3rd June, 2013

In part one of this article I tackled the most important aspects of making sure your SEO expert is managing your SEO campaign correctly, covering back links, keywords and transparency. In part two we’re going to take a look at the honesty of your SEO expert, and the use of older SEO strategies.

Make False Promises

As with answering questions, this is another issue of trust. Somebody who is less familiar with SEO might not be able to tell whether some of the promises some companies make are genuine or not. It’s important to know that SEO is not a completely exact science, and so there will always be a degree of chance. Good SEO experts take this into account, and will never sell you on their SEO with these promises.

“We’ll get you to number one within a certain timeframe!”

This is one of the most common claims we see in SEO, and who could really be surprised? After all, being number one for a good keyword is the ideal result from an SEO campaign. Though you should keep in mind that this kind of claim is at the very least a lie that goes unfulfilled, but at worst can leave your site hit by spammed links. Short-term SEO will ultimately have a negative effect on your site.

Our philosophy is that good SEO is not necessarily putting you at number one on Google, and certainly not to do it in as small a time frame as 48 hours or even a week, but to ensure you have as high a chance to be at number one as is possible on a more permanent basis.

“We guarantee a high amount of search engine traffic!”

This claim lies more in a grey area between fact and fiction. While it is very possible that any given agency could get you a high amount of search engine traffic, this may not be the most effective approach to the SEO. As discussed above, you don’t want to target useless keywords, and that includes those with high search volumes but poor conversion.

One of the best ways to find out how people respond to your site when they find it in Google is through the use of Google Analytics. Google Analytics is an extremely useful tool for measuring success in SEO, and tells you a huge amount of relevant information to your site’s success. This includes information such as the bounce rate, which tells you how long people spend on your site after entering through search results. This can be a very effective way of telling whether that traffic is actually helping you or not.

Ultimately, SEO is not done with the purpose of simply increasing the traffic you see coming into your site, but increasing the business done through your site.

“We’ll redesign your site for optimal SEO!”

This is a slightly less common fib, more common in a design agency than a pure SEO agency, but it is not always to be trusted. If you come across this claim, make sure you do your research. Take a look at any clients that might be publically listed by the company and use any tools at your disposal to see if their sites are really doing well. You can even start with the company themselves to get an idea of their web design skills. Does the site not only look nice, but function well?

If your site is designed to be optimised for SEO you should certainly ask questions about how it has been made so. An SEO expert might have built your site on WordPress, which is a free, but an extremely useful website construction tool with a great degree of flexibility. Alternative solutions to this include Joomla or Drupal, and they generally allow you to put together a site quite easily. However, some can be more difficult to work with than others, which can not only reduce your ability to work with your site, but can also impact whether your SEO is being done correctly or not.

Overall, whether the design of your site is being done in an SEO-friendly manner is an issue that only SEO experts are likely to pick up on, but some of the telltale signs of a poorly designed site are as follows:

Long loading times

You can use Google PageSpeed Insights to help determine whether your site is optimised well.

URLs that contain little to no text.

It is important to use what we call SEO-friendly URLs. These are web addresses that contain text that helps to identify what is on a page without having to go to it.

URLs that contain large amounts of code.

This is an extension of the SEO-friendly URL issue. In a URL that contains heavy code, you will typically see a lot of symbols, with the following few being some of the most common: & = * _  %

Heavy usage of Flash or other programs that run inside your web browser.

This makes the content of your site harder to read by Google. Google uses a type of software called a robot to crawl through your website and extract information that helps to identify what it is about. Flash makes it difficult for robots to gain information on the site since Flash does not have objects such as titles and headers that these robots could use to determine a theme.

Confusing and over-complicated navigation.

Your site should be simple to navigate, in technical terms a site is usually a certain depth, otherwise called a level. Your home page is at level 0, and any page that can be reached through links on the home page is at level one. If a page is only accessible through links on a level one page, this puts it on level two, and so on. Ideally you should have a fairly small amount of levels, though it is still important to have as many levels as will make your site easy to navigate.

While this isn’t a comprehensive list of things to look out for, these are some of the most easy-to-spot signs of when a site is not built with SEO as a main concern. You may look to a web design or SEO expert to look at a site for you and conduct an audit or survey to determine whether the site is built well on a deeper level that you may not see without technical knowledge on web design.

Use Outdated Strategies

Over the last 15 years SEO has grown from being a very simple, straightforward procedure, to being much more complex. As you can imagine, this is due to Google and its competitors adjusting their search algorithms to better accommodate current trends in SEO and web design. As a result of this, there is a range of strategies that would have once worked very well but will, in a best case scenario have no beneficial effect, and in the worst case, have a very negative effect.

The reason for this is that search engines such as Google greatly dislike exploitation and circumvention of their regulations. Sites that defy these regulations obviously may, in some cases, have penalties assigned to them by Google, which can have a devastating effect on any online business.

Warning signs of a site that is attempting to breach the terms set by Google for domain quality begin with some of the things I have covered above. That is, a back link profile strewn with poor quality domains, spamming links to your site and excessively poor site design and content. Anything that looks exploitative to Google will in the least be assigned less credibility, and at worst, be penalised.

As a result, your SEO expert should be looking at the most recent developments in the SEO business, keeping an eye on upcoming developments and updates that could impact you in the future. The recent Google Penguin 2.0 update, for example, will have had an effect on domains that have large amounts of back link spam. While we have not seen any of our clients obviously affected by the update as of yet, we’re concerned about clients who have come to us with a back link profile that has obvious link spam in it.

We have adapted our strategies to reflect Google updates, with our link building now done with hand-written content to combat the knock-on effects of the Google Panda update, and since the introduction of the first Penguin update we have reduced the volume of back links we put on our domains to avoid being seen as spam. As a result, we have always had a positive and consistent effect through our SEO campaigns, with few clients being caught out by Google updates.

Just in case you missed part one…

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