Have you ever had this experience at an auto shop?
You're innocently perusing the magazines when you’re interrupted by that one mechanic whose hair is slicked back with what appears to be motor oil, he informs you that you need to replace the shocks, the tire tread is far too thin, your battery is getting really old, your muffler is about to die and he needs approval to put a $2,000 part on your car.
You're shocked… all you wanted was an oil change. Holding back the mixture of frustration, surprise and pent up anger you respond, “If the car needs it then fix it.”
This is a classic case of “asymmetric information” the auto mechanic likely knows much more about cars than you’ll ever care to, so when you come in the shop, he has an unfair advantage. Do you really need a new muffler? How thin is too thin for tire tread? Are the shocks giving out?
You don’t know, because it takes a lot of effort to know, but if you had learned the basics then you would have bargaining power as well as the ability to discern what is necessary and what is not.
It is the same thing when it comes to Search Engine Optimization, if you're like most business owners you want to hire an SEO firm because you don’t want to do the work yourself or exert the effort to learn in depth about the subject (and who could blame you with phrases like “Meta Tag” and “Reciprocal Link Exchange”...)
The good news is that you don’t know have to know much about SEO to make good decisions when paying someone to do it, the bad news is you do have to know a few things.
In this article we'll discuss the basics of what to look for when you are shopping for SEO firms, my goal is to give you everything you need to make a truly educated decision when shopping for SEO.
We’ll start with some helpful basic vocabulary that you should be familiar with, cover a few questions you should ask and then finish up with why you need to take seo seriously.
SEO: The Basics
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process of building or improving a website so that it can show up in search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.
How do SEO agencies improve search engine results?
The four main ways agencies improve your search engine results:
Local SEO is a discipline that is focused on helping businesses that are located in a specific area to show up when people search for local terms. This SEO strategy works to get you listed with a consistent name, address, and phone number across directories online as well as optimizing your content for local keywords.
If this sounds like what you're interested in, check out this Local SEO case study: “How we got a window tinter a $20,000 client using local SEO.”
Technical SEO is focused on modifying or building a website so that Google can crawl and understand it. It’s all the things that Google reads with the site. For example: fixing meta descriptions
(the description of the web page that shows up in Google) and title tags
(the titles that break up your content.)
Content Siloing is the process where you structure you content into distinct “silos” so that it is clear to search engine “crawlers” (little pieces of code Google sends out to gather data on web pages) how to read it.
Black Hat SEO:
Here is a very clear defition from webopedia.com:
The use of aggressive SEO strategies, techniques and tactics that focus only on search engines and not a human audience, and usually does not obey search engines guidelines.
Some examples of black hat SEO techniques include keyword stuffing, invisible text, doorway pages, adding unrelated keywords to the page content or page swapping (changing the webpage entirely after it has been ranked by search engines).
White Hat SEO: White hat is the opposite of black hat, it focuses on human interaction as well as follows the guidelines set out by companies like Google completely.
Why is SEO important?
Ray Crock, the person who grew Mcdonald's into the behemoth that it is today, is famous for saying, “We are in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.” He was completely right. Half the battle is the product, the other half is positioning the product so people can find it.
Objectively, would anyone say that Mcdonald's has three times better hamburgers than Wendy’s or a Burger King? Can you really even tell the difference? Yet, Mcdonald's makes three times more sales than either of those two companies. Why? They are the best at building where the people are.
Think of SEO as internet real estate, you pay for the best locations with high quality content and inbound links. Owning a targeted keyword online is just as important for your business in the digital world as your location would be in the physical world. Think about this, how many times have you chosen which gas station to go to simply because that’s where you ran out of gas?
The harsh reality, and your opportunity is people generally choose from the options they are aware of and if they are not aware of it few people will search extremely hard to find it.
Your customers are searching for solutions to their problems and they will likely choose the best, most easily accessible option and move on with their lives. If you're not even up where you can be considered, you will have some serious issues with traffic, at least organically. That is why SEO is so important.
How can I tell if it is a good or bad SEO Firm?
When there is a blockbuster movie that comes out, and is really well done, you will hear from your friend, “You have to see…” probably a dozen times. It’s likely that if a dozen of your friends think it’s awesome you will too.
The trick with SEO is that you need to be able to get this feedback from people you trust in an interest that is much narrower.
How do you do that?