In the world of SEO there are a number of basic do’s and don’ts, some of them are quite obvious, while others might only be considered so by somebody who knows the business. I’ve put together this run-through of some of the most important things that any SEO expert will not do. You might consider the points in this list as warning signs against bad SEO.
Link building is still a valid strategy in SEO, though it has changed over the years due to algorithm updates by Google to detect when links are being generated unnaturally. A natural link is any link that a web master or user has put up on their website in comments, blogs or articles. Google looks at links as referrals, if a trustworthy website recommends another then it will be considered more credible by Google. As a result, it’s important that any link building that is done uses domains that are high in quality and are already trusted by Google.
While there are no absolutely transparent methods of knowing what sites are necessarily trusted by Google, there are a number of ways to help you make educated guesses. You might take a look on Google itself for the website; if it’s listed in searches for the home page URL then the domain is considered credible enough to be returned for some searches.
Another method that is more typically used, especially when considering whether a domain is suitable to be used for linking, is to look at what we call the back link profile. This is an amassment of websites that link to a given domain, and should typically include information on what pages are being linked to, and where each specific link is coming from.
An example of a back link checker that will show this information might be Majestic SEO, or Ahrefs. These sites have back-end software that crawls the internet looking for links, and stores as much data as possible on each site it finds. These sites then display the information to users using some kind of scoring system; in the case of Majestic, this means Citation and Trust flows. These operate by taking a reference pool of trusted domains which then distribute ‘link juice’ to other sites that are linked to, causing a flow throughout the internet.
The telltale sign of a domain that is being used for the purposes of spam is one that has very low link juice flows which also uses a large amount of links to refer to other sites. In the case of Majestic, we’d say that anything below 5 Trust and Citation is a fairly low quality domain and that having too many links on these domains can be extremely negative to the site referred.
The amount of links from any given domain used for link building purposes should be gauged carefully based on the information available to us through back link checkers like Majestic and Ahrefs. If you’re seeing hundreds or thousands of links coming out of a domain with very low Trust and Citation flows you have an issue, and should you see your SEO ‘expert’ doing this, you should ask that they remove these links. This applies doubly so for any links using anchor text, which is the text used in a link, that is deliberately inaccurate.
One of the core aspects of SEO is trying to be recognised for certain themes and keywords. This means your SEO expert should be looking to target keywords that are appropriate for your goals. If you’re selling car parts, you don’t want to be found for miniskirts, and neither would you want to be found for car parts if you sold miniskirts.
As well as this, the purpose of your website may vary from simply selling merchandise – you may be an information website simply looking to spread information. This is also important to consider when you are choosing keywords to target for SEO, since if you’re selling a service or merchandise you’ll be looking for keywords that are likely to convert searches into sales. However, as an information site you may simply be looking to increase your visibility in larger searches that may not necessarily convert well for marketing within your sector.
To determine what keywords should be targeted your SEO expert should be taking into account what business areas you wish to develop upon. You might want to target a specific branch of items in an online store to increase your recognisability as a vendor of those items, and if you do not already rank well for certain keywords then you may well be interested in having SEO done to target these keywords.
Beyond simply choosing what area you want to focus on, your SEO expert should then do keyword research to determine what keywords you could easily rank for with minor changes or link building. The most important method of determining whether a keyword is worth targeting is current trends and competitors. Typically this might involve looking at Google Ad Words and other analytical tools to help determine the volume of searches for given keywords, as well as what people are paying per advert click on Google.
If you are unfamiliar with the inner workings of SEO, you might consider that keywords with high amounts of searches are ideal since these can generate more traffic to your site and – logically – increase your business success. This thinking is understandable, but should not be perpetuated by your SEO expert. It is important to know that search volume is not everything when it comes to your keywords, since this does not guarantee you a conversion to business.
Typically, while looking at keywords that might be appropriate targets you would look at not only search volume, but how much other people are paying to be found for them. This can give you a fairly good idea of what the conversion on a term would be. If the CPC (Cost Per Click) is especially low you would expect a smaller amount of conversion from the total amount of people searching for it, though if the CPC is particularly high you would expect a high conversion. This does vary from business to business, where consumables such as chocolate might have a lower CPC than a service such as insurance, and so what type of business you run is also important to consider when looking at potential keywords.
What you would least expect an SEO expert to do is to use a term with no searches or CPC – this obviously signifies that very few people are going to be looking for the term and that other businesses do not value it. While the majority of searches are actually fully unique searches, that may only be searched for once every few months or less, it is best to aim for keywords that are not overly competitive, but still have the likelihood of a good conversion.
Avoid Answering Questions
This seems fairly sensible – that you would expect anybody conducting work for you to be up-front and transparent, but it is surprising to see how many SEO experts make it difficult to find out what they are doing, sometimes even completely refusing information that you should really be given access to.
This usually occurs in less professional SEO services, where those conducting your SEO might be doing it in a slightly underhanded manner. Typically this might include deceptively spamming links, or targeting useless keywords – hiding information from you goes hand in hand with poor SEO practices. An SEO expert who focuses on strategies that are unlikely to produce long-term results is almost always throwing up a warning sign when they hide information from you.
We at Essential have had clients come to us who have had experiences along these lines, in some cases we have seen other companies who refused to supply information about domains that were used to build links. Often this might come with a company who promise hundreds or thousands of back links in a relatively short span of time, which may boost your rankings for a few days, but will ultimately leave you far behind where you were before due to spammed links from poor quality domains.
One of the most important factors of an SEO expert is transparency. They should communicate with you about what they are doing, especially if they have been granted access to your site to conduct changes, as well as to discuss strategies and any work that you may personally do in order to help your SEO. SEO is a co-operative effort in many cases, since your SEO expert may not take on development duties themselves, especially on lower budgets, therefore, you should expect to put in some amount of work yourself in order to maintain your site.
The information we feel should be communicated is as follows:
- The addresses of domains being made to link to you, as well as any information about where those links are on the site.
- Whether the keywords you are targeting are the best approach to increasing your online business success.
- Information about future changes to your site.
- How well your keywords are ranking, and any changes that can be made to improve this.
- Any issues found on your site that will negatively affect your SEO.
So if you want to ensure your SEO expert is really an expert, then you should ensure that they are willing to divulge this information. If they are not, then this does look very suspicious and may suggest that they are engaging in practices that could ultimately have a negative impact on your site.
To read more, check out part two of this article to find out about promises your SEO expert will never make, and how they approach the strategies of your SEO campaigns.