Local SEO Industry: Current Status and Future Projections

What Is SEO?
This is a common question that most people especially those who are either new or not familiar with online marketing might be asking. SEO stands for search engine optimization. In layman’s language, it the process of capturing traffic from the search engines such as Google listings. Through this read, I am going to give you facts about the SEO business, current market status of SEO as well as the future projections in this field.

The Major SEO Players
Like any other industry in the world, the online SEO business has its players. This includes SEO local tools providers such as small digital agencies, SEO free lancers and web-designers among others.

Returns for SEO Players
The major reason as to why people get into business is to profit and expand their economic status. In the field of SEO business, the rates of returns are promising. This is because a recent research on SEO returns for a period of 12 months shows that at least all the players had something to take home. However, the returns are varying depending on a players’ hardwork and skills in the field. For example, according to this research, 34% of the interviewed SEOs said they received an amount less than $ 30,000 while another group of respondents, 17% said they received returns that were above $ 500,000.

From the above statistics, it is evident that the size of an organization played a role in the determination of the amount of returns received. It beats logic for one to expect a large organization to receive low amounts of returns and vice versa. In addition, the presence of part time SEOs as well as the entry of newbies into the market could have let to the low rates of turnover due to low operation capacity. However, it is hard to predict the course the SEO market is likely to take due to lack of clear shift in SEO earnings since the year 2011. However, the demand for local SEO services seems to be growing day in day out and this is attracting more players thereby tightening the competition among SEO service providers.

The Emerging Issues with the Current SEO Returns
With the above distribution of returns, several questions emerge. This includes the following:

• From the statistics, a large percentage of SEOs receive a low income something that suggests low pricing of SEO services.
• It is also possible that small and medium businesses do not understand the value of SEO services provided to them.
• The low SEO income earners, those who received less than $ 30,000 annual returns are also being doubted if they can provide quality services while earning that low.
• It is also unknown if most SEOs will still be in operation if their income remains static.

The Current SEOs Income Per Customer
Just like the annual SEO returns, SEO income per customer also varies. This is because there are those clients who would pay less than $100 a month while others will pay more than $5000 a month. This variation in income per client can be attributed to the type of services provided as well as the depth of services. The size of business a client is seeking SEO services for also play a role in determining the amount to be charged. For example, small businesses are charged less simply because their requirements are much smaller as compared to large multi-location franchise businesses.

Research also shows that some SEO service providers operate on high volume basis. Such SEOs provide simple SEO services at very low monthly rates. As a result, such SEO service providers end up having a high customer churn with a large dedicated network of sales team.

Similarly, some SEO service providers provide services that are more comprehensive in a much more professional manner customized according to the client thereby leading to a low number of clients.

Due to the above statistics, it therefore becomes essential for any SEO service provider in the current market to operate in a manner that matches his/her setup.

Handling Capacity of the Modern SEOs
Currently, SEOs are handling more clients as compared to the previous years. Statistics show that about 40% of the SEOs in the market handle at least 11 clients while 23% SEOs handle at least 21 clients. Such large numbers of clients to handle lead to more audits to be done, lots of tasks, research, reports and even more calls from the clients to be attended to. The high numbers of clients also demand a high level of efficiency so that the clients can be assured of quality services.

Market Structure for Most SEOs
SEOs have been using several marketing techniques to promote their businesses. Offline marketing channels such as word of mouth has been cited by most SEOs as the most effective marketing technique. This can be attributed to the trust level, business reputation as well as relationships build during the offline campaigns.

Alongside offline marketing, SEOs also practice online marketing such as the use of LinkedIn and social media. However, most SEOs have cited LinkedIn as the best option as compared to the social networks because it is better placed for lead generation and networking.

Services Offered by SEOs
Majority of the SEO players offer onsite optimization with 91% of the SEOs practicing this. Google+ optimization has also a good number of SEOs practicing it as 86% claimed to be offering this service to their clients. For affiliate marketing, only a small percentage (11%) of SEOs are offering this service to their clients.

Other services offered by SEOs:

• Content creation/optimization
• Link building
• Citation building
• Social media marketing
• Website development
• PPC
• Mobile site development
• Video marketing and mobile marketing.

The most demanded service by SEO clients is onsite marketing, while the least demanded service is affiliate marketing. The other services are somehow averagely demanded. However, most small and medium businesses do not understand the opportunities that video and mobile marketing can unlock to them and therefore tend not to use these services. SEOs therefore need to educate their clients on these marketing channels so that they can go for them.

When asked about the online SEO services SEOs feel are effective, 82% of them said that the General search is the most effective for generating leads. Local search appears to be the second best after 62% of the respondents in an SEO survey voted in its favor. PPC is the 3rd with 53% while social media is the 4th with 26%. Daily deals appear to be an appealing to most SEOs because only 1% voted in favor of it.

Tedious SEO Tasks
55% of the current SEOs in the market find link building to be the most tedious and time-consuming work. Others, though 15% only believe that content writing is the most tedious and time consuming task among all the tasks they do. It therefore emerges that to the 55% who find link building tedious, this task is also boring to them.

Future Projections
This is an outline of what we expect in the near future as far as SEO business is of concern.

Expansion of SEO Businesses
Compared to the previous years, SEO businesses has been growing and expanding steadily. Most SEOs (about 93%) are not only optimistic about expanding their businesses, but are also expecting to grow their business. In what seems to be a determined move to grow their businesses, most SEOs (82%) are willing to recruit more staff members so as to realize their desired levels of growth.

The social media is also expected to grow and be more effective even than the local directories. This is because most SEOs believe that social media can perform better because of recommendations from friends. Mobile usage is also expected to grow further and become relevant for local businesses.

