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What to look for in a SEO company

 8:54 pm on Mar 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi everyone,

Our company is looking to get a SEO company to help increase our rankings. We had one company in a few times and we are thinking about going with them. I just want to make sure I go with the right company.

They have a guarantee that they will increase our visitors by 2000/month. Also they guarantee we will rank top 10 for at least 5 of the 15 keywords we choose. Now the price they gave us included an analysis of our site, optimization consulting, search engine and directory submissions and a link exchange system. With that they will initially get us 500 links and hand submit us to 20 directories and auto submit to 200+ SE & directories.

Now I'm not sure if that sounded right to me. Like first thats only 66 visitors a day. It doesn't seem like that much of an increase to me. Also that guarantee would be with google and yahoo for top 10 ranking. If they did get us 500 links would that put in effect the sandbox issue with google and throw us up at the top 10 ranking just to loose it 2 weeks after our contract goes out?

What is everyone else opinion? Is there anything I should look out for?

Thanks for your help.




 9:05 pm on Mar 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

If an SEO firm mentions the word "guarantee" then run from them as fast as you can. In today's search engine optimization market, you cannot properly offer guarantees--and if a company does offer one, it's most likely for search engines that aren't used or for keywords that are not that competitive.

To mention that they'll get you "500 links" is inappropriate. Depending on the industry/niche, there might not be 500 on-topic links to get. You need to get appropriate on-topic links, not useless links to satisfy some "guarantee".

Don't auto-submit anything to any directories or search engines, that's just spamming and a complete waste of time.


 9:17 pm on Mar 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yeah I can understand your guarantee point. They do mention that it is for Yahoo and Google and just those two search engines. As for the links, they were saying they will try to get as many links that have to deal with our product line, but to get 500 wouldn't be possible so you there would be some that wouldn't have to do with our product line but we still need those ones for SE link popularity.

What about that sandbox issue I mentioned, is it possible they could be using that?

Thanks for the reply :)



 3:14 pm on Mar 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

Good morning,

I do SEO for a living (full-time work for a company in CT). First, I agree with the previous posting - no one can guarantee top positioning on natural searches and because of this I would doubt the 20,000 new customers per month.

I have been doing SEO now for quite a few years and am pretty good at it - I am also amazed of how many merchants still fall for th guarantee of top spots.

As the previous person indicated - no one can guarantee the top position in any search engine.


[edited by: pageoneresults at 6:00 pm (utc) on Mar. 20, 2005]
[edit reason] Removed Specifics - Please Refer to TOS [/edit]


 8:49 am on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

You would do much better to spend time reading on this website. You want somebody to set your site up correctly and somebody that can get you links. 2000 visitors a month is a very simple goal. I would not use this company they sound like total armatures. If somebody is charging a low amount for SEO they don't know what they are doing. The very best charge very large amounts and may not take you as a customer no matter how much money you throw at them.

Things to look out for:

1. If they use the word auto submit at all.
2. They make any kind of rank guarantee.
3. Offer link exchange.

Iím sure there are more itís late my brain is not completely in right now.

A lot of SEOís will give you links on their networks and as soon as you stop paying them your links will go away.

Marketing Guy

 9:17 am on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi wfernley

I'm a campaign manager for a SEO firm and honestly my boss would shoot me if I made that kind of pitch to a client.

Also they guarantee we will rank top 10 for at least 5 of the 15 keywords we choose.

You choose or they do? I could rank number 1 for *some* of the keywords that clients choose! ;) But part of a SEO's job is identifying which keywords are appropriate to target and which are not.

With that they will initially get us 500 links and hand submit us to 20 directories and auto submit to 200+ SE & directories

Ewwwwww! :)

Auto submit / hand submissions are largely irrelevant in terms of search engines because they find your site from inbound links.

The only service you should be considering paying for is submissions to directories (free or paid inclusion) and even then you need to know that your SEO is submitting you to the *right* directories (ie ones in which a link will acutally benefit you).

If they did get us 500 links would that put in effect the sandbox issue with google and throw us up at the top 10 ranking just to loose it 2 weeks after our contract goes out?

It's unlikley they would do it all at once. Sandbox is a vague term which is thrown around a lot and I wouldn't worry about it (largely it refers to new domain "penalties").

I would be concerned about getting a specific amount of links. If I were you I would get assurances that:

- they are putting effort into sourcing the links from reputable sites.

- they don't own all the sites that will be linking to you.

- there won't be a monthly retainer to "maintain" the links.

It's perfectly acceptable for SEOs to charge monthly fees for maintainence or link building, but not simply to "keep" existing links.

