Google’s Guide on Hiring SEO Companies

In light of the negative reputation search engine optimization is receiving through irresponsible actions of certain individuals and groups, it will be good to review what Google has to say about hiring search engine optimization companies to help us make Google-friendly websites.

Selecting SEO vendors is a serious commitment. A thorough research must be done before believing in false promises and parting with your money.

In an article posted by Google on SEO, it defines the typical work of SEO as:

1 Reviewing and providing recommendations on your site content or structure
2 Technical advice on website development: for example, hosting, redirects, error pages, use of JavaScript
3 Content development
4 Managing online business development campaigns
5 Keyword research
6 SEO training

(While it does not include a major SEO initiative — link building — I believe this task belongs to online business development campaigns.)

Keep in mind that the Google search results page often includes paid advertising and free organic search results. It costs nothing to appear in our organic search results, and advertising with Google won’t improve your ranking.

This dispels the myth that signing up for Google AdWords, Google AdSense or placing custom Google search engine within out sites can help rank our pages in Google. So if someone approaches you in person, through e-mail or phone call saying that you need AdWords to rank better in Google, don’t believe what this person says.

Google also provides possible questions you can ask to prospect SEO vendors who are eager to help your website get ranked:

Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories?

Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines?

Do you offer any online marketing services to complement your organic search business?

What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe?

What’s your experience in my industry?

How long have you been in business?

It would be a little bit of SEO interview on the part of the vendor. We need to be educated customers so our website will not be subjected to the perils of hiring a bad/irresponsible/incompetent SEO vendor.

Also, Google details hints and signs to look for in a suspicious SEO service provider:

Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.

These are companies or individuals who suddenly send us e-mails telling us that they have visited our website, tells us it is not ranked for certain keywords and found out that we need to get it fixed soon. It is not entirely bad to do such thing, but let’s do ourselves a favor and reserve some skepticism over these entities. Good SEOs are chased by clients and normally don’t chase clients out of the blue.

No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

Take it from Google. If there is anyone who can guarantee #1 ranking in Google, it is Google only. No one else can make promises of number 1 rankings because of the nature of search engines and competing pages. If there is any keyword where our site would definitely end up number one, it is likely that this keyword isn’t used by people when they go to Google.com.

Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.

SEO is supposed to be a transparent process with sound implementations aimed at making our websites easier for search engines to navigate and identify the theme of the site more efficiently. If the vendor is hesitant to share certain processes, it could be practicing methods considered deceptive as described by Google or it doesn’t know how it is done.

You should never have to link to an SEO

Sometimes we see client sites with footer links that say “SEO Performed by Greatest SEO Company in the Whole World.com” and has links to various sites that aren’t related to our pages. Clients must not be obligated to link to these sites especially if clients feel that their target audience will not be interested on these sites.

Choose wisely

It would be good to do extra research on the company you are keen on hiring. Ask for reference clients or search for this company in Google. You don’t want your site to be like German car maker BMW or Ricoh that were penalized by Google because their SEO agencies made recommendations that violated Google policies.

Be sure to understand where the money goes

Some SEO companies are cheap, some are expensive. Learn to understand where the money goes. Time spent for keyword research, analysis of contents and related tasks are pretty standard. Don’t be fooled into believing that Google asks for money before a site gets ranked.

What are some other things to look out for?

* owns shadow domains
* puts links to their other clients on doorway pages
* offers to sell keywords in the address bar
* doesn’t distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear in search results
* guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
* operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
* gets traffic from “fake” search engines, spyware, or scumware
* has had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google
* any practice that borders around deception

I hope the following guide from Google will help website owners identify which vendors to work with.