Hiring an SEO Company?

Google SEO BotI cannot help but notice the large volume of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) offers I receive from overseas SEO companies. They promise things like 1st position in Google. But when I start asking questions it turns out they just want to set Pay-Per-Click services up for me and auto debit my credit card.

As these scams grow in prevalence I thought it may be useful to advise the public on hiring an SEO company.

Before beginning your search for an SEO, it’s a good idea to get educated and understand how search engines work. We recommend starting here:

Naples Webmasters SEO Tutorial
What is SEO?

If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you’re considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site.

Some useful questions to ask an SEO include:

What’s your experience in my industry?
What’s your experience in my country/city?
What’s your experience developing international sites?
What are your most important SEO techniques?
How long have you been in business?
Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories?
Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines?
Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business?
What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what time frame? How do you measure your success?
How can I expect to communicate with you? Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?

While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index. Here are some things to consider:

Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

“Dear Naples Webmasters,
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.
No one can guarantee a #1 position for Google, Yahoo or Bing.Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.
Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you. If an SEO has FTP access to your server, they should be willing to explain all the changes they are making to your site.
You should never have to link to an SEO.Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.
Be sure to understand where the money goes.While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they “control” other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn’t work with Google because our advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results, but be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
What are some other things to look out for?
doesn’t distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear on search results pages
guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
gets traffic from “fake” search engines, spyware, or scumware
owns shadow domains
puts links to their other clients on doorway pages
offers to sell keywords in the address bar
has had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google

There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. It’s far from a comprehensive list, so if you have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means, feel free to walk away if the SEO:

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Results-producing individual with a proven record of accomplishment in planning and leading web development and Internet marketing projects. Expertise in directing the creation of marketing tools and steering the execution of marketing programs. Solid organizational skills; Adept at communicating with clients, creative designers, and programmers to coordinate web design projects.

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