As a web design and development company (Direct Line Development), we often encounter situations where a business invests thousands of dollars a month on their search engine optimization (SEO) campaign only to receive insufficient returns on their investment. During a meeting to discuss this poor outcome, a project manager usually speaks using technical terms that are difficult to understand; your firm keeps paying for this campaign because you’re afraid to lose what you already have.
This situation drastically worsens if your firm depends on SEO and a website as the only tools for your company to procure new clients. More often than not, website owners are too afraid to do anything outside of expected strategies when it comes to their online presence. In this article, I’ll share techniques that will help you determine if you’re effectively investing your money in the company or freelancer you have entrusted to promote your website.
1. Understanding goals
The first thing that you and your SEO company must do is understand goals. If, during your initial meeting with the firm, this topic isn’t brought up because they didn’t ask about it, it is a bad sign. An SEO company’s job is not just to promote your website, but to do it with the appropriate keywords for the correct region or location. This is a crucial stage and, if it is not done correctly, any further work will become extremely ineffective.
2. Reporting matters
A credible SEO company will provide detailed reports regarding what is being done by their team to promote your site at least once a month. All information in this report should be clear and easy to understand. If something is so unclear that you can’t make heads or tails of it, the company may be trying to pull one over on you.
It would be wise to ask them to explain the report in a way that makes sense to you. Furthermore, it is important to check the data in the report and ask for original sources. As the client, you have every right to request PDF files, screenshots, and any other formats of original sources because many companies are capable of manipulating data to fool you.
3. Keyword positioning is negligible
If you receive a report and see that only your keyword positions rose, you are definitely not working with professionals. Keyword position growth in and of itself doesn’t necessarily deliver new customers. Basically, if the keyword position jumped from the 82nd to 56th place, it means absolutely nothing. I suggest that you pay closer attention to major trusted services used to check rankings like SemRush or Ahrefs.
4. Completed work results
Once, we did an SEO work audit for a client that was unhappy with their SEO company. When we checked server logs for changes, we saw that no one had updated that website in several months. However, reports and bills were being regularly sent to the client. Oftentimes, SEO companies work on your website for the first 3-4 months, then make insignificant improvements or manipulate data while charging you for several years.
I recommend directly asking your SEO company to specify what results were achieved and exactly what work was done. Your website must be active and fully developed because Google will never consider your site as a leader in SERP if this doesn’t happen.
5. Pay attention to keyword updates
Over the years, I have seen many reports that included dozens and even hundreds of keywords. Upon further investigation, it turned out that no one had searched more than 90% of these terms. In other words, your website won’t receive more visitors it ranks first on SERP for these keywords. Some SEO companies can get away with this because most people think a thick report is equal to a job well done.
If there is no keyword frequency in the report, it is a bad sign. It’s also important to specify the region for keyword frequency because the frequency reported may be for the entire US, while your website is catered to a specific city. In both cases, the data will be different.
6. Focus on the long-term
Let’s say you received a report and it says that 59 words went up last month. You may think everything is fine because every month dozens of words go up. However, keep in mind that keyword positions constantly change, so words will forever rise and fall.
Ultimately, you find yourself in a situation where reports state that keywords rose, but you don’t see progress. Even worse, your website’s position drops because you received a report that said 23 keywords improved, but left out that 48 keywords dropped.
7. Search engine traffic beats combined traffic
If an SEO company presents reports that include traffic metrics of your website, it is good. Verify that your traffic index is from Google Analytics because other platforms aren’t as credible. Also, check to ensure you are receiving metrics of traffic from search engines, not combined ones. These metrics should include location as well. Ideally, you want all these metrics, but the most important is to focus on visitors from your location and search engines.
8. Types of traffic
You are working with true professionals if your report includes information about the three types of traffic: informational, navigational, and transactional. Honestly, I have never seen reports that contained such detailed data. However, it is important to keep in mind that traffic varies and all words are divided into the three above mentioned categories.
I’ll focus on two of the three because they are the ones that are primarily encountered when discussing SEO. Below are examples of transactional and informational search queries.
Transactional queries are searched with the intent to purchase a product or find a company that offers needed services. A visitor specifically goes to a website ready to make a purchase, so the conversion from these types of queries is much higher. Informational queries come from users who search for information; consequently, such individuals are unlikely to buy anything. It’s undoubtedly easier to get more traffic from informational queries and rank at the top of Google SERP. Many SEO companies use this information, so you end up with a lot of people on your website who buy nothing.
If you receive a report listing data about keyword positions or traffic, but there is no information regarding where the users came from, this report is useless. The reality is that all modern services allow tracking website rankings by several indexes. However, it is vital to know information specifically about the location where you offer your product or services. Google becomes more locale-oriented, which means that data from different locations will vary.
Over time, Google has progressively split search results. Today, the difference between some search queries can reach 40 percent; this number keeps rising. Therefore, keyword ranking, traffic, conversion to buyers will be completely different for desktops versus mobile devices. If most of your customers are cell phone users, you must receive a special report from your SEO company.
After everything has been properly prepared, you may receive a small number of traffic. That’s not necessarily a cause for concern because those visitors will more than likely convert to buyers. Do not be discouraged if your SEO campaign doesn’t deliver big numbers; focus on the traffic quality, first and foremost, and you’ll get better results. Imagine, if your website received astronomical amounts of traffic, but none of those visitors purchased your product or service. This would be a rather negative outcome.
9. SEO companies care about results
Oftentimes, there are improved website metrics at the initial stage of an SEO campaign. According to my observation, about 70 percent of websites have a terrible user experience (UX). In fact, if you were to hire a designer, ux-specialist, and developer for several days, you would see astonishing results. If your SEO team doesn’t even try to work on your website, it’s a serious cause for concern. If they focus on results, not useless 50-page reports, they will work diligently to make your website top-notch.
This article is meant to highlight several serious questions and topics you should pose to your SEO company. As I stated earlier, the company may answer using technical terminologies that will leave you feeling confused. If you want to understand what your SEO team does, you will have to study them, or you can hire someone like Direct Line Development. Learn the basics and read related articles to know what they are doing to your website. If you have questions, you can leave a comment. I promise to personally answer all of them.
Aleksei Kudimov is a senior level executive with 10+ years of success in business development, strategic leadership, operational and financial management. His company, Direct Line Development is a creative, adaptive, and passionate web design & software development firm, based in Philadelphia, PA, with offices in Denver, CO and Austin, TX. This company with a distinguished reputation for designing highly effective websites, custom programs & applications, offers designers and developers of custom web and application solutions for clients across a multitude of industries.
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