Upsurge of Confidence in SEO Business
Unlike other businesses, the SEO business is showing a positive growth of confidence among the players. Despite this being a dynamic and innovative industry, most SEOs are still willing to recruit more staff to help drive their businesses ahead. 84% of the sampled SEOs in the SEO research are also optimistic that the SEO business is going to be more profitable starting this year 2013.

Confidence is also running high that if the SEO players increase the understanding of SEO/social among the business owners they serve in future, they will not only increase the business owners’ rate of investment, but also make them transfer their marketing budgets from other channels to the digital channels.

SEO a Scam? The Truth About the Industry

I frequent many SEO and Web Marketing forums on a daily basis and every so often there is a debate about the SEO industry and ethics. After being involved in a number of these debates, it has become really obvious that the main problems are the facts that no two SEO companies are alike and there is no unified methodology. It’s very hard to make statements about the industry as a whole because it’s debatable what exactly ‘SEO’ is. Mix in the fact that most SEO companies keep their methodology and campaign strategies secret and we have a situation where every company is totally different with very different results.

Fact 1 : There is no unified SEO methodology. SEO is actually defined by wikipedia as a process of improving traffic from SERPs to a site. Of course, HOW they do that is the real question and causes the debates.

Fact 2 : The effectiveness of an SEO campaign depends on the site structure, site content, keywords, methodology used, and how popular the site is. A site cannot just rank for any random keyword. SEO is also not voodoo. It is logic, problem solving, and Web marketing mixed together. If your site provides no value to users, it probably won’t rank.

Fact 3 : Some ‘SEOs’ do search engine optimization and some do search engine manipulation. Of course, it is all marketed as SEO. Unethical optimization provides results at any cost and is always short term (usually ends in a banned domain name). Ethical optimization opens up the site to the search engines and provides long term benefits.

Fact 4 : Most SEO companies get paid whether or not your site gets any rankings. Unfortunately, this is the case with the industry. Most SEO companies implement A, B, and C and move on to the next client. Hopefully, the site ranks. If it doesn’t, they always have more clients.

Fact 5 : Most SEO companies use both ethical and unethical inbound linking strategies.To maximize profits, it is very common for SEO companies to buy bulk links from India, links on spam/scraper web sites, or sell large directory submission packages. It is also common for SEO companies to place huge amounts of the contract into inbound linking to make up for the poor quality of the site optimization.

I don’t think it is fair to characterize the industry as a whole without figuring out what is wrong with it and how SEO companies can overcome it. So how exactly do we determine what is good and bad about the industry? I have now been involved with the Web for over 10 years and, specifically, with the SEO industry for almost 4 years and I’ve seen the inner workings of major SEO companies and worked with clients who had been burned by their previous SEO campaigns. Combined with numerous Web postings and forum debates talking about the same basic problems, I’ve compiled a list of the most common issues.

Problem 1: Responsibility for Results

It’s no secret that the vast majority of SEO companies take no responsibility for results. It is a fact that no SEO company can guarantee results (and if they do, they are lying to you). It is also a fact that the client is taking a risk by spending money with an SEO company that basically says ‘We’ll do what we can’. SEO companies simply guarantee they’ll do the work to ‘optimize’ the site, but without full disclosure of their methodology, what exactly is the client paying for? No other industry sells a product with no guarantees and no specific list of work that will be completed. Of course, SEO work is basically the sales of information and keeping the specifics of a methodology is important, but the combination of secrecy and no responsibility for results really makes SEO campaigns risky. So, how can an SEO company reduce the risk for the client and provide the best grade of service?

Answer 1: Incentive Based Pricing

The only real way to reduce the financial risk of the client is to share the risk. Through incentive-based pricing, the SEO company can charge a certain percentage of the total contract (say 70%) to cover their intellectual property and time while placing the rest of the contract price (remaining 30%) in incentives for success. Of course, incentives and their percentage of the contract would be totally relative depending on the campaign. This first step into sharing in the risk provides both reassurance to the client that the company believes in its methodology and places some of the financial burden of the campaign on the SEO company. At the moment, however, very few SEO companies are willing to share in the risk and charge the same price whether the client gets top rankings or no rankings at all (or possibly even lower rankings).

Problem 2: Unethical Optimization

Unfortunately, unethical (or blackhat) optimization is still very prominent on the Web. It’s also unfortunate that ‘SEO’ has been mistakenly confused with ‘Blackhat SEO’. This is still the biggest problem for SEO companies. Saying that all SEO companies deal in blackhat optimization is like saying everyone who emails is a spammer. Blackhat optimization is not optimization at all…it is search engine manipulation. Because there is so much money tied to top rankings, there will always be a market for unethical SEO and search engine spam. Until companies realize what is ethical and unethical and stop supporting those blackhat SEO companies, they will continue to thrive. This makes the industry as a whole look bad and does not reflect the ethics of good SEO companies. Blackhat provides fast, short term results, but is never a good option in the long run.

Answer 2: Ethical Optimization

There is no quick and easy solution to blackhat optimization’s stain on the SEO industry. I would suggest that all marketing departments research optimization techniques and educate themselves on what techniques are unethical. No SEO company is going to say they do unethical optimization. It’s also not a good idea to immediately trust a company or product based simply on their rankings. Unethical optimization DOES provide rankings…just not for the long run.

It would also be helpful if the major search engines would be more open and accessible to SEO companies. Currently, the major search engines and SEO companies do not deal with each other and have formed a sort of love-hate relationship. Because of this, many ethical SEOs have slowly moved into dark territory. Ethical optimization seeks to make sites more easily accessible to the engines and help to improve the engine’s search results. The problem is that the search engines mainly clump all SEO companies together the same way as uninformed users do: search engine manipulation. This is just not the case. Search engines do not want to reveal what they consider unethical because it would basically be providing a list of holes in their algorithms that blackhat SEOs would be able to manipulate further, but a defined list of ‘what not to do’ would provide a definitive list for businesses looking for an SEO company.

