By Samuel David
Infusionsoft’s reported that Small Business Owners (SBOs), as part of their digital marketing strategies, have planned to budget 38% for social media management, 30% for search engine and optimization (SEO) and digital ads, and 24% for website analytics in 2018.
For the purpose of this post, however, emphasis will be on SEO. Because, apart from SEO being a powerful digital marketing tool and given that 93% of online experiences begin with the search engine, SEO — when done right — can also help you achieve your top marketing goals. (According to the 2018 Infusionsoft report, 31% of respondents said they would like to drive sales, while 25% said they prioritized retaining and re-engaging their customers).
Now, while 47% of small business owners handle marketing efforts on their own, there is 14% who are outsourcing their marketing, public relations, and advertising.
So if you’re in the 14% who is outsourcing their marketing, and coincidentally, the part of your marketing that you’re outsourcing is the SEO of your website, there probably have been a few occasions when your SEO expert (or whoever you’ve commissioned to do SEO for your website) almost invoked an Armageddon. Like when you dropped from page 5 to page oblivion. Or maybe seeing your rankings increased from page 3 to page 2 — but then the effect of this ranking was not felt because, well, over 75% of users don’t scroll past the first page.
Without further ado, find below five steps you should immediately take whenever you notice any issues relating to your website’s visibility in search — especially if active SEO work is being implemented — to prevