We, at My Internet Scout, regularly encounter small businesses who find themselves paying excessive fees to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultants who give recommendations that lack effectiveness and are sometimes counterproductive. When we ask about questionable SEO practices, we typically discover that the SEO consultant…
- Doesn’t perform due diligence on specific business objectives;
- Provides ‘canned’ recommendations;
- Lacks knowledge on the latest best practices for SEO; or,
- Is secretive about revealing their ‘Special SEO Methodology’
For obvious reasons, these types of SEO firms are cause for concern. Most business owners don’t have the knowledge to ascertain the difference between canned or antiquated methodology and effective SEO efforts as laid out by Google guidelines.
What is proper SEO Strategy?
Bottomline, legitimate SEO is a long-term strategy of adhering to Google’s search engine rules of ‘fair play’. Google uses over 250 different criteria (with each having different weight) to determine webpage rank on the search engine results page.
No good SEO happens overnight. It takes a deliberate effort of resources, regular adjustments to ensure details are executed correctly and months to see significant results. What may be sensible for a large corporation may yield an inconsequential return for a small business.
Matt Cutts is to SEO as Bill Gates was to Windows. He is Google’s top guy on SEO and Spamdexing. His team authors Google’s anti-spam rulebook. Matt regularly answers SEO/Spamdexing questions at conferences, on his website and on YouTube. No one has more authority on SEO than Matt Cutts.
The Good News is…
My Internet Scout employs the WordPress engine exclusively to run our clients websites. Why is this good news? Well, because Matt Cutts says it’s great for SEO. As a matter of fact, Matt uses WordPress for his personal site.
“WordPress is such a power tool that the spammers use it too… WordPress solves a ton of SEO issues. WordPress takes care of 80-90% of the mechanics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).” – Matt Cutts
SEO Firm Recommendations to Watch out for
So, maybe you’re a small business owner and want know which methods are not-so-worthwhile. There are hundreds of different things that can help a business’ SEO; however, some SEO consultants regularly advocate the same suggestions time and time again. Below are some recommendations customers have brought to us from 3rd-party SEO audits, which have left us asking, “Are these consultants for real?”
#1 Faux Pas – No Recommendation for Using Google’s Webmaster Tools
This lack of recommendation demonstrates a fundamental deficiency in the SEO trade-craft. Matt Cutts has stated many times over that not using Webmaster Tools is, in his eyes, at the top of the list for webmaster mistakes. If a SEO firm solicits you and doesn’t entertain the idea of subscribing to Google’s Webmaster Tools service, then they shouldn’t be a candidate as a vendor. Webmaster tools helps webmasters know what search engines are seeing on the site and what’s being considered. It provides helpful information on search queries, broken links, and overall health of a site when it pertains to SEO.
Recommending Multiple Domains with built-in Keywords
We don’t suggest doing this. Depending on the recommendation’s context, this could be considered spamdexing (a ‘no-no’ for sure). One SEO consultant suggested to one of our clients that they should implement two dozen domains with integrated keywords. Does this really make sense? No. Every business large or small has a marketing budget, with limits. If you plan on being in business for more than a couple of years, we suggest sticking with a variation of your product or company name (if possible) for the domain. The implementation and managing of multiple keyword-centric domains can blow through a small business’ marketing budget and not really help in the long run. Here’s what Matt Cutts has to say…
Recommends 301 Redirects for Establishing Canonical Domains
This shouldn’t be an initial recommendation. This method, used to establish canonical domains, has fallen out of favor because it’s easy to foul up, painfully slow to correct, and Google depletes rank mojo from pages linked-to by a 301. If this is a recommendation given for your site, chances are the SEO firm isn’t keeping up with best practices. Establishing canonical domains are important. If they’re not established, search engines will list your website as two separate sites, one with the ‘www-‘ prefix and one without the prefix (i.e., ‘www.yourwebsite.com’ and ‘yourwebsite.com’). Since having duplicate content on search engines will affect your ranking, webmasters in the past would use a 301 server redirect to let Google, Bing and Yahoo know both versions of the domain are the same website. It’s no longer best practice to do this. What is recommended is 1.) choosing within Webmaster Tools which version of the domain you’d prefer; and, 2.) incorporation of the canonical link element in the header of the website. We recommend using a 301 only as an alternative if the Webmaster Tools/Canonical Link solution doesn’t work. In the video below, Matt Cutts gives a more-complete 20-minute explanation.
Slow Website Download Times Lower Your SEO Mojo
Ah, the time-honored, ‘Your website’s load time is slow and affecting your rank’ canned recommendation. This could be a valid issue with a website; however, the frequency of the recommendation appearing on lists of audited improvements happens way too often. Load time is something Google takes in to consideration; but unless your website is consistently sluggish, don’t obsess over it. Matt Cutts says that only 1 out of a 1,000 websites are so slow that they’ll actually affect SEO; and instead, consider speed enhancements with user-experience in mind.
However, slow load times may be a legitimate concern. This would be another reason to use Webmaster Tools… this service can give indicators of what may be slowing the site, such as malware, and will notify you if the load speed could be affecting SEO. Also, a closer look with Google’s PageSpeed Insights service can indicate how much room you have for improving the site load time. If you’re a small business with a limited budget and your site receives a 65 or higher score from Google, then you may want to consider directing your marketing budget elsewhere. On the flip-side, one or two quick adjustments can speed a site tremendously.