Search: Choosing a good Search Engine Optimization Company

August 4th, 2003 by Richy B. Leave a reply »

Huh, just came across something that slightly cheered me up. I just saw an advertisement (provided by Google Adsense: see top of the page) for a company offering one of the services I do for a job (search engine optimisation and placement). I went to their site to see how good they were (as I hadn’t heard of them before) and…

They’ve got a “Google PR” value of “0”, I can’t find their site on Google search for their company name (never a good sign) and finally some of the techniques they “suggest” are good for a site (such as “dynamic meta tags”) would, most likely, get your site banned from the search engine. A good SEO (search engine optimizer) will optimise a site in such a way that it’ll work as a “static site” OR dynamically driven (ok, some “hacks” may be needed to avoid query strings). I also checked their “recommend client” site: no optimisation (bar the “now-redundant” meta tags) and site can’t easily be found in Google!

Therefore, I’d like to suggest the following to anyone considering employing a search engine optimization company: First of all, can you easily find them in the search engines for a) their company name and b) one of their keyphrases (sometimes this is harder to figure out as it may not be easy to see what they are targeting).

Secondly: Do your research. If they suggest creating hidden pages/links, cloaking/fast redirects, duplicate pages (or anything else on Google’s “Do not do” list), then steer clear of them as the site could easily be reported for spam

Thirdly: Do your research x2. If they list any clients (very few SEO companies will be willing to release details of many of their clients because it’s, unfortunately, quite common for rival companies to “client pinch”), find out how they are performing in Google (or any other search engine) for the main keyphrases. Testimonials may be good (we get quite a few unsolicited ones every week), but see if you can back it up with “hard evidence”.

Fourthly: Check Google’s SEO recommendations (and, yes, even Google gets the “I visited your website…” style emails: I know I’ve received some for my own sites and yet the site is doing really well in the main search engines).

Fifthly: Find out which search engines they target. 10? 20? 200? 2,000? Here’s a secret: whilst there may be in the region of 5,000 “search engines” – they aren’t all unique. Most either get their results from Google, Altavista, Inktomi or Pay Per Click services such as Espotting or Overture. We target between 30 and 50 search engines as we know that we know get the visitors – what’s the point of paying a premium to get listed on an extra 1,500 search engines which are lucky to have a search per day?

Sixthly: Choose wisely. Does the search engine optimization company need to advertise? We rely on word of mouth and our search engine positions to get us customers – why does “company X” need to take out pay per click listings at $8 per click or great big banner advertisements? And where is that money for the adverts coming from?…

Seventhly: What are they offering? “Search engine registration” is good – but all they are doing is submitting your site to the search engines and that’s it. There are many programs which will do this for FREE! Do they actually offer “positions” or just “a listing”? Do they optimize your own site (which means make changes to it to make it more search engine friendly) or do they set up a gateway site which they own and promote that? If the latter, what happens when your contract expires: yep, they continue to get YOUR traffic.

Sevently: Guarantee levels. We are willing to guarantee our work (with either a money back guarantee or a “pay on performance” style scheme) as we know we’ll get the positions for the customer. We give fixed guarantee levels (“we will get you X top ten results”) – but no vague “we will increase your presence” promises: how much will they increase your presence in the search engine? 1 place? 10? or actually get you near the top?

Eighth: Contract length. When we sign up with a client, we aim to make the relationship last a minimum of a year (although the client is “free to walk” at anytime). Be wary of companies which off a “one off fee” or “no contact” as what will happen in 3 months time when your positions start to drop after the search engines change their algorithms (a large portion of our time is taken up just following all the major changes to the search engines – did you know Google alone uses over 100 different variables to even do a “basic ranking” of a website). If a client starts to slip in the positioning, we reoptimize before it’s too late.

Ninthly: Link backs/PR building. It’s become very important in the past couple of years (especially since Google came on the scene) to have good, high quality links back to your site – will the company you are paying work on getting these links for you? And will the be “reciprocal” (which means your homepage could get dotted with “buttons” for many many other sites- oh, and reciprocal links, if detected, tend to be “downgraded” for the search engines).

Finally: Cost. How much are they charging? Our lower end prices start at less then £200 per year, but then depending on the guarantee level, competitiveness of the market it can go up to £10,000! (it’s a lot easier to promote a site about “the inside of the knee” targetting a small village, than a mortgage or p-rn site aiming for international rankings. We actually won’t tuch “adult sites” as it’ll be doubtful we’ll get the client a very good return on investment)

That’s my advice (even though this was only meant to be a “one paragraph” post), and I hope somebody finds it useful (the stories we hear about clients being ripped over by rival companies are scary!). If you are interested in getting your website optimized by the company I work for, then just leave an appropriate comment and I’ll pass the details on. Why no link to them? Well, it’ll be shameless self-promotion for starters and anyway, we’re doing extremely well in the search engines as it is 😉

This post is over 6 months old.

This means that, despite my best intentions, it may no longer be accurate.

This blog holds over 12 years of archived content - during that time, I may have changed my opinion of something, technology will have advanced (and old "best standards" may no longer be the case), my technology "know how" has improved etc etc - it would probably take me a considerable amount of time to update all the archival entries: and defeat the point of keeping them anyway.

Please take these posts for what they are: a brief look into my past, my history, my journey and "caveat emptor".


  1. Neil T. says:

    A very good post Richy, thanks :). The ignorance of some so-called SEOs scares me, and as an ODP editor you are often on the receiving end of their stupidity. For example, we quite clearly state that mirrors and doorway sites are not accepted, yet some braindead SEOs still submit them. We get people resubmitting even if their site is listed, just because their position on Google has fallen (since when were we Google?). And the ‘S’ alphabar category for Search Engine Optimization Firms is always backlogged because many seem to use the logic that “‘SEO’ starts with ‘S’, therefore since I’m an SEO I’ll submit to the ‘S’ category”.

    If this was done by members of the public I’d accept that, but it’s done by so-called professionals who get clients to pay them to do this.

  2. Oooh, funny – this article is picking up more SEO adverts for obverse reasons and I’ve just come across one that advertises “We position your website in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd position on the FIRST page and keep it there, from $99 a month, with NO SETUP FEES!!! And we position your site in just a few days!” and “Yahoo search engine group (Top 3 rank) or the Google search engine group (First page rank)”.

    Sounds good, no? (although their Titanium plan at $298/month is the very top end of our premium SEO packages).

    Check the small print:
    “Rankings refer to the sponsored links on the respective search engines”. It’s a “pay per click” management service in other words(!)

  3. I agree — no self-respecting SEO should have a PR of less than 5 on their homepage!

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