If you own an e-commerce website, you’ve likely been contacted by one or more search engine optimization firms pointing out weaknesses in your website and offering their search engine optimization services. While there are plenty of reputable search engine specialists in the market, there are also a fair share of scam-like operations.
If a website specialist is offering to design a website for you, one of the first questions to ask is who owns the website address. Believe it or not, some firms want you to pay them to develop a website that they ultimately own. If you have a falling out with them later on, they really don’t care. You have paid develop their business.
It’s not that hard to register your own url, so make sure that you or a trusted party do it, keep the passwords, and make sure you renew it each year.
Another favorite tactic of scammers is to point out the high rankings they have achieved for obscure search terms. With all due respect, it would not be that hard to gain ranking for a term such as “Birmingham Alabama dry cleaning company” because nobody else is fighting very hard for it anyway. Sit up and take note, however, if an SEO firm has achieved top ranking for a highly sought after term such as “search engine optimization.”
I blogged my way to the front page of Google in one week for the name of one of my colleagues. His name was fairly common, and there was a building on the campus of Yale University, plus a non-profit organization, which shared it. But we were still able to achieve a number five ranking in a relatively short period of time, because nobody was really fighting for ranking on that particular search phrase.
Ask the SEO expert for the web addresses of some of their top sites, then check out those sites on marketleap.com. If the SEO has done a really good job, the sites should have good search engine saturation (that means they should have a number of pages indexed on the various search engines) and a number of incoming links. Alexa ranking and MOZ ranking are some other good barometers of success to check in evaluating an SEO firm.
Even if all these things are positive, any telemarketing SEO firm has one huge strike against it: they called you. An SEO firm that is incredibly successful will be very busy, and can charge a premium price for their services. They will take the time to talk if you call, and are likely to even give you some tips. But they don’t have to beat the bushes for business, because they have business coming out their ears.
One premium SEO firm I checked with wouldn’t touch a website for less than $14,000 per year, and that was several years ago. Another asked for $4500 down and $1500 per month. For many e-commerce sites, it is worth that type of money to achieve top ranking for a search term. But SEO firms that can’t even achieve top ranking in their sample sites, and have to spend a good share of their time telemarketing, probably aren’t worth their salt.
While most webmasters would be delighted to achieve top ranking for their search terms, don’t jump on the bandwagon of the first SEO firm that comes a long. It takes quite a bit of knowledge and work to achieve good rankings, which is why top SEO firms can command such premium prices. If you have more time than money, you may be able to achieve good rankings by putting in time yourself. But if you want to hire an SEO firm, make sure your hard-earned dollars go to a specialist that really delivers results.