Have you ever gotten e-mail similar to this:
Hi Web Site Owner,
We noticed that your site isnt 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 well get you top 10 rankings for every keyword phrase thats relevant to your business.
Okay, I exaggerated a little, but you know what I mean. Youve 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 cant 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?
Lets look at a few suggestions.
Read: Fees and Concerns of Professional Search Engine Optimizers.
This article, which I wrote a few months ago, offers information on guarantees, pricing structures, and other topics of interest to professional SEOs.
Keep this in mind: As a general rule, its 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.
Does the SEO firm hire Certified Search Engine Marketers?
Though certification alone doesnt 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 isnt alike, however, so be sure to verify that the certifying agency is legitimate and keeps up with the constant changes in the industry.
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 Buyers Guide to Search Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms.
Does the SEO firm adhere to the guidelines and suggestions as outlined in the Buyers 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 isnt listed in the Guide does not mean that the firm isnt legitimate. The Guides authors recognize that its 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 add.
So, if youre 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 different firm.
What type of information is available in this comprehensive manual?
When reviewing the Guide, remember that opinions vary greatly in whats legitimate and what isnt. One example lies in the comments related to automated submission software. While I totally agree that manual submissions are the best, lets be honest here. Manual submissions arent always feasible.
In that situation, software programs that mimic a manual submission should be chosen. Examples are WebPosition Golds Submitter, Search Engine Commando, and Commando Pro. In fact, Golds version (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 shouldnt be penalized in the rating structure of the Guide.
How much does the Guide cost, and where can you buy it?
The cost of the Buyers Guide is currently $119, and it can be purchased through: http://sherpastore.com/page.cfm/1759?a=terry
In Conclusion . . .
If youre considering hiring a professional search engine marketing firm, do your homework, both in terms of the firm itself and whats currently being offered in the industry. Remember that the most expensive firms arent always the best, and the most well-known firms arent always the most legitimate.
Look to see if the SEOs skills are certified by the Academy or Search Engine Workshops. Then, pick up a copy of the Buyers Guide to Search Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms. Study those guidelines carefully, and run any firm that youre considering hiring through the Guides Best Practices Questionnaire.
Robin Nobles is the Co-Director of Training of Search Engine Workshops, where they teach "hands on" search engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe. They also provide a networking community for SEOs called The World Resource Center for Search Engine Marketers and have expanded their workshops to Europe with Search Engine Workshops UK.
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