3 Tips to Choose the Best SEO Agency for Your Business

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) basically helps your brand to appear higher on search engines and it improves your online presence. If you are an entrepreneur and are looking forward to hire the services of an affordable SEO agency, you’re on the right track. This is because SEO is very important for the online growth and success of your business. You may get confused by the sheer number of agencies offering a wide range of SEO services, but you need to be vigilant in choosing the right agency for your business. So, how do you select the right service provider as per your needs?

Here are 3 key tips that you need to keep in mind while hiring an SEO agency:

  1. Dig in to their past online experience

You need to dig into the past of the potential SEO partner you are looking forward to hiring. This particular information is needed to help you understand their background and skills and most importantly, to figure out who will partner you in your journey of online growth. Any mistake in hiring the right agency can be disastrous for your brand’s reputation. It can lower your rankings and harm your domain reputation and Google’s trust. You must check their website, blogs, social media presence and client portfolio. Browse through their client list and visit their websites to understand the quality of work they are providing.

Also, it can be a good idea to hire an agency with prior industry experience. For instance, if you are into the e-commerce business, it is always better to hire someone who has worked for an online retailer previously.

  1. Variety of services being offered

SEO alone cannot do much for your business but when combined with content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing and PPC marketing, it can help businesses reach the pinnacle of success online. If an agency is offering you all these services under one roof, climbing up the SEO ranking will not be an uphill task for your business any more. The benefits of this will manifest themselves in the form of uniformity of work, common goals and lower prices. It would also be easier for your management since you will have a single point of contact for all the services rather than having to deal with many people for different jobs.

  1. Reporting and transparency

The most essential characteristic of any good SEO agency is they should be transparent in their work. You should expect a detailed weekly or monthly report (whichever suits your business) from them. Most SEO agencies distribute regular, customized reports with details of the strategies they apply, their effects and the improvements brought about by them over time in key areas. Opt for an agency that uses Google’s best standards, practices and techniques, which would increase your brand presence organically. Make sure that the agency you are planning to hire does not use unethical means that may put your brand in trouble.

Once you have all the answers, it’ll be time to make a decision. Some of the key things to note are as follows:

  • Try to provide your SEO agency with as much information as possible about your website and marketing efforts to date. Refrain from hiding any information as that will make their work more difficult. For example, if in the past, you have bought any links or fake social media followers, let them know.
  • Patience is the key! Do not expect results from the first month itself; it may take at least 4-5 months (or more) to see some concrete SEO results.

5 Conversion Optimization Tips for Your Website

No matter what expert you’ve hired or how much money you’ve spent, there’s no other barometer that means more to a successful search engine marketing strategy than how many conversions and return on investment comes from your search campaign.

No matter what the service being offered – organic SEO or paid search (or a combination of both) search engine marketers are tasked with not only driving qualified traffic to your website, but also to offer website conversion optimization consultation to help increase the likelihood of a sale or other type of conversion for their clients’ websites.

Realizing the conversion potential of your website relies on many factors such as the attractiveness of the website, the content on the site, and the ease of navigation for users who visit the site. Below I identify five conversion optimization tips that help turn simple website visitors into conversions.

Evaluate Your Competition

First, identify who your strongest competition is in the marketplace. Then, go on a little reconnaissance mission and find out everything you can about that competitor(s). What strategies are they using to drive more traffic and convert more sales on their site(s)? Are they offering deals or special promotions? Do they have easier-to-find product/service information? Do they have client testimonials endorsing their product/services?

Take what you’ve learned from your reconnaissance mission and devise your own custom plan for converting more visitors on your website.

Think Like Your Customers

If you were a customer on your website, would you know how to get around and find what you’re looking for? In order to properly optimize your website for conversions, you have to think like your customers. What information are they looking for when determining what product to buy? Does your website load quickly (you don’t want to deter them away with a slow website?) Is there easy access to contact information? Are there special offers available on the website that they can capitalize on (remember people love a good deal!)?

Produce Valuable Web Content

Conversions rely heavily on the quality of the content on your website, just as a successful SEO campaign does. The content on your website should communicate your brand and your service/product options effectively in a clear and concise manner. Your web content needs to focus on conversions by explaining the gamut of benefits that your product/service offers, and should include a strong call-to-action that will prompt your visitors to convert.

Google has made it even easier for website owners to improve their conversion optimization pitch by introducing Content Experiments as part of their Google Analytics program. In Content experiments, website owners can split test different landing page variations with separate content in an effort to analyze and determine which web page is more effectively for driving conversions.

