From Our Blog

  • 7 Ways to Know If Your SEO Company is BS-ing You

    February 19th, 2010
    7 Ways to Know If Your SEO Company is BS-ing You

    This blog is largely aimed at industry professionals, but sometimes we will address SEO clients, or the general public. I think being a good SEO involves communicating well, and hopefully some of the topics covered in articles aimed at clients can be useful for SEOs when they talk to their own clients.

    When a car salesman sells a car, the car buyer knows what a car is, what car dealers are, and how to drive. With SEO there are definitely knowledgeable buyers, but there are thousands who become clients in an industry they know little about.

    Sleazebag-Salesman 101

    This means that they can become easy prey to SEO companies that don’t really know what they’re talking about. While there is a sense in which results can speak for themselves, and there’s a bottom line return on investment calculation, it still might help for small businesses to be able to protect themselves from self-appointed SEO experts looking to make a few bucks in an under-saturated and expensive marketplace.

    Here are some tips for someone new to SEO and who plans to work with an optimizer:

    Unclear or Poor Keyword Targets
    You should know which keywords your SEO is targeting. You should know where you rank for these keywords, keeping in mind that the more obscure and long the keyword, the less point (traffic) there will be in achieving a ranking, for the most part. This is why SEOs that sell their services “by the keyword” are doing something strange. What keywords? How many people are trying to rank for these keywords, and what kind of traffic can you expect from success? That said, a good SEO might be able to generate lots of traffic through a large list of longtail keywords that produce large traffic in accumulation.

    Basically, specific rankings mean little without the traffic they bring, so make sure you evaluate on organic non-branded traffic. People that guarantee top ten rankings for your keywords should have you raise an eyebrow, and those that price based on number of keywords are even sketchier.

    Also remember that keywords have to be useful for you. Check where the traffic’s coming from, and make sure the likely searcher’s intent is in line with your conversion hopes.

    Insufficient Reporting
    Your SEO should be able to justify the expense for his or her services. Establish targets and make sure your SEO gets in touch at least on a quarterly basis, with ranking progress on the chosen keywords and corresponding traffic growth. Once your site is optimized, the number of links your site has should grow. Install Google Webmaster Tools to keep track. (Also, if your SEO has never mentioned Google Webmaster Tools, it’s not a disaster, but it’s not a good sign either)

    Keyword Density Emphasis
    Given how much this matters (not much), SEOs that focus on this probably don’t really know how to best spend their time/your money. That said, it’s even worse if they’re keyword stuffing. If the sentence reads horribly, with the keyword used almost every sentence, find new help. Of course, this applies to content producers by trade, too.

    Search Engine Submission Emphasis
    Many SEO websites brag about submitting you to search engines, sometimes even with price structures that reflect how many they will submit to. This is problematic on many levels. It has minimal SEO effect, so any focus on this means they are neglecting more impotant things, or they think it sounds impressive so they pretend it’s actually important. There are only a couple of search engines that really count (Google-Yahoo-Bing). Traffic comes from people. How many search engines do you or anyone else you know use? On top of that, submitting is very different from ranking.

    If this is on the short list of “things they do” for you, you should probably find someone else.

    Directory Submission Emphasis
    Links are valuable when they come from relevant sources, and directories are just about the least relevant set up possible. Your link is included with tons of others, from a page with little content, and a large chunk are for money, against Google link-buy guidelines. Ask to see the links pointing to your site, and if they all seem to be directories, something’s wrong. You’ll see at the end of the day when your rankings aren’t great, but you might as well catch it early. This doesn’t mean all directories are a bad idea (Yahoo’s has a history of being useful), but it shouldn’t be the focus. Niche-specific directories can be useful for SEO (added link value from relevance) and direct traffic, but are generally rare.

    Retainer Abuse
    While a by-the-hour system has its drawbacks, it has some very trackable advantages. There is time put in for the money. That said, to land a really great SEO or team and have them on-call when you need them does take a little extra on your part, incentive for them to stay with you and give you attention. Don’t run away from a retainer model, but you shouldn’t be paying very much for nothing. If you want to go retainer, make sure you give them all they need and move their suggestions forward, and it can be well worth your time and money. There is always something to do, though, and if you’re really paying someone to be there for emergencies and questions, you shouldn’t be paying a fortune. Retainers also give a peace of mind in asking for help and suggestions, when you know you’re not always on the clock, and can be great for helping you learn about SEO. You might want to suggest a retainer model based on performance and agreed upon expectations (controlling for seasonality). If the SEO is not against the idea, it could be a good sign. If they’re against it, it’s a bad sign. Remember, the goal is non-branded organic traffic, or conversions, if applicable.

    Information Hoarding
    A good SEO firm should be confident in their expertise, and know that no matter how much they train you, they will still be of great use to you as a hire. The first SEO I met as a webmaster would flat out answer any questions I had, which was impressive and encouraging. Your SEO firm should be open with you, and comfortable with explaining whatever you want to know about. Being secretive about information is an indication that the person might not know that much. Plus, good SEO firms want their clients to know as much as possible so that they can accomplish as much as possible together and deliver maximum results. For a good and honest SEO work, a knowledgeable client is a good client.

