Has your site been hit by Google Panda/Penguin algorithm updates and your SEO (agency/company/employee/guru/swami) can’t reallllllly tell you why? Are you paying your SEO (agency/company/employee/guru/swami) thousands of dollars a month and not exactly sure what they’re doing? Is your SEO putting your company at risk of taking a nosedive in search, losing most of your traffic and setting you up to have to lay off your staff and shut the doors?
Before you answer that:
Take this simple quiz
Does your SEO:
- Build content for the purpose of attracting search engines? [yes] [no]
- Report primarily on keyword rankings? [yes] [no]
- Seem to always only have good news (but are eerily quiet when search traffic dips)? [yes] [no]
- Engage in massive linking campaigns, building gobs of meaningless links to your content from splogs and directories that no one really visits (especially your target audiences)? [yes] [no]
- Sending traffic to your pages by any means necessary? [yes] [no] [no idea (most people dont)]
If you said yes to any of those I’m going to ask you to think real hard about this for a second: Would you rather fire your agency or lay off your staff?
I’ve seen big companies with nice people lose significant traffic and have to lay off staff after being penalized for practices above – either their SEO was doing it without disclosing the practice, without disclosing the risk, or the company was doing it simply because it
works worked. I implore you to take this very seriously if your site depends on search traffic.
Ack! So, what should my SEO be doing?
Below is what your SEO should be delivering instead of the practices above. Make your own decision as to whether or not to fire them as fast as you can and look for ways to start digging yourself out before you get penalized.
PROVIDE VALUABLE CONTENT.
Content built just for search engines is typically thin, not very valuable to your audiences, and the type of stuff that can set you up to be penalized. Content that is valuable to your audiences is also more likely to be shared and attract links naturally.
What your SEO should be doing: Building content that focuses on attracting, engaging and converting your audiences through the search channel. Not sure if you’ve got that? Look at your content and ask yourself (be honest!) if you feel confident it would pass this set of quality content questions posed by Google.
MEASURE WHAT MATTERS.
Rankings are the SEO measurement of 1998. Rankings tell you nothing about what happened on the site, if the visitor was engaged, if they converted.
What your SEO should be doing: Reporting on traffic and conversion from the search channel for the topics your audiences care about the most.
TELL YOU THE OBJECTIVE TRUTH, EVEN IF IT HURTS.
SEOs that only have good news are likely hiding something. Good news is not hard to come by in SEO since it’s not uncommon for a few simple tweaks to significantly boost search traffic. But the reality is that things fluctuate, and your SEO doesn’t want to look bad when that happens (even though oftentimes traffic dips are beyond their control).
What your SEO should be doing: Providing honest and objective insights, and report on the bad times as well as the good.
HELP YOU FIGURE OUT HOW TO PROMOTE NATURAL LINKS.
Link building can take a lot of forms and is fodder for controversy, but here’s the deal: If search engines tell you don’t do it, don’t do it. Despite Google’s years of warnings, as of right now, link building still works (although there’s fodder that Penguin was a hit on websites engaging in that practice). It’s a hugely popular SEO tactic – any SEO can look good to their clients if they can get their client’s content to rank (especially when they’re only reporting on rankings), and it’s typically way easier to build some links than to build content that attracts links naturally. But what happens when the Google starts penalizing those sites? Have you ever tried to do unlinking? There’s a reason why it’s becoming a more popular topic as of late.
What your SEO should be doing: Working with you to find ways to naturally promote content and/or create content that is naturally promotable. Beyond that, if you must build links, do it at your own risk (although we’d consider taking a good look at your product and marketing and determining what it needs to compete instead).
AVOID UNETHICAL WAYS OF SENDING TRAFFIC FOR TRAFFIC’S SAKE.
What your SEO should be doing: Disclosing any and all tactics they’re doing to drive traffic and links. If you’re not sure if it’s an ethical tactic, ask around on SEOmoz forums – you’ll likely get great advice there.
Before you fire your SEO…
If you’re concerned about any of these issues, sit down with your SEO company and have a chat. Some tactics have very gray areas (link building especially), so don’t rush to any judgements before taking a good look at what is actually going on. I know plenty of fine SEOs who look at ways of “building links” as naturally as possible, most commonly through normal content marketing and awareness campaigns.
Good luck out there, and I hope to never see your website smeared across the forums, the industry threads and the New York Times for getting torched because of your SEO.
PS. For a highly vetted list of recommended companies, see this recommended SEO companies list at SEOmoz.