For newbies the world of SEO can be a daunting and challenging place. Often a company rep looking to get their organization onboard the optimization train will want to be able to sell it back to the folks at the home office by quantifying exactly what they’ll be getting for their optimization bucks. Unfortunately that’s often where the SEO baddies step in.
As a rule of thumb anyone who tells you that they can guarantee a specific result through optimization is talking out of a part of their body where the sun don’t shine. There are plenty of shady operators out there who will “guarantee” rankings or traffic levels. Some of them will even tie their payment to your site’s rankings. Sounds good doesn’t it?
There are all kinds of ways for unscrupulous SEO bandits to spoof the ranking results and even traffic levels, get paid and then move on to the next customer — all before you realize that your deeper goals of connecting your site to a specific targeted audience have fallen by the wayside. Major heavy bummer, man.
Among the tricks these dirty dogs use are so-called “shadow domains”, inherently deceptive sites that use re-direct tricks to funnel traffic to a client’s site. They may also guarantee ranking, but on obscure phrases that are little used or that your site already ranks well on (even your company name!). Some of these hustlers set up “doorway” pages on client sites that are stuffed with dubious keywords (some of which can be designed to lead traffic to another one of the SEO’s clients.)
Another common trick is the ol’ “submission to all major search engines scam,” something Reprise Media’s Manager of SEO Mark Pilatowski blogged about on his own blog. The unsavory SEO preys on the client’s ignorance by offering to “submit” the client’s site to thousands of search engines. There are a few problems with this.
First of all, how many thousands of search engines do you use? Beyond Google, Ask, MSN, Yahoo! and… and… ok yeah. So we’ve established that there are only 4 major search engines. There are ways to add your site to their index though the best way to get their attention is through relevant links on other sites. Still, simply adding your site is free. Yahoo! does offer a paid component to indexing that speeds up their time to approval but this is a very small component of effective SEO. More to the point, basic submission is free and relatively easy.
The reality is that major search engines use very closely guarded algorithms to generate what they intend to be the most relevant results for a given search. Google is unambiguous when it comes to guarantee claims from SEO marketers:
“Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google.”
So how do you know you are in good SEO hands? In a SearchViews post last year we talked about the “couples therapy” nature of the relationship between Search Engines and the sites that benefit from search traffic (or hope to benefit in the case of an SEO client). What a good SEO marketer should do is to help strengthen that bridge between the site and the engines.
A good optimizer will ask key questions about your business and more importantly, your goals for optimization. One size does not fit all in the world of SEO.
The next step for a good SEO is to set regular (Reprise Media recommends weekly) meetings with the client. This is especially important for enterprise level clients who often have several layers of approval and complex website structures that need to be kept in mind. Multiple business units will often have specific usability issues that need to be taken into account and optimization has to be tailored to their needs.
A good SEO will stand ready to help guide and advise the client on implementation, rather than dropping off a set of recommended fixes and saying ‘See ya!” The dynamic nature of search engine algorithms means that there is no silver optimization bullet.
Finally, Mark makes another great point: ask questions. A good SEO provider will take the time to explain every element of what they do. They will also clearly say what they can’t do. There should be no vagueness. Honesty and clarity are the two great indicators. Even the best SEO with the shiniest track record will tell you that, as on Wall Street, past performance is no guarantee of future results.