Basic Rules of Ethical Optimization

Any campaign that does not abide by the following rules is dealing in unethical optimization techniques and should be avoided.

1.) What the user sees and what the search engine sees should be exactly the same. Do not hide anything.

2.) Your keywords (and the resulting optimization) should exactly reflect the content of the page.Keywords should always reflect what your site is about.

3.) Do not build out pages exclusively for search engines. The site should always cater to both audiences (users and search engines). Catering to only users is why optimization is necessary. Catering only to search engines is optimization gone too far into blackhat.

4.) Do not participate in manipulative inbound linking schemes like link farms, bulk links, triangle linking, or any other unethical manipulation of your Google PageRank or link authority. Inbound links should be relevant to the content of your site and you should always know who is linking to you and where your links come from.

Problem 3: Assembly Line / Software SEO

With the growth of the SEO industry has also come the automation of SEO. The absolute first thing any prospective SEO client should know is that all effective SEO campaigns are custom. There is no checklist of items that will work exactly the same on every site. If the SEO company claims there is, then they are not doing full optimization and the campaign is minimal. A good optimization campaign optimizes the site architecture, text content, and code of the site. Assembly line SEO does not take into consideration the unique needs/design of the site and may even deal in blackhat optimization. SEO software especially should be looked at closely. There are really only two things SEO software could do that would work for any site: doorway pages (showing engines one thing and users a different thing; which is unethical) or a system of pages build exclusively for search engines (often called info or information pages and linked in an out of the way part of the page). Doorway pages are 100% unethical and info pages are deep in the gray area. Neither of those two methods address the architecture of the site, proper keyword analysis, or effective text content. The following links are examples of automated SEO software freely available on the Web. All links contain ‘nofollow’ to prevent the sites from getting inbound link credit from our site. These sites are NOT recommended by TreeHouse SEM.

http://doorwaypagemaker.com/ – Doorway page system; UNETHICAL

http://www.doorway-wizard.com/ – Doorway page system; UNETHICAL

Answer 3: Custom Campaign and Assessment

‘SEO Software’ may be cheap and affordable, but you get what you pay for. Any campaign that is going to slap on additional pages are simply sell you links is NOT an effective SEO campaign. Any SEO effort that simply has you add a few ‘optimized’ pages to your site is not going to be optimal. If you wanted to convert a street car into a race car, you don’t simply add racing strips to it. Don’t think that dumping a few pages on your site targeted to some random keywords is the same as a real SEO campaign.

If your SEO company will not sit down and talk about the layout, architecture, and aim of your site, then it is not providing a top-end service. Remember that the vast majority of ‘SEO software’ either is for building doorway/landing pages or simply providing you with data about your site (data that is already free to everyone on the Web). Good SEO campaigns take into account both the user and the search engines…not one or the other. An SEO company should have a commanding understanding of user experience and search engine optimization and use these in combination to create a campaign that will provide the best ROI. The end goal should always be leads/sales. Bringing in piles of non-targeted traffic often leads to extremely high turn over rates and very low lead conversion.

Conclusion

Do your research. Find out what you want from an optimization campaign and then ask the right questions. Make sure that the sales representative you talk to knows what they are selling. If they do not, they are definitely not the person to get information from. A lot of SEO companies use hard sale tactics and the reps are less than knowledgeable about what they are selling. Ask the following questions and see what they have to say.

1.) How do you assess keywords? If an SEO company simply optimizes for whatever keywords are sent to them by the client, the SEO campaign starts off on very shaky ground. Keyword analysis should be performed that takes into account the number of searches in all the major search engines and the relative competition for those terms. The site should also be compared to the keywords to see if they support each other.

2.) Do you plan on building out pages specifically to house keywords? Landing pages and doorway pages are not effective long term SEO options. SEO companies like them because they do not have to touch the rest of the site and it’s very easy to simply add band aids instead of performing surgery.

3.) Will my SEO campaign also help improve the user experience of the site? Proper architecture and usability goes hand in hand with SEO and helps increase ROI. You should want to bring in new traffic and convert it.

4.) Does my revenue model affect my keyword selection and the optimization as a whole? Any SEO company that does not optimize based on the target audience is NOT providing the most effective campaign. An ecommerce site marketing to comparative shoppers will want to optimize heavily for product names and model numbers. An online magazine wanting to bring in recurring traffic will want to optimize for article topics and specific themes. Local companies will want to optimize for geo-targeted keywords.

5.) I want to optimize my site, but do not want to change any of the existing content or layout…how would you go about this? Any SEO company that says they will simply add on landing pages or hide text is selling blackhat. This goes back to the earlier analogy. You are really saying that you have a car that you want to modify to be very fast, but do not want to modify the engine and the mechanic simply adds racking stripes and charges you full price.

Top 40 SEO Myths Everyone Should Know About

Myth #1: Only the first rank matters

Many ebooks and other resources that business owners use will place an important emphasis on the need to be at the top of search results, whether that be on Google Search, other engines, or even in places like social media. But surveys have shown that people quite often will look at other results and they will scroll down through the page. Being on top of a second page, for example, can be quite beneficial for traffic. Also, search ranking is only one part of the puzzle. Now Google places other results on the page like social recommendations and local results as well, which means there are many more avenues open to you, and being first place is no longer as crucial as it once was.

Myth #2: You can do SEO with no outside help

Doing SEO simply means that you follow a set of techniques and procedures to increase the chance that web users will go to your site. It is true that anybody can learn these techniques, and if you are a web site owner and you want to do your own SEO then you can spend the time to learn and apply those techniques. But SEO can be complex and touches many areas such as online marketing, coding, technical aspects along with PR skills. Most business owners simply do not have everything required to do a great job at SEO, and that is why so many agencies exist that offer help. A simple IT worker or online marker is often not enough if you want truly good results.

