It’s obvious to anyone interested in expanding their client base that search engines are now the most powerful marketing tool available. A study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that 50% of all internet users are utilizing search engines on a daily basis, and that number is only expected to climb.
The smart move for any business or organization, from Accountants to Zoological societies, is to get started on making their sites attractive to Google, Yahoo or MSN. Hiring a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company or consultant is the most cost-effective way to get your site in front of the millions of internet users that are looking for legal help. While Google ad-words are certainly an option, they can be cost-prohibitive for a business that is starting out. Aside from being expensive, search engine ad placements are also quite clearly advertisements, which many internet surfers simply don’t want to click. (Pop up advertising has very effectively soured millions on clicking anything that looks like an advertisement.) Google and Yahoo have gained a reputation for accurate results, which means the average surfer is going to hit one of the first few real listings that turn up. So it is in your best interest to rank as high up on the search engines as you possibly can.
But how do you find a good one? Or, just as important, how do you avoid the bad ones? And what makes a SEO company good or bad? And what’s the worst that can happen if you find a bad one?
Finding a reputable SEO company that does things the right way is imperative. The first and most obvious step would be to look at their references, just like you would if you were hiring any other employee. Ask them for the names of some of their success stories. Checking them out is as simple as typing in a few related keywords in Google. In other words, type in what the business does and the state or region in which they operate but don’t type in the name of the business. If the company shows up on the first page, then you know that the SEO in question knows how to operate.
Just as there are good plumbers, good doctors, good lawyers, and good carpenters, so there are bad ones. And SEO companies are no different. A bad SEO company that cuts corners and cheats and doesn’t do things properly can cause serious damage to your search engine rankings, which can in turn cause you to lose a valuable marketing venue. A worst case scenario is that Google can actually give your site the equivalent of a scarlet letter, which means that they specifically instruct their index to not return your site for any searches at all, even if they type the direct name of your company into the search.
There are a few red flags that should let you know that the SEO company is not a reputable one. If you get an e-mail out of the blue without having contacted or expressed any interest in SEO, you should ignore this company. The e-mails usually go like this:
I was looking through the websites and noticed that your site isn’t listed anywhere. We can help."
Any company that is willing to resort to spammer techniques to get business is one that you should avoid.
If you meet with the company representatives and they promise or guarantee a first place Google ranking, you shouldn’t work with them. Just as a reputable lawyer would never guarantee a favorable verdict for his client, a reputable SEO company would never guarantee a first place ranking. Search engines shift and change every day, and a business might be near the top or hold on to the first place ranking for a good amount of time, but first place is never guaranteed. If they use words like “priority submit,” or make it seem as if they have a special relationship with someone at Google or Yahoo and can get you an “in,” they are disreputable.
If they can’t explain to you clearly how they operate, then you shouldn’t do business with them. There is no “secret formula.” Reputable SEO’s should be able to tell you exactly what they are doing and why.
Many SEO’s run their companies the right way, but some are fly-by-night operations. They give you short term benefits that end up with your site taken off of Google. Be very careful when you select them.
Foster Web Marketing does search engine optimization the right way. By constantly updating our sites with relevant and keyword targeted content, we have improved the website rankings of attorneys from New York to San Francisco. Contact our offices for a free legal consultation today.