How to Tell if your SEO Company is Real

Doing some web analytic work for a client I noticed something strange about their web logs. They had recently hired an SEO firm and was very happy with the traffic they create, however, wanted more sales. What I found surprised everyone.

Not all SEO firms are created equal, without naming names, your own website statistics can tell you who works and who doesn't. Here is how to prevent from being a SEO victim:

Warning Sign #1: Automated Traffic Exchanges

Unfortunately some SEO firms sign you for automatic traffic exchanges to increase your traffic. This traffic comes from people who exchange traffic via automated scripts. You'll find “/rotate.php” or “/surf.php” in your referrals, unless you are serving the business opportunity or Internet marketing niches, your customers won't be in these systems.
Putting your website in front of people who aren't qualified to buy is like flushing money down the toilet. For most all business-to-business service firms, traffic exchanges are not a qualified source of traffic. (Exceptions may be hosting providers, web design, and whole sale distribution.)

Warning Sign #2: Artificially Inflated Traffic

Unscrupulous SEO companies will also inflate your traffic through automated programs that stuff your referrers with their other customers sites. You'll easily recognize them with malformed web addresses, or sites that have no links to your own in the “Referral” section of your web logs.
I found one so-called SEO expert with more than 90% of their traffic from these systems. It might feel good to have an increase of visitors, however, for most of my clients they want an increase in orders.
Traffic inflation can be done with monitoring scripts, spiders, and other automated means. I've even seen link bait URLs that include popular terms, all to make clients thing they have done something good.

Warning Sign #3: Footer Back Linking

Another issue I found was cross referencing of unrelated sites, basically linking all their customers together using back links in the bottom of page templates. This has little value to your site because linking (according to the search engines) is a way to associate site content.
That means, if your SEO company links to you or from you to unrelated low value sites, you are telling the search engines that you have little focus on a single customer. It will confuse search engines as to who you serve.
Even web designers hurt themselves by linking back to their own home page (that designer back link at the bottom of many pages.) This is because their clients aren't audience related, instead it would be better to get links from web design related websites to show your association to a particular topic.
For example: If you are an IT services firm, then you need links from IT related resources, publications, and directories. Unfortunately many SEO experts undo any good practices they have by building up these false associations.
One thing a quality SEO firm will bring you is more referrers from quality sites that match your topic or serve your audience. Great referrers bring you quality traffic that stays on your site because of a market message match, not some trick.

Warning Sign #4: Unrelated Traffic Keywords

Another sign your SEO firm isn't producing for the long term is unrelated keywords in your search strings. I've seen everything from “used cars” to terms too racy to include here. This kind of keyword seeding will get you traffic, but again dilutes your value in the eyes of search engines.
This might also mean they have seeded popular, but unrelated content deep inside your site content. It may also mean a comment form was left open to spam scripts. Either way, this lowers your quality and irritates legitimate customers when they run across that content.
A quality SEO company will position your site to create keyword referrals around what buyers would use to find solutions, or leads would use when looking for specific information related to your site.

What You Should Be Seeing

Instead of seeing strange referrers or keywords generated from automated systems, you should be seeing more direct traffic. Many times a gamed website with inflated traffic will have more search results than direct traffic.
A quality site will have 50 to 75% type-in direct referral traffic. Your top traffic sources will be from returning visitors, people who type in your address, or those who come using browsers (or other privacy software) that blocks their referrer.
Growth in your typed in traffic represents visitors returning to your site, response from channel marketing efforts, and visitors remembering you in their return. In addition, you'll have more visitors becoming leads and purchasing from your business website.
I found 8 other things that after fixing brought my client more leads and sales with the traffic they already had. It doesn't take much to increase your traffic, while increasing leads and sales if you know how. Even better, the right SEO services will generate more leads and increase sales even if you have a low traffic business website.
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author avatar
Justin Hitt
A business analyst who specializing in sales generating marketing copy. Author, copywriter, and publisher of newsletters that help clients transform business relationships into profits guaranteed. More than 20 years of experience with technical writing, sales copy, and lead generation. Reach him by Fax at +1 (877) 486-8461