Questions to Ask Your Potential Search Engine Optimization Company – Part 2

Last month, I went over questions that you should ask your potential search engine optimization company regarding its tactics. That set of questions is critical, as before moving forward with any of the myriad of search engine optimization companies out there, you should always determine whether or not they will put your site at risk of penalization in the major search engines (leaving your website worse off than when your campaign started).

However, many people researching search engine optimization companies are unaware that potential penalization is even an issue – they are primarily interested in the results that the search engine optimization company can achieve. This installment of the three-part series will focus on questions to determine the competence of any search engine optimization company that you are considering. To find out whether any particular company is worthy of your trust in terms of results, consider asking the following:

“Do you require that I make changes to my website content?”

Any search engine optimization companies that answer “no” to this question are either using shady tactics or are only scratching the surface of true search engine optimization. Certainly, there are some elements that can be changed on a website that are largely transparent to the user, including title tags, meta tags, and alt tags. While making changes to these elements can create a boost in rankings, it will not give you the search engine dominance over your competitors that you desire. Remember, search engines are interested in matching content (what appears on your web pages) with search queries (the phrases that people are typing into search engines).

The problem with a search engine optimization company only manipulating the largely unseen elements is that search engines recognize that these elements are determined by the owner of the website and may not actually reflect the real content that appears on the pages. In order to perform well across the most popular engines, you must make certain that your search engine optimization company accurately addresses popular search queries within your pages. And this almost always requires changes to your content.

“Will you be adding additional pages to my website?”

If a search engine optimization company answers “no” to this question but answers “yes” to the question above, it likely means that it will be employing what I call the “shoehorn” approach to optimization. This means that the firm will try to shoehorn keyphrases into existing pages on your website, rather than expanding your website to include new content.

The trouble with this approach is that your existing pages are unlikely to directly address the search query. When search engine optimization companies shoehorn in keyphrases, they may achieve high rankings for you, but you probably won’t have many long-term visitors. For example, assume that your company makes widgets and you have an “about us” page on your site that gives a brief history of your company, as well as contact information and driving directions. If your search engine optimization company optimizes this page for “custom widget pricing,” and you subsequently achieve high rankings for the phrase, it does not necessarily mean that you will see much benefit. One can deduce from the query that people are looking for actual pricing information, not information on where your company is located or when it was founded. Another web page that directly addresses their search query is just a click of the back button away.

Adding new, informational pages to your website is a standard approach for the inclusion of quality search engine optimization phrases. Think of it this way – your search engine optimization company should not be thinking, “Where can we shoehorn this phrase in?” Search engine optimization companies should instead always be thinking, “How can we best address this query with a new page?” The difference in results can be dramatic.

“What will you be doing besides working on my site directly?”

If a prospective search engine optimization company tells you that it will only be making changes to your site itself, this means that it will not be spending any time working on your site’s link popularity. Link popularity plays a tremendous role in determining rankings in every major search engine. Simply put, sites that have a good number of quality and relevant incoming links are held in a higher regard than sites that do not. This is because a link from another site is considered a “vote” for your site – but all votes are not equal.

Quality search engine optimization companies will spend a great deal of time looking for industry-specific directories and portals where a link to your site can be added. They will also review all of your existing incoming links and make certain that the website owner has configured them in such a way as to give your site the highest chance for high search engine rankings.

“Will you be adding additional pages and targeting additional keyphrases over time?”

This is a very important question. Even search engine optimization companies that have a reputation for providing quality initial results can fall short on this, but it is one of the most important aspects involved in improving your optimization results over time.

When your campaign is kicked off, your search engine optimization company will target an initial list of phrases. Although good search engine optimization companies will rely on readily available software to determine which phrases are being searched on most often, and common sense to determine which of those phrases will bring buyers and not “tire-kickers,” it is in all honesty an educated guess.

Forward-looking search engine optimization companies treat the initial keyphrases as the “testing” phase of the campaign. They track these individual phrases and find which ones are working (bringing in the people that actually buy something or take the point of action on your site that leads to a sale). Armed with this knowledge, such search engine optimization companies will regularly expand your campaign to include phrases similar to the ones that are working the best. Without such expansions based on real data, you are merely relying on the best educated guesses from the initial campaign, and not the hard data that comes from true metrics as the campaign progresses.

