Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on August 16th, 2010

How to Spot a Well-Behaved SEO Firm in the Wild

Life can get crazy, especially in business. The old adage comes to mind: “It’s jungle out there.”– and, despite the “grandma-like” smell of this cliche, it’s very true. Companies can act like wild animals when they are trying to compete for new business - stopping just short of bringing raw meat to their sales pitch. When they do land you, they continue to promise you the oasis, but deliver a small pool of muddy water or, even worse, rancid, raw meat. Unfortunately, there are wild animals roaming freely in the SEO jungle.

If your brand or business needs an SEO campaign, you naturally want to avoid the SEO experts who run your campaign like wild animals, making unethical and high-risk decisions that have little chance of survival. It may seem like all sunshine and symbiotic circles at first, but bad SEO campaign can spoil overnight. If you want to have a chance at SEO success, you need to avoid the wild animals of SEO.

To the untrained eye, most SEO firms may appear very similar on the surface. But if you want a quality, well-behaved SEO campaign from a respectable company, it is important that you know how to spot a well-behaved SEO firm amongst all the wild animals.

1. Difference Between Black and White Hat SEO Animals

Wild animal SEO firms use “black hat” SEO methods to get your site ranked very high, very quickly - black hat meaning that the company uses “illegal” techniques to win you a high ranking. While this is great for you short-term, the long-term effects are disastrous, much like steroid use in the Major League Baseball. Except you aren’t getting banned from the Hall of Fame, you are getting banned from search engines. Permanently. Just ask Pete Rose how he feels about it.

The three more common techniques used by wild animal, black hat SEO firms are:

Invisible Text

Wild animal SEO firms take your keywords and put them on all your pages as the same color as the background so as to appear invisible to the human reader. However, the Google bots who crawl your site index ALL the invisible text and give you incredible value for those terms... until you get caught. And the black hat police have gotten very good at their jobs.

Keyword Stuffing

There is a nice thick line that can be drawn between keyword optimization and keyword stuffing. Unfortunately, for wild animals, lines are for crossing, not following. Black hat SEO firms will stuff your on-page content–i.e. headlines, meta tags, page titles, and body copy–with your keywords. If your keywords are repeatedly used and it either doesn’t make a lick of sense to a human reader or it doesn’t read well at all, your content has been “stuffed” with keywords.

Gateway Pages

Have you ever clicked on a link that you thought was taking you to a certain website, but you were redirected to another, completely unrelated site? You landed on a gateway page. Also known as the bait-and-switch of SEO, gateway pages are misleading and manipulate searchers into interacting with spammy websites and suspicious content. If your SEO firm offers to build you a gateway page, you should run in the opposite direction as fast as your legs can take you.

A well-behaved SEO firm only uses ethical SEO techniques to get your site ranked competitively in search. In your hunt for a new, well-behaved SEO firm, ask the firm what their ethical stance is on these three techniques. This is a very clear indicator as to how ethical an SEO company is, or how wild of an animal you could be dealing with.

2. Difference Between Custom and Generic SEO Animals

Search engine optimization is a very intricate, lengthy process that takes time, patience, and know-how in order for it to be effective. So it should come as no surprise when SEO firms everywhere follow detailed processes for all their clients. Here at Volacci, we use hundreds of processes for all of our clients, ensuring the best SEO practices are correctly implemented. But that doesn’t mean we treat every campaign the same, no sir!

Any SEO company worth your consideration will develop a campaign specifically with your goals in mind. SEO campaigns are and should be unique to the client - as different companies need different pains addressed. Results can be drastically different if your SEO firm tailors your campaign to you versus putting your website through their generic processes, without any customized research and development.

Ask the SEO firm how extensive their research process is and what they would do to create your campaign specifically for you. If they can offer the specialized service you are looking for, you know they can potentially provide a well-behaved, customized SEO campaign.

3. The Difference Between Respected and Rowdy SEO Animals

Is the SEO firm an eagle or a hyena? What are all the other animals saying about them: Former and current clients? Partners? It’s pretty easy to gauge a company’s reputation these days with the Internet. Can the firm be trusted? Should you invest faith, and money, into this company?

Websites, forums, blogs, and social media provide you with more than enough investigatory tools to dig up the dirt, or lack-thereof, on a business or brand. Are they acting like wild animals in and around their industry, or are they well-behaved and reputable?

Volacci only runs well-behaved, ethical campaigns that leverage white hat techniques for your SEO success. While the wild animals are getting hunted in the SEO jungle, we are calmly and collectively working with fervor to make our clients as profitable as they possibly can be. If you have any further questions concerning how to spot a well-behaved SEO firm in the Wild, give us a call.

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