Let’s suppose you have a website. And let’s also suppose it’s not yet large enough for you to commit to in-house SEO resources, but you think ranking higher in Google for some organic search terms would probably be a good idea. More traffic can lead to more sales and if you’ve never done any SEO work, there’s probably lots of traffic out there waiting for you, regardless of what vertical you operate in.
So, you decide to enlist the help of one of the many hundreds thousands* of SEO companies out there in the UK (*look, I’ve not counted but it really wouldn’t surprise me). The big question is, how the hell do you choose?
Well, the normal answer to a blog post like this is get a recommendation, check previous work, get references, decide based on your budget, remember going local might be cheaper blah blah blah. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all true, but I just wanted to give a few quick tips to help you dismiss SEO companies quickly, without having to spend too much time doing all of the above.
1) Ignore SEO companies that send short spam emails
Of course, you know this already right? Presumably though, some people do contact these dimwits to ask about SEO services or they wouldn’t keep spamming! Just in case you’ve never received these emails, here are a couple of examples:
Increase traffic to your website
We would like to get your website on first page of Google.
All of our processes use the most ethical “white hat” Search Engine Optimization techniques that will not get your website banned or penalized.
Please reply and I would be happy to send you a proposal.
We are interested to increase traffic to your website, please get back to us in order to discuss the possibility in further detail.
I mean, it’s really shoddy stuff. But just in case you were tempted to drop them a line, trust me and don’t.
2) Ignore SEO companies that send longer, more complex spam emails
There seems to be an early pattern developing here, don’t you think? Earlier this week, the following email dropped into my colleague Simon’s inbox. Unlike the short SEO spam emails, these are designed to really put the frighteners on webmasters and companies, which in many ways is even worse. Have a read for yourself anyway:
My name is Malcolm Wright. A senior search consultant at SEO Doctors, which is part of an SEO Group that has been established for over 10 years. Excuse the unusual approach, however I am writing to inform you that I recently visited your website, xxxx.com, during a routine survey of web sites which may be capable of higher search engine performance, resulting in an increase in online sales or leads. I hope this information may be of use to you, if not then I apologise for any inconvenience caused.
I took the liberty to do some research on your website, and uncovered some interesting points. This may interest you, since it appears that you are trying to gain new business through your website, like most of your competitors.
From my initial observations, your website is probably underperforming in the major search engines such as – Google, Yahoo, and Bing (formerly MSN Livesearch). When searching on a topic, you probably are aware that most people don’t look past the first page of search results. I struggled to find you in the first couple of pages of Google, meaning that you could be losing out on a significant amount of business. As such I did a bit more digging.
After checking the search engines, I ran a back-link check on your site. Back-links are the number of times your site is linked through another website. Your website has 14 back-links, meaning it’s not very popular. Back-links also help build your site’s Google Pagerank score which show’s how trustworthy your site is. Right now your site has a Google Pagerank score of 2/10, which is probably one of the main reasons why your site isn’t showing up in the first page of the search results.
The final check I applied on your site was page indexing. The more pages your site has indexed with good content and unique keywords, the higher you will rank. Right now, your site has only 424 pages indexed by Google, which is quite low. This can be down to many reasons which we can help resolve.
So, here’s a recap of my findings on your site:
- Your Google Pagerank is 2/10
- You have 14 back-links
- Your website has 424 pages indexed
I’m going somewhere with all this… I wanted to do my homework and research your website because I wanted to show you that I have applied some research in to your website before contacting you with my proposal. We are in the business of doing three things for your website:
1) Diagnosing and fixing all issues with your website
2) Ranking your site to the top of the search results, and
2) Significantly increasing your online revenue levels.
What we do is simple:
SEO is not rocket science as many would suspect. It takes a lot of man hours in hard work and research, something a lot of companies out there, just aren’t prepared to do without charging thousands per month. We are different, because we tackle every single issue with your website that effects how the search engines perceive you, through a combination of expert consultancy and direct work. Thereafter. putting you on the first page of search results in major search engines by working on your site month on month for a minimum period of 12 months. It’s a no-nonsense approach that cuts through marketing fluff to the core of what it takes to get a site to the top. We know what that is. We know how to do it.
The reason why I’m so confident about that is because we have done it before . Our clients are very happy:Financial Advisers UK, Dubai Properties, Gravel, Health Store, Van Hire, Fire Extinguishers, Coffee Machines, Swimwear, Limo Hire, Mortgage Advisers UK, and more – all are on the first page of search results and are very competitive keyphrases. We put them there. We’re so confident that we’ll put you on the first page that we will refund your money if we don’t achieve what we promise.
With pricing starting from as little as £35 per month to promote a profitable search phrase per month, your website is too important to let it go to waste, especially when UK online sales were up by 30% to £59.8 Billion compared to last year. Don’t forget we back our work with a money back guarantee.
If you are genuinely serious about improving your online revenues and want professional SEO as it should be done for a flat monthly fee, please visit our service website at www.seo-doctors.co.uk which provides more details about our excellent service and a call back form. See a selection of our excellent testomonials and example results achieved recently on behalf of our esteemed clients.