“Can you give me references and case studies?”

This one seems obvious, but there are search engine optimization companies out there who claim that their clients all wish to remain anonymous, so that it is impossible to provide any specifics. This is usually a smokescreen designed to defer proof of concept. Certainly, there are businesses that hire a search engine optimization company that wish to keep it a secret, but these are generally in the minority. Forward-thinking companies generally enjoy showing off their success stories, so you should insist on seeing some real (not anonymous) case studies and talking with some references.

When dealing with references, find out how long they have been working with the search engine optimization company. If all references are less than a year old, it may mean that the company has been unable to demonstrate value over the long term, which is certainly something to consider. After all, long-term value is what you should be trying to achieve from a search engine optimization company, and search engine optimization is not a one-time endeavor.

Armed with these questions, you should be able to determine whether a certain search engine optimization company is worthy of both your time and your marketing money, or whether you instead will wind up with empty pockets and a useless site. Remember, high rankings don’t always mean good leads, and great keyphrases are not helpful unless they are used properly on your site.

In the third and final part of this series, I will discuss the assurances that search engine optimization companies offer – or fail to offer – from guarantees to exclusivity agreements.

SEO Strategies – The Truth About Search Engine Optimization

The Importance of Being Online

Did You Know? Right now, over 81% of people first search online before making a purchase vs using yellow pages, newspapers, traditional “offline” methods.

Did You Also Know? – 60% of traffic that comes to the websites is from searches-From people typing in what they are looking for in Google, Yahoo & MSN/Bing. Now, if your website is not on the first page of the search engine results, then unfortunately you are nowhere. So knowing that, I am sure you would like to know how to achieve first page search results…and it begins with proper SEO strategies.

Let’s get started!

First things first!

“A little bit of information is a dangerous thing”

Well the same holds true for too much information when it comes to SEO or Search Engine Optimization. When you are taught how to drive, was it necessary for you to have an understanding of the combustion engine, correct valve timing or be able to rebuild a transmission?

Of course not!

You simply needed the facts of getting your car going safely and smoothly down the road to your destination. Otherwise you will never get out of the driveway or be too overwhelmed and never learn to drive…never achieving your desired results.

Marketing Lesson #1 “You cannot steer a parked car!”

Unfortunately there is a lot of miss information that seems to be right in line with what people are trying to sell you online today. Imagine that?
The three reasons for this are simple:

1. SEO Companies, Gurus and Consultants want you to believe that only their big brains, experience and magic wands can make your site optimized and that little old you has NO chance, so do not bother and pay us lots of money.

2. Pretend Gurus and Consultants learn a few tricks and sell their wares unscrupulously all over the web for cheap leaving you with a crappy e-book and no results.

3. Lastly, there are the true webmasters out there who take On-Page optimization well beyond where it needs to go. (in my humble & profitable opinion) If you don’t believe me, go ahead and buy one of those 200 page e-books that expect you to have degree from M.I.T. and a full working knowledge of website coding. I would rather eat glass…I know this because I have read not one of these, but dozens before seeing the light.

In other words, they tend to try and paint the Mona Lisa within every site but forget to invite anyone to the museum. I.E. All tech and no marketing. Remember, we did talk about the importance of getting the car moving didn’t we?

Dispelling the Myths of Search Engine Optimization

  • PPC or paid advertising is much cheaper and faster. WRONG. Paid advertising is only as good as long as you are paying for it, where On-Page optimization is a onetime set up. Natural Search Traffic is still 60% of all traffic & you will pay more per click in advertising if your site is NOT optimized.
  • SEO results take months, if not years, to achieve. WRONG. In fact, you can expect immediate results within a few days. Nobody has the time or patience to wait these days…
  • Optimal SEO results can only be achieved by an SEO expert. WRONG. No technical knowledge or SEO expertise is needed to achieve major success when you use the right SEO Strategies.
  • Hundreds of links are needed before I can start to see significant results. WRONG. Have you ever heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder”? You can maximize your results with very little linking.
  • The Google algorithm is complicated and takes over 100 factors into consideration. It’s impossible to achieve maximum SEO results without targeting them all. WRONG. There are key areas that have the greatest bearing and weighting over search engine results. In fact, these key areas make up the majority of the search algorithm.
  • SEO software yields the best results. WRONG. Simply put, if you know the key areas to target, you’ll outperform any SEO program EVERY time. It’s not a complicated process if you know what you’re doing. (famous last words)

What is SEO All About Then?

