Usability-first Search Engine Optimization

What (Not) to Look for in an SEO Company

Search visibility can be very profitable for any business, but equally important is how it’s achieved.

Potential SEO client

What to avoid: keyword spam and content-farmed backlinks

A closer look at the websites of many SEO companies—and their clients—shows that without keyword spam, they’re often left only with massive—and often weak—backlink campaigns and exaggerated search visibility guidelines taken out of context as their main strategies.

Also watch out for:

  • Monthly maintenance plans: These default plans are usually much more beneficial to SEO companies—not their clients. There are exceptions, but that’s what they are; exceptions.

    If you continue to make payments, be sure to know what you’re paying for—and make sure it isn’t content farm linking campaigns.
  • Mini-sites: Mini-sites drive traffic from one or more exact-match domain websites to a main company website.

    This is frowned upon by Google, and according to Matt Cutts, exact-match domain names will be losing more search result favoritism in the near future.

    There are legitimate uses for mini-sites, but driving traffic from exact-match domains isn’t one of them.
  • Other tricks such as passing off HTML validation as an SEO benefit and other lies that SEO salesmen love to tell.

Why do the overwhelming majority of SEO companies use tactics that are below par? Because doing it right takes more time, staff, and know-how, and doing in wrong “justifies” what they love to call monthly maintenance.

Why avoid the cheap SEO tactics?

Getting to the top of the rankings is important, as long as you aren’t sacrificing your website’s content or brand reputation.

While spammy, “over-optimized” sites might rank for their keyword targets (for a while), often the results are achieved with some collateral damage: Content modified with unnatural, keyword-repeating text and unintuitive and user-unfriendly navigation structure can kill the user-experience, and scream “unethical company, run!“.

Results are also often short-lived, as sketchy backlink strategies typically involve content farms passed off as “article marketing”, which expose reputation-damaging associations with what amount to as basically Web spam.

What to look for in an SEO company (or any company working on your website)

The areas of Web development that should never be ignored or tarnished with any search visibility initiative are the following:

  • Web content strategy
  • User-centric content marketing and copywriting.
  • Web usability
  • Information architecture
  • Conversion optimization
  • Web standards

Look for a company that demonstrates proficiency in these areas—they have profound effects on competitive search visibility, and if focus on them is lost, eventually, so might be your search rankings.

About matt

Matthew Edward is the founder of Springboard SEO, a usability-first search engine optimization company in Montreal.