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These are some guidelines that should help you choose a quality SEO provider.

What exactly IS SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation is getting your site to come up as close to the top of the search engines search results for a given phrase.

In other words, getting on the first page (which is in the first 10 results) of Google.

You will hear the term 'ranking' which refers to the position in a search engine like Google, at which your site appears. If you rank at number 3 for a given phrase then you are 3rd on the list of search results for that phrase. However, other factors can change this ranking for an individual searcher.

No you can't pay Google to get there - unless you pay for Adwords which is in some cases a useful alternative.

It's not a magic bullet. It's not a quick process, so be prepared for a 6 to 12 month time-frame to get results.

SEO is not McDonalds

Cheap SEO is going to be 99.99% ineffective. Good SEO does not come cheap.

SEO companies in NZ that we know of charge anything from $500 to $2500 per month for SEO services. Where on this scale they fit tends to depend on how big an area you want to target (i.e. local vs international), how many keywords you have, how big their sales team is and how flash their offices are.

Because SEO takes time, they will likely want you to sign up for a minimum term. It also means they will get a return on their salesperson's time.

Note: This does not include the cost of making technical updates to your site that your web company will have to do. So you will need to add some more budget onto the SEO fees.

Which to use - website developer or SEO specialist?

We are a website management company, not a specialist SEO company - i.e. we don't provide SEO for sites we haven't built and/or manage. SEO is integrated into we do because search visibility is so important. And it has to be baked into the site design from the beginning. The SEO services we provide cannot be added as an after-thought.

A specialist SEO company only focuses on search rankings, and will provide the service regardless of who built or who looks after the site, because they can focus on off-site factors like content marketing.

If an SEO company is any good, they will also provide recommendations for on-site conversion optimisation (which is different to on-site SEO) - because you don't want to rank well but still not have anyone buy from you.

Using a specialist SEO company is a good idea if you've had a hard time ranking in the past, you are in a competitive industry – i.e. you have a lot of competition, or you have the budget to pay them. The trades (plumbing, building), business and financial services are examples.

They are also a good idea if you are not interested in having a 3rd party tinker with your website because have a good relationship with your web company or have one in house who can do any on-site changes required.

An SEO company typically can not make some of the technical changes they want to or need to on your website. We don't let third parties access the core components of our clients sites. Pretty much because there is a good chance they will break something which may compromise other client sites as well. For the same reason we won't add any 3rd party functionality without going through rigorous testing.

On the flip side, a web design company or web developer is unlikely to have the SEO depth of knowledge, systems and resources required for any heavy-duty SEO work needed for ambitious companies who are in a competitive industry. Content creators (i.e. writers) are going to be part of a comprehensive SEO strategy and they may not have these on staff (at least, not ones that know about SEO).

What we do is covered below. There are a lot of dodgy SEO companies out there - so be cautious!

What ARE all these things they are offering?

The list of SEO services will usually include the following:

  1. Keyword research – this should be a minimum requirement.
  2. Meta tag optimisation – good if it includes title tag optimisation - these should be written for you but an SEO company may not be able to actually put them on the site depending on how it is built. Watch out for people who talk about adding keywords into the keyword tag – this is not used for search ranking by Google, and in fact reveals your keyword list to your competitors. Sometimes this work will just be referred to as title and description optimisation.
  3. Content creation – here there is wide differences in quality. Find out how quality content is going to be created for you – the stuff that is unique and worth linking to and/or sharing.
  4. Social sharing - important for getting your content out there. There is much debate about social and SEO, but you will need it if you want your content to be shared and linked to. It also helps your reputation which helps with back links
  5. Back link development - sometimes called reputation management this is all about getting other sites to link to yours and is where a lot of the dodgy stuff happens. Submitting your site to 'thousands' off offshore sites isn't going to do a lot for your local rankings. Backlinks have to be relevant, quality links - see section below for more.
  6. Google plus/Google map listing – pretty straightforward to do, and important for local SEO so should be almost mandatory.
  7. Search friendly URLs – this will depend on your content management system, and potentially something an SEO company can recommend but not actually fix themselves
  8. Canonical URLs – similar to above, an SEO company can recommend but may not be able to fix these depending on the level of access they can get and what they will use to make them happen. This is a technical and potentially complex area of SEO, and can be very time consuming.
  9. Duplicate content issues – an issue with many e-commerce sites
  10. Google Analytics – should have been implemented with the site but if it's not can be done by anyone. While Google Analytics is an essential tool for understanding what is happening on your site, Google Analytics is NOT SEO.
  11. Google search console (formerly, Webmaster tools) – same as Google Analytics but is commonly missed by web developers as being unimportant
  12. Domain names – no SEO discussion is complete with talking about domain names. Google have said that they are reducing the impact of exact match domains (where the target keyword phrase is the domain name) but from our experience, having keywords in your domain name is helpful.

Link Building – a major factor

Link building is a VERY important part of SEO and can be a) the most difficult and b) the area the wool is most commonly pulled over businesses eyes.

Link building needs a multi layered approach including:

  1. Basic link building via online directories, local business organisations
  2. Content development – quality content attracts links and shares. This is more difficult to do because it relies on QUALITY content that also has to be unique. And it needs to be shared and promoted before people will link to it. Some of the simpler content development tactics include blogs, resources, news, press releases
  3. General marketing – most SEO companies, or the lower cost ones will quietly ignore this. Link building is a lot about relationships and general business marketing. Forming alliances, partnerships and networks that will recommend your business. These can reap high quality back links that will last through any Google algorithm.

