Choosing SEO Consultants

  • lisette
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  • lisette
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Greetings,

For the past 12 months I have been struggling with an e-commerce business. I know much more today than I did a year ago but I have come to the conclusion that SEO is a full time job and with all the other things I must do to run my business, I just can't do it alone. My conclusion: I need to hire an SEO consultant. But who to hire?

I hear so many conflciting things about SEO; Dynamically coded pages do not work as well HTML coded pages. No one can promise top 10 listings but all the SEO firms advertise top 10 placement. Meta titles are more important than meta keywords, etc. etc., etc.

My shopping cart software is from Monster Commerce and I host with them as well. The shopping cart software is dynamically coded but they generate an HTML catalogue of the entire site that is supposed to take care of Search Engine friendliness. They have an SEO department but I am not sure they are the best outfit to hire for SEO. Does anyone have any experience with them?

Internet Advancement cold called me selling their SEO services which is how I found OZZU. I did a Google search on Internet Advancement and learned very quickly that they were less than ethical. I feel it's a jungle out there with lots of folks ready to take your money and what little money I do have I must spend very carefully.

In one of the posts I found on OZZU, someone recommended bruceclay.com and sagerock.com. I phoned bruceclay but no one has returned my call. Got a reply from sagerock and am considering using them.

Feedback, thoughts? Thanks.
  • Jess
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  • Loc: USA

Post 3+ Months Ago

Hiya Lisette

When choosing a SEO consultant I would ALWAYS reccomend asking them for a list of past clients and contact details for them. If they are a reputable firm they would have no worries about giving you these details.

Ask their past clients questions like -

Did the SEO consultant communicate effectively?
Could you get hold of them when you wanted to?
Did they use and risky tactics to get you ranked?
Did they achieve what they claimed they would when "selling" it to you?
What results were actually achieved ... etc.

What people say and what people do can often be two very different things so it's always best to check them out before parting with your money or making that final decision.

Good Luck!
  • ctrenks
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  • ctrenks
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Post 3+ Months Ago

read a lot and do your own work is the best time/money spent unless you have a non compeditive site you just want to have done quick and the price is good.
  • Axe
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Post 3+ Months Ago

lisette wrote:
Dynamically coded pages do not work as well HTML coded pages.

That's not necessarily true. Without modification, yes, many dynamically generated pages will not index as well as HTML (or at all).

It is very possible to get dynamically generated pages not only indexed , but potentially performing better than static HTML pages (mostly due to the ease with which you can create a high volume of page URLs from a database vs. hand-coding lots of static HTML files). At least, that's what I've experienced developing large dynamic PHP/MySQL sites over the past several years. It's possible to get the same results with static HTML, but much more work - imho.

This "Monster Commerce" you mention doesn't look too impressive to me from a spidering standpoint (based on the fact that it's an ASP script). PHP can very easily be turned into a search-engine friendly format, even if dynamic. ASP seems to have a little harder of a time. I use Google a couple of hundred times a day, and I rarely see .asp files coming up in the results, very rarely. I see PHP files coming up all the time.

With PHP sites powered by Apache, you can also do a lot of mod_rewrite work to produce HTML-like URLs (just as this forum has done). With an ASP site powered by IIS or whatever on a Windows machine, similar techniques are doable, but from what I gather much more difficult (I'm not sure if Apache on windows allows you to use ASP, but I would imagine the mod_rewrite stuff would work with ASP if Apache allows it).

Basically, dynamically generated sites allow you to potentially get a LOT of pages up quickly, with minimal work. I've got one site that generates half a dozen content pages per day - without giving too much away, it basically generates them from content information that already exists in the database. Which content it pulls for those pages is based almost completely on the browsing activities of people on the site.

But, as I said, they're content pages, they're pages people are actually wanting to load in their browsers, and they're pages that the search engines can see, index and follow.

Aside from the generally interactive nature of dynamic sites (user registration, shopping carts, etc) that's the main advantage of a dynamic database driven site. It can get you a lot of content in a short space of time, with relatively minimal work.

I do all my SEO myself. Some things I've figured out for myself, some things I've learned right here on Ozzu, and some things I've picked up from articles located in various sites around the web, other forums, and even from Government sites (like the PTO where you can find Google's patent applications, etc).

I've never hired an SEO to do work for me, so I can't answer Jess's questions with relation to recommending an SEO company, but I can tell you how I would answer them for myself, and you may use those answers to help you decide if another company may be right for you based on their answers about themselves.

Jess wrote:
Did the SEO consultant communicate effectively [and] when you wanted to?

I've combined these two questions into one, because to me they fall under the same category. The first step to communicating effectively is communicating at all. Communication is key to a good and effective relationship between yourself and your SEO (or any other employee, contractor, subcontractor or other relationship you have with regard to your business). When I'm dealing with clients, I talk to them regularly on the phone, through E-Mail, as well as a support/trouble ticket system for my client and their staff (this is based on a heavily modified phpBB system).

