This is the next article in my discussion on how business owners can improve their company’s search engine optimization. My last post addressed the question of “what is SEO?” It is important to understand that, as we’ll briefly touch on again in this article, legitimate SEO involves making sure a website contains content that is relevant to the target audience and ensuring that the website provides a good user experience (as defined by the search engines). While this may sound simple and straightforward, you’ll find that many so-called “agencies” do not follow this approach. Instead, they tend to engage in what Google refers to as “link scams.” Such an approach runs the risk of getting your site in trouble with search engines. That, in turn, can result in you looking like this:

Man with head under computer and a help sign

While those follow a legitimate approach wind up looking like this:

Man sitting at computer while excited

I’m assuming you would rather be the latter. In this article I’m going to address the issue of how to pick the “best” SEO company. If you need assistance with improving your web presence, then contact us online or by telephone today. We work with companies throughout the United States.

There are three main areas to look at when trying to separate the best SEO companies from the poor ones. These include looking at how the company approaches the build of your website as well as how they approach your content. They also include making sure that the company is focusing on organic results and not trying to steer you into pay-per-click management. Finally, there are “red flags” to look for which, if present in a company, should send you running for the hills.

Let’s get to it.

The best SEO companies will focus on the build of your website as well as an ongoing content strategy

As I explained in my previous article, legitimate search engine optimization revolves around the build of your website. It also revolves around ensuring that that your website contains content relevant to queries being performed by your target customers. In terms of the “build” component of this equation, Google’s webmaster guidelines provide guidance for website designers to follow when building out or revising a website. If your website is not providing the user experience which Google wants, then the search engine is less likely to return your pages in the results. The “content” portion of your website revolves around the SEO company monitoring your traffic and analytics. They will then use this data to develop additional content which will garner additional traffic. The company will be able to draft the content for you, in addition to developing the topics. This is the approach we follow with our customers, and it is the approach which I followed in the building of a prior brand which was subsequently acquired.

Modern Website Design’s approach of leveraging traffic data, and extracting information for additional content from that data, has allowed me to grow my business’ organic web traffic 947 percent in 12 months – Travis Smith, Owner – Smokey Okie’s

Let’s quickly explain how “focusing on the build of your website” and “focusing on your content” works in practice.

In terms of the build of your website, Google wants, among other things, for your page to load quickly. This is due to the simple fact that people are likely to leave the site if the pages don’t load (duh). The search engine, however, actually gives guidance for what is an acceptable load time. They also give guidance related to the overall user experience. When testing our website, in Google’s Lighthouse tool, we get the following results:

Google Lighthouse results showing high scoresThis is one of the reasons why our website performs well in search and is an example of focusing the build/technical side of things.

Focusing on your website’s content is straightforward. A legitimate company will look at your web traffic and identify topics which are doing well in search. They will then write more content for you on those topics. Likewise, if previously generated content is not performing well, then they will stop writing on that topic. For example, we generated a blog post for a family law attorney on how drug use can impact child custody cases. That article did well in organic search and, as a result, we wrote additional articles on the topic. Those subsequent articles also performed well in search. Compare this to an article I wrote, for my prior brand, on how companies can improve their cyber security. While I considered the topic important, the bottom line was it didn’t get much traffic. I, therefore, did not write on the subject again. Analyzing your analytics will allow your provider to determine what is doing well and they will then do more of it. They will also analyze what is not doing well, in terms of content, and will refrain from doing more of it. This is how Travis Smith, quoted above, has grown his web traffic by 947 percent in twelve months.

You will find that many so called “SEO” companies will not build your website, will not maintain it, and do not generate content on your behalf. In other words, they are not doing the things which search engines actually care about. I wrote more on this in my prior article, which I won’t rehash here out of not wanting to turn this post into War & Peace. The big take away from this discussion is that the “best” companies focus on making sure that your website is providing a good user experience, as defined by the search engines, and that they are generating relevant content for your website.

Legitimate SEO companies will focus on investing in your web presence and increasing your overall organic traffic

True search engine optimization focuses on increasing overall organic traffic. It does not focus on particular phrases or the buying of online ads. I’ll dive into this more in a moment. First, I need to discuss the most important benefit of legitimate SEO. That benefit is the fact that it represents an “investment” in your web presence which you then own. This is far different than spending to obtain one-time web traffic. Let’s take a quick look at the difference between investment and spending, before looking at why you should avoid companies which focus on phrases over traffic as well as companies that will try to sink your money into ads.

Search engine optimization allows you to invest in your web presence as opposed to spending money on it

SEO written on ipadI consider investing in a web presence to be an action where you own something at the end of the day. If you invest time or money into a blog post, for example, then it stays on your website and cannot be taken away from you. Spending, on the other hand, occurs when you put your money into something which you do not own at the end of the day. Suppose, for example, you rent ads through Google. This means that you pay every time someone clicks the ad. Once you stop paying, the ads stop appearing. This is because you are simply renting ad space. Understanding the importance of investment, where you actually own something, is important to getting ahead with your web presence.