I would check out the Google webmasters guide and make sure the firm isn't playing around with some dodgy tricks: [google.com...]

Don't let it put you off the industry, it's just there are a load of cowboys out there so go in with your eyes open. :)



 3:41 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)


Its all very well spending time reading this website, but when I am trying to run a business, surely I want to be able to delegate this task to someone be it in-house or outsourced? Especially as SEs seem to change the rules often, its a full time job as you know, which would detract from researching new business opportunities on the web.

Therefore with the many cowboys out there, where is the best place to find these SEOs?

I am sure many of us readers that do read often still wouldn't have the technical gifts/time that you guys have to apply the knowledge/wisdom given in these forums.

If I can can add anything to the discussion, I find that asking for references is a good idea, checking them in Google and then phoning up the sites' webmaster departments to see what the SEOs are like to work with and what they think of them.

You'll find its quite an eye opener.


 4:37 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just be careful it is like trying to find a reputable mechanic.


 4:51 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Marketing Sherpa have a SEO firm guide I believe?


 4:52 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

You could ask them why they do SEO instead of building their own sites.


 4:53 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

There is an excellent resource out there called the "SEO Consultants Directory". Search for it in Google.

I used that DB to find vendors for clients and friends.

I would prefer it to have a bit more searching functionality, but it is the best out there for now.

(Disclosure:I have interviewed the owner of that site for an article when the site launched.)

The Contractor

 5:04 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Is there anything I should look out for?

Yes, you should look for the truth, facts, and details. You're not getting it from the first company so move on. When choosing someone/firm in this business as soon as you catch them not telling the truth and/or making wild claims - move on, and don't waste any more time.

Knew a few people whom were offered "guaranteed" positions in Google for thier keywords and after falling for it the SEO company ran AdWords for those keyords/site and took screenshots of their "positions". Legally they had no recourse.


 5:44 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

I want to be able to delegate this task to someone be it in-house or outsourced

This is the single most important thing to your online business and as the head of that business you need to know exactly what makes it tick. If you leave it up to snake oil salesmen you'll be in for a wild out of control ride and have absolutely no control over your own business's destiny. Doesn't mean you have to do all the work, but you better know exactly what these people are doing to your business and the ultimate impact of their actions.

In my opinion most SEO is not a quick fix you can hire someone to correct. SEO is a way of doing business on the web and should be designed into every aspect of the web site from the ground up, not done as an after thought.

Assuming you have an ecommerce site even the software you choose and use could make or break you regardless of who does your SEO.

- Does category and product titles show up in the page titles per page?

- Do product descriptions show up in ALT text on your product images?

- Do your categories and products have a dynamic page name or is the category or product used as the page name? For instance do you get to the product via a link like [example.com...] or something more search engine friendly like [example.com...]

If the answer to all of the above is YES you have a huge head start.

These sound very simplistic but are shockingly missing in many modern sites.

Every category and product description in your site is part of the SEO process and you really don't need a 3rd party to fix some of these things. Many of my customers initially just used the brand, product name and/or part number only without any generic description at all in a prominent spot which resulted in lackluster results. The problem with that approach is unless I'm doing a search specifically looking for that specific brand and product, assuming I know the exact thing I'm looking for, I'd never find their listing. To correct it all they had to do was add the proper generic keywords into the category and product descriptions and the sales took off.

For example, if you're selling WIDGETS and you have Brand X's "Toldeo", many people merchandise it with the category being the brand and the product being "Toledo" so the term "WIDGET" never gets into a prominent spot for the search engine to find. Simply changing the category to "Brand X WIDGETS" and making each product contain the name term like "Toledo - WIDGET" and weeding WIDGET into the detailed description shot them to the top of WIDGETS. This is a no-brainer as suddenly the search engine understood what in the heck they were trying to sell - WIDGETS!

For LINK building, if you're running an ecommerce site the easiest way to get inbound links is start an affiliate program that directly points to your domain. Don't use programs like Commission Junction or Linkshare that redirect thru generic link counting domains. Try MyAffiliateProgram by Kowabunga as they do direct linking meaning you generate sales and increase your inbound links all in one shot. If you're lucky you'll get some authority publisher sites in your industry to become affiliates which helps improve your position signigicantly AND you make sales in the process, a win/win for all.

Hope this helps a bit.


 5:50 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

500 backlinks sounds like link spamming.
5 out of 15 keywords sounds reasonable.
2000 uniques/month increase is not a lot. It depends on the industry but if it is semi-competitive(100K-1mil results), you could achieve this by having only one search term in top 3 positions)
You don't need 500 backlinks for 2000 uniques/month. Only a few good ones will do the job.