Myth #3: META tags are very important

It used to be that every page on your site needed META tags in order to rank well. Those are small pieces of code that would give Google a list of keywords and a description. The search engine would base itself on those to find out what your web site was about. Now however, those do not affect your ranking at all. Both Google and Bing stopped caring about META tags in order to index sites. However, they are not useless. For example, your description tag will be the text that often appears next to the link that shows up on the search result, so it’s still a useful piece of the action.

Myth #4: Keyword-rich domain names are ranked higher

Back in the dotcom days, it used to be that the URL you used was very important. Google placed a lot of importance on the domain name, and if you could get a name that had your keyword in it, you would gain a big advantage over other sites. This is why a lot of companies in the late 90s bought domain names for a lot of money. But now, the indexing process only looks at the actual content of your pages, and not the domain name. That name is still important, because people still get to see it, but it will not make you rank higher.

Myth #5: You have to submit your site to Google or other search engines

All search engines used to have URL submission forms where you could send your site to Google and others. In fact, they still do, but that process is unnecessary. The crawlers that these engines use now are sophisticated enough that any new site will be found in a matter of days, if not hours. The only time you would have to worry about submitting your site is if for some reason it was not indexed automatically after a couple of days.

Myth #6: Submitting a sitemap will boost your rankings

Google offers a webmasters interface and from there, you can submit a sitemap, which is an XML file containing links to every page on your site. Some site owners take the time to submit such a file every time they make a change, but that is not necessary. Submitting a sitemap does not change your rankings, all it does is add pages which may not have been indexed already. If your site is typical and has links to all of the pages, then it will not be needed.

Myth #7: SEO has nothing to do with social media

Before the advent of Facebook and Twitter, SEO was the one and only technique to get traffic from an organic way. But now, social media is everywhere, and the line is quickly blurring between the two. While some marketers still consider SEO and social media to be different beasts, the truth is that they are very closely linked. For example, Google now places their own social network, Google Plus, into its search results. If you can get enough influential people to talk about your product and link to your site, then their recommendations will show up in any Google search result that their friends does. This clearly affects SEO. On the reverse side, Facebook has started going after search as well, by recently introducing their Open Graph engine, which searches based on friends and interests. So the two domains are closely linked, and they are becoming closer all the time.

Myth #8: Google does not read CSS files

The Google bot used to be fairly primitive and only saw text, which is why many people concentrated on the text part of their web site. But now that engine is very sophisticated and it reads JavaScript, CSS, and more. The crawler can definitely see whether your site’s presentation is appealing for users or not. For example, if someone searches on a mobile device and you have no mobile layout on your site, you may be missing out.

Myth #9: You need to update your home page all the time

Some people think that by updating their home page content all the time they will rank higher, or by not updating it their ranking will drop. In most cases that is not the case, because if you have a sales page that offers a product, then there would be no reason to update that page unless something about the product changes, and Google expects that.

Myth #10: The H1 header has greater value than the rest of your text

The structure of your page is seen by Google and other engines, but you have to realize that many sites are structured very differently. As such, no one specific tag has more value than another. An H1 tag is simply a header that corresponds to a CSS entry in order for the user to see your page a certain way. It does not make Google rank your page any differently if you use H2 tags instead, or if your keywords are mostly in the text and not in a specific CSS tag.

Myth #11: Linking to other highly ranked sites helps your ranking

Some sites try to link to many other high authority sites in order to help their rankings, but that does not help at all. Google uses PageRank to decide how your site will rank, and that algorithm is based on how useful your site is to others, and as such it will only look at how many other people link to you. Whether you link back to them is of no importance. Otherwise, any site could raise to the top simply by linking to millions of sites, which is not the case.

Myth #12: Using automated SEO methods is always spam

Many people use automated SEO methods that do not fall into the spam area. Many companies have very big sites and they use automated scripts to do a lot of the grunt work of SEO. Whether or not a method is spammy is based on what the result is, not on how automated it is.

Myth #13: PageRank is the only factor that matters

The algorithm that Google uses to rank sites is PageRank, which determines how useful a site is to others. But the result also takes indications from hundreds of other inputs as well, according to what Google says. Some of these inputs are easy to see, like having your site being recommended by others on Google Plus. This proves that not only PageRank matters. The company is staying tight-lipped on how many inputs there are, and how important each gets weighed, but it is clear that there is more going on than just PageRank. With that said however, it is still widely believed that PageRank is the most important factor, and a PR1 page is always better than a PR3 one.

Myth #15: The title tag is hidden from search engines

Most of what Google sees on your site is the text that is visible to users, such as what appears on the screen and is rendered in a web browser. As such, it would be easy to think that the title is not picked up. However, your title is very important for SEO, because that is the text that appears on the link people will click on. Not only is Google using it to help your ranking, but people will see it as well when they go to click on your site.

Myth #16: Usability does not affect SEO

The whole point of SEO is to gain traffic and get people to stay on your site so they can be entertained or buy your products and services. As such, SEO very much goes hand in hand with usability, because this is what will make a difference in whether or not someone stays on your site for long. If your site is hard to use or navigate, it is very easy for people to go to the next search result. Also, the search engines themselves will look at layout and usability. If your site is hard to navigate for your viewers, it will be hard for the crawler as well, and having a bad usability can definitely affect your rankings.

Myth #17: The.edu and.gov backlinks are the best

It is true that most.edu and.gov sites are well ranked and have a high authority, because those are typically official sites that are well maintained and contain no spam. However, this is just a byproduct of how they are maintain, it is no guarantee. The simple fact that they have a domain which ends with.gov or.edu does not help your ranking at all. If you have a backlink on one of these sites, it will only be as good as how much authority that site has. You gain nothing by the fact that it is an educational or government site. Posting a backlink on an obscure.edu site will not help you any more than posting it on an obscure blog.

