We all get the spam, “GET FOUND IN GOOGLE IN 24 HOURS!  we’LL get you 1500 links today!” Does it work? Or is it like the Herbal Pills to increase the size of your penis?  Like anything else there wouldn’t be a market if there wasn’t demand, but not all consultants and techniques have the same level of results.

There are two major ways to drive traffic via Google, Yahoo, and Bing.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).  SEO is all about moving your site up the ranks in search results.  SEM is all about putting ads along search results to get viewers to your site.  Both of these methods have their advantages and disadvantages, which is why typically you need to balance the approach.

SEO takes time, there is nothing most sites can do that will overnight double their traffic.  SEO requires that you build web pages that look good to the search engines not just to your users.  This requires more than just a good graphics designer, but a good HTML Coder.  “Cleaning up” after Web design programs can take hours or days depending on how many page templates your site has and so it can be expensive, but the result is worth it.  Pages that render correctly in more browsers, that Search engines can read and understand, and often pages that load faster.  These result in more traffic, that is better targeted and more likely to have a better experience.  SEO is also about “Link building” but not all links are equal, and getting links through “Link Buying” can result in your site being de-listed from Google or others.  Being De-Listed will mean you get no traffic from Google, which can put a site out of business.

SEM is nearly instantaneous.  You can buy ads that run every time someone searches for “hotdog” and with in an hour your Ad will be up on Google.  The downside to SEM is that you will pay for every visitor who comes to your site through your ad.  Ad prices vary in price based on the keyword you are buying against, how relevant Google thinks the contents of the page you are linking to is to the keyword.  This why working with an expert makes such a big difference.  If Google scores your page a 1 out of 10 your ad click price will be up to 40x the price of an ad with a quality score of 10.  In addition getting the text of your ad optimized can make sure that only people actually interested in your site click on your ad.  Because you pay for every click you don’t want copy that when a user searches iPod says “Free stuff for everyone” might get clicks but if when they get there they find out the free stuff is a travel sized tooth paste you will have paid for that traffic and not likely have gotten many good leads from the ad.

So how do you know if the company you are working with is “Good” at what they do?  Bait them.  There are some common things that Scam SEO sites routinely do that many will almost brag about, so rather than asking if they do anything “black hat” ask if they do any of the following things in a “coy” way. 

“How much of what you are quoting will be spent on buying links”

“What directory sites will I expect to see my site in”

Most SEO’s who do bad things are going to fall for one of these two traps.  Unless the answer is we don’t do either of these things RUN! Once you get into negotiations you will want to have some metrics which you will use to evaluate their work.  Often SEO Scammers will buy cheap traffic to demonstrate how they have helped their clients.  Using Google Analytics or even just Alexa you can check what percentage of your traffic is from each country.  While the Alexa Numbers are not “perfect” by any stretch of the imagination they will tell you if things change.  Typically if Alexa says your traffic is 1% from India, and after you hire an SEO it is 10% india, you know that the traffic you are receiving isn’t from the US.  Similarly if Google says your traffic is up 30% but Alexa shows no change, likely your SEO is using robots to run your page views up, if Alexa is up 90% but Google is only up 10% they are using a different set of robots.

And how much should this cost?  Prepare to be shocked.  SEO is not cheap.  Anyone who is any good at it is making money on affiliate programs, creating “Google Bait” and doing other things to pay the rent.  As a result most Legit SEO’s are going to quote $300-$500 an hour, but you need to make sure you are getting billed for hours that make sense to be billed for. Not “Lawyer Style” where your SEO was thinking about you driving in the car and billed you for 20 minutes.  When working with clients I typically quote in advance this is what we are going to do this is how long it will take, and if I can do it 20% faster great for me, if it takes 20% longer you don’t pay any extra.

Some clients want weekly or monthly reports on how their website is doing, we provide those, but I would tell most people shopping for an SEO that you make sure that you know what you are going to get in value from these reports, that you can’t get from the dashboard of Google.  So look for things like:

“Reputation Monitoring” where an SEO will let you know when good or bad news about your site hits the blogosphere or press. 

“Search Ranking” Monitoring key traffic drivers for to your site and where you Rank in Search for them.

“Page Two’s” these are terms which your site is on the second page of results for and could likely see significant increases in traffic from by moving those results to the first page.

The most important thing to remember when looking for an SEO is to find someone who makes you feel comfortable.  There are a lot of used car salesman selling snake oil, so if it sounds to good to be true it probably is, and if an SEO can’t tell you how or why something works it probably doesn’t.

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