All right, you’ve been patient. Here are the essentials of what you need to know about WHAT Search Engine Optimization is all about and then I’ll get to the “HOW TO’s” in just a minute. Let’s walk before sprinting into uncharted territory.

OK so here’s you first curve ball… there are two kinds of Search Engine Optimization! What? Who knew? Well I did and now so do you.

There is “ON PAGE” SEO and “OFF PAGE” SEO.

On-Page SEO is the method of configuring your website’s size, layout, text, photos and videos so that they are easy to find by the search engines when someone is searching for them online.

Off-Page SEO happens outside of the website. It is the method of distributing valuable and relevant content about your products and services onto the internet in the form of blog posts, videos, articles, forums, podcasts etc. that all point back to your website to help raise its rank in the search engines as well as drive traffic.

Now there is a middle man (more like a Judge) in the process and that is the search engines themselves like Google, Yahoo & Bing/MSN. They go around creeping and crawling around the internet and index or rank your website based on their own formulas known as algorithms.

No one knows the exact formulas (except those web geeks at Google, but they’re not talking) but we have established some definite Do’s & Don’ts when it comes to optimizing your website. The other thing to understand is that the Google’s & Yahoo’s use both On-Page & Off-Page optimization when ranking your website. For now, we’ll concentrate on the On-site SEO which is the foundation for all other web marketing anyway.

Even paid web traffic from ads will cost you less with an optimized website because the search engines will reward you for playing by their rules…And simply the one theme that governs the rules of the search engines is to protect the consumer.

The Search Engines primary job is to bring the most RELEVANT results (websites, videos, articles etc.) to the consumer or person doing the search based on the search term they type in. For example: If you were to Search for “Snake Poison Antidote” on Google, you would be less than pleased and understandably angry if it pulled up websites on snakeskin handbags and boots. You get the idea.

Getting Started with SEO Strategies

1. KEYWORDS: Prior to the SEO (or the process of correctly placing the right search engine friendly elements on your site) Optimization really begins with understanding the search terms people are using to look for products and services in the first place. These search terms are commonly known as “Keywords”. Proper Keyword research is where most people (even seasoned marketers) fail before they even get started. Fortunately there are plenty of free and paid tools you can be using in no time to pick out the best terms to optimize your site with.

2. PLACEMENT: After you have thoroughly done your keyword research, it is time to strategically place them in all the elements* of your site (Header, Title, Description, Meta Tags, Navigation Links, Images, H1, H2, H3 tags, Alt Tags, Body etc.) to effectively have Google and the others to index or take account of all of them to be able to rank your site’s relevance for those keywords.

*Note: All of these “elements” are simply fields easily accessible to fill in on most commonly used website platforms.

Ok, that’s it!

It can’t be.

Yes it can! Sort of…

Like I said there are much geekier aspects of on-page optimization which includes things like which type of site structures to use, frames, types of scripts etc. However, with the advancement of template driven and WYSIWYG* sites, many of these aspects are already pre-coded for optimization or ease of readability for those Search Engines out there doing their creeping and crawling thing…also known as indexing.

*WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)- An interface that provides the user with the ability to point and click to insert objects, images & text into most sites today.

So with Keyword Research and proper Placement in your site are the broad strokes of On-Page Search Engine Optimization. However, “How” to do the right and profitable Keyword Research for your niche and “How” to place them properly in all the elements of your sites is where you earn your stripes.

Your SEO Strategies Next Step

Fortunately I have put together a step by step guide that will not only walk you through on-page optimization but also how to drive FREE traffic through off-page optimization as well.

Remember that Search Engine Optimization is an Investment, not an Expense. Unlike paid ads, the efforts you put in to truly optimize your site today will continue to pay off well into the future.

With a proper search engine optimization guide, you can easily dominate search-engines like Yahoo, Google and MSN. Ranking high on search-engines is easy and can be very profitable for your website.

Search Engine Optimization and Design

Building an attractive even beautiful is the goal of most website designers. In the process, sometimes the effectiveness of the website is diminished. We need to keep in mind that our goal is not only to have a beautiful website that will make people want to stay and look around and enjoy, but also a website that will be helpful to the engines in determining what our website is about or what it is relevant to.