    I consider those to be the main indicators. Have I missed any?

    Written by: Simon Abramovitch
  • Inbound Marketing: Are you Being Found?

    January 15th, 2010
    Inbound Marketing: Are you Being Found?

    Even in uncertain economic times, customers are still actively looking for your business as a solution for their problems. Are you being found? Are you present in the places that your customers are searching?

    If your business is following the current trend, it’s likely that your sales are holding their own or declining. This may leave less money to spend on traditional marketing via advertisements, trade shows, and email blasts to paid lists. Rather than looking for short term sales increases that stop working when you stop paying, invest brain-power, time, and money into the long-term viability of your business by creating content for distribution online. This is called “inbound marketing.” The tools of the new inbound marketing techniques are blogs, social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious and more) and the time and brain power of your staff.

    As defined by Hubspot, a creator of web site marketing tools, Inbound marketing is “marketing focused on getting found by customers.” This is contrasted with older forms of “outbound marketing” that focus on finding customers through advertising and other forms of paid prospecting.
    Where Should I Start with Inbound Marketing?

    Your ideal goal is to build a large volume of engaging, useful information that meets the needs of your potential clients while demonstrating your expertise. This content ultimately should be hosted on your main web site domain for search engine optimization purposes, but if resources are limited, you can begin with a free blog from WordPress.com. Just get started creating content and when you have the extra resources, you can hire a web developer to develop a blog on your own domain.

    I recommend that you start engaging with social media by setting up a Twitter account and publishing excerpts of your blog articles along with a link to the full text of the article. However, don’t just use your Twitter account to publish links to your own content. Also do the following:

    * Follow other users of interest to you and your customers
    * Retweet any tweets that are interesting and relevant
    * Search for keywords related to your industry and respond to those tweets with helpful information

    You can also set up a Facebook page with relatively little work, but I’d recommend that as a second step after you are using Twitter effectively. Also consider using Delicious bookmarks to share what you’re reading with others.  There are more techniques for engaging potential customers via social media than I can cover here. My goal is to just get you started without overwhelming you.

    Inbound Marketing Is More Than Social Media

    Social media engagement means you take part in a conversation that’s going on in recognized meeting places online. This is valuable, but you also want to become a destination for people who are searching for what you have to offer. To do this, you must first develop content as described above and present it in a search engine friendly manner.

    You also will want to use Search Engine Optimization techniques such as keyword research to identify possible phrases potential customers use when they attempt to find your business online. There are many resources on the web for this kind of training if you’re inclined to do it yourself.

    Eventually, you may want to retain a web developer who is savvy about Search Engine Optimization at some point to take your site to the next level. That said, it is amazing at how far some basic keyword research and content creation can go in marketing your business online.

    In conclusion, first get started blogging as a way of creating content, next set up a Twitter account to engage potential customers and extend the reach of your blog. If you’re cash strapped, use a free service like WordPress.com to begin blogging (you can export content later to a blog on your own web site). If you have more resources, you may want to hire a Website developer who can integrate WordPress into your web site. We would be happy to talk to you about that.

    Authored by: Harvey Ramer

  • The One Thing Hackers Hope You Never Discover

    January 11th, 2010
    The One Thing Hackers Hope You Never Discover

    Imagine not being able to send or receive e-mail for days, possibly weeks. Don’t think this could happen because you have a reputable anti-virus software installed? If so, you’re operating on a false sense of security and hackers are praying that you keep thinking that way. Here’s why:

    Most business owners think that because they have anti-virus software installed and a software firewall, that their network is “secure.” Not so. One of the most common stunts hackers pull is breaking through a software firewall to hijack a server. Once they’re in, they use YOUR server to relay spam and other viruses to millions of users in a matter of seconds.

    This is double bad for two reasons:

    1.  In no time flat, your company’s server and email gets “blacklisted”, which means the big email delivery hubs ( like Comcast, Google, Verizon, etc.) flag ALL e-mails coming from your server as “dangerous” and won’t let them through; and on the net, you’re guilty until proven innocent, which means it could take days or weeks to get your name cleared. During that time, you are completely without e-mail.

    2.  Your clients, prospects and vendors start getting Viagra ads and invitations to XXX-rated web sites from your company. Not good.

    The absolute best way to make sure this never happens is to invest  $165.00 a month for a top-grade managed firewall. This tiny investment is worth twenty times the cost in peace of mind and saved time. Software firewalls that come with most servers or Internet providers are better than nothing, but they’re a weak lock that any hacker can easily pick.

    After all, isn’t your network’s security and your peace of mind worth $165.00 a month? Then contact us today for a FREE Hacker-Prevention Security Audit.
    702-240.7700