It’s always daunting when you have to go to a specialist for something you don’t really understand yourself. When all you’ve got is a long list of business names from the field and probably an even longer list of questions, it’s impossible to choose. It doesn’t matter whether the speciality has to do with your teeth, your car or your website; there’s always the possibility that you’re going to be ripped off.

A common example is car mechanics. I’m lucky enough to have a reliable mechanic for my Golf, but when you first visit a mechanic many people worry whether they are reliable or if the bill might be ‘artificially high’. If you have a background in mechanics or fixing cars, then this isn’t a problem but not everyone is this lucky.

The same is true of SEO. You hear tales of SEO agencies taking money and not doing anything. SEO is surrounded in mystical terms and technical jargon that even the computer- savvy don’t understand. When you try to research it on the internet, you can pick up conflicting information. The truth is that the search engines and Google keep their algorithms (the computer programming they use to determine where a website ranks) a secret and they’re constantly changing. Everyone will tell you to research before signing up to an SEO agency, but sometimes that just isn’t enough, so here are my top tips to make sure you don’t get stung by a dodgy SEO sales guy:

  • The number one rule (although it sounds rather dodgy in itself) is to steer well clear of any SEO company that ‘guarantees’ you anything like top rankings in a certain timeframe or says that they can definitely get you the number 1 spot. This advice comes straight from Google. As SEO is constantly changing, nobody can guarantee this so be wary of anyone who says they can.
  • Similarly, SEO results cannot happen overnight. Unlike PPC, which can get you on the first page at a price within a matter of hours, SEO takes time. Making too many changes all at once can cause search engines to be wary of your website and even penalise the site whilst it is re-assessed
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the SEO company exactly what they’ll be doing for your money and how they arrived at their quote. SEO cannot be priced up like picking items from a menu; every website is different. The amount of work needed will depend upon your website’s starting point and which other websites are currently competing for the traffic you want.
  • With only a little research, you’ll hear about ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ methods. White is good, black is bad. If you hear anything about ‘hidden text’ or ‘hidden links’ or anything like this, then steer clear. You want an SEO company that will only use ethical methods on your website.
  • Some SEO firms will only work on your website’s home page. Although this is indeed the strongest page on any website, it can mean that good results, once achieved, could be quickly lost through a simple change to the search engine’s algorithm. By optimising for a strong website using ethical methods, your website stands the best chance of weathering out changes. After all, the search engines’ job is to present the best results to its searchers – and that means your website’s on-page work must be clean, ethical and give users what they’re looking for.

It is unfortunate that some SEO agencies have given the world of search engine optimisation a bad name, but by following these guidelines you can find the gold nuggets out there.

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