We do the first on this list and work with you to create content (but may call in additional writing resource). The last item is more complex so we take a partnership approach to work with you on creating these as part of your marketing activity.

We do not do forum commenting, submissions to 100's of directories or link farming. Nor do we create multiple sub-sites or pages for every suburb in Auckland.

We've seen all of these approaches taken by other companies. They are short term tactics that are risky in the long term, eventually become ineffective (and are not always effective even in the short term).

What to watch out for

If part of the SEO proposal includes any of these techniques – be cautious:

  • Forum commenting
  • Blog commenting
  • Guest blogging – it can be very effective if done properly but often it's just sending out spammy email requests offering irrelevant and poor quality blog articles. Guest blogging should be to industry relevant, high ranking sites.
  • Link circles, farms, link swapping or anything that implies something similar
  • '100's or 1000's of directory submissions
  • Location specific mini-sites, especially if using duplicate content
  • Emphasis on keyword tags and density percentages
  • Purchasing of links - either directly or subversively
  • Rankings in Bing and Yahoo. Surprised? In New Zealand, Google rules in most (but not all) cases. Ask about usage statistics for these other search engines - particularly if you want to rank internationally, and how much importance they place on them.
  • Too much focus on keyword heavy anchor text in back links
  • Article submissions – they are likely low quality spun articles on low quality sites (that could even be detrimental)
  • Automation – Some parts of SEO can be helped with tools like analysis but it is mostly plain old hard work
  • Copying sites - At least one SEO company we've seen copied a client's website in it's entirety and hosted it elsewhere. Apart from being just plan dumb, there are a whole lot of reasons not to do this (duplicate content for one and change control for another).
  • Cheap hosting – not an SEO factor? A bad hosting 'neighbourhood' can have a detrimental affect on your site – i.e. if your cheap hosting is being used by spammers. We also recommend you host your website close to your target audience because IP address is a ranking factor.
  • Social networks – there is a lot of debate about how much social signals affect ranking, but social should be built into your marketing somewhere so it's not a bad thing to start doing if you haven't already – but being social is not just setting up a Facebook page and leaving it to rot.

Beware of guarantees

Guarantees – sounds good doesn't it? They should guarantee their work if they are any good, right?! Well, they can guarantee to try, but no-one knows Google's algorithm except Google.

If a company offers such guarantees they risk going broke - so what will they do to make sure they aren't losing money on the deal? In most cases, they will give you a large number of keyword phrases that they will 'work' on. But many of them will be phrases that people don't use in searches, have little competition and so are easy to get good rankings for.

If you are given a guarantee of page 1 ranking, ask “Page 1 for what?” If it's 5 phrases no one ever uses, it will bring you no benefit at all.

Ask about paid search

Many SEO companies also offer paid search marketing, and some bundle it with their SEO packages. So you need to be clear about how much effort is being put into one or other and how the two tactics complement each other.

You don't want an SEO company that gets you to page 1 of Google using Adwords to do it.

The better SEO providers will...

  1. Sit down and have a frank discussion about what your resources can realistically achieve
  2. Be up front about the tactics they use
  3. Explain how they are going to tackle the technical, on-site SEO work – preferably, they will be willing to work with the web development company or administrator
  4. Do a competitor analysis – SEO is a game of race-you-to-the-top so looking at what the competition is doing is an important factor
  5. Explain what your role is going to be. They should also be talking to you about what you are going to have to do from a general marketing perspective because this will have an impact on SEO
  6. Tell you if they have any other clients who are competing for the same or similar search phrases (if they do, it's a conflict of interest).

OK, so what do we do?

We only do SEO on sites that we have built.  But we do offer SEO audits if you want some guidance on what to do

Because SEO starts there and we've learned the hard way that if a site isn't built correctly from the beginning, it is much, much harder to get good rankings. We're not just talking about the code, either.

We do most of what is included in the 'what are all these things' list above. If significant content creation is required, we will bring in PR and/or content creation professionals to make it happen.

If it is international SEO, e-commerce or SEO for a highly competitive market you are after we will recommend you go to a specialist SEO company.

We will only do SEO, SEM and site management activities for one client per industry niche. The bigger the SEO company, the less likely this is to be the case.

When should you use us?

If we built your site ;)

Our SEO services suit service businesses (which are our speciality) who do not wish to use, or don't have the budget for a specialist SEO company.

If you want an affordable, inclusive service that will provide:

  • A partnering approach
  • Hosting
  • Technical support (upgrades etc.)
  • Site security and monitoring
  • SEO and SEM
  • On-site optimisation including content updates
  • Monthly reporting and recommendations

We can provide it - these are all part of our management packages

Contact Us

+64-9-483-9190

P.O.Box 34588 Birkenhead, Auckland 0748

Send a message

Client words...

I needed development of a new website because I didn't have a site and needed a clean design for my service business.

I chose Essentee because of past engagement and site management meant we knew what to expect and what was possible.

Working with them was easy and straight forward. Clear on what can be achieved and budget.

Willowgrove Consulting