I would look for a company that doens't guarantee the rankings or uniques. Rather, I would work with an SEO who has at least a few happy customers who are willing to recommend this company or person to you.

Ask for a reference and talk to the current/previous their customers.


 6:15 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

I would say the best way to find good SEO's is to try and find companies who take part in the SEO contests [where you have to rank a new website on search engines].

These companies however would probably charge much higher than the one man run efforts but they will show more defined results. You can probably make a list of say ten companies after researching through the contest winners and then you can write to each one to send you a quote.

Google is ruthless... and it's amazingly difficult to make websites rank well for competitive keywords. So, be sure to go with a good company or you may just end up wasting money.



 9:14 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

I spent a lot of time looking for a good SEO and then decided that the really good ones are all working for themselves. The one or two who aren't don't have time to take on new customers.

The ones who are free to take on new customers are the "we auto submit your site to a gazillion SEs" or "we guarantee you the #1 spot in Google for mesothelioma" types. They won't know their latent semantic indexing from their loccalrank from a lava lamp.


 4:36 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

My opinion is, if the SEO firm is as good as they claim, why aren't they working on their own sites through affiliate programs? Why do the work on someone else's site when you can own the traffic and lease it out as needed?




 5:08 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

I really don't see too many of these comments helping the poster. If you can see from the buyer's perspective, maybe you will also see a way to properly pitch SEO services?

"read WebmasterWorld" is not helpful. Need a plumber? Learn to do plumbing. No.

Anybody cheap is bad, ergo if it's way expensive it must be good? Not.

It's the same as any other consulting. If you had the expertise you wouldn't need the consultant. So what do you do when you hire a lawyer? You trust him.

Upon what do you base that trust?

- professional references/referrals
- education (school calibre) and work history (CV or resume or bio)
- gut instinct and impressions from meetings
- opinions of others knowledgable in related fields
- described process of billing/charging/planned work.
- perhaps issues related to jurisdiction and size of firm, etc.

SEO is no different. The fees are just as high. Retainers are common. Do it the same way.

And as I do with lawyers, you can always hire a second one to audit the first one at least in the proposal stage. If you find a good one that is too busy to take your work (or is not interested because it's too low level) thay may agree to the consult for a fixed fee. They get a a chance to see someone else's work, and getpaid for their expertise alone (no work obligation).

If you do that make sure your contract with #2 permits you to share the proposal/plan with your "associates and hired expert advisors" or something like that so you don't do any harm.


 5:25 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

I just interviewed a dozen of the top SEO firms to take over our marketing. I can report this to you:
1 - Just because a firm costs more DOES NOT make them better SEO's. Most of the time you are interviewing with a salesman who gets paid commission, and some of their seo techs start @ $12 an hour (comforting eh?). One company, (probably the largest that I interviewed), had cheering and bells going off twice in the background during my call when someone made a new sale - just like in a boiler room. At these prices, it's not very comforting at all.. And to be honest, I was leaning towards signing with them before i heard this over the phone. The salesman aploogized to me twice for it and said that they were having an "unusually good day". They actually called me out of the blue on a cold call. How did they get my name? One of their customers is in the # 1 slot on google for a search term. I am #5. They wanted to know if I wanted help moving up positions. All I have to say is that if I were the customer in slot 1 and I knew they were soliciting business for the same page - i would be pissed.
2 - Depending on the size of your site, make sure they are adequately staffed. Ask how many employees (excluding sales and A/R). I have found that some companies are spread very thin, and of course they still want all of the money. More employees is not better all of the time, more importantly would be the ratio between the customer and the SEO team.
3 - I will say that only based on my interviews, that 70% of the top companies should not be in the top at all.

This is only my report - nothing above is carved in stone.


 6:40 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

Good SEO is like Honest Politicians.

Like someone else pointed out, if you're THAT good why aren't your working in your own site?

'Nuff said.


 9:00 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

The number of backlinks gained is a really poor indicator of the value of link work. It's all about quality of links obtained.

Marketing Guy

 9:24 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

I know this may come as a shocker to a lot of people, but not every SEO has the prime ambition in life to churn out a network of cheesy affilate sites! ;) For some people, quality really is more important than quantity.

It takes a lot of time and effort to develop a viable business model simply from your own sites and that isn't always what people want to do with their time.

Saying "if they are so good, then why don't they run their own sites" is just like saying, "read webmasterworld" to non-SEOs instead of offering advice. It's all very well if that's your cup of tea...


