Natural Search Blog


An objective approach to choosing an SEO vendor

In the midst of choosing an SEO vendor to advise or implement search engine optimization for you? Don’t base your decision on just a ‘gut feel’. Effectively separating the wheat from the chaff requires that objective rather than subjective criteria be used. These include:

  1. PageRank scores
    Review PageRank scores of your candidate SEO firms’ home pages and their clients’ home pages. PageRank is Google’s scoring system for importance; it’s logarithmic like a Richter scale. Check PageRanks with the Google Toolbar. If you don’t have the Google toolbar installed on your browser, it’s probably easier just to use the free service at http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/pagerank-lookup/. Probably more enlightening however is to use the Google Directory to check PageRanks, because then you can see where they sit in comparison to a bunch of competitors in that same category, since the sites on each category page are listed in order of PageRank score. To do so, go to http://directory.google.com and type in the name of the business into the search box (e.g. “Netconcepts”), then when you find its listing in the search results, click on the category name (e.g. “Computers > Internet > … > Designers > Full Service > N”). Look for that company’s listing on that category page. Hopefully it’s near the top, and hopefully the little green bar in the left column is more green than gray.
  2. Rankings
    Get a list of keywords from the SEO firm that they consider important to their business. Get a list of keywords from them that are important to their clients too. Check where they rank in Google for those keywords. If you have time, check rankings in Yahoo too (Yahoo has 32% market share, Google has 45%). Then, and here’s the important bit: check how popular those keywords are with searchers, using the Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool at http://inventory.overture.com (or better yet, on WordTracker.com if you have a paid subscription to it). If the keyword is searched on infrequently, then a high ranking for that keyword is not so impressive.
  3. Evidence of thought leadership
    Everyone claims to be a thought leader. A true thought leader, however, demonstrates this through such things as:

    • known reputation in that topic area by other thought leaders you know and trust
    • number of published articles written in that topic area
    • the caliber of those articles
    • number of conference presentations given in that topic area
    • the caliber of those presentations
    • number of books written that adequately cover that topic area
    • the caliber of those books
    • the extent to which they are quoted in the media in that topic area
    • a well-read, well-linked, and oft-quoted blog (web log)

2 comments for An objective approach to choosing an SEO vendor »

  1. MyAvatars 0.2

    1.) PageRank is easy to rent or purchase. Really irrelevant as it relates to the quality of an SEO.
    2.) some of the best SEOs do not spend much time on their own sites. If you are inundated with customers you may not need more leads and may not have time to promote your site.
    3.)

    * known reputation in that topic area by other thought leaders you know and trust

    but how do you know who to trust when you are unsure about the entire landscape?

    * number of published articles written in that topic area

    I think quality is far more important than #. I would rather read one Barry Lloyd or Jim Boykin type articles than 100 from other people. Its about what you know and who you know, not how often you write. Some SEOs may even hire ghost writers anyway.

    * the caliber of those articles

    totally agree there !!!

    * number of conference presentations given in that topic area

    a deep history may be best, but sometimes newer people can learn quicker and are willing to work harder. when you pay for a person who has been established for a long time they probably have lost some of their drive. I have done SEO for maybe 2 years and have already lost a bunch of my drive.

    * the caliber of those presentations

    Of course that is important. Even more important I would say is the honesty of those presentations. If you listen to Greg Boser you almost have to try to tune out to not learn some new useful tricks.

    * number of books written that adequately cover that topic area

    Few books in the SEO industry would be considered the authoritative sources for the field. I would say Andrew Goodman did good w his book about Google AdWords and Mike Grehan did good with his SEM essential best practices book, but there are not that many books in the search industry that are the really definitive.

    * the caliber of those books

    Really those two books are the only ones that I have been totally amazed at. Perry Marshall’s stuff is good too, but few people have bothered to write books about SEO and most of them are outdated.

    * the extent to which they are quoted in the media in that topic area

    Sometimes you get quoted by luck. Sometimes you are the industry source. Few people other than Danny Sullivan, Mike Grehan, and Andy Beal have been mentioned much in the press. SEM is not something the press is really picking up on yet. Its a true shame too…think it would be a great story talking about how people manipulate search results.

    * a well-read, well-linked, and oft-quoted blog (web log)

    There are not too many SEO blogs that are well integrated into the web community as a whole. I think SEW Blog, Battelle’s SearchBlog, SearchEngineLowdown, and SearchEngineBlog are really about the only ones with decent citation and integration into the web. Few top noche SEOs are really using blogs as a marketing tool thusfar.

    Comment by aaron wall — 1/11/2005 @ 3:55 pm


  2. MyAvatars 0.2

    Search Engine Optimization Blog
    Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is the process of improving the ranking of a webpage in a search engine (primarily Google and Yahoo). There is an entire cottage industry built up around this concept. Silly as it sounds, you can make a hell of a lot o…

    Trackback by I Am Adam Smith — 1/11/2005 @ 5:45 pm


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