Myth #18: SEO is based on the quantity of links a site has

Believing that the success of a SEO campaign is to have the most possible backlinks is misunderstanding how ranking works. Any ranking algorithm, whether it is Google, Bing, Facebook, etc will rank sites based on many different factor. To do successful SEO, you have to address all of these factors, and having a lot of links is just one small piece of the puzzle. Also, each link has its own quality value. Often, a single link from a popular news site talking about your product will be much more valuable than spamming hundreds of links to unknown blog sites.

Myth #19: Backlinks are more important than content

SEO usually costs time and money, and as such it is unrealistic to think you can do everything possible in every facet of online marketing. So often you have to make choices, and some may be tempted to focus on link building instead of content. However, the goal of SEO is to bring good traffic to your site. Quality is very important, not only quantity. Not having good content means your site has no value to anyone, and as such it will quickly lose any benefit that the extra links gave you. In fact, the most useful backlinks are usually not those you have direct access to. They are reviews from celebrities in your niche, news sites, and anyone who already is an authority talking about your product. By having good content, those links can actually come by themselves, simply through PR or word of mouth. But a bunch of backlinks on low authority blogs will not help you much at all, and the ranking you may get from them will not last long as those sites clean up those links. Instead, focus on your audience and try to know who you are writing for. By producing good content you are helping your site more over the long run.

Myth #20: Paid links will get you banned from Google

There are many ways to get links, and some of them includes some type of payment. But not all paid links are always bad, it depends on how that payment occurs. For example, many sites, including Google, offer advertising services. You can buy an ad on Adword, you could go to another ad network, and many sites offer their own ad services. While some of them will not give you any ranking, others might, and those are completely legitimate. Paying a site that focuses on your niche to have a link in a strategic location will likely not get you banned, however you have to remember that there are methods that will. Buying low quality links in bulk is one of the best way to get your site removed from the index.

Myth #21: Good content is all you need

Just like building an army of links will not help you keep traffic for very long, having good content and nothing else is also not enough. Most people agree that good content is the cornerstone of having a successful site. By having engaging, useful posts for your visitors, you can ensure that they will want to visit your site and stay there for a long time. However, simply building it does not make it known. Even a very good site has to do some SEO in order to bring traffic. Branding is incredibly important for any site, and getting your brand out there through SEO is the only way you will get those eyes onto that content. Your articles and posts have to be paired with good incoming signals, and that includes doing a lot of the typical SEO methods which can get you ranked in search engines so that people can find your content.

Myth #22: Google actively penalizes certain sites

Anyone who has done some work in SEO has been puzzled at some point when seeing strange drops in ranking. It may seem as if you did nothing wrong, you increased all of your marketing efforts, yet somehow Google decided to rank you lower. It may be easy to think that your site was penalized in some way, but most often that is not the case. Google clearly states that they only penalize sites that break their terms of use by actively going after unethical methods like spamming users. In most cases, the problem is elsewhere. One potential cause may be things that other sites have done, and not you. For example, maybe your competitor received a large influx of links because they appeared on a popular TV show. Another reason is if Google changed some part of their internal algorithm, which happens fairly often and can be disastrous for some sites. Many people remember the Panda update which changed the ranking of millions of sites. Unfortunately in these cases it can be very hard to find the root cause and fix it, and you may have to simply work harder at SEO in order to gain your ranking back. Resist the temptation to go to spammy methods or to blame Google for it.

Myth #23: Google AdWords will give you preferential treatment

AdWords is a very useful program by Google where you can place an ad on other sites to advertise your own. It should be part of any online marketing campaign. However, AdWords by itself does not help boost your rankings. Some think that because a company pays Google, then they will give them preferential treatment in organic search, but that is not the case. On any typical search page, you can easily see that organic results are separated from paid advertisements. A PPC ad campaign will give you a ranking in the sense that it will allow you to be seen on the ads side of the page, but it does not affect your ranking on the organic side in any way.

Myth #24: SEO is something done once only

A lot of sites do this mistake. When the site is new and it has just been created, the owners will invest in doing some SEO, and then think that everything is done. But just like marketing in the real world, SEO is not something you can do once and then forget. Instead, it is a continual process which has to be done over a long period of time, often the entire life of the site. This is because the web is not a written encyclopedia, it is a medium that changes constantly. New competitors appear, search engines change their algorithms, new opportunity for marketing appear, and links that used to be good can become stale and not that important anymore. By constantly keeping an eye on your SEO efforts you ensure that your ranking does not drop, and you can keep focusing on new techniques that may prove to work better.

Myth #25: SEO companies can get guaranteed results

This is a very common yet completely bogus claim which some marketing firms like to use. They claim that by using their methods, your results will be guaranteed. But the truth is that no one can claim a certain method is foolproof for the same reason that SEO is not something you do once then forget. Everything changes online and you never know when something that used to work well will stop working. Some tactics are clearly better than others, but none is guaranteed. Also, if there was a magical way to get a high ranking, you can be sure that it would leak out at some point, and then everyone would be using that same tactic, making it worthless.

Myth #26: Placing too many links per page can penalize you

Some people have been told that a certain amount of links on a page can be bad for your rankings. For example, placing more than a hundred links on your landing page will be bad for Google and you will get penalized in some way. While it is true that spamming links on a page is something you should not do, and the Google bot has ways to detect when a page is a link bait one, you should not be afraid to create pages with lots of links. As long as they are relevant and part of the normal navigation of your site, then there will be no penalty. The worse that could happen in these cases is that Google may decide to ignore links part a hundred, but that’s all.

