So you want to get involved in SEO, huh? And you want to hire someone to help you do it? Well, it should come as no surprise to you that we fully support your plan.
Search Engine Optimization is the foundation of nearly every online marketing program that we develop with our clients, and it has the potential to be truly transformational for your business. If you are launching or re-launching a website, there is no good reason not to do so with SEO fundamentals in mind and in place.
However, simply making the decision to start or improve your SEO is no panacea in and of itself. And as is the case any time you hire a service provider, it is imperative that you ensure that the service is, you know, actually provided and that goals are met.
We put this post together to highlight the most urgent items you should have top of mind when embarking on your SEO journey. We based it on our years of experience and research in this area, with the goal being to help you avoid some common pitfalls.
1. Understand the Basics of SEO
How can you even know what to look for in an SEO provider if you don’t understand SEO in the first place? Take some time and educate yourself on the basics. We try to provide such information here at H2B, and a site like SEOMOZ is a great resource as well. You can also use a resource like this Google AdWords Keyword Research tool to see how often terms relevant to your website or business get searched.
Not only will understanding the basics of SEO help you to know what you’re looking for in a provider, it help you to manage your provider and ensure that you’re getting a good return on your investment.
2. Know Your Providers
Even if your provider isn’t going on your payroll, they are still just like employees of your organization – carrying out tasks for pay that are expected to create value for your business – so why treat the situation any different than if you were bringing on a new hire?
If you were hiring an employee, you would most likely check their references. You would want to know what their previous employer thought of their work habits, if they performed the tasks that were asked of them, and if they could be counted on to do what they said they would do. A service provider, especially in SEO and online marketing, is no different.
Ask for references and contact previous people they have done work for. The best predictor of future outcomes is what happened in the past. Have they delivered for others what they are promising to deliver for you? Make sure the answer is yes.
3. Own Your Own Domain Name
When you put time and money into search engine optimization, you are building an asset. The asset is the domain that you are creating optimized content for, building links into, and driving traffic to. Don’t you think it makes sense for you to own the asset that you are paying to be improved?
Of course it does.
You wouldn’t hire a landscaper and then have him buy the house he was going to work on, would you? We hope not. So why would you let the firm you have hired for your SEO and online marketing endeavor buy and own your domain? Don’t do it.
Either guy the domain yourself from a site like godaddy.com or make sure that your provider puts it in your name when they go through the buying process for you. Just make sure you own it. It can prevent unnecessary headaches down the road.
4. Get a Backup
Forgive the sailor’s language, but it really is the best way to describe how sometimes things just go haywire on the Internet out of the blue. Even the most secure websites or hosts can get hacked, putting your entire website at risk. If you have a backup of all the files that comprise your website, however, you can mitigate against the potential devastation of your website files being lost or corrupted.
With a proper backup of your website files, databases, and anything else that may be necessary for your site to function, you can be back up and running again quickly if a web tragedy occurs. Without a proper backup you could be, to use another sailor’s expression, SOL.
When your service provider develops your website, request a complete hardcopy backup that you can keep at your location. Why trust someone else completeley with the asset your are paying to have built? Backups are usually not expensive nor time-consuming to create, and if your provider balks at your request, tell them to take a hike.
There is no downside to having a backup; there is only a potentially egregious downside to not having one.
5. Create a Baseline, Track, and Interpret
How will you be able to judge the success of your SEO and other online marketing efforts if you have no data to analyze? And how will you be able to see how much you improve if you don’t know where you started?
The answers to both questions are: you won’t.
If you already have been tracking your web traffic, kudos to you. That gives you a baseline to start from. If you have not been, request that analytics be added to your site by your provider immediately so you can start getting data as soon as possible. Google Analytics is a free service that works very well.
As time passes, being able to have this data for purposes of comparison is vital. As you move forward with your provider, insist that they provide regular updates on traffic and rankings and that they help you interpret what the numbers mean.
Regularly analyzing where you were, where you are, and where you want to go will ensure that your SEO and online marketing plan stays on track towards your goals.
6. Be Committed
Anyone who promises you immediate across-the-board results for a new SEO program is a charlatan, a lair, or very inexperienced. It’s that sample.
Especially for a brand new website, SEO is a strategy to build long-term value for your website and, in turn, your business. While quick results can be seen on low traffic/low competition keywords if a site already has decent strength in Google, trying to compete on the higher traffic/higher competition keywords that can really drive traffic and business requires more patience.
If you are simply looking for a quick 3-month bump in traffic, going the route of Pay-Per-Click or some other type of quick-hit online marketing may be your best bet. If you want to set your website up for sustained success over time, however, nothing beats SEO…so long as you are willing to be patient while the fundamentals are put in place and the groundwork is laid.
SEO, when implemented effectively, is worth it, and it will pay off if you follow the five steps listed above, but make sure you’re committed from the beginning, otherwise it doesn’t make much sense to even start.