In the online marketing industry, it’s easy for an SEO to stretch the truth with clients, especially if a campaign isn’t going well. If a business owner isn’t careful, they can be strung along for months or years, paying thousands of dollars before they realize they’re flushing money down the drain.
If you believe the people working for you aren’t doing a good job, feel free to get a second opinion, but make sure that second opinion is from a trustworthy online marking agency.
Step 1: Google It
Google your brand and your domain. Are you the first result? You should be unless your brand name competes with a larger similar brand name. If your website does not come up when performing these searches, there may be an issue. These should be relatively non-competitive keywords that your website would rank for with little trouble. If your SEO isn’t getting you ranked for this, there better be a very good reason, like maybe your SEO was just hired, or there is a known penalty to the website that’s currently being cleaned up.
After you’re done Googling your own business, Google theirs. What comes up when you search their company? Are they ranking for their brand and domain? They better be. Also take a look at what else is on these SERPs (search engine result pages). Are there review sites in their SERPs? What are other people saying about this business? If it’s generally positive or if there aren’t reviews, that’s okay. Even if there are one or two bad reviews, it’s not the end of the world. The thing you want to look out for is a trend in the reviews. Search for the agency’s brand name + “reviews” to get a clearer picture.
For example, Traffic Power used to be an SEO agency here in Las Vegas, NV. If you search for their brand today, you can see why they are no longer in business. Make sure your agency’s SERPs don’t look like this:
Step 2: Webmasters and Analytics
You should have access to your website’s Google Webmasters and Analytics accounts. If not, that’s an issue in and of itself. Once you’re in these accounts, don’t be overwhelmed by the data, you’ll only be looking at a couple things.
First, look at your Webmasters account. On the left sidebar, there is a link to messages for the account. It’s important to look in here for important issues on the website Google is trying to tell you about, like manual search penalties that need to be addressed. The main dashboard will also allow you to see the general trend of search queries to the website. In general, this graph should be trending upward, but it isn’t always the case. If it’s dropping, ask your agency why – they better know.
In analytics, request specific metrics from your agency. Sometimes agencies try to get by without showing you the data, or by showing you selected keywords and their ranks. The true test of an SEO’s ability isn’t a ranking report: it’s the amount of search engine traffic and conversions you get. Make sure you request organic traffic and organic conversion reports in order to really know what’s happening with your business.
Step 3: On-Page Elements
There are a couple things you can check on your website quickly to make sure your agency is at least doing the basics as far as coding and on-page optimization. The following are some of the things to look for on your website:
- Title Tag: Look at the top of your browser when you’re on your website. What is the title inside of the tab? It should be self-explanatory with mention of the brand. For example, our title tag for our main web page is “Online Marketing and Web Design in Las Vegas | Levy Online.” Notice how the title says exactly what the company does, and who the company is. Your title tag should do the same thing.
- Content on the page: There should be enough content on the page to determine what your business is. The most important keywords should be in the most prominent places, like in headlines and in links. This content also needs to be well-written and make sense. There is no such thing as “writing content for search engine,” good content works for both at the same time.
- NAP: Your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP) should be clearly marked somewhere on the website, and it should be identical to the NAP on listing sites like Yelp, Google+, etc.
Things NOT To Do
People also need to be careful not to use metrics or tools that don’t work when checking into their SEO. There are several common things business owners do that only waste time and don’t give you any good information:
- Free All-Inclusive SEO Tools: These tools are all over the place and claim to give you an SEO audit instantly. All these programs really do is present data to you in a way that makes you think about buying their service. There are so many elements to SEO that programs like this simply can’t work. As an SEO, I use dozens of tools that serve different purposes and pull different data. It takes an analytical mind and multiple metrics to really get an idea about what’s going on in an in-depth way.
- Solicitation Emails: If you’re a business owner, you’ve no doubt received emails from people claiming they can get you on the front page of Google. Sometimes these cold-call emails go a step further and try to criticize your current SEO efforts. Never listen to these people, they will say whatever they need to in order to get you to switch to them. And how well do you think they do SEO if they spend all their time spamming every business owner out there?
- Googling Specific Keywords: While it might give you a warm and fuzzy feeling to Google your most important keyword and see yourself on top, it’s a terrible way to judge SEO efforts. Sometimes focusing on long-tail keywords is a better bet. By casting a wider net and getting a small amount of traffic from a large amount of keywords, you may end up getting more targeted traffic and more sales. Eventually, you should have your trophy phrases, but don’t expect them right away, and you should see increased traffic without it if it’s not the focus.
You don’t need to be in the dark as your SEO campaign progresses. By following some simple checks and ignoring the solicitors, you’ll be able to feel a little more comfortable knowing that your company is at least doing the basics. To be clear, your agency should be doing a lot more than just the things listed above, but if they aren’t at least doing those, there’s a big problem.