This blog is part two of a three-part series on how to identify a bad SEO company. View part one here.
1. Massive Search Engine Submissions
“We will submit your site to 1,000 search engines!” You see it in almost every SEO claim. Big deal. This is something that is simply not worth paying for. Your site will not be relevant to the “1,000” micro-market search engines that few people use anyhow
The truth is, a well-done site does not even need to be submitted to the major search engines. In fact, Google, Yahoo, MSN, advise that frequent or over submitting to search engines will hurt you. And, submitting your site does not speed up the process or guarantee it will be picked up. Think of site submission as sending a post-it note to Google to stick on their wall of millions of "to visit" websites.
Besides, there are so many free services online to one-click submit to multiple search engines you can do it yourself for free in a matter of seconds. (But I recommend against this!)
2. Hundreds (or Thousands) of Links to Your Site
Any links you get from such claims are more likely to hurt your site than to help it.
Spend time building your own quality in-bound links. The best way to get links is simple: offer meaningful content (and lots of it), and control who promotes your products and services.
Another tip: Do not put low-quality links on your own site and avoid reciprocal linking. Robots are smart and know when you are trying to cheat the system!
3. Avoid Companies That Ask for Copyrights to SEO and Meta Data
If at all possible, do not do business with anyone that insists on retaining copyrights to any and all meta data they create, edit, or analyze for you. If they retain or have this right assigned to them, they can legally bar you from using it, or totally strip your site.
Unfortunately, some states (including California) have bad copyright laws that make transfer of ownership under "Work for Hire" agreements illegal unless the creator is treated as an employee. This means you may have to purchase workers' comp and other insurance to be allowed to receive the copyrights. (Call your states' department of insurance and ask if there are any copyright-based insurance laws in your own state.)
But even when there are no laws that prohibit copyrights (or fall unto Work for Hire copyright laws) it is a fairly common practice in the industry for the SEO person/company to ask for copyrights to the SEO data they create for your site.
I find this practice without logic, unnecessary and usually done as a tactic to strong arm people into purchasing more services or staying with the company. (I speak as someone who has done SEO for more than five years and not once had a need to "assert" copyrights).
On most websites meta data can be seen by anyone. Don't believe me? Right click your mouse while on this page and select “View Page Source.” There it is – the “secret” meta data for this web page.
Meta data itself does not contain any “trade secrets.” It is a series of words and descriptions and other things that help your website perform. Your SEO should be 100% unique to your site. Presumably no one else should be able to apply it to their own site and get the same results. And, you cannot sell your own meta data – no one would buy it! So what is there to protect?
It is understandable a company would ask that you not share their techniques with others and have you sign a confidentiality agreement about work they do for you. But if you sign a contract for services without rights to the product (the SEO on your website) you could find yourself in serious trouble.
4. Flat-Rate and Low Monthly Fees to Optimize and Promote Your Website
Truly good SEO is not cheap. SEO consulting alone can cost hundreds of dollars per hour, and in some cases, as much as $1,000 an hour.
Flat-rate, low fees will probably get you little to nothing. It takes long hours to analyze and optimize a website properly. A good company will read your site, study your industry and your competition before even making a price quote or other proposal.
It you cannot afford what it really costs to hire a professional SEO expert, buy a book and learn to do it yourself – you will probably do a better job on your own than a cheap, fly-by-night SEO company.