Search Engine Optimizers

Search Engine Optimizers (SEO) provide useful services for website owners including writing copy, giving advice on site architecture, and helping to find relevant directories to submit a website.  However, there are a few unethical SEOs who have given the industry a bad name through their aggressive marketing techniques and trying to manipulate search engine results.

Here are a few tips to help you choose an SEO that will improve your site’s ranking.    

Be wary of SEO firms that send you email out of the blue.
"Dear, I searched for your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories. We can get you listed in search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, and more!"

No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google, MSN, or Yahoo - Beware of SEO’s that claim to be able to guarantee rankings, or that claim that they have a  "special relationship" or "priority submit path" with search engines. 

Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do - Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or "throwaway" domains, your site could be removed entirely from search engines.  Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to "help" you.

You should never have to link to an SEO - avoid SEOs that talk about the power of "free-for-all" links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that do not affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines.

Some SEOs may try to sell you the ability to type keywords directly into the browser address bar - most such proposals require users to install extra software and very few users do so. Evaluate such proposals with extreme care and be skeptical about the self-reported number of users who have downloaded the required applications.

What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter - one common scam is the creation of "shadow" domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client’s behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor’s domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.

March 1, 2005

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