Suppose a blog post is generated for your website. Again, it is on your site and cannot be taken away. It does not disappear after being clicked on, which is what happens with an online ad if you don’t pay for the next click. This blog post represents the potential for ongoing search placement well after you have written it or paid someone to write it. Let’s look at the benefit of this. We have a client who is a criminal defense lawyer. In 2014, we wrote an article for his website on what the consequences of reckless driving could be in his state. From 2014 to today, that article has been clicked on in the organic search results 7,920 times. It continues to get traffic to this day. The customer paid us $125 to write the article. This means that, to date, he has paid less than two cents for each click to his website ($125/7,920 clicks). If he were using Adwords (the paid ads you see at the top of search results), he would likely be paying a minimum of $10 each time someone clicks through to his site. This means that for $125, he has received a level of exposure that other lawyers would pay $79,200 for (7,920 clicks x $10). By adding content to your website, which doesn’t go away, you allow it to be clicked on perpetually. This, in turn, drives your cost per click way down. This is the benefit of investing in content which you own.

The best SEO companies know to focus on overall traffic and not specific phrases

Quite a few fraudstersSEO companies” will make a big deal out of where a website ranks in Google for some particular phrase. This is an incorrect approach which provides little value to the owner of the website. Instead of focusing on phrases, you should focus on overall traffic. Why do I say this? Consider the following – suppose I search for “Cincinnati website designers” in Google and someone else searches for “Website designers in Cincinnati.” The search results will not be the same for the two queries. The two individuals performing the searches, however, are looking for the exact same thing and their checks cash the same. So, where you rank for one particular phrase doesn’t matter because there are other people performing searches who are ready to pay you money. In 2015 we built out a website and provided ongoing services for a criminal defense attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. His web traffic and his overall business each increased by roughly 300 percent. This was in spite of the fact that his website did not rank on the first page of search for “Phoenix criminal defense lawyer.” The bottom line was that his traffic was up, and his business went up along with it. The moral of the story is to focus on overall traffic and not phrases.

My website’s traffic went up 300 percent and my revenue followed suit. This was in spite of the fact that my website did not rank on the first page of the results for “Phoenix criminal defense lawyer.” Focusing on my overall web traffic, instead of worrying about particular phrases, allowed me to grow my business. – Bretton Barber, Owner – Barber Law Group

Quite a few optimization providers will attempt to focus on where you rank for particular phrases. This is a distraction. First, if they are attempting to tell you they have done a good job because of where you rank for one term, make them go over your web traffic with you and see if your overall traffic is going up. Second, many such companies will attempt to sell you services by saying “I looked at your website and you’re on the 9th page of Google for [phrase].” Assuming that they aren’t lying in regard to where they found your website for some particular phrase, it is important to note that they aren’t pointing out all the phrases you may actually be ranking well for. So, when choosing a company, remember the importance of looking at overall traffic and not particular phrases.

Good SEO companies will not try to shove you into pay-per-click marketing

Legitimately good SEO companies will focus on growing your organic traffic, as explained above. They will not try to steer you into pay-per-click marketing campaigns. Quite a few companies will attempt to hold themselves out as providers of search engine optimization and/or as website designers. It becomes clear, rather quickly, that these services are simply an effort to get you to launch a PPC marketing campaign for which they will charge a “management fee.” In other words, their other services are really just a trojan horse which they are using to get you to purchase their PPC management services. Legitimate search engine optimization is someone doing the work to help your website appear in the organic results. It is not getting you to pay for ads.

If a company starts trying to shove you into pay-per-click marketing, then it is important that you look elsewhere. Our approach focuses on helping you establish a web presence which you own, which performs well in organic search, and which is not reliant on ads.

Red flags to avoid when choosing an SEO company

red flag with the word fraud on itThere are certainly a few red flags to look out for when it comes to choosing an SEO company. This section of my article won’t be very long as, while people often miss these flags, they are easy to spot. First, when the company pitches you their services, do they explain it in a way where you actually understand their approach and what they’ll be doing? If the answer is “no,” then it is likely because a) they don’t understand it themselves and/or b) they’re full of s#!t. Second, be wary of companies which try to sell their services by showing you cherrypicked results. Suppose a company says “look where our customer ranks for [phrase xyz].” Obviously they know that they’re customer ranks well for that phrase. They should be able to show you results of customers in a way that doesn’t rely on them cherry-picking a select few. Finally, are you signing up with the company because they cold-called you? That may be the largest red flag. Why, after all, is a company cold-calling people if they’re online marketers? We have never cold-called a customer because our clients find us in organic results. If you’re going to pick an online marketing company, logic suggests you should hire someone who can actually market themselves online.


The foregoing provides our insight in what to look for when you are trying to distinguish the best search engine optimization companies from the bad ones. If you need help with SEO or website design then contact us online or by telephone today. We work with companies throughout the United States. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter below.


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