SEO companies: The good and the bad
There are many search engine optimization (SEO) companies in Vancouver. Some really know their stuff, act professionally and provide high value to their clients. They deserve to call themselves “SEO experts” because they achieve tangible results for their clients, by getting more visitors to their websites via Google searches.
Unfortunately, there are also search engine optimization companies that claim to be experts and offer all kinds of ridiculous guarantees they can’t live up to. They deliver very little value for a high monthly fee, counting on their clients’ lack of understanding of SEO and low expectations to keep them on board. There is often very little accountability because the client doesn’t know what results they should expect and what work is really being done for them each month. We’re not sure how these companies stay in business, but somehow they do, and we often pick up the pieces when their clients figure out that they are being taken for a ride.
Search engines then and now
Some SEO companies seem to be stuck in the 90’s, back in the day when they could manipulate search engine rankings in all kinds of creative ways. There were all kinds of search engines to choose from back then, including AltaVista, HotBot, Excite and Ask Jeeves (now called Ask). Everyone was trying to make a buck by building the latest and greatest search engine, making their money by selling ads placed on their pages.
Times have changed. In the late 90’s Google came on strong and today is the king of the search engines. And there is little mercy if you try to deceive the king. And while there are a few search engines that have a small amount of market share each, no one really optimizes their site for Bing or Yahoo or Ask. Rankings on these search engines generally come along for the ride if you achieve strong Google rankings. With Google’s momentum and search engine dominance, came tighter controls on what can or can’t be done legitimately to increase your website’s search engine rankings.
SEO Content is King
The expression, “Content is King”, has never been more relevant than it is today. Blogging is no longer a nice-to-have web marketing vehicle, it is a must-have if you want your website to rank highly in Google searches for specific keywords that will get visitors to your website. Adding a new blog post to your website is valuable for several reasons. Google’s “spiders” crawl sites continuously and find blog posts faster than regular web pages. Google sees a blog post as new, fresh, relevant content, which it likes. Essentially, adding a blog post, especially one containing a significant amount of content, is like adding a new page to your website.
Another strong contributor to effective SEO (and high Google rankings) is social media. By using specific keywords in your blog posts and posting similar content on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and others, and linking these posts back to your blog post, Google connects the dots and “checks off a box” acknowledging that your social content lines up with your blog content and your blog resides on your site.
To take this one step further and increase the likelihood that Google will reward your site with higher rankings for the keywords you’ve included, link the blog post to another page on your site. This completes the “trifecta” or “trio”, as we like to call it, with social media linking to blog, and blog linking to webpage. Google likes this a lot. Your Google rankings go up.
SEO backlinks for increased Google rankings
Another key component of strong SEO to increase Google rankings is backlinks. A backlink is a link to your website from another website. In the “trio” scenario above, your social media posts are providing backlinks to your blog. There are legitimate backlinks like this, as well as those from partners you deal with, industry associations you belong to, and even charitable organizations and sponsorships you help with. But you have to be very careful how you use them.
There are also backlinks that can be detrimental to your rankings, or downright disastrous. For a time, no one cared, you could ask anyone to link back to your site and it helped. People created “link farms” – websites that sold backlinks to those looking to boost their SEO results. People paid them per backlink or on a monthly subscription basis. Some of these still exist in various forms and some people still think it’s worth paying for them, because they are cheap and easy to get in high volume. As tempting as it may be when these companies contact you to engage their services, we don’t recommend it.
The people at Google figured out a few years ago that this was essentially artificially manipulating their search results, so they began penalizing the rankings of websites with backlinks from sites that do not line up in terms of content relevance. This can take months or years to recover from once your site is penalized and dropped from the top Google ranking positions.
Black Hat SEO tactics
SEO companies that bypass established best practices in SEO and prefer to practice what is known as “black hat” SEO tactics, like using link farms, should definitely be avoided. These are shortcuts that can work for a while, until the folks at Google catch on and delist your website altogether. This means your website will never be found in a Google search from that point on. It will not rank in the list of results that come up on the page, regardless of how relevant your site is to the keywords people are typing into the Google search box. It can take months or years (if ever) to recover from this and get your site to come back in Google’s search results.
Some examples of Black Hat tactics include the following:
1) Link farms – As mentioned above, these sites contain long lists of descriptions and links, created for the sole purpose of selling backlinks that they link to your site. These companies come and go, offering 100’s of backlinks to your site for minimal cost.
2) Duplicate websites – Another tactic is creating bogus duplicate sites on separate domains, that don’t even look like your real website but have some content that’s related to your business and many links back to your real site. Again, these are a source of backlinks, but can also cause Google to shut down your website.
3) Multiple social media pages – Creating several versions each of your company’s social media pages, in order to create hundreds of backlinks to your website through multiple social media posts across them all.
Any company that claims they can guarantee SEO results is misleading their prospective clients, and is frankly, lying. There are no guarantees with SEO because it is impossible to predict what Google will do next. Google continuously changes its algorithms and releases updates with names like “Panda” and “Penguin”, without warning or explanation, until they have already affected thousands of websites – some positively, some negatively. Sometimes the negative results are completely unavoidable and the Google rankings of thousands of websites are penalized, without anyone doing anything wrong.
Generally though, these drops in SEO rankings come back up over time if best practices are followed. It forces the best SEO people and companies in the industry to keep up on the latest changes, by reading industry forums and blogs and sharing information. And rather than trying to outwit the folks at Google (many try, most without much success), they deal with the parameters that are known and work within them as best they can to get SEO results for their clients.
The false promise of guaranteed SEO
Reputable companies stick to best practices (White Hat tactics) and do not guarantee SEO results, but must be accountable to their clients. They should provide detailed monthly reports and be willing to explain them to their clients so they understand what the results mean. They should educate you and stick to best practices to avoid the potential for your website to be delisted. They should stand behind their work by allowing clients out of any agreement or contract if the client is not satisfied with the results.
That said, SEO results are not instant. We believe that 3-6 months is a realistic timeframe within which to cancel if results are not being achieved. The work done in the first 1-2 months should lead to an initial boost to your SEO rankings, but depending on the competition within your industry, products, and/or services offered, can sometimes take several months to kick in and gather momentum. Sometimes what we do today will not show results for 1-2 months, but over time, much like the price graph for a blue chip stock, the overall Google rankings for your website should track in an upward trend to the right.
SEO results requires ongoing service
SEO is not static. To be effective, it requires ongoing work, tracking of results, and review for your website to achieve and maintain high rankings. As mentioned above, now more than ever “Content is King”. Leveraging strong social media, blog and page content; legitimate backlinks, as well as a number of on-page strategies that Google likes, are the best ways to improve and maintain high rankings. t takes work and it costs money to do SEO the right way. Like anything else in business or in life that’s worth achieving, there are no shortcuts.
Ten5 Marketing also offers a full complement of web marketing services, including marketing content writing, and social media marketing, which provides a significant boost to your search engine rankings if done correctly in tandem with your SEO. We also offer marketing videos and email marketing which engage your target audience(s) and further boost your Google SEO rankings.
Contact us for more information.