against my own belief in marketing and ROI.
If you show your clients that you have good position against this competitive keyword it will be persuasive that you can position for a competive key term.
It will not be as impressive that you can maximise ROI from a limited marketing budget.
What's your convertion rate from visitors arriving on that key term?
The fact that there can be only 10 pages in the top ten in search engines and 10 sites in the top 10 in Yahoo means that if for example every poster in webmasterworld SEO forums were to be trying there would be lots of dissapointed people and its not business model specific everyone looks at it, porn, airlines, holiday, blue chip etc.
There can be only 10 who would get there. That 10 have to work harder (spend more) to get there than to get various other rankings... which would by definition be more specific (focussed)
Rightly you could not show a company rankings you had achieved for their primary competitor.
And some potential clients that find you from that term are unsuitable (noise unfocussed waste)
So what about targetting sectors of clients that are suitable for your business model so that your conversion rates increase ... and therefore your own ROI.
( know you mentioned get most business by referral which is the same for me)
However I argue that in doing SEO you have to persuade that:
- you are able to position against target key terms
- you can indicate which are viable to target ..
- which "worth targetting" are more easily attainable
- which will be harder to attain (read cost more)
That's what you would be doing for them right?
The interesting aspect is what is the expected ROI of this activity?
Then you and your clients can start to compare that to their other marketing and promotional spends and you could try to win a bigger share of that pot.
9thsign A serious point you could ask the companies you are considering is ..
How much work will be done on a permanent basis, i.e, if we cease doing business together this work and its effect on our rankings will remain in place?
This would INCLUDE geniune inward link generation from real companies web sites. In site page and throughout site development on your site your server and the copyright thereof.
It would EXCLUDE any tactics that the firm might use to artificially boost your PR in google buy building sites and pages solely for that purpose which they might retain the ownership and copyright of and which they would be likely to dismantle in the event of you ceasing trading with each other.
It would indicate what will become and remain your legal property if and when you eventually ceased paying this firm.
There are lots of angles to look at here but I think it is an interesting line of discussion.
Several have argued that in determining the "competitiveness" of a search phrase, the primary factor to consider should be the number of matches found in Google for that phrase. Under that arguement, the term "non-seo keyword phrase 1" which results in 2,120,000 matches, would logically be considered to be much more competitive a battle than "seo keyword phrase 2" which results in only 372,000 matches.
Well, I can tell you that that isn't the case, as we optimized the number one match for "non-seo keyword phrase 1" and the number two match for "seo keyword phrase 2". Winning for SEO related phrases is just plain harder. Suggesting that the competitiveness of a search is determined by the number of matches for the search is misleading, even if it comes from a lack of knowledge.
It is easy to find examples of search phrases with millions of matches in Google which would be a cinch to win.
"Search engine optimization" and "search engine placement" are the two of most competitive phrases on the web because we, the experts, are the ones fighting over them. It's not the number of matches in Google that counts, it's the quality of the competition. If you want to see who is the best at search engine optimization, then go and look at who is winning in the battles where the top SEO Firms are battling it out.
It seems that the wise approach to SEO is to target the relevant phrases that are most frequently searched for, but with the least competition. The 'niche' phrases.
But if you have the muscle to fight it out on centre stage then go for it. After all, Google is free.
Actually it is much harder than you think, "getting yourself to top ranked positions with SEO terms, since most of the DMOZ categories related to this segment have been penalized by direct association/referrals to other (the worst of the breed) PR0 sites.
No one gets any help here!
I think the big question for us, which is one I am sure we ask/consider for clients, is...
How will the audience(s) you are trying to reach search for you?
I don't think a single one of my clients would search for 'search engine optimisation' or 'search engine placement'.
I do want to emphasise this is just my personal experience and portfolio, I'm not trying to jump on some kind of soapbox and say 'what's right for me is right for everyone'.
But, if a potential client was to say to me 'why aren't you in the top 3 for these phrases', I would use the same principals for me as I would for them:
(with big generalisations for the purpose of this reply)
1. May be too competitive for my budget to make an impression.
2. The majority of clients I wish to reach wouldn't use these terms
3. It would expose my clients and my own site to a huge amount of competitive attention - a consideration for any marketing activity should be 'how will my competitors react to this'
4. It may not be the kind of positioning I want for my company
This is not to say that those companies who are doing this are not raking it in and are doing the right thing - they are obviously extremely clever and effective organisations.
I think that it's a question of 'horses for courses' for us and for clients.
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