What Organic SEO Firms Actually Do

When you meet new people one of the first questions that is asked is “What do you do?”. When I tell people that I am a SEO consultant, about half of them know what Search Engine Optimization is and half don’t. It used to be that no one knew what SEO was, however these days, over the last 2 years, awareness of this new discipline has certainly grown.

SEO is the art and science of getting websites ranked in Google

When we say Organic SEO we are talking about getting sites to rank “naturally” without having to pay for a sponsored listing. This is done by aligning the website to the queries that people are typing in and by establishing the website as an authority.

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Why do I say the SEO is both an art and science?

Although it’s a fast changing world, generally there are two parts to the SEO discipline:

Technical SEO: This is the science part of SEO and is often called “on page SEO”. A SEO firm will recommend changes to your website so that it is search engine friendly (which means that the spiders can crawl it easily), and that the pages are aligned to match up with common search queries. Activities here include:

  • Keyword Research – determining the keywords used in queries for your niche.
  • Site architecture analysis – Is your site easily crawled by the spiders? Are your important pages easily reached? Or do you have a lot of duplicate content? Is your navigational links obscured by javascript? Do your images have alt tags?
  • Page optimization – Updating your page titles and H1 tags to be keyword rich.

Linkbuilding or off page optimization: This is the “art” part of SEO and is really akin to marketing. The idea here is to come up with promotions and campaigns that will encourage other websites to link to yours. You can also “place” links to your site by submitting it to directories or by writing articles as a guest author.

Linkbuilding is where the discussion of white hat SEO vs. grey hat SEO and black hat SEO comes in. Linkbuilding is not easy, especially for certain niches, and so to get results, many SEOs engage in dubious techniques. It doesn’t help that these techniques often get results, at least for a while. While white hat techniques can be slower but longer lasting. The most egregious practice is paying for links. JC Penney recently was penalized by Google for a paid linking scheme. I was recently looking at the backlink profile of a financial consultant and planner that I have a lot of respect for. I could tell he had engaged a SEO firm to build up the links to his site, and much of it was fine, but did he really want to be listed in a directory as a debt collector? And does he have any clue that he is?

When you engage a SEO firm to build links for you, you should ask for a list of the new links so you can review them. Here are a couple of things to check for:

  • Make sure you are not listed as a partner or sponsor on a site.
  • Ideally the sites with your link should be relevant to your niche
  • Does the website have a quality feel to it? Or does it seem to add no value?

Trust your gut and air out any concerns with your SEO firm.

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