Myth #27: Internal links don’t matter for SEO

Many people think of linking only as far as backlinks go, and only focus on having other sites link to their own pages. But internal linking is also important, just like your site layout is important, because the search crawlers try to act as much like a normal web viewer as they can. If your site has bad internal navigation, Google will be able to detect that, and this could penalize you. Take the time needed to create good internal links and an easy to use navigation system for your site. This is something that is easy to do and you should not skip this step.

Myth #28: Facebook likes or tweets are the number one factor in SEO

Social media has taken a central role in how people find information on the web today, and the signals sent by these sites are fed into search engines in real time. No modern business should ignore social media, simply because of the amount of time people spend on Facebook or Twitter. However, no one social site is the holy grail of SEO. Even if getting Facebook likes can be important, is is not any more so than the many other techniques that can be used. Also, there are arguments that point to the fact that while many people spend a lot of time on social networking sites, they do so to talk to friends, not to buy products, so the benefit of a like is still not as understood as the benefit of ranking well on Google. You should not ignore the traditional SEO and focus solely on social media.

Myth #29: Keywords are no longer relevant

Sites used to be created with a paragraph at the bottom filled with keywords in order to attract more traffic using something called keyword stuffing. In recent years, knowledgable marketers have realized that this is no longer needed, in fact it is a practice that is heavily discouraged by search engines. However, this does not mean that keywords are not still very important. While you should not do keyword stuffing on a page, getting a good percentage of your keywords in your actual text is still crucial. When someone looks for a specific term on Google, the amount of time this keyword comes up on your page is still heavily weighed in.

Myth #30: Using bigger headers will improve your ranking

Header tags such as H1 or H2 do matter because search engines look at the layout of your site, so you need to have headers that make sense and that contain your keywords so that the search engine knows what the content is about. However, the size or style of these headers, such as which CSS arguments you use, do not matter since Google and other search engines are interested in the content and usability, not the artistic style.

Myth #31: Keywords have to be exact matches

It’s true that words have to match what people type into a search engine, however there are arguments for using words other than your selected keywords. For example, most words have a lot of synonyms, and people type in those synonyms all the time. By using a larger selection of keywords, you can be sure to catch those searches as well. Also, while keywords will bring your site up in the results, whether or not someone will click on your link depends on what the title of that link says. By having a clever title, something that people would want to click on, you gain more than by simply repeating a list of keywords.

Myth #32: PageRank does not matter anymore

When Google first started to be the top search engine and everyone focused on ranking well, PageRank became the number one criteria every marketer would go after. It used to be, and may still be, the input metric that affects a ranking the most, but the company has been clear many times that sites are ranked on hundreds of different metrics, not just PageRank. As a result, some have stopped caring so much about the PR ranking. However, that is not to say PageRank has no relevance at all anymore. While it is true you should focus on other things, you need to keep an eye on your PageRank as well.

Myth #33: Google Analytics can spy on people

Google Analytics is the most popular analytics software used by sites around the web, and as a result some people think that they are being spied on. But the company has said many times that no personal data is being transmitted using Google Analytics. Indeed, if you actually use this service on your own site, you can see that the data you have access to are all anonymized, and you only see numbers, not individuals.

Myth #34: You should finish your site before starting to worry about SEO

SEO can be thought of as a form of marketing, and most marketing efforts are made after a site is completed, but there are steps that you should take before. For example, you should make sure you have a good layout, good navigation, META tags, titles, and so on. All of these are part of SEO and should be done while you are building the site. Also remember that search engines can find your site as soon as it is live, so you want your SEO to be ready whenever Google first crawls it.

Myth #35: Buying links, likes or tweets will help your site rank better

There are a lot of sites selling Facebook likes, followers, and so on. Often, those services seem quite cheap, such as 10,000 likes for $10. However, in most cases these are not worth the money. First, they are usually fake accounts, bots that simply mass follow for a price. They are not real people, which means no one will see those social signals, and as a result they will not increase your ranking. Worse, many sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google forbid these types of acts, and if you get discovered, you could be delisted.

Myth #36: Paid links always come from shady sites

In the case of bulk services, it is true that a lot of those paid links will come from shady sources, including bots or proxies. However, many reputable sites sell links as well, in the form of advertising or even preferential treatment. In those cases, you may have very legitimate links on high authority sites, and those can help your site rank better on search engines.

Myth #37: Google won’t find bad or spammy links

Some of the people who buy bulk links or who use automated methods to spam blog posts think that Google will not find them, and that they will gain from their unethical practices. In many cases, that may actually be true, since Google and other search engines are not part of the secret police. But while individual bad links may not be discovered, the bigger risk is that the sites on which your links have been placed will be found and removed from the index, or that the actual algorithm will be modified to make those backlinks irrelevant. When that happens you may find a drastic change in your ranking.

Myth #38: You should not place too many outbound links

Some people think that they should only link to a small number of outbound sites. There is only one case where linking to other sites can hurt you, and that is if you become part of a backlinks network for the sole purpose of raising your ranking. In that case, when one site is discovered, all of them may be hit. But in any other case, Google and other search engines do not care at all how many outbound link you have, and there is no limit to how often you can link to other sites.

Myth #39: With good SEO you do not need PPC marketing

Some sites will spend a lot of time doing SEO and get great organic results, but even then PPC campaigns can be useful. Surveys should that it often is not the same people who click on ads versus those who click on organic links, so it can be worthwhile to do both, if you have the money for it. Also, PPC links are guaranteed to cost you only when someone clicks, and do not suffer from changes in algorithms like the Panda update.

