12 Questions to ask a search engine expert
1. Will you develop a comprehensive keyword strategy for my site?
The core of every SEO project is understanding what keywords will draw the most qualified leads. For example, what keywords are your competition using? What are your prospective customers typing into search boxes at the major search engines? You'll be able to leverage this data to improve your own pay-per-click buys, such as Overture.
2. Do you offer a variety of optimization solutions?
SEO should not be a "one size fits all" service. You need a thorough evaluation of your site and understanding of your target markets and business goals to determine the most effective optimization.
3. Do you suggest using doorway pages (also called informational, gateway, and rich text pages) for generating additional traffic to my site?
A common approach to doorway pages is software-generated pages of highly similar information hosted on "ghost" domains. Engines consider these spam -- make sure you understand your provider's techniques for generating traffic.
4. If doorway pages are used, do you have professional marketing writers on staff?
Search engine spiders pull up content surrounding searched for keywords to act as the Web page's description in subsequent search returns. Therefore, SEO pages must contain attractive, informative copy about your products and services. Otherwise, you'll lose surfers' interest, thus hurting the effort put into achieving high rankings.
5. Do you use "cloaking" to deliver pages to the engines?
Cloaking is the most controversial technique in SEO today. Some engines say it's acceptable when not used to "bait and switch," but Google says any cloaking is spam. Ask vendors where they stand on this issue.
6. Do you have consistent success placing clients in the major directories?
Nothing is more critical to the success of your site than optimum placement in Yahoo!, LookSmart and the Open Directory Project. Make sure you'll receive a written recommendation for directory submissions and the opportunity to approve it before any submissions are done on your site's behalf.
7. Do you include ongoing submissions management?
Ensure your SEO vendor manages submissions per current engine trends and preferences throughout the entire contract. Automated submissions can be problematic; ask if your vendor submits by hand.
8. Can you live up to your promises?
Guarantees are all over the place -- some good, some worthless. More important are references.
9. Do you offer high-quality, verifiable references?
While many SEO vendors keep their client list confidential, ask for and check references, even if it means signing an NDA. Then ask about results and customer service, the latter often problematic in this fledgling industry.
10. Does the contract include all submissions fees to search engines and directories?
As the trend toward paid submissions continues, contracts that omit these fees can seem attractive until the bill arrives with all the a la carte submissions. Confirm in advance what submissions costs are included.
11. Do you strategically develop link support for my site?
Link popularity, link relevance and link importance directly impact the amount and quality of your traffic. Ask how these objectives will be supported within your SEO contract.
12. Do you understand the "bigger picture" of Web marketing?
SEO should be part of an integrated approach to marketing of your site and company. Savvy SEO vendors understand this and help you leverage your results, thus contributing to the success of your overall marketing initiatives.
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