Have you ever gotten e-mail similar to this:
“Hi Web Site Owner,
“We noticed that your site isn’t found under the
keyword phrase, ‘freckles on English bulldogs.’ With our proprietary
software, we can determine your rankings in the top 32,727 search engines, and
we guarantee we’ll get you top 10 rankings for every keyword phrase
that’s relevant to your business.”
Okay, I exaggerated a little, but you know what I mean.
You’ve gotten these e-mail too.
What do e-mail like this do for the search engine industry?
Regretfully, it often lumps us together with e-mail spammers and snake oil
salesmen who promise the moon but can’t deliver.
It even causes some people to question the professionalism of
the industry in general.
So, how does the “average” person know which search
engine optimization firms are legitimate? How do you know who you can trust,
versus who should be tossed in the same category as the “get rich quick
schemes” that never work?
Let’s look at a few suggestions.
Read: “Fees and Concerns of Professional Search
This article, which I wrote a few months ago, offers information
on guarantees, pricing structures, and other topics of interest to professional
Keep this in mind: As a general rule, it’s virtually
impossible to guarantee a top ten ranking across the board, as there are way
too many factors, including off page factors such as link popularity, that come
into play with a successful Web site. However, some of the pricing structures
are fashioned around rankings, which means that you literally pay for your
rankings. You’ll find the article at this URL:
Does the SEO firm hire Certified Search Engine
Though certification alone doesn’t guarantee that the
optimizer can achieve top rankings or that the optimizer stays away from shady
practices, at least you have a “guarantee” that the person has
completed organized and legitimate training and that his or her skills have
been certified. All certification isn’t alike, however, so be sure to
verify that the certifying agency is legitimate and keeps up with the constant
changes in the industry.
The Academy of Web
Specialists is the best choice for an online certifying agency. For "on
location" training and certification, choose
Search Engine Workshops,
which I teach with John Alexander.
In the next few months, the Academy will be setting up a job
databank of past students, which will be an invaluable resource when shopping
for a professional SEO firm.
Purchase a copy of the Buyer’s Guide to Search
Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms.
Does the SEO firm adhere to the guidelines and suggestions as
outlined in the Buyer’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization &
Positioning Firms? This excellent guide will help you understand the
various pricing and SEO packages that are currently available in the industry,
and it even rates 68 firms.
However, just because a firm isn’t listed in the Guide does
not mean that the firm isn’t legitimate. The Guide’s authors
recognize that it’s a work in progress. In fact, they plan on increasing
the number of listed companies to 75 when they update the Guide in March of
2002, and they constantly ask for recommendations of additional companies to
So, if you’re considering a search engine optimization
firm, read the Guide to see how the firm “stacks up” against those
firms that are listed in the Guide. Use the Guide as a source of information on
what to ask the SEO, and listen carefully to the answers. If anything sounds
“fishy” or too good to be true, you may want to move on to a
What type of information is available in this comprehensive
- Guidelines for pricing and evaluating services;
- A “best practices” questionnaire;
- Reasons for hiring an outside firm versus doing it yourself;
- “Leveling factors” that allow you to compare apples
to oranges, as much as possible. In other words, it’s very difficult to
compare one search engine optimization firm to another, because pricing
structures and services often vary considerably. This Guide, however, allows
you to compare different firms by focusing on specifics that can be compared
across the board.
- Rough math to determine how much search engine optimization
is worth to your online business; and,
- Evaluation, comparison pricing, and rating of the included
When reviewing the Guide, remember that opinions vary greatly in
what’s “legitimate” and what isn’t. One example lies in the
comments related to automated submission software. While I totally agree that
manual submissions are the best, let’s be honest here. Manual submissions
aren’t always feasible.
In that situation, software programs that mimic a manual
submission should be chosen. Examples are WebPosition Gold’s Submitter,
Search Engine Commando, and Commando Pro. In fact,
(1.6) does everything possible to emulate a manual submission and even
improve upon it. So, in my opinion, firms that use Submitter or these other
programs shouldn’t be penalized in the rating structure of the Guide.
How much does the Guide cost, and where can you buy
The cost of the Buyer’s Guide is currently $119, and it can
be purchased through: http://sherpastore.com/page.cfm/1759?a=terry
In Conclusion . . .
If you’re considering hiring a professional search engine
marketing firm, do your homework, both in terms of the firm itself and
what’s currently being offered in the industry. Remember that the most
expensive firms aren’t always the best, and the most well-known firms
aren’t always the most legitimate.
Look to see if the SEO’s skills are certified by the
Academy or Search Engine Workshops. Then, pick up a copy of the Buyer’s
Guide to Search Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms. Study those
guidelines carefully, and run any firm that you’re considering hiring
through the Guide’s “Best Practices Questionnaire.”
Robin Nobles teaches 2-, 3-, and 5-day hands-on search engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe (SearchEngineWorkshops.com) as well as online SEO training courses (OnlineWebTraining.com). They have recently launched localized SEO training centers through SearchEngineAcademy.com, and they have expanded their workshops to Europe with Search Engine Workshops UK. They have also opened the first networking community for SEOs, the Workshop Resource Center (WRC).
This work is licensed
under a Creative Commons License.