Udi Manber, Google vice president overseeing search quality, in response to a question about webpage content evolving to be more search engine friendly explained, “It’s definitely still lacking. I wish people would put more effort into thinking about how other people will find them and putting the right keywords onto their pages.” Popular Mechanics – April 16, 2008

Search engine optimization or SEO is arguably the most essential way to drive targeted traffic to your website because it leads to improved search engine placement. Optimizing the benefits of a well-designed web site will result in much more traffic coming to the website thereby generating income for the company publishing the website. With this fact in mind however, optimizing your website might cost you thousands of dollars if you are not skilled in this area. Good search engine optimization that leads to improved search engine placement will, on the other hand, bring you a much higher return on the investment of either time or money you put into it.

My goal in this article is to give you the basics of search engine optimization so that you can understand it and incorporate it to help you accomplish your task. This will help you to improve your relevancy and search engines rankings for the best results possible through proven search engine optimization techniques.

What are the major mistakes in design

First is is important to remember that search engines are machines and read words they don’t see images or pictures. The most common mistakes form a search engine optimization standpoint are:

  • Making a website totally in Flash(TM)
  • Images without alt tags
  • Minimal or nonexistent meta title or title tag

Flash(TM) to the search engines is just like an image it is invisible although the Flash(TM) may capture the intrigue of the viewer it won’t help the search engine to know what your website is about. While the text display as a part of the Flash(TM) my be rich in keywords and information it will be lost completely to the search engines and you will go unnoticed. Flash(TM) and pictures can be used to enhance a website but the site must have text in order to build relevance for the search engines.

In the same sense images are also invisible, however we can include alt tags that will give the search engines an idea of what the viewer will see. In fact the alt tags can be very helpful since the search engines will place a little more emphasis on the text in alt tags. Don’t go overboard using keyword phrases in the alt tags but use some to help where appropriate.

The title tag as well discuss later is an important place to tell the search engines what your webpage is all about.

Where do we start?

Why is search engine optimization (SEO) so important? SEO is important because this will make your website relevant to your keywords during the search engine ranking process and will lead to improved search engine ranking. This is the reason why some businesses hire an SEO company to do this task.

You can get information on low cost related services anywhere on the internet. However, few are really showing you how to work out an inexpensive plan for improved search engine placement. Some companies will even use antiquated techniques that may slow the process down. Good search engine optimization should help you to start improving the search engine ranking of your website and start driving traffic to it in a matter of days or weeks with expensive processes.

Search engine optimization begins optimally on your website, as you plan and build it. If it was not done at first you are not too late, you can do it after you have it built and go back and revise it to improve the exposure to the search engines and still lead to improved search engine placement. It consists of the following elements referred to as “onsite optimization”.

  • Keyword Research – choosing the primary and secondary keywords you will use on your website or webpage
  • Implementing the keywords naturally into important elements in the website header and body.

Keyword Research and Usage

Let’s start first with keyword research. Why is keyword research important? The keyword research helps us to find the keywords that connect us with our targeted audience. They are the words that we want to use on our website in a variety of ways to build relevancy on our webpage so when search engines find our website and view / crawl our pages, they will then index us for those keywords. Once that happens, then when those keywords are typed into the search engine by potential customers, the search engine will then display our site in the search results, which is how they tie us to our targeted audience.

Ideally you will use a reverse search tool that will enable you to type in words you think are keywords people would search for and which will tell you the number of times those keywords were searched for over a given period of time. Depending on the tool you are using and the databases and the search engines they have access to for their search results you will get different numbers in your reverse search results. Your search engine optimization professional will know and have access to these tools and which ones are appropriate for specific uses. These tools can significantly speed up the process of onsite optimization lead to quicker improved search engine placement.

One tool you can use for manual research is Keyword Discovery’s Free Search Term Suggestion Tool. It will limit your results to 100 keywords for any given search. Another manual search tool is’s Suggestion tool. Both of these manual reverse search tools will allow you to find the keywords that people type into the search engines and how many times they were searched for. Remember keywords are how we connect with our targeted audience.

How Do I Use My Keywords Once we have identified the keywords, next we need to know where and how to use them for improved search engine placement. The first and arguably the most important place to use our keywords would be the title tag for your website. The title tag appears in the header of the page and is the first opportunity we have to tell the search engine what our page is about.

