By Neil Walker, Chief Technical Officer at Just Search
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an effective way for marketers to gain exposure and increase brand awareness and can make a huge difference when it comes to executing an effective marketing strategy.
By outsourcing to a dedicated SEO agency, your business can benefit from specialised knowledge about industry news and developments, while enlisting the help of a team of dedicated staff that have expert knowledge and access to vital resources. By working with an SEO agency you are forming a long-term partnership, so it is imperative that you select the right one to work with your brand.
Working with your brand
Look for someone that is willing to put time and effort into your company. An outsider needs to understand your brand and business goals and provide a customised approach to integrate with your offline marketing activities. As a vital part of the marketing mix, SEO needs to send out the same message as your offline campaigns to prospects and clients.
Research and ask questions
Before hiring an SEO agency, remember to give your website the once over. Give it a health check and find out its natural search ranking before embarking on an SEO campaign. You can add your site to Google Webmaster Tools as this will provide you with information on what Google has found about your site. Doing these simple steps will make it easier to evaluate the agency’s performance at a later date and to see how effective the campaign has been.
It is important to find out what previous and current clients have to say before selecting an agency, and what their reputation is within the industry. One of the best ways to gain information is to contact them directly and ask for references, which any good organisation will provide. Also, request a list of current clients to find out where they appear in the search rankings. Listen to recommendations and bad experiences that people have had and read reviews, especially respected blogs.
However, don’t read one article and act on it without validating that advice. Do your own search on the agency and even use ‘SEO’ as a search term to find out how high it ranks in the search engines. This is an effective way see if they practice what they preach.
The right techniques
It is important to look at the optimising techniques a potential SEO partner uses. For example, an agency should have a good understanding of the search spiders and how they read information. Using links, and writing and uploading regular content will help drive traffic to your website and increase your online footprint.
Talk to the agency and look at their website to see exactly what tools they use. They should be able explain their functionality and how they can help build your brand online. Good SEO experts will recommend keyword phrase selections that reflect your offline marketing strategy and brand proposition.
Be aware of rogue cowboys that offer short-term results that run-off the back of unethical optimisation techniques. Black Hat SEO is a term used in search engine marketing that describes unethical activities that some companies offer to guarantee instant results and higher search rankings. For example, implementing keywords in white text on a white background will fool search engine spiders into giving a website a temporary high ranking. Using Black Hat techniques can jeopardise your online campaign and can result in your website having its listing downgraded or even banned from the search engines.
Enlisting an agency that complies with the rules and regulations set out by the search engines and conducts ethical SEO on all client work will make for an effective long-term online campaign. Before speaking to an agency, read around SEO and Black Hat techniques to ensure that you ask the right questions as this will help decipher if unethical practices are being used. Make sure they answer your questions and take you through their processes as well as giving full explanations about their recommendations, such as their selected keywords.
Campaign evaluation is vital, so remember to look at what sort of monitoring system and reporting an agency can provide you with. Find out what tools they will be using to measure success.
You need to be certain that you have chosen the right SEO company as you are starting a long-term relationship with them. If you do not feel completely secure in what they are offering it is best to keep looking for a partner that you do feel 100 per cent confident in.
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