29th October, 2012

Here at Essential Marketer we work for 100’s of clients that have had SEO work done previously with other search engine optimisation companies. The things we see are quite amazing…

They include clients that:

  • had paid £350 per month for nearly 3 years and only had 14 back links from four different domains at the end of the three-year period
  • had over 32,000 back links from less than 200 domains after paying £150 per month only to find his major competitor had exactly the same back link profile. It later turned out that more than 50 clients in different industries had exactly the same back link profile from the same domains. They were obviously penalised in the latest Google Penguin update!
  • had been paying £1000 a month for 18 months. They were targeting 40 different keywords. Their back links were exclusively being built from article submission sites and every back link pointed to the homepage!

The reports that search engine optimisation companies produce

The warning bells for us, at Essential Marketer, are very often sounded when we see the reports that search engine optimisation companies give their clients. If the report has no detail of the work being carried out… It is 90% probable the level of work being done is poor!

The biggest warning sign we see for poor quality reports are manually generated Excel spreadsheets. The fact that your report is being produced manually on a spreadsheet means the SEO company has no ‘system’ of their own.

Size does matter at SEO companies

Let’s start with the average number of hours the average SEO project takes. Have a look and You will see that the average SEO project takes approximately 20 hours work per month. For the lone SEO consultant one third of his or her time is spent on acquiring new clients and admin. That leaves just over 100 hours per month which means the SEO consultant working on his or her own can look after five clients at any one time.

So ask your search engine optimisation company how many are on the team, what each team member does and how many active clients does the company look after?

So let’s now at the top 10 failings of SEO companies….

1 – No process or system to deliver results consistently

Many search engine optimisation companies (SEO companies) can do a good job of talking about SEO and selling you their services. Very few have the internal processes and systems to be able to deliver good SEO services every month to their clients.

CRMLet’s analyse this a bit more… Good quality search engine optimisation companies have a CRM system that also includes project management of the repetitive SEO tasks that are done each month, links to high-quality SEO tools using API’s such as Majestic SEO, rank checking software that monitors your positions in Google for your keywords and links to a reporting system so they can show their clients what’s happening.

SEO companies that do not have these type of systems fail to deliver on a consistent basis!

2 – Failure to understand Google history

Larry PageAmazing though it is many SEO consultants do not know the history of Google. i.e. the story of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google. They are unaware that both of Larry Page’s parents were computer science professors at Michigan State University and that Larry Page also went to Stanford University to do a Ph.D. in computer science. When Larry Page did his research project it was nicknamed “backrub”, i.e. how websites rub each other’s back by linking to each other… The original abstract report can still be found on the Stanford University’s website.

To further illustrate this – many web developers, web designers and SEO consultants have heard of Google’s PageRank algorithm, more than 50% think that the word ‘page’ of the term PageRank refers to webpage. It actually refers to the surname of Larry page!

3 – Failing to be aware of the latest Google updates

Most people have recently heard of the Google Panda update and the Google Penguin update. Does your SEO company realise there have been dozens of Panda updates and dozens of Penguin updates?

Also has your SEO company heard of:

  • Page Layout Update
  • Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update
  • DMCA Penalty
  • Venice Update
  • Freshness Update
  • Attribution Update

These updates are filters! A full list can be seen here

They are changes to the Google algorithm that catch poor quality in all its guises… whether it is poor or duplicate content (Panda) or spammy back links (Penguin). So it is important to understand the rules of SEO have not changed just that Google gets better and better at enforcing them.

4 – Prioritising SEO tasks

PageRankThe best SEO consultants know what SEO tasks they can perform and the likely effect they will have. Poor SEO companies have isolated strategies, they find something that works a little and think the answer is to do lots more of it when they want better results. It stands to reason that Google wants to see a strong and varied back link profile that mirrors something that has become popular of its own volition.

So links from blogs, forums, directories, other domains, social media etc. etc. are all valid and worthwhile. 1,000 links from only blog comments is at best unnatural and at worst spam!

It is also worth highlighting the overly “techy” SEO companies that think making sure your website is fully W3C compliant will help with your rankings? Matt Cutts said building a website with perfect HTML compliance does not help a site to rank higher in the Google SERPS.