Alternatively, if you prefer to discuss your requirements over the phone, then please don’t hesitate to contact me on 0844 7404951 and press Option 1 or simply reply to this mail with a convenient time to call you.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Senior Search Consultant
Providing SEO for clinets since 1999
The only thing he got close was the number of pages indexed. He’s stated the Google PR of the site in question to be 2 when it’s 4 (yeah, I know it doesn’t matter, but he’s not even stated it correctly) and the 14 backlinks is more like 1,500. The site in question also ranks very well for all the major terms we want to target and has done for a very long time; if “Malcolm” looked in any keyword data tool (even ones that require lots of salt) for the major terms in our vertical, he would have seen that.
Their website is predictably awful and of course they’ve purposely blocked all spiders via robots.txt, because they want to. Genius. The domain is new and registered to The Web Clinic Limited, whose website looks slightly more reputable, but now you know otherwise, right? Incidentally, I was tempted to call the phone number in the email but just couldn’t be bothered, so feel free to try and let me know the results
Anyway, suffice to say, I would ignore any SEO company who spams you with crap like this, regardless of how scary it sounds. You’ll thank me in the end, I promise.
3) Ignore SEO companies that cold call
Oooh, I can hear some SEO’s gasping in desperation at the harshness of this advice. After all, going out and getting business is a legitimate way of making a living, right? Well, I suppose, but if you have time to be making cold calls offering services people don’t need, you’re obviously not busy enough doing SEO for your clients in my opinion.
OK, let me revise this slightly then. Ignore SEO companies who repeatedly cold call you offering services, even when you’ve told them you’re not interested. I mean honestly, if they can’t follow basic instructions like “stop calling me”, how the hell are they effectively going to optimise your website?
A favourite trick of SEO cold callers is to pick a term that no one in the world has ever searched for, and tell you that you don’t rank for it. Conversations often go something like this:
SEO Company: I tried searching for “white 5xl summer polo shirts” and your site didn’t appear on Google!
Us: Well, we rank 1st for “polo shirts”
SEO Company: Ummmm….
Us: We also rank 1st for “white polo shirts”
SEO Company: Ummmm….
Us: And “5XL Polo Shirts”
SEO Company: Ummmm….
That’s honestly pretty typical. I think one SEO company cold called once and said we didn’t rank for “hawaiian beach shorts”; we don’t even sell them! Just to continue my naming and shaming, there is one particular company who will not stop calling the offices where I work. They go by the name of Smart Traffic and have consistently called every week for several months. If you’re reading this, please stop!
4) Don’t worry if your SEO company doesn’t rank for SEO terms in Google
Terms like “SEO Company” and “Search Engine Optimisation” actually have pretty low search volume compared to most revenue generating e-commerce terms, yet the rankings are very competitive due to the aforementioned number of SEO companies out there. So, I wouldn’t really place any weight on the ability of an SEO company to rank for these terms. It’s probably not a bad thing if they’re spending more time ranking their clients for high traffic terms and less time ranking themselves for low traffic terms.
The only caveat I would place on that is that any SEO company you choose must be able to rank for their own brand name. This will sound like a no-brainer to most, but you might be surprised how many don’t, for various reasons. So, just Google the name of the SEO company you’re considering, and as long as they rank 1st for their name, that’s all you need to judge from the perspective of how their site ranks.
5) Don’t accept a generic SEO action plan or proposal document
This is another one many SEO companies won’t like, but let me explain. After you have selected an SEO company who you are seriously considering working with, the next thing they will do is produce a proposal document detailing how they intend to effectively implement SEO on your site. Now, if you’re a huge multi-national, this will include a vast amount of detailed information relating directly to your site. As every SEO company knows, you can’t land large clients with generic proposals; you have to provide actionable intention information from the very start. Effectively, they have to give SEO advice for free in order to land such a contract. This applies regardless of the size or reputation of the SEO company in question; big multi-nationals are generally not run by idiots and they need to see value for money.
However, if you’re a small SME just starting out with SEO on your website, your proposal document will often (and sadly) be very much different. In many cases, you’ll be handed a wad of paper regarding the SEO services provided by the company in question and the only personalised content on it will be your logo and company name, the amount you’ll be paying and the services you’ll be provided with. They’ll be no actual specifics about how the SEO company in question will improve your website.
Do you know what I would do if I was presented with a document like this? Walk the hell away.
Now look, I’m not saying any SEO company should write a unique proposal for every small client. In any business, proposals take time and you can’t win every client you pitch to. But if the SEO company in question can’t even be bothered to provide a reasonable amount of information related directly to your site, then do you really think they’ll have time to optimise it properly when the time comes?
Unfortunately, there are SEO companies who feel a good reputation and previous results is enough to justify providing generic proposals. My advice would be to vote with your feet; there are plenty of good SEO companies out there who are ready, willing and able to give your SEO campaign the attention it deserves and a personalised proposal document is a very good indicator of this. So bear this in mind next time you receive a crappy generic SEO proposal
If you’ve any more “non-standard SEO company choosing advice” then please post a comment below; all input is welcome. I’m off to watch The Derby (c’mon City); thought I’d better post this now in case I’m in a bad mood afterwards