Jess wrote:
Did they use and risky tactics to get you ranked?

This is something I'd never do - either for my own sites or clients. Risky tactics are called risky for a reason. Sure, they may have some short-term benefits, but they can seriously mess you up long-term. You make great sales or get good exposure for a few months, and all of a sudden you wake up to find that Google (or whoever) has penalized your site, and your traffic drops to almost nothing because you no longer appear in search results. It's just not worth the risk.

Jess wrote:
Did they achieve what they claimed they would when "selling" it to you?

I never promise anything that is beyond my control. The work you do for one client may very well get them that #1 spot for their chosen keyword, but that exact same identical work for another client in another industry may only get them a #57 position. I explain to my client what I will do for their site, and what benefits it may provide, and what it has done for sites in the past. I do not make any guarantees, as I have no control over Google's search results (or Yahoo, MSN, AltaVista, etc). Yes, I may know the techniques to get that #1 spot, and have the ability to implement them, but Google has a habit of changing its mind on an almost daily basis, and as you've pointed out, it can be a full-time job in certain markets.

To me, the techniques I do, as far as the business is concerned, is no different than advertising in the yellow pages. Buying a full page in the phone book vs. a business card sized advertisement isn't necessarily going to guarantee that you get more business, but it still costs a LOT more money.

It's a risk that a business is (many businesses are) willing to take, and hope it pays off. SEO, in many ways, is the same thing. That's why I don't make guarantees or promises - and I explain to them what I've said above, about why I don't make any promises. I explain to them what I can do for them (in a technical sense), what that will definitely accomplish (again, in a technical aspect), what the potential is (in the SERPs, but no guarantees), and what it will cost them. Then they either accept the risk or they don't - or we work out some kind of deal in the middle.

OK, that was kinda long, and if you've managed to make it this far, I hope it's helped you out some :)
  • lisette
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  • lisette
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Thanks for the feedback.

As Jess suggested...

I have done a bit of background checking on the various SEO companies that I am considering using and without going into all the various details, nobody comes through with a shining star.

2 examples; I tracked down an Internet Advancement (IA) client, (IA made the papers with a class action lawsuit about fraudulent business practices), and she thought IA had helped her get better placement -- and she does have top 10 placement on Yahoo & Google with at least 1 keyword phrase that IA implemented. Sagerock has lots of great press but a Google search on many keywords and phrases they used for an SEO client turned up no 1st, 2nd, 3rd or even 4th page placement. Plus, Sagerock's prices are awfully high for someone like me. They charge $1000 just to audit a PPC campaign ($750 for 5 hours of work and $250 for software).

After many months of just a trickle of business at my online store, in late May the planets aligned and somehow I got great placement with a few of my products on Yahoo. How I did this I do not know (I did a bit of link exchanging with Webrings.com, don't know if this had anything to do with it. Any feedback on Webrings?). Business was growing each week with decent conversion rates. Then on July 19th Yahoo changed and my site disappeared. I thought I, myself, had done something to screw it up but was told that lots of people fell off that day because Yahoo changed its algorithms. How I wish I could back to before July 19th!

Strangely, another Monster Commerce site seemed to take my place, the same spot for the same product. I took a look at this site's code which as far as I could tell (my little knowledge is a dangerous thing) was not as keyword rich, or as "optimized" as mine. I asked 2 people at Monster about this and got 2 different answers. Tech support couldn't understand why I got knocked off as my site was more "developed"; and the Monster SEO people told me that they could not answer the question without knowing what else the site may be doing for SEO and/or advertising.

This leads me to the question:

Does one need to re-submit a site to search engines each month?

I've heard you can submit up to 2 times a month and I've also heard that you should never re-submit unless your site falls off as resubmission can be read as spam.

As Axe suggested...

The ASP format can be problematic for search engines (I've heard this a few times), but the HTML catalogue that is generated also from the Monster Shopping Cart software is not ASP but HTML. When someone does a keyword search and my site shows up, what they click onto is the HTML catalogue for that specific product. The customer then has the option of clicking into the store.

:scratchhead: Forgive my ignorance but what is PHP/MySQL? A year ago I didn't even know what a URL was! As I said in my first post, I have come along way but have oh so far to go.

Don't know how much time you guys have to educate me in the world of SEO and ecommerce but here are a few more questions:

1. Is it really possible to maintain top 10 placement or is placement just something that fluctuates?
2. Does using PPC campaigns help ranking?
3. Is link exchanging more important than SEO?
4. Would doing link exchanges with Webrings.com be considered risky and cause me to be penalized ?
5. Are affiliate programs a good thing?

Of course I have many more questions but will stop here hoping that someone will have the time to respond. Before I give my hard earned dollars to someone for SEO I need to make sure that I understand what can and cannot be accomplished -- and if SEO is really where I should be focusing my efforts.

Your help is greatly appreciated. :rudolf:

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