What really is Search Engine Optimization? (Photo credit: Go Local Search)
2011 and 2012 have been remarkable years for the Search Engine Optimization industry in general. Or should I say devastating. With the roll out of Panda, and in April of Google Penguin, marketers of all stripes and experience are freaking out like never before. Google has gone on to say that they would prefer that sites do no Search engine optimization at all. With all this, are you considering firing your old fashioned SEO Firm?
Before Panda, only the biggest SEO geeks watched Google closely trying to figure out how best to rank their sites and their clients. But this year, you hear more and more “laymen” talking about Google Panda and Penguin. More people than ever know about blog networks and link farms. And even small business owners are using terms like “Google Algorithms”, “Search Penalties” and “Sandboxing”.
But, What about your small business website?
As a small business owner, you don't care about any of that. What you care about is how your small business doing in the search engine rankings. And how your traffic being affected …
And whether or not you can trust your SEO firm or marketing agency to keep your best interest at heart. Or if maybe its time to fire them.
Is Fear Getting the Best of You?
With all of the hype about the latest search engine changes, you might think that Google is changing its mind about what it wants on a daily basis. The fear is growing, and its everywhere you turn. And many SEO companies are trying to capitalize on that fear.
But the truth is, Google's webmaster guidelines haven’t really changed that much over the years. They are just getting better at catching companies that are violating those terms. And they are punishing blatant violations a lot more strongly.
This is why it is even more important to know what your SEO Company is doing.
Image of Google & Yahoo offices in Haifa. Both located in the same building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here are 3 reasons you might want to consider firing your SEO firm.
They Don't Recommend a Content Creation Strategy
Content is king. If you have a 5 page site this month, and a 5 page site next month. And your SEO firm doesn't tell you that this is a problem; it might be time to get rid of them. Google loves fresh content, and if it’s not finding it, it is going to ignore your results. Many SEO companies might not produce new content for you, and that might be OK.
But if they are not at least recommending that you grow your content, it is a big red flag. Building more and more links to the same static site cannot help you long term. At the least, it may prompt Google to do a manual review of your site. And if they don't like what they see, you could get de-indexed entirely, especially if you site has been using other “questionable” practices.
They Are Enrolling you in Blog Networks or Bragging about other Link Building Schemes
Google makes it very clear in their terms of service that any type of “scheme” designed to boost your page rank are against their terms of service. Now, I will be the first to admit that many of these schemes work. And they work very well…
Or, at least they used to.
Things like link wheels, blog networks and purchased links were all the rage until a few months ago. Well, actually they are still all the rage with some SEO firms. But they are getting less valuable all the time, and if you continue to use them as your only strategy, they are putting your site in serious risk of penalties.
If your SEO Company is telling you about the latest trick that will get your new thin site to the top of the ranks in a few days, run for the hills. These tricks may work for a while, but as soon as you get to the point where a significant amount of traffic is coming to the site, you will get hit. And it’s a lot harder to come back from a penalty, than it is to build your rank right in the first place.
Your Content Is Unreadable or You See the Same Keywords Over and Over
One of the tricks that some SEO’s have always tried to use is keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing refers to using your keywords over and over, in order to make Google think the keyword is important.
I still see that stuff all the time, even in comment spam that I get on some of my clients blogs ….
One of the biggest changes of Google Penguin is around how keyword optimization is handled. In a nutshell, while it is important to tell the search engines and readers what the page is about, you don't want to over do it. You want to make sure that anchor tags pointing back to your site are varied. You want to ensure that while your keyword is used on your page, it is not over used. Make your page easy to read, and it will be easy to read by the search engines as well.
Along those same lines, are content that is clearly “spun” to the point where it makes absolutely no sense. This is even more common than keyword stuffing. Here is a quick sample of some spun content from this article. As bad as this is, I have seen worse.
So, should you fire your SEO Firm?
Is your current search engine optimization company or one of the companies you evaluating still using any of these outdated techniques? Are they still using blog networks, asking you to buy links or creating content for you that sounds like it was written by a trained monkey, if at all?
Your online marketing should be focused on what your customers want to read. If your SEO firm is recommending something different, maybe its time you considered firing them.
So, what should you, or your marketing company be doing? It may be a long term approach, and you have heard it from me before…
Build quality content:
- If you haven't already, start a blog. Its the fastest way to build content your readers are going to want to read about
- Produce timely news releases about your company and your industry
- Vary the type of content you create. Videos, white papers, blogs, articles and webinars are just a few ideas
- Share your Content on Social Networks. Not a bunch, pick the top 2 or 3 where your customers hang out
- Prove that you are the expert. This will happen on its own, organically, if you follow the above steps.
Even after Google Penguin and Panda, there will be companies out there trying to game the search engine results. And, these tricks will probably work. But only for a short time, which means you need to keep on doing it. It creates a constant up and down struggle, trying to move from one trick to the next. But, if you position your business for the long term and build quality content that your customers want to read, you will survive Google Panda, Penguin and whatever animal they come up with next.