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LinkExchange Daily Digest
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"Effective Online Advertising"
List Moderator: Supported by:  Adam Audette LinkExchange
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DATE 9/7/99           Digest # 679

-=SEO Checklist=-
~ Rod Aries
"If you think getting a top ranking is hard, try to decipher
which company to entrust your web site to..."

From: Rod Aries <howtointernet@home.com>
Subject: Search Engine Optimization Checklist

In LED 677 Shari Thurow elegantly noted...

>You have to be VERY careful not to hire some programmers who claim to specialize in search engine optimization. There are programmers who make software that steals other sites' content to generate gateway pages. Companies whose sole business is generating gateway pages are not search engine experts.<

I would like to offer this perspective - If you think getting a top ranking is hard, try to decipher which company to entrust your web site's performance to... When selecting someone to "optimize" your site, here are a few questions/items to use in your evaluation:

What are the rankings for THEIR site? Even with the cobbler's kid syndrome impacting many search engine experts, they should have substantial rankings in the engines for keywords to their site.

Ask for rankings on their clients sites. Make sure they are CURRENT. Algorithms change frequently (just ask them the date and time AOL last changed), and so do rankings. Yesterdays 1-2-3 top rankings, are today's 'ohmigawd.'

Ask them what software they use, AND WHY. Many people will claim they have basic software tools, such as WebPosition Gold, but can they really use all the features? Ask them what features are the most important and compare the answers among the people you interview, you will be surprised at the diversity of answers.

How knowledgeable are they? Do they live, breathe, understand and master the net, or is it just a filler they do when they are not working at the Star Wars trading card shop? Hint - look at the emails you receive from them and notice the time of day it was sent - do you receive response at all times of the day? Heck, for that matter, with out being overly judgmental, look and see what email program they are using - some free program or the latest version of any of the powerful, cutting-edge email programs out there?

Can they challenge the client and tell them why the keywords the client wants to be ranked on, are NOT the keywords that will help the client grow their business? Can they produce lists of which keywords, from an optimization perspective, and from a 'most searched terms' perspective need to be included on the pages?

Do they own businesses on the net? See how many domains they own... Have they been successful in real world business? Ask them, judge for yourself. How long have they been on the net? Really on the net... was it a state of the art, 4800 baud modem :) when they started?

Can they help you with other areas, such as domain name selection? Example - I use four separate software programs to compile a list of available domain names for clients - typically I can generate a list of several hundred available names in about 30 minutes. And, more importantly, I can suggest to a client which name to use for their business, and why.

Can they look at your page, or a competitors page, and analyze on the spot, why and why not a page is ineffective? Can they tell you, in minutes, how many sites link to your site, and how to perform comprehensive analysis on your competitors? When interviewing prospective specialists, ask them the same questions about the same site: yours and a competitors - and observe the difference in knowledge.

Do they do reverse engineering on search engine algorithms? If so ask them HOW they do it, and WHAT sites they DON'T reverse engineer and WHY. Knowing what not to do is as important as what to do...

Do they provide written reports to you on a regular basis?

Ask them how they submit to the engines... and more importantly how OFTEN they submit to the engines. Any company that states, "We submit monthly, quarterly, whatever, on a predetermined schedule, to ensure your top rankings..." is a company you DO NOT want. You do NOT want to resubmit ranked pages. No if's and's or but's! Search engines claim to reindex to your domain at regular intervals, but let's not help them do it, unless you are UNRANKED.

If you constantly tinker with your web page, adding a word or two here and there, the file date and file character size is going to change. If the date and/or file size has changed, and a search engine spider visits your site, you are inviting a reindex of you domain. If you have a #7 ranking, it is easier to go down than up. Don't do it.

Look at the type of words they claim to be ranked on... I once talked to a 'search engine expert' who was ranked for something like "Biloxi, Miss." Yep, with a period - he had a #1 ranking... only problem is, how many people will type Miss, let alone Miss with a period. See how many of their clients have rankings for tough words in tough industries like insurance, finance and retail. If the biggest claim to fame your expert has is "Aunt Porgie's Cajun Chili Delight," well, keep alookin' cuz it ain't cookin.

What are their contributions to 'community'? ie something like http://www.howtointernet.com/postings.htm

Do they have a contract that spells out the optimization services they provide to their clients? Ask them how your site is protected from being penalized by the search engines, in the event a search engine changes its scoring formula? Do they have performance guarantees? I read a lot about how no one can guarantee top rankings, and while that, on face value, is somewhat true, does your search engine company base their compensation solely on their ability to get you ranked for YOUR keywords?

Do they know how, for each engine, to do URL verification, even for unranked pages? You need to know if a page is indexed but just doesn't rank very well, versus a page that has not been indexed.

Not only to should your company be able to read logs and perform log analysis on a tweaked site, but ask them if they actually install their own logs on their tweaked pages, to monitor the performance of your site.

Can they make your site improve its rankings, without touching the html?

Determine for yourself if they are not only web savvy, but street savvy... can they not only get your site ranked, but will they challenge your net strategy and actually make insightful observations to help your business become more profitable?

Will they give you real live references, other than their sister, to talk to?

Oh yeah, will they tell you what they can't do... what they are not good at doing?

Companies that tweak for a living will easily be able to not only answer the above questions, but add additional criteria as to what you should evaluate.

At your service,
Rod Aries
http://www.howtointernet.com/

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