As online business continues to boom, your placement in the search engine results has become a significant factor. If online bookings or sales are your core business then it really could make or break you.
There is no doubt SEO is a very important part of marketing but not all SEO firms are created equal. Far too often we see websites that are, in terms of SEO, horrible. They are missing the most basic elements, show no real direction and frankly we have to wonder if the site has even been touched in the last few months.
The worst part is that often these businesses will be paying around $2,000 per month for this service! At Kymodo we’ve decided enough is enough so here are some easy ways to make sure you are getting what you pay for.
What you should expect:
- New, quality backlinks
- New content
- Quality title tags and meta descriptions
- Relevant image alt text
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an SEO expert to understand any of this. Below we are going to cover what each of these mean and how you can check it for yourself in just a few minutes (for free!).
Note: Don’t jump to conclusions if you do notice any of the warning signs below. There are valid reasons for each so its always best to give your SEO firm a call and discuss your concerns.
Check Your Backlink Profile
Arguably the most important ongoing task in any SEO, your backlink profile is just a fancy way of referring to the list of websites that link to yours. A link from an external website to yours is referred to as a backlink.
Links from relevant, quality sites suggest to search engines that your website is important and trustworthy. Likewise, links from poor and irrelevant sites tells them that you are probably a poor website yourself.
How to Check
The best way to check your backlinks is using either Majestic SEO’s Majestic Site Explorer or Open Site Explorer by Moz. We currently use Majestic SEO so we’re going to use that for our example today but both will do the job just fine. Unfortunately Majestic does force you to create a free account to use their tools.
What to Look For
After typing your address into the search box and clicking Explore, your report should look something like the image above. For your purposes, the other information provided is fairly irrelevant so lets take a look at the two important factors and what they mean.
The number of external links pointing to your site. This will always be the largest number but not the most important.
This is a count of how many websites are providing those backlinks and is considered to be a more important metric than external backlinks.
What you should see
If your SEO provider claims they are providing link building as part of their strategy, you should see the number of referring domains increase.
There are some instances where this may not happen for some time, particularly if you have just hired a new SEO firm. For example, if there is a lot of onsite optimisation to be done this will generally take preference over link building. If you already have a lot of poor backlinks they may also need to invest a lot of time in removing these as poor links can penalise your site.
Relevant and engaging content gives you a number of important benefits and unless your SEO budget is quite restrictive, you should see new content in the form of updated page content, images, blog content or articles depending on your business.
Quality content gives viewers a reason to stay on your site and this helps to build trust in your brand. It also shows the search engines that you are a legitimate site and provides plenty of opportunity to target the correct keywords.
Frequent blog posts give people a great reason to link back to you and share what you have to say with their own audience.
Quality Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
Title tags tell search engines and users what each page is about while meta descriptions provide the user with a reason to choose your link over others in the search results. Getting these right is a basic part of SEO so if these are missing duplicated you may have reason for concern.
How to Check
For a quick and easy check we like to use Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider. This tool is a quick, free download available for Windows, Mac and Linux though it does only work on the first 500 pages which is more that sufficient for most. Just install this application, put your address in the bar at the top and click Start.
What to Look For
You will be provided with a report containing a lot of helpful information but all we are really interested in here are the Page Titles and Meta Desciption tabs.
These two elements are a lengthy topic (see the links below for more info) but there are really only a couple of things you need to check in this report.
Every page on your site should have a unique title that is no more than 70 characters in length.
Update: Following a recent font change in Google’s search results, page titles should now be a maximum of around 55 characters. The actual limitation is based on pixel width but 55 characters give you a good idea of where they should be; if you’re seeing a lot that are 100+ characters long, you should look to have these rectified fast!
Meta descriptions should also be unique and no more than 160 characters long and should be seen on most pages. Common pages like Home, About, Contact etc should always have a description, the only times you should really see one missing is on a page with a lot of topics or products listed or on minor pages like the “Thank You” page after submitting an email enquiry.
As always, if you are unsure, just give your SEO guys a call!
Relevant Image Alt Text
Alt Text is an element attached to an image to tell the search engines what it is. It also provides a description for any other application that cannot see the image like vision impaired screen readers.
Checking each one can be quite time consuming but we can use the SEO Spider to filter out those missing alt text completely. Open SEO Spider report and go to the Images tab. From here, click the Filter drop-down list in the top left hand corner and select Missing Alt Text. You will now be left with a list of images that do not have this attribute applied.
Ultimately you should see nothing in this list. If you see one or two here then is no real reason for alarm, on the other hand a long list of images means they likely aren’t doing their job.
Thats it, simple!
Hopefully these tips will help you determine whether or not you are getting what you pay for from your SEO. It is important to remember that good SEO is a long term tactic and you should never expect immediate results. In fact, seeing any significant movement in the search rankings within the first month is an excellent sign of things to come.
If you have been with your current SEO firm for some time and still aren’t seeing the results you want, consider contacting a few other firms for some outside opinions. They will typically provide you with a list of things that should be updated so if you find that your site receives a dismal rating from these other providers, it may be time for a change.
These are a few of the basic factors we look at when taking on a new client, what do you think? Leave your questions and comments below!
For more great information on this topic, take a look at Google’s Search Engine Optimization page.