Myth #40: You can manipulate search rankings

This is a myth many marketing sites attempt to promote, the fact that they can somehow manipulate search rankings in a way that is outside traditional SEO. The whole point of SEO is to try and rank your site better. If there was another method that actually worked, then by definition it would be part of SEO. The truth is that there is no magical way to manipulate search rankings, and usually when someone says that they can, what they mean is that they will use unethical ways to speed up your ranking. But using spam and other spammy strategies mean your site is put at risk. You may have a boost now but pay for it later on.

A Guide to Hiring an SEO Provider

If your business has any online components (such as a website), then SEO is crucial to the ongoing success of your business. You may have the most expensive website in your industry, but without web traffic (visitors) to that website, it is essentially useless. It is not just traffic that you need, but targeted traffic. A good quality SEO service can provide relevant, consistent web traffic to your website(s). This guide will allow you, as a non-expert, to distinguish between good and bad SEO providers. There are many of both kinds, this guide should help you to find the good ones.

SEO needs to be implemented in a way that is effective in achieving your SEO goals and providing that all important meaningful presence on the World Wide Web.

Quality SEO is a crucial investment when it comes to developing successful expansion and growth strategies.

Ineffective SEO implementation, renders your SEO efforts wholly ineffective and a waste of your money.

6 things you need to know and understand before hiring an SEO provider:

1) Hiring an SEO provider should be seen as an investment in your business. You should not view it as a business expense, but rather a business strategy and an effective way of enhancing your business presence within your business sector. Try not to begin your search with the intention of “buying some SEO”. Hiring an SEO provider should be viewed rather as hiring an employee that understands and cares about your business and its online objectives.

2) The first page of Google (or any search engine) is everything. Few people ever go to the second page of the search results anymore. Google is so good at being a search engine that people blindly trust Google’s ability to deliver the most relevant results on the first page. Think about how often you click through to the second page. This means that if your business is not on the first page, it’s almost as good as nowhere. The top positions on page one get the most clicks, which decrease as you progress downwards on the page.

3) The ‘big’ keywords are not everything. It is better to be on the first page for a few smaller keywords, than try to rank for bigger keywords and not be on the first page at all. For example, an accountancy business in Preston may not rank for the highly competitive keyword ‘accountant’ (unless they have a lot of SEO budget and time to wait for rankings); but the same business could conceivably rank highly for the keyword ‘chartered accountant Preston’. A good SEO provider should research the keywords that your business could realistically rank on page one for and also keywords that have enough search volume to be worthwhile for your business to try ranking for.

4) SEO is all about beating your competition. There is no guarantee from the search engines to say you will be on the first page of Google if you do certain things. Put simply, SEO works like this:

The search engines have their conventions; websites that conform by giving the search engines what they want, will find themselves achieving better search engine rankings. The only thing standing between you and the top spots in the search rankings is your competition. Not your actual business competitors, but your online competitors. The websites that currently have the top spots in the search engines for your desired keywords are your online competition, and you need to beat them out of those top spots. Some keywords will be easy to rank for, others will be more difficult. It is only your online competition that dictates which will be the case for each individual keyword. A good SEO provider will research the competition for each of your keywords. Then, after the most effective keywords for your business sector have been identified they should be implemented in accordance with point number three above.

5) On-page and Off-page SEO.

Search engine optimisation is a complex and ever-evolving science, but in order to intelligently interview a prospective SEO provider you need to understand that there are two main types of SEO.

On-page SEO relates to the factors on your website that affect your SEO (keywords, usability, page headings, outbound links, internal links, etc.).

Off-page SEO are the factors that relate directly to matters outside of your website that affect the SEO of the website, such as back links, citations, social sharing, etc.

SEO providers can work on your off-page SEO fairly easily, but if you are not willing to change on-page SEO, according to their recommendations, you cannot blame them for lack of results. A good SEO provider will review your website and report back about your on-page SEO, and how it can be improved. You should have your web designer make the adjustments.(Remember he is the expert in this field)

6) An increase in search engine ranking is not necessarily an increase in leads and sales. All your SEO provider can do is get your website, videos, Google Places, articles, blog posts, etc. further up the search engine results. They cannot guarantee an increase in sales or leads, because that factor is determined by your own sales funnel. It is not the SEO provider’s job to make sure that the extra web traffic you receive will convert to more leads or sales. Your website needs to convert those visitors with good marketing, which is an issue for your marketing consultant to deal with.

The key differences between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ SEO providers:

Good SEO Providers
Good SEO providers know and understand the points mentioned above. You can judge this by their answers to the questions provided later in my next article.
Good SEO providers want to build a solid foundation and a proper SEO plan for your business, with extensive initial keyword and market (competitor) research. They will often insist upon it, even if the prospective client does not see the need. Sometimes a good SEO provider will refuse to work with a client that does not want the important groundwork to be done, because they know that without it they will not be likely to provide the client with the results that they want. A good SEO provider will want to provide their client with results as their first priority. Often a client will say “but I’ve already done the keyword research myself”. Many potential clients sit down for 5 or 10 minutes to write out all the keywords that they think are relevant to their business, and then think that they have now done all the keyword research that is needed. Real keyword research is a lengthy, investigative process.

Good SEO providers use responsible SEO methods, such as paying more attention to on-page SEO, securing quality back links, improving citations, aiding social sharing, ensuring a good user experience, etc.

Bad SEO Providers
Bad SEO providers will want to take their clients’ money as their first priority. They will not conduct proper keyword and market research, but will say, for example, “what are your three keywords and your URL that you want to rank for”. If this happens (as it often does) you can be sure they are simply plugging your website into software to get irrelevant back links all over the internet, using spam blog comments, link farms and other means. In many cases this approach is ineffective because the URL, or domain, may not match the client’s desired keywords. This can also damage the reputation and, ironically, the long-term SEO and credibility of the website.
Bad SEO providers use bad quality SEO methods (Sometimes referred to as Black-hat methods), Utilising these methods can have an extremely detrimental effect on how your website is perceived by search engines. This in turn may result in your website being (Sand boxed). Needless to say this is extremely undesirable, as damage such as this is extremely difficult to reverse.