5 – Poor Quality content

Poor Quality ContentLet’s face it… very few people are keen on spending hours writing great quality content.

Writing a short piece of 200 words specifically aimed at a keyword is not bad (and it’s better than nothing) but it is not what Google really wants.

What Google really wants, is fantastic highly credible informative content that answers exactly what its users are looking for. The sort of content that others will then link to!!!

Poor search engine optimisation companies get their clients to focus on content that is aimed at justifying the keyword on a specific page. They don’t get the whole high quality content concept and thus fail to reach out to their clients and engage them in taking their website to the next level in the content that they provide to their customers.

6 – Poor Keyword Research

Google Keyword ToolThe average SEO company goes into the Google keyword tool types in a keyword that matches what the client does and lists the results as the keywords to target! They focus on the high traffic keywords and sell this to the client because the big numbers look exciting!

Focusing on the really specific keywords that are an exact match of someone looking for your services may have smaller numbers but the conversion will be much higher!

A quick look at the Google ad words PPC cost can often reveal the level of intent to purchase… I.e. the higher the Google ad words PPC cost the more likely the better conversion.

Of course you could have the other problem where your SEO company is targeting keywords that don’t have any searches at all!?!

Good keyword research is an iterative process and for each keyword you need to consider the following:

  • what the keyword is
  • how many exact match searches there are on a monthly basis
  • what is the Google ad words cost per click
  • on a score of 0 to 10 (10 being the highest) what does the business owner think the mindset is behind the keyword/search phrase? I.e. if someone enters that exact search phrase, looking to buy in which case the intent would be 10 or are they looking at two do research in which case the intent would be zero

7 – Too Few Keywords

Let’s assume that you wanted to be number one for “commercial carpets”. How many keywords should your search engine optimisation company target for you? A good quality SEO company would probably target things like:

  • commercial carpet
  • commercial carpet tiles
  • commercial carpets
  • commercial carpeting
  • commercial carpet prices
  • commercial flooring suppliers
  • cheap commercial carpet
  • commercial carpet tile prices
  • carpet floor tiles commercial
  • commercial carpet tile
  • commercial carpet tile manufacturers
  • carpet tiles commercial
  • commercial tiles
  • commercial tile flooring

If the website had good-quality content for lots of these keywords that would help the site become more of an authority on the commercial carpets theme. If the back links pointing to the website had lots of variation of all of these keywords (reflecting the good content) Google would see an increase of credibility and lots of variation in the anchor text (thus avoiding the Google Penguin update).

So you can see there are many advantages to focusing on a keyword theme rather than just a single keyword.

8 – Bad link building and poor anchor ext

Link BuildingWhen looking at a websites back link profile you can always tell if a poor quality search engine optimisation company has built the back links.

Some of the tell-tale signs of poor back link profiles are:

  • links from domains that have ADDURL, SEO, link build
  • links from domains that don’t have good page rank
  • lots of links from article submission websites
  • lots of links that have identical anchor text

Easy to build links are nearly always not worth getting, and in some cases actually can contribute towards you getting a Google penalty. Time spent on obtaining a varied high-quality back link profile will always achieve the best results!

9 – Not using social media

Social MediaThe growth of social media has been massive and Google obviously takes signals from lots of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

An example of this can be seen with the rel=”author” tag. Have you ever done a Google search and noticed someone’s picture next to the listing? This is achieved by using the rel=”author” tag and placing a link to the persons Google+ profile and then putting a link back from the Google+ profile back to the article. Once all of this is in place Google places the persons profile picture (from their Google+ profile) on the SERP listing.

Think of it this way… no activity in the social media world for a product or service listed at the top of Google would probably be seen as unusual?

10 – Don’t be impatient

… But do check what is being done each month! It does take time to climb the Google SERPS (search engine result pages) but that does not mean you just have to sit and wait with your fingers crossed.

Ask to see exactly what you’re SEO consultant is doing for you. If they can’t show you, in a way that you can understand, the answer is probably that they are doing very little!

Good-quality SEO companies will be delighted to show you exactly what they are doing.

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