The title tag should be 60 – 80 characters in length and use one or two of the most important and/or relevant keywords for that page and possibly your website domain name, especially if your domain name includes keywords in it. The title tag information appears in the blue header bar at the top of the window and is also used as the title of your listing when your website is displayed in the natural or organic search results.

The meta description should be about 2 – 3 sentences or up to about 200 characters that describe for the customer and the search engine what the webpage is about. In the natural or organic search engine results, this description will be the first choice for the text the search engine displays beneath the title. This description does not appear on the website page when the website is displayed for the visitor but is readable by the search engine and used in the search results primarily.

A third meta tag is the keywords meta tag which is also not displayed to the visitor of the website. The keywords meta tag is a hold over from early methods of search engine optimization, but because it was abused by website developers, it is seldom use by search engines. We still use the keywords meta tag, but most search engines ignore it due to those previous abuses. Some search engines may still evaluate it and you never know when search engines may start to use it again. The Keywords meta tag is simply a list of up to 12 keyword phrases separated by commas.

The example below exclude the angle brackets due to this article being written in HTML but the angle brackets are the less than and greater than signs.

meta content=”Basic search engine optimizations concepts presented to give business owners and website developers and understanding of good SEO techniques…” name=”description” /” enclosed in angle brackets.

meta content=”keyword phrase 1,keyword phrase 2,keyword phrase 3,…” name=”keywords” /” enclosed in angle brackets

Your keywords used in the title, description and keywords tags now need to be used on the page to validate to the search engine that your page is actually about what you told the search engine that your page is relevant to. If the search engine doesn’t see any of the keywords on your page, then it can only assume that your page is not relevant to the words you used in the title, description and keywords tags in the header area of the web site.

Now that we know that we need text on the page how can we use that text to help emphasize the relevancy of the keywords on the page? Mechanisms such as header tags for headings using keywords will give more emphasis to keywords. Hyperlinks where the anchor text is a keyword phrase will add relevance to the keyword phrase and since the anchor text and the associated hyperlink reference are indexed by the search engines, using a keyword phrase as the anchor text both on the website and in offsite marketing will increase your ranking for that keyword phrase. Bolding and italics also draw some attention to the keywords for the search engine. Each page needs to have enough text on it to allow that page to demonstrate the relevance of the keywords it displays in the header of the page to the search engine, if true search engine optimization is to be achieved.

Lets take a look at some of the other tags mentioned in the previous paragraph. Header tags alert the search engine to more important text on the page, much like the headline on the page of newspaper does to the reader. A header tag is a tag that contain a “H” and a number between 1 and 7. The lower the number the larger the text and the more important it is to the search engine. H1 tags can be formatted using font tags to control the size or .css files to control the formatting.

Hyperlinks consist of at least two components. The first component is the link destination represented by the term “href” referring to the hyperlink reference and the anchor text located between the beginning and ending anchor tags. An anchor tag is an “a” in angle brackets and ending with “/a” in angle brackets. The beginning tag also include the destination reference. Remember that you you could use a keyword phrase in place of the word home to designate your home page. That keyword phrase would be a link and would help to build relevance for your website for that keyword phrase.

As we use these structures in combination in a natural way we then are able to help the search engine to know what our page is about and also create a page that is functional for the user.

To optimize your website well for the search engines you should use unique meta tags on each page on your website. The keywords should be used in:

  • The title tag – big three
  • Meta description
  • Meta keywords
  • Header tag – big three
  • Opening paragraph – about 4% density
  • Alt tags on all images and using keywords on about 3 images per page
  • Link / anchor text or hyperlinks – big three
  • Body of the page – about 4% density (visible text)
  • Closing paragraph – about 4% density

They should be used in such a way as to feel natural on the page. If the page feels awkward, then look for ways to reword the information on the page and make sure you are not forcing the keywords in too many times. This in combination with other activities to build your page rank are the best ways to get your page listed on page one of the search engines.

These strategies are what we call onsite page optimization. Each page needs to have its own unique page optimization for the content on that page. Don’t make the mistake of using the same title, description and keywords meta tags for every page on your site.

Using these strategies in conjunction with the design of your website will vastly improve your search engine placement.