Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Cody Jensen, @searchbloom. Cody is the founder of Searchbloom, a Utah-based search engine optimization (SEO). Cody began his career working for Google Inc. and has logged over 10 years specializing in SEO prior to founding Searchbloom in 2014. Cody oversees all of the firm’s operations including sales, procurement and fulfillment.
SmallBizLady: How does an SEO firm increase my website’s rankings?
Cody Jensen: Increasing a website’s ranking for common keyword search terms is a process – not an event. Think more of a marathon as opposed to a sprint. While it can take time, proper search engine optimization can have a staggering return on investment for your business.
There are several general aspects to increasing website rankings: Technical, On-Site and Off-Site. Technical is in regard to how efficiently your website is running. A website taking a long time to load, having broken links, is not optimized for mobile or has outdated technology are all things that must be addressed during SEO.
On-Site refers to the content your website is hosting and making sure that it is relevant to the keyword terms you are targeting. This is a vital step. Additionally, there are many tags (code) that help Google to understand what your content is about and how the search engine should properly index your page. For example, search engine bots cannot read pictures, so we use what are called “alternative descriptions” that are used to describe what is in the image so that the bots will understand the content of the pictures.
Off-Site SEO efforts the ability to build “trust” with search engines via social media sharing, content sharing, inbound links from other (already trusted) websites, social bookmarks and local citations. Search engines are very much like a democracy: the more votes you get, the more trust your website earns. Please understand that “link building” is outdated and can damage your domain’s trust. The links I am referring to here are earned links. You “earn” them by writing excellent, share-worthy content.
SmallBizLady: How long before I will start seeing SEO results?
Cody Jensen: “Results” are really relative to the goals you are hoping to accomplish. If your desired results are movement for your keywords, I would say you could see an impact within the first month or so. If your desired result is to rank Number One for a specific search term, you should prepare for six-plus months before seeing a result.
Remember that rankings are not a true goal, but a good metric to use when trying to reach your goals. A good goal would be to get three conversations every day as a result of your SEO campaign. Conversions can be transactions, form fills, phone calls, orders, funnel completions, etc.
SmallBizLady: What is the first step in scouting an SEO firm?
Cody Jensen: If you are looking into SEO as a part of your marketing efforts, you will most likely need to hire an SEO firm, or agency, to help you. When looking into these SEO companies, make it a point to ask for their references and case studies. Ask their references how often they interact with the SEO company, if the SEO company is achieving the goals they were hiring to, and what type of reporting they include in their services.
SmallBizLady: How do you measure the success of an SEO campaign?
Cody Jensen: The only way for you to know that SEO is providing a return on investment for your business is to measure it. “What do you measure?” you ask? Everything. Here are some valuable metrics you can measure to gauge the success of your efforts:
- Phone calls
- Link clicks
- Cost per Lead (CPL)
- Cost per Acquisition (CPA)
- Keyword rankings
- Website traffic by channel
- Bounce rate
- Average time on site
SmallBizLady: How often should I expect to communicate with my SEO firm?
Cody Jensen: It’s important to know what your SEO company is doing, what their strategy is and how it will affect your bottom line. Prior to paying an SEO company a single dollar, you should have your sales representative introduce you to the person who will be your point of contact after you’re on board. Ask him/her how often you will be in touch and what you should expect if you choose their company to help yours.
SmallBizLady: How does SEO reporting work?
Cody Jensen: While you are on the phone with your point of contact or account manager, ensure that they show you an example report. It should contain what they have done for you and how it has moved you closer to achieving your goals.
Note: If a company you are looking into says that they do not share everything they do for your company for whatever reason (“It is proprietary,” or “for SEO purposes only”), RUN AWAY! They are giving you these reasons because they are not proud of what they are doing and they know it will reflect poorly on their company.
SmallBizLady: What is your link-building philosophy?
Cody Jensen: Because SEO has changed so much over the past five years, this is an important question to ask and vital to be answered. Remember, not all links (or “votes”) are created equal. Every website is given a “trust score,” from several SEO tools, usually ranging from 0-100. Google is a 100, Facebook is a 99, etc.
Again, the way to increase your websites trust in the eyes of the search engines is to have other authoritative websites link to your content because of its quality and relevance on a particular subject matter.
SmallBizLady: Is there a contract or term commitment involved with hiring an SEO firm?
Cody Jensen: Often times, yes. SEO companies will put you into a long-term contract that ensures you stay with them for a period of time. This is very common. I normally don’t mind signing contract as long as I’ve done by due diligence on the company and know what I should be getting.
I recommend asking your sales rep for a Word copy of the contract/agreement so that you can add or edit the agreement to protect myself. In a circumstance where they do not complete what they have promised, I’m free to take my business elsewhere. No company should be worried about a clause like this unless they don’t plan on delivering at all.
SmallBizLady: What if they don’t show me everything they do to affect my website rankings?
Cody Jensen: If they company you are looking into refuses you full transparency, do NOT engage their services. NO EXCEPTIONS!
SmallBizLady: How do you use content marketing in your SEO?
Cody Jensen: Always remember that the best way to acquire trust for your website is to get other people, companies, blogs, and websites to share your content socially, or link to it on their own property. To do this, you will need to develop a comprehensive content marketing strategy and, perhaps, a content calendar. This will help you to produce content regularly and keep relevant ideas flowing into your content. Content marketing is a large aspect of SEO, specifically the On-Site aspects of it.
SmallBizLady: What other services do SEO firms offer? Are they integrated?
Cody Jensen: SEO should only be a part of your overall marketing. It takes time to show a strong return on investment so there should be other efforts integrated as well.
In a perfect world, you would work with the same company to do all of your internet marketing which would include pay-per-click, display, social media and affiliate marketing.
SmallBizLady: What happens if you part ways with your SEO firm?
Cody Jensen: This is a question you should always ask up front.
I have heard horror stories from clients who’ve said that their former SEO firm took their website down entirely after separating. Make sure that all the work your SEO firm does is owned by you outright, in ever single aspect.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz
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