Choosing a Search Engine Marketing Firm
A Beginner's Guide
Is there any difference between the many search engine marketing firms? Yes! A very big difference.
This page will explain the difference and provide some guidance on choosing a good firm.
The promise of a "Top 10 ranking"
You may see a search engine marketing firm guaranteeing that they will give you a "top 10 ranking". This may sound impressive, but in fact it is so easy that anyone can do it, and it may not be worth anything to you.
If you want to see how this is done, see our page
on the search engine ranking trick.
The main goal of a search engine marketing firm should be to generate as much relevant traffic to your website as possible. That is, you want:
- Volume (lots of visitors)
- Relevance (those visitors will be interested what you have to offer)
In trying to reach those goals, there are three types of search engine marketing firm: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Good search engine marketing firms will spend time on niche marketing. This involves:
- Finding out about your business and what types of services you want to promote
- Researching keywords, using services such as Wordtracker, to find out what keywords are likely to give you the most relevant visitors
- Asking you to write articles around those keywords (there may be lots of different keyword combinations)
- Editing and optimise the pages so that they appear high up in the search engines on those keywords
Good search engine marketing firms will also:
- Build reciprocal links with other quality sites in your industry
- Create a simple site navigation structure that supports ranking of your primary keywords
- Create an online forum or blog that keeps your site constantly fresh and growing
- Restrict your site to original articles only
Bad search engine marketing firms can produce websites, but don't really understand how to get relevant visitors to your site. They might make mistakes such as:
- Not differentiating your site from others - eg: targeting "architecture" as a keyword, without recognising the crossover between "systems architecture" and "building architecture"
- Using fancy graphics and picture-based links that look good but can actually suppress your ranking in the search engines
- Mistargeting your web pages on highly competitive keywords where you have no chance of getting into the top rankings
- Doing things that inadvertently get your site "penalised", such as exchanging links with unrelated sites or 'link farms'
Some search engine marketing firms employ 'dirty tactics' to try and get traffic to your site. These tactics often include:
- Stealing copyrighted text from high-ranking web pages and hiding it on your page. Using techniques such as "cloaking" or "sneaky redirect", they present one set of information to the search engine, and another to you and your visitor.
- Hijacking the URLs of popular sites, so that when visitors go to those other sites they are redirected to your site.
- Using a variety of other tricks - eg: keyword stuffing, where invisible text contains repeated keywords.
These tricks may enable them to get visitors temporarily to your website, so they can argue that they have done their job, but most often those visitors are not relevant. And in the long run you are likely to get penalised by the search engines as they become better at recognising when a website has used dirty tricks. You may even find your website is dropped by your hosting company if they receive complaints about copyright theft.
There are three types of search engine marketing firms: the good, the bad and the ugly. The best way to find out the difference is to ask the firm for references and relevant keywords, and then you can look in the search engines to see where those sites appear.
Also, ask them to describe in detail how they go about their search engine optimisation, and assess which of the above approaches (the good, the bad and the ugly) they are closest to.