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SEO Basics for Finding the Best Web Design or SEO Company

It’s important to know what you don’t know before you hire a website developer or SEO firm to work on your website

I recently decided to put to use some of the SEO software tools we regularly utilize when working on keyword research for our clients’ sites or when optimizing their websites for SEO.

I typed in what I thought are basic SEO questions that a lot of business owners regularly wonder about when faced with the prospect of trying to improve their website’s rankings on Google:

  • “What is search engine optimization?”  
  • “What does ‘SEO’ mean?”
  • “How does SEO work?”
  • “What’s the definition of SEO?”
  • “How do I choose the best SEO company?”

I was amazed at the number of keyword combinations surrounding “search engine optimization” or “SEO” – tens of thousands of Internet users type in more than 10,000 different queries each month to get info on these types of questions or to learn how to implement SEO.

And, it’s not surprising. SEO, especially when it comes to optimizing a website for Google, has become extremely complicated in the last several years. Google now uses 200 factors to rank websites, and continues to modify its algorithm to weed out spammy sites and generate the best possible results for its search engine users.  Last Fall, Google announced that its search engine algorithm now incorporates what it calls “RankBrain,” the use of artificial intelligence to help sort through the billions of web pages to determine how websites should be prioritized and ranked.  It’s so complicated that even Google engineers admit they don’t really understand it.

So, why would any business owner need to know what RankBrain is or how Google ranks websites?

Because it’s important to know what you don’t know before you hire a website developer or SEO firm to work on your website.

It would be impossible to teach anyone what they need to know about SEO in the space of one blog article. But, what I can tell you is this:  There are no SEO basics anymore.  There is no magic button.

When the SEO specialists at Pilot Fish started optimizing sites for Google back in 1998, it was pretty easy.  We only had to make sure the client’s important keywords were in the keywords tag. Then, as more businesses caught on, Google modified the algorithm so that the content contained within many more fields also were used to rank sites. Eighteen years after Google’s launch, we’re up to 200 factors that have to be considered.      

Committing oneself to optimizing a website – REALLY, REALLY optimizing a website – is hard work, and requires doing some big things and many more little things right.  And, why shouldn’t it be hard?

If your company sells “replacement windows,” did you know that there are 126 MILLION web pages on Google about replacement windows?

Google has to have a way to organize those 126 million web pages so that 10 lucky websites show up on the first page of Google when you type in “replacement windows” and the rest are ordered after that.

So, here’s a basic list of considerations in your quest to improve the SEO for your website:

  1. Accept what you don’t know and look for an expert to help. Unfortunately, that’s not the easiest task either as many website developers will claim to be experts who are able to optimize your site, when really all they know how to do is to fill in some basic fields that are just a small portion of the overall algorithm.  Check out this article I wrote a while ago that offers questions to ask an SEO firm.
  2. Why are you looking for help?  Are you trying to redesign an old, ugly website or are you trying to improve SEO to generate leads for your business?  Understanding the difference between these two questions is critical to selecting the right web partner for your business. If the answer is “both,” then you want to be sure to include an SEO specialist, who can guide important design decisions that can impact SEO and who can take care of those 200 factors right from the start as the site is being built so that you don’t have to backtrack later and try to fix a site that just isn’t working for you.  If being higher up in Google rankings isn’t important, then any web developer you like can probably take care of your site for you.
  3. Take inventory of your in-house capabilities. Before you get started interviewing web design or SEO companies, you’ll need to have an understanding of what you really need, based on what internal resources you can provide.  For instance, do you have a dedicated marketing or website person who is or can be involved in updating your site on a regular basis? Can that person write good content about your company? Can he/she edit the website themselves? Can they edit the graphic design? Are you looking to have a website or SEO firm manage all the content development and site edits for your website in addition to SEO or do you already have someone that regularly adds new content and updates your site?  Having an understanding of your in-house capabilities and gaps will help you determine whether you need to look for a website developer, an SEO specialist, or a company that can provide full-service website design, maintenance and SEO services.
  4. What’s your SEO budget? It’s important to be realistic about what you can and want to spend for SEO vs. what it costs.  Go back to the example above about replacement windows.  What’s it worth to you to be on the 1st page of Google when your site would be competing against 126 million results?  If your site isn’t currently on the first page of Google for any terms, then it’s hard to quantify the value.  But, I can tell you that our clients who are on Page 1 find those search rankings to be gold when it comes to traffic and lead generation.  Consider your website to be an inside salesperson making cold calls.  How much are you willing to pay to get X number of leads a month?  The cost of SEO will vary depending on the size of your site and the market in which it operates, the breadth of products and services for which you’re trying to earn top Google rankings and the current condition of your site from an SEO perspective.   
  5. Do you and your web partner understand the commitment to SEO? Earning higher rankings on Google requires an ongoing commitment to SEO. So, hiring a freelance developer or someone who “does it on the side” to “fix things up” probably isn’t the best choice as your site will need regular attention to on-page content and off-page link building for your site to have a real chance at better SEO performance.  
  6. Don’t let the uncertainties hold you back.  If you know that your website needs help, don’t push off the decision to get expert SEO help until you “have more time” to figure everything out.  Because, truthfully, that day will never come.  Use this list of questions to interview potential website and SEO firms and then trust your business judgment to make the right decision.  You’ll be one day closer to having a website that’s well-optimized and ready to start generating more business for you.

For assistance with your website redesign or SEO project, contact Pilot Fish or call 877-799-9994 ext. 2102.  

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