ADDED - most SEO's I know who work for companies, do run their own sites! ;)


 10:55 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

>I just interviewed a dozen of the top SEO firms...

Out of interest, how did you define who appeared to be the top SEO firms?


 1:57 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)


Sorry I haven't posted here for a while I have been away. Thanks for all the advice.

One thing I am contemplating is doing all the SEO myself. I would devote an hour of my day everyday to looking for links, going through products and fixing the pages to be more keyword rich and fix up their meta tags, and doing various other tasks.

I was still thinking about hiring a SEO company for consulting on our website.

The reason why we are looking to get someone else to do SEO is because I simply don't have time, but I could free up an hour a day for this. Would this be enough time? I know you can spend your whole day on SEO but would an hour work?

We need to make a decision quickly about this because the the company we are looking to do our SEO is asking for the contract.

Like they mentioned they could increase our visitors by like 2000/month, I think I could increase our visitors by that much by just doing some simple SEO.

What is everyones opinion.

Thanks again for all the replies :D



 2:02 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

I really don't see too many of these comments helping the poster.... "read WebmasterWorld" is not helpful. Need a plumber? Learn to do plumbing. No.

To be fair the general user of webmasterworld isn't experienced in outsourcing SEO; his perspective likely is: It's easy, do it yourself, we'll help you.

I can understand the poster's concern. Most business owners don't have the time to keep abreast with the latest in SEO, Google updates, and market changes like nofollow tags. And they probably don't have the inclination either.

Your suggestions about getting references etc are sound ideas. May I suggest that the real SEOs put together a list of questions that a competent SEO would know the answers to. That way other prospective SEO hunters would know what to ask. Users would have to integrate them into the conversation or openly say you are testing their knowledge. Sample questions

1. Have you read the thread in webmasterworld about questions to ask an SEO :). If the answer is "no"...
2. I seem to have lost hundreds of links. I exchanged links with 2000 sites but when I do a link:htt*://www.mysite.com in Google I see only 20 incoming links. What's happened? (Ans: Google's link report has been wonky for a long time, don't trust it)
3. What's the different between cloaking for a user and for IPs? Do you do that (also gives you an idea of the type of approaches they use)?
4. How many SEs will you automatically submit me to (trick question to see if they try to impress you with big numbers. A good answer for me would be "no automatic submissions").
5. What are freshbot and deepbot?

Maybe you SEO companies can come up with some....


 2:14 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

Suggestions for questions.

How can a 302 redirect ( on my site ) hurt me?

How can 302 redirect ( on someone elses site ) hurt me?

How can a scraper site show up higher than mine in the results?

Whats a scraper site?

How do you keep my optimised page out of googles cache ..?


What's cloaking for bot's..?

Whats your "nick" at WebmasterWorld?

Can you show me a screen shot of your sticky mail box to prove it? ;)

Marketing Guy

 2:20 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

2k per month is very subjective - really all depends on how your site is currently performing and what the general industry is like (how many searches, how much competition, how well the competition is SEO'd, etc).

1 hour per day on self-SEO? Honestly I think it would end up eating more of your time than that because you wouldn't want to leave task a, b or c unfinished.

With regards the current SEO company I would say that the "initially get you 500 links" part is the main thing that is ringing alarm bells in my ears! The traffic level estimates could be accurate depending on the industry.

I would suggest getting some serious clarification of the source of the 500 links before you sign any agreement.

Secondly, get clarification that the traffic levels are from organic search results and not PPC or other methods that the company could easily remove.

The guaranteed top 10 ranking part is dodgy. I mean, I could be fairly certain that through "ethical" SEO means I could achieve top 10 for any given keyword, but "guarantee" is a very strong term, one which I don't think I would use. It's just not a businsess where stuff is guaranteed like that.

Issues with that are:

- how are they achieving the rankings?
- what keywords are they targetting?
- what search engines will the guarantee rankings on?



 2:34 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

Those are good questions to ask. What else should I ask them?


 2:43 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

Whom do they currently SEO?
For what terms ..keywords ..where ..which engines ..do they use paid links ..
( check who they SEO and ask yourself would you use the search term they did ..some are real easy to SEO ..but no -one would ever type them in to a search box ) ..
Do they beleive that kanoodle works ..is worth paying ;)?

[edited by: Leosghost at 2:47 pm (utc) on Mar. 24, 2005]


 2:45 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

What else should I ask them?


How competitive are the terms they target for themselves and what terms do their sites rank tops for? (You'd need to know enough to check if these really are their sites)

<added> same as Leosghost said, our posts crossed</added>

This 61 message thread spans 3 pages: 61 ( [1] 2 3 > >
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