Search engine algorithms are shrouded in total secrecy. So what works in SEO and what does not is merely the result of an analysis of sites that make it to page #1. Some times the keywords show up sooner than expected, at times they do not.
It's very difficult to measure the effectiveness of an SEO campaign because the time frame for results is prolonged. With the mushrooming of SEO companies and the vagueness of operations, finding the right company can be an issue.
True, SEO is no science, but it can have a scientific approach. The results are not instantaneous like PPC but results should be visible after 3 months into a program. Okay... give or take a few months for the vagaries of Search Engines that like to alter their algorithms just when your site is all set to take off!
The problem with SEO is that it is too vague a field. We can only guess what works and what does not. Broadly there are five factors that are said to do 70% of the work.
1. Well optimized code
2. Well Optimized Metatags
3. Header Tags, Alt tags
4. Keywords in the URL
5. Backlinks to the site
If your SEO company is smart enough to integrate all these together, chances are that by the fourth month your SERPs should be somewhere around rank 10-12 for moderately competitive keywords. Competitive keywords take much longer and the effort for increasing the positions in page 1 increases proportionally with every position.
There are two ways in which you can check if your company is really working on your website.
1. Set up Google Alert on your company's name. Once an alert is set up, every time a directory picks up your link or a blog picks up your article or the company does a press release, Google will pick it up and deliver it into your mailbox. The larger the number of alerts the more your SEO company is working.
2. Use a tracking account. Google Analytics is free and is improving with feedback. Ask your SEO company to set up tracking in analytics and get your account id and password so that you can check occasionally.
SEO is unfortunately a long drawn out process. How long should one wait before deciding that the SEO company is taking you for a ride? When you are six months into an SEO program and you face any of the following scenarios it's time to fire your SEO company.
Scenario #1: Six months into the campaign there is no increase in search traffic.
Scenario #2: Your traffic has increased but you are not getting any conversions.
Scenario #3: You have not even made it to page 2 for your targeted keyword.
Scenario #4: The company's report shows a lot of increased links but there is hardly
any increase in rank.
Scenario #5: Your keywords are stagnated where they were.
Scenario #1: Six months into the campaign there is no increase in search traffic Why is it so? Maybe they are not working at all OR Maybe they are targeting all the wrong keywords. Very competitive keywords may bring in more traffic volume but they take longer (read upto 12-24 months) to optimize. To maximize your ROI, professional SEO companies choose a mix and match of low competition, moderate competition and high competition keywords. If your SEO company did not take this approach, it's time to fire them.
How to Check: Insist upon adding Google Analytics (a free tool) to your site and visit it regularly.
Scenario #2: Your traffic has increased but you are not getting conversions Maybe it's a genuine mistake which can be rectified OR Maybe you are getting a lot of spam traffic because the company has posted the site at improper places just to show stats of increased traffic. Believe me this happens quite a lot with unprofessional companies who want to gain SEO credibility. The unknowledgeable client gets taken in.
How to Check: Visit analytics. Click on traffic sources. Check all the traffic types - Referral, search engine and direct. Check the type of sites the referral traffic is sending, check the type of keywords. If all of these are okay, then you need some serious website marketing not just SEO.
Scenario #3: You have not even made it to page 2 for your targeted keyword. Maybe the targeted keywords are too competitive OR Maybe all the aspects of SEO are not being covered by your company. This is a tricky issue. If you are satisfied with your keyword movement over the months maybe just a push is needed. Otherwise you need to check what the company is doing.
How to Check: Simply type your keyword in the search bar. Check page #1 for your URL. If it's not on page #1 it should be on page #2 after 6 months of the campaign for at least some of the keywords. It should show up. If it isn't there, call up the SEO company and demand an explanation.
Scenario #4: The company's report shows a lot of increased links, but there is hardly any increase in rank. Maybe the ranking will improve gradually OR Maybe the company is trying to impress upon you that it has increased your links. This is false reporting and not genuine SEO. In the long run these links will harm your site. Keep away from the company.
How to Check: Occasionally, in the Google toolbar type the following to see the number of links to your website - links:www.domainname.com. Analyze the relevancy of the site linking back to your website. If the links are from spam sites, fire the company.
Scenario #5: Your keywords are stagnated where they were. Suppose you were already on page #3 or page #2 for the keywords and approached a company to take you to page #1. But you haven't moved. Maybe the company's taking you for a ride
OR there is no other reason. Just fire the company. They are showing no results.
There may be other scenarios which have not been covered in this article. It's very difficult to know if the company is working hard enough to get you on page #1. Keeping constant contact with the company is a good idea. Ask for a monthly comparative report and track the increase in links, traffic and keyword positions. Get an action plan of the month by the company. Track the action plan. You will see results soon enough!
About The Author
Ajay Prasad is founder of Global Marketing Resources LLC that runs a number of ecommerce websites under it's umbrella. Ajay's functional expertise includes website strategy, marketing management, business development, consumer research, market analysis and strategic planning. GMRWebTeam is a company that aims to develop an overall strategy for your site.
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