Search engine optimization is as clear, cut and dried as it gets, clueless SEO companies should not offer services. SEO either works and produces tangible results (which is relevant traffic), or it does not.
There are no gray areas such as -”a sort of kind of but not really metric”… There are only ten spots that matter and of those 10 spots, the top 5 are where it’s at for an array of relevant and lucrative keywords.
One thing that burns me up is the alarming amount of SEO companies that cannot rank themselves for any pertinent keywords who are attempting to offer “SEO Services” to “help others with SEO”. You have to temper your awareness and avoid SEO let-downs by doing your homework before settling into a partnership with any SEO firm.
I know there is a saying about that, about tending your own garden and all. Personally, you can use compete.com to check their stats, see the total number of unique per month they get, or even you can use their Alexa ranking (the lower the better) or they should at least have an Alexa ranking under 50K (which shows that their site and or keywords have proven search volume) before considering passing along their services.
You can also use one of my favorite tools from the SEO Quake Team called SEM Rush which will show you what range of keyword clusters any website ranks for. This is a great way to see who walks the walk and talks the talk or is posturing with a 1 hit keyword wonder.
Sure, to retort why an SEO company is not holding their own in search engines, they might blame it on the keywords (although I wouldn’t suggest it). Although not all keywords produce traffic and sometimes you make the mistake of optimizing keywords you assume have significant search volume, only to find out that the only people clicking them were your competitors “to see if they could one-up you” and get in the top 3 results.
It has been said on many occasions, keyword research is the fulcrum or conversion. Flub that and you are back in SEO basics trying to figure out what went wrong. Keep in mind, just because cool jargon or industry specific geek speak is your thing, most people use keywords and search queries with a vocabulary equivalent to 4th grader when conducting searches, so, you have to look for lucrative or obvious keyword variations to augment your business model and value proposition.
This is where keyword modifiers and GEO context comes into play, since many people search like they speak. Instead of searching for “Holiday Rentals” (which is popular in the UK), people in the US might search “find travel deals”, or use other modifiers aside from the typical “best, find, cheap“, etc. So, creating keyword variations is integral for any degree of success to attract more relevant visitors through a broader array of keywords.
The SEO industry is a great work in progress, with search engine algorithms and their metrics getting more evolved every day as they raise the bar on the variables that matter; there is no room for yesterday’s techniques or dated bottom-up approaches (starting with links first without addressing site architecture, site templates, content needs for on page relevance, internal linking or indexation).
The dichotomy here is, before you can provide value as a provider of SEO services, you have to tend to your own garden first. Granted, this industry is one of the most competitive verticals online, but there are other industries such as finance, real estate, entertainment or electronics and the various micro niches they all represent, that all can be a challenge to gain traction and produce results.
If an SEO company is not providing value by offering content creation, on page optimization, understands which type of site architecture is suitable for your business model, or is reluctant to share the SEO tips, tactics or techniques they provide (including a timeline of changes with their anticipated performance indicators), then your should probably find a professional search engine optimization firm that does.
The words “cheap and SEO” are not synonymous. It takes time, skill and a firm understanding of what competitors are doing (aside from your own optimization tactics) to make adjustments and implement corrections to create a successful campaign. If price is a problem, and you think by getting the “best deal” will get you to the top, think again and remember, you only get what you pay for.
You either need to (a) educate yourself enough to know what to ask, what to look for and what to expect or (b) roll up your sleeves and dawn a wrench or two to refine your websites performance.
There are no gray areas, it either works or it does not, the takeaway is, focus on quality content, have enough content based on the theme of your topic, internally link with relevant anchor text (links) and provide each page with enough links from other “relevant or trusted” websites, to give it a jump-start so it can start to climb the search engine result pages on its own merit.
There are no secrets, only layer upon layer of processes proven to create a positive result. Anything else, it just lip service (which should be evident by where they rank as a service provider).
Here is a related post on How to Evaluate an SEO company for Services and a post on Which is Better? SEO, PPC, Branding, Lead Generation or Advertising.