Search engine optimization otherwise known as SEO, is comprised of multiple disciplines. Each has its roots in improving a websites performance by streamlining facets ranging from site and information architecture, content, internal / external links, the programming platform / code selection, site analytics and the hosting environment.
Each facet holds a holistic piece of the puzzle for a finely-tuned web presence and for competitive search engine placement, each must be refined to be functionally lean and efficient and calibrated to serve the whole.
Regardless of which criteria is the target for refinement, one common thread exists (the goal of optimal performance). However, although theory and application are like two sides of a coin, when it comes down to the “hands on” part of SEO, not all SEO companies are not created equal.
Just because a firm wears the moniker of SEO does not instill proficiency across a broad range required skills. In fact, it is important to know which skills a firm excels in to determine the benefits of their own strengths and weaknesses when considering the type and scope of your campaign.
It is important to know what an SEO company specializes in, some SEO companies specialize in pay per click marketing, others in creating optimized database driven websites, other firms may specialize in SEO web design or content creation and link building services. If you requested services from any of them for the wrong specialty, then ultimately your sites performance would suffer.
To simplify, this can be classified as on page SEO (anything pertaining to the content development, pages, titles, tags, internal links to connect the site i.e. navigation) or off page SEO (link building from other sites, custom program development to move information in and out of a database, optimizing server performance, creation of .htaccess or robots.txt files and dozens of other IT related functions).
The extent of their knowledge in a field should be part of the due diligence process, so make sure you get plenty of examples prior to making your decision about selecting the best firm to fit your needs.
This is not a criticism to any firm, but just as each has a distinct specialty (competitive placement, conversion optimization, analytics and tracking, etc.) so to are the needs of each client unique. A mom and pop shop based in a local region will not require the same amount of optimization as a national company vying for thousands of competitive keywords with a massive content management system or shopping cart.
Additionally an .EDU site, will not require the same type of SEO services as the enterprise client (since each have distinct levels of trust and weight in search engines based on their respective authority and link profile). The real value of an SEO company is apparent based on the results they produce for their clients as well as their own site (you have to compete in our industry to be visible).
This is a precursor to another topic we will discussing later in the week about the value of SEO companies using each other as resources for clients as well as to create objective benchmarks for each other. If you can get past your own specialty, using others from your own industry in this fashion (if managed properly) is a win / win situation for everyone (as each has their own particular method, resources and techniques).