Ensure you get the specialist SEO who knows how best to highlight the attributes of your company and can draw attention to your products and your services in a way that really makes your business stand-out on the worldwide web.

10 Secrets to Hiring the Right SEO Company

Even if you are armed with an abundance of knowledge in SEO, you may still need the services of a professional SEO company. Having strong knowledge of SEO is hardly sufficient in some cases. Even if you are doing your best to attempt to obtain a good ranking for your website, you might still wind up wondering why your website is simply not doing well. For starters, you must understand that your website will have to be fully optimized in all elements. Not just that, but your website has to be maintained on a regular basis. SEO is a continuous process that includes a great deal of time and effort. To make things simpler, you will be better off utilizing the services of a competent SEO company to do the work for your website.

There are numerous SEO companies today, and there are a lot of trustworthy companies as well as unreliable ones. Thus, it is crucial that you select the perfect SEO Company. Here are 10 important points that you must keep in mind when selecting SEO services:

Site Evaluation Guide

Does the SEO firm offer you a site evaluation guide? A reliable SEO firm should have the ability to provide you with an extensive analysis of your site, regarding ranking and design structure. This can be done by performing a website audit. The result of this website audit will allow the SEO firm to offer you a proposal of how much work needs to be done to bring you to a certain level of ranking. They must be able to advise and troubleshoot all aspects related to performance, content, and design that might hinder the reading or indexing of your pages.

Tools in Figuring out Keywords

What tools does the SEO Agency use to look for keywords? Do they offer competitive analysis based on your chosen keywords? Understanding what methodology the SEO Agency utilizes for keyword evaluation or research is very important. It will be a great help if you perform your own due diligence using basic tools, such as conducting keyword research and analysis through the use of keyword planner in Google AdWords.

Backlinks to Website

Where will the SEO Company return links from? Backlinks are just as, if not more, vital in SEO than onsite optimization. The SEO Company should be able to obtain high-quality backlinks from reputable websites that are highly related to your niche. Ask your SEO Company what techniques they employ for gathering backlinks.

Cost Structure

A dependable SEO Company will not just give you a quote once they figure out how much work has to be included. Charging you high costs will not necessarily ensure you receive high quality services. It also doesn’t ensure that the rate being quoted is proportional and consistent with the services you anticipate the SEO Company will provide. A good SEO Agency should be able to give you a rundown of services to which the performance and price contract will be based upon.

The Timeline

Does your SEO Company provide you with a timeline? It is through hard work and correct planning that results can be attained on time. Some SEO Firms offer SEO plans that claim to put you in the very first page of search results in just a matter of 10 days. Realistically, however, no SEO Company can guarantee you the number 1 position in Google in as short as 10 days.

An SEO campaign will take 6-18 months to deliver the top outcomes you expect. Make sure you don’t give in to false pledges. Conversely, avoid SEO services that provide you with a time limit. A good SEO company knows that optimization is an ongoing process and they should be able to offer you regular maintenance, customer support and proper upgrading.

SEO Technique

What SEO strategy will your SEO Company use to raise your ranking? You should look out for companies that will utilize spam advertising methods to rank you on top in no time. If the strategy includes any form of dishonest practice, such as spamming or deceiving online search engines, then you should instantly turn away.

An excellent SEO company will certainly see to it that you will not be subjected to spam or misleading services. Keep in mind that if it is based on using deceitful strategies, your site might be taken out of Google’s indexing, which will certainly lead your site to being blacklisted. Knowing your SEO Company and doing your own research on how proper SEO is done is extremely vital in choosing the ideal firm.

Providing Targeted Traffic

Do they understand the distinction between plain traffic and targeted traffic? You will hire the services of an SEO Company mainly due to the fact that you need to attract traffic into your website. However, what you need is targeted traffic that gets you visitors who might be genuinely interested in purchasing your products or services. This is based on your desired keywords in order to generate leads.

You don’t want irrelevant traffic that comes to your website because of irrelevant keywords. Unqualified traffic only enhances your bounce rate (surfers that arrive on your page and immediately leave) and not your sales. The right SEO Company will create relevant content for your website and distribute it to relevant channels, social media and Press Releases (PR). This will potentially lead to natural backlinks that will enhance your overall ranking in the search engine.

Transparent Deliverables

A professional SEO Company should have a clear course of action to attain the desired results in a given time frame. They should be able to show the client what’s being completed for the first month and subsequent months. With this, you will be able to determine how much work is being done in relation to your costs, allowing you to determine your ROI. A clear outline of work in the proposal should be available at any time to show the extent of the campaign. This includes how much fresh and high quality relevant content they are going to publish on your website every week. How many distribution channels? What social media, article directories and websites are they going to use to distribute your content? How many PR submissions? And how many backlinks have been generated? These are the qualifying questions that need to be answered by a good SEO firm.

Reporting

A comprehensive report system should be provided to show the progress of the SEO campaign, as well as ranking status of the site. This reporting could be monthly or quarterly. The report should be clear and concise, using the right combination of graphics and texts. This will be the bench mark of how the firm is progressing towards your desired ranking status.

Performance Guarantee

Does the SEO Company offer some kind of guarantee, such as a percentage increase in traffic? Although there are a lot of factors involved in an SEO campaign, a professional SEO company will be able to give performance guarantees based on their years of experience and proven methodology.

These are the major considerations you need to look at when hiring an SEO Agency to make sure that you don’t pour your money down the drain. SEO is a vital marketing strategy to make your brand highly visible online to your target market and to grow your business. It is a time-consuming effort, but it has greater ROI in the long run when compared to other marketing options.

THE NEXT STEP IS YOURS.