Offer Special Promotions

Discounts, By One Get Ones, Free Shipping, Coupon Codes, and Free eBooks are all effective methods that help entice website users to convert. Offering these types of promotion gives your visitors the psychological advantage of getting a deal on their purchase and increases the likelihood that they will actually make that purchase.

It is important to note that most offers have short-term benefits for conversions and constantly need to be improved upon to help retain established customers.

Be Trustworthy

The final website conversion rate optimization strategy I’ll discuss is simply being trustworthy to visitors. Be transparent with your site visitors. Have clearly marked contact information so it’s easy for customers to find. Offer links to your social media pages so users can get the scoop on your company from actual customers.

If your website collects data, have a clear-cut Privacy Policy that states what their information will be used for. Have Shipping and Returns Policies. If your website requires, install a SSL certificate so website visitors know your website connection is encrypted and secure.

Each of these simple strategies can greatly improve the conversion rate on your website so that you’re getting the most out of your search engine marketing investment.

The Mystery of Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing has always played a critical role in managing the visibility of a company’s online brand. However with the Internet becoming what is arguably today’s dominant medium, Search Engine Marketing has also risen to become a key driver in a company’s overall brand strategy. Regrettably the maturity of the products and services that comprise search engine related disciplines come at a time when the industry has never been more complicated and difficult to navigate. Even though businesses today have many more options with regard to how they execute their search engine initiatives, I find that many marketing executives struggle more today with their online marketing strategies than they did a few years ago. In today’s blog post I’ll share my opinions on the current state of the Search Engine Marketing Industry.

My experience with Search Engine Marketing predates many in the field. In the mid 80’s I co-founded what was at the time the largest web development company in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. My partner and I later sold that company to the largest web enablement firm in the world where I stayed on for a period of time as their Director of Internet Strategy before leaving to found one of the top 50 Interactive Advertising Agencies in the United States. At last weeks 2006 Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose, California it was clear that the industry has shown remarkable growth and made tremendous advances in sophistication as well as in the diversity of product and service offerings currently available, but I question whether things are getting better or worse for the consumer.

In talking regularly with many senior executives, marketing professionals and entrepreneurs one thing is clear…they are clearly not fluent in the area of search engine marketing. While these professionals understand the potential that search engine marketing holds for their businesses they do not understand how to capitalize on it. In fact, many of the people I have spoken with are extremely frustrated at the amount of money they have invested in search initiatives without being able to develop an understanding of the medium such that they have not yet been able to develop a consistent winning strategy in this space.

The major problems that exist within the search industry are tied to the fact that this is still an embryonic medium. There are only so many ways to purchase advertising in more mature mediums like radio or television. Contrast this with the numerous options available to consumers and businesses looking to purchase advertising on the internet: Search Engine Optimization, Pay-Per-Click, Pay-Per-Call, Pay-Per-Acquisition, Sponsored Advertising, Internet Yellow Pages, Ezine ads, Contextual Advertising, Embedded Advertising, Pop-overs and Pop-unders, Banner serving networks, Directory Ads, Link Farms, video ads, webinars, etc. Advertising mediums in the infancy of their lifecycle spit out new opportunities faster than you can shake a stick at, with inexperienced vendors cutting their teeth on the advertiser’s nickel. There is rarely a week that passes when I don’t speak to a company who has a horror story to tell about a search marketing company who over-promised and under-delivered and by the time the advertiser figured out what was going-on they had spent thousands of dollars with little to show for it.

Another problem with the search industry is that Google currently controls most of the traffic. Combine Google’s dominant position with the fact that they will share little if any data with advertisers and that they can change the rules of the game at any time and it brings new meaning to the term “Flying Blind.” However the issue of transparency within the search industry is not limited to Google. Most of the search engines play their cards very close to the chest as they try and establish a leg up in the market. Until there is competitive pressure brought to bear on Google the odds are stacked against the advertiser. I met with a client last week that was spending 50% of their Pay-Per-Click budget on Yahoo and MSN because it was recommended to them by their search marketing firm. The problem is that given the advertisers product line and target market Yahoo and MSN would produce virtually no return for them…This is a big problem.

The fact is that the Internet is the medium that can deliver the most velocity and biggest return on your marketing dollar. I also believe that this will continue to be the case as the dominance of the Internet medium will only continue to widen the gap over alternate mediums. Companies cannot afford not to allocate a substantial part of their advertising budget to online advertising, but until the medium matures it will behoove of them to make sure that they work with the best vendors who can keep up with the rapid pace of change in the industry.

Effective Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Keyword Advertising Without Losing Your Shirt

You may or may not know that traditional methods of marketing (emblematic items, broadcast ads, printed ads, etc.) can be integral to successful marketing on search engines. I will remain very broad in covering the topic because there are many options available to you, and some of them will be better suited for your particular goals than others. Up front, the best advice I can give is to talk over your specific goals with a qualified Website solution provider who practices SEM and is familiar with integrating it into Website design.

