Even though SEO is widely utilized in today’s marketplace, it is poorly understood at best. Since such a large portion of SEO work occurs “behind the scenes” – outside the view of clients- and SEO is constantly evolving, there is little consensus as to what tactics actually work.
Less reputable agencies have used this lack of general knowledge to their advantage by making bold claims and providing results that are lackluster (at best) through questionable methods. While these methods may prove beneficial in the short term, your website will suffer in the long run as Google and the other search engines crack down on Black-Hat techniques and penalize offending sites.
It’s important to note that SEO of any kind involves manipulating search engine crawlers, but, the ultimate goal of each style is radically different.
Black Hat SEO focuses on gaining rank no matter what it takes, and often involves deceptive tactics like plagiarism, link-farming, and hiding keywords in your code. On the other hand, White Hat SEO focuses on making your content easily accessible and user-friendly, and achieving higher rankings by ensuring a positive user experience for your site.
How to Spot a Reputable SEO Company
Determining whether an agency is reputable or not can be difficult, but there are some key indicators to look out for:
- My Cousin, Who Works At Google – Anybody claiming to have a special relationship with Google and the ability to receive preferential treatment based on that relationship should be avoided. On the other hand, if your agency is a certified Google Partner, meaning they have demonstrated proficiency in specific aspects of SEM (search engine marketing), that bodes well for their legitimacy, as SEM and SEO are closely related. Any proof they can furnish to support their claims is a positive- from past results for clients to certifications, the ability to demonstrate their capabilities goes a long way to establishing legitimacy.
- Transparency is Key – If your SEO is unwilling or unable to show you results, or discuss specific elements of overall strategy, or does not ask for anything from you (eg webmaster login info for your site, past SEO audits, past optimizations, etc), they are likely engaging in Black Hat techniques such as link-farming (see below). Keep in mind, legitimate SEO takes time and effort to set up- results may also take some time to appear. However, if your SEO is willing to explain what steps are being taken and otherwise reporting progress, you can rest easier.
- Link-farming – Legitimate link-building is a process that takes time- being able to get quality links from trusted authority sites takes time, but is far more valuable for your ranking than getting a slew of links from unrelated sites. Often, illegitimate SEO operations will involve paying for a large number of links to your content from a network of sites created expressly for that purpose, rather than working towards building a relationship with authority sites in your field.
- Enough is Enough– Fresh, quality content is essential for your website to rank. If your SEO is creating content for you, keeping an eye on that content is a must. While legitimate operations involve integrating specific targeted keywords into your content, there’s a huge difference between being keyword-rich and overly stuffing things- readable, useful content is increasingly important. More and more penalties for over-optimization have been occurring as the search engine crawlers are refined to recognize natural language.
- Cloaking– In a nutshell, if the code accessible to the search engines is radically different than what users see on their end, penalization is likely not far behind.
- Bargain-Basement Pricing– In the world of SEO, you often get what you pay for. SEO is a process of constant research and refinement. While legitimate agencies will be willing to work out a plan within your budget, deals that sound too good to be true probably are.
Taking the time to properly vet your SEO is a must for a successful long-term digital marketing strategy. If an SEO agency can show past results and/or the effort they have put forth to research and refine their techniques, are willing to discuss what is actually being done on your behalf and can provide you data to back their claims up, your marketing budget is most likely being well-spent. While SEO involves numerous, constantly changing factors, it doesn’t have to remain mysterious.
Utah SEO Services
Utah SEO Pros is committed to helping your business succeed in the long run. With customized reporting and planning, we will keep you in the loop as we work to take your site to the next level. Call us today at (801)413-7734 to see what we can do to help your business thrive online.