If you have SEO on your mind and are looking for an SEO professional then it is important to ensure that you get the correct solution, the first time. Like any service enquiry, you should a) communicate clearly what you need and b) ensure that you understand what services are being offered, and what the expected results are going to be for the price. In short you should make sure that both parties have the same expectations. “Website top of Google” is a vague comment to be made by either yourself or your supplier. “To rank on the first page of the Google search results for [phrase X]” is much better: it is very clear and can form an excellent objective for the SEO work about to be undertaken. But you need to be careful here too: if your potential SEO professional starts making guarantees about Google rankings, then that is not good. Google itself states that no one can guarantee rankings in the Google search results. Identifying the keywords for which you want your website to rank in the Google search results is essential and this list should be agreed by both parties. It is easier to get a website ranking well on Google for more specific, targeted phrases (e.g. “seo sunshine coast”) than more generic phrases (such as “SEO”). In addition to this there are a number of technical aspects about your website that make your website more “friendly” to Google, and easier for your SEO supplier to optimise. These are things that should be discussed and understood prior to getting started with the search engine optimisation of your website. Here’s what I recommend you consider and discuss with prospective SEO suppliers, during those crucial discussion stages.
How you can help your SEO Supplier Do you know what the phrases you need to rank highly on Google for are? Or do you need your SEO professional to find this out for you? Your SEO professional will have a number of specialised tools available which allow him or her to research what keyphrases your target market actually uses on search engines to find your services and products. These phrases often differ from the ones you might intuitively think of, because you are thinking from your own perspective as the seller, you naturally use terminology and jargon related to your industry, and in general it can be difficult for you to really put yourself in the shoes of your potential customer. However your SEO professional will welcome your thoughts on what keyphrases to start with, and will be able to research and develop a pool of keywords for which you need your website to rank well on Google. Also look at your competitors and see what keyphrases they use, or are found to be ranking well on Google for, and generate a list. Provide these lists and ideas to your SEO supplier. Describe your target market to your SEO Professional. Who/what are they (demographics) and where are they (geographic targeting)? This will determine the terminology, grammar and phrases etc to be used on your website and the correct phrases to be included in the SEO (e.g. “optimised” in UK, Vs “optimized” in US). It will also help your SEO professional when he or she comes to formally telling Google where to geographically target your website. Let your SEO professional see your website’s Content Management System (CMS – the area that you login to, to manage your website) so that an assessment can be made as to how SEO (or Google) friendly your website is. If some crucial SEO requirement is not possible with your current CMS then this is best identified early, and sometimes a rebuild of the website might be recommended at this time. Where is your website hosted, and who by? The physical location of the servers upon which your website is hosted can be determined by Google and used to target your website in the country-specific search results (i.e. “pages from [country]”). There are a number of other factors that contribute to this, but it is important information that you should give to your SEO professional. It is also important to ensure that your website is not hosted in a “bad neighbourhood”. This can be with a webhosting provider or on servers that also hosts poor quality, or dodgy websites such as spam sites, or link farms. Being associated with these types of website can be detrimental to your success on Google. What domain names point to your website? Do you have just the one, or are there several domain names pointed to your website? If there are several domain names for your site and the management of these is not done correctly then Google may impose a penalty against one or more of the domain names. This is because Google of course doesn’t want to be displaying multiple copies of the same website or web pages in the search results (called duplicate content). Have any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) activities been undertaken on your website previously? Importantly have any of those “submit your website to many search engines for cheap/free” – type of things been done for your website by you or anyone else? These are frowned upon by Google and if penalties have been imposed or the website held back on Google because of them, then that makes your SEO Professional’s job much harder, and results more difficult to achieve.
What you need to ask your SEO supplier You will want to ensure that you hire an ethical SEO Professional who will undertake only proper and above board SEO work on your website. Unethical or bad SEO work, where efforts are made to unnaturally or falsely increase the success of your website on the Google search results are absolutely frowned upon by Google leading to penalties, or worst-case-scenario, being banned from Google. This is extremely difficult to recover from and in worst cases the domain name has to be abandoned. These practices include buying link, participating in link farms, cloaking domain names, making text on your web pages visible to Google only and creating other content for Google only, and not humans. As with suppliers of any service you should ask your potential SEO supplier for references. Look for SEO testimonials on their website and check them, and actually ring these clients and verify the success of the work that your potential supplier has done. Ask your supplier for a list of activities they will undertake as part of the SEO of your website and check that no unethical activities are included. If in doubt ask me. If they subscribe to an SEO code of ethics of some sort, then that is desirable as well. Discussion along these lines between you and your SEO Professional prior to undertaking SEO work can really help to ensure the smooth running of your SEO programme, and the achievement of agreed goals. Regular progress updates, or questions from your SEO supplier contribute to your understanding of the work achieved and is valuable, as is your considered response to questions and feedback when requested. An effective SEO solution is one where the SEO supplier and the client work together.