The ways to market your business (specifically your Website) via the search engines make up a lengthy list. The pay-for-placement methods are somewhat fewer, and can be broken down into three general categories as follows:

  • You can pay for the number one spot (in the page margins) of the search engines by individual keywords. Although this kind of placement may seem appealing, it is only as reliable as your advertising dollars allow. You can be outbid by someone who is willing to pay more for that position.
  • You can pay-per-click (PPC) for given keywords, and depending on your budget and the popularity of the word(s) you select, your positioning will vary. Again, this is effective in getting traffic, but there is a difference between someone who clicks their way to your site and someone who makes a purchase once they’re there. (You aren’t paying-per-click for customers who buy something. You are paying just to get the visit.)
  • You can pay to advertise on other peoples’ Websites by having the search engine companies liaison between you and the other site owners. This is a comparatively newer way to advertise, paying to put out an advertisement while other Website owners receive some search engine indexing and kickback benefits for allowing your ad to be on their sites. In theory (and usually in practice), this is a win-win option.

Of these three general methods, keyword ad campaigns can usually be limited to a pre-specified number of dollars per month (or until your account is replenished). So you aren’t really writing a “blank check” to advertise with keywords in these ways, but you do need to manage your budget and your account carefully. Buyer beware!

I have had several clients who came to me because of keyword ad accounts that were handled poorly by their previous service provider. In the worst cases, some of them were victims of out-and-out fraud. One case in particular stands out in my mind.

I had an accountant approach me with complaints that he had been spending $400 to $600 per month for the previous 6 months for 200 guaranteed clicks to his Website per month. “Wow… that’s a pretty good guarantee,” you might be thinking. And he received a report from his provider each month that substantiated that he was in fact getting that kind of traffic (more than 200 hits per month) from his keyword ad campaigns. His complaint, however, was that he had no new clients that came from his Website (otherwise called “conversions” from ad response to customer). The ratios of hits (impressions) to sales (conversions) seemed unreasonably low. I was suspicious.

I did a bit of research on his Website’s performance, and what I found was disturbing (but all too common). His account was set to automatically replenish (re bill his credit card) on the fifteenth of each month, up to his specified maximum monthly budget of $500 or so. That means that if his account balance was $250 on the fourteenth of the month, another $250 would be charged to him to restore his account balance to $500. Each click cost him money, and over the next 30 days his balance would incrementally be debited until it came time to replenish it on the fifteenth of the following month. If he ever hit zero, his ad would “fall off the map,” but such a billing plan assured him that he would never go beyond his budget. Sounds like a foolproof way to advertise, right? Guaranteed hits with no cost overruns! It gave him a false sense of security, and he was getting scammed!

When I did an analysis of his Website traffic, I saw a steady trend of visitors that came from a variety of sources, some of them from his paid-for advertising campaign. I counted about 20 to 30 hits related to his pay-per-click deal. Suspiciously, however, he had about 150 to 180 hits on the fourteenth of each month, the day before his account replenished. It never took him down to zero, so he didn’t think anything strange was going on. But it seemed apparent that whoever was managing his account was taking advantage of his trusting nature, and he was paying for artificial hits. His reports showed over 200 hits, just as he was promised, but he was unwittingly padding the pockets of his account manager!

Don’t let that happen to you! I didn’t relay that story to scare you or to deter you from using paid-for advertising. Really, paid ads are extremely effective in the right situations. I simply want you to realize that, like everything else with doing business online, there is often more than meets the eye. Forewarned is forearmed. Get into the game of marketing your Website, but do it with a wise eye and wary wallet. The best approach is likely to be one that combines the three types of advertisements bulleted above, so you can measure which one works best for your particular campaign. You might also want to try a Text Message Marketing (TMM) portal to supplement your variable advertising budget with a flat rate option! Text Message Marketing (TMM) is a relatively new marketing trend that appeals to millions of consumers for a number of reasons.

Most solution providers and SEM companies that have been around for awhile are reputable or they wouldn’t stay in business. But you must take an active interest in the management of your advertising budget. Ensure that your SEM provider gives you more than just a total-hits-per-month report and an invoice for recharging your account. You should require them to provide you with the Website analytics that show all of your traffic, the trends, the hits-per-page, hits-per-day, sources of hits (so you can ensure they’re from different addresses), keywords used to find you, and so forth. Even if you never look at the details of those reports, the fact that they are provided to you will be a deterrent to keep your SEM provider honest. They probably are honest anyway, but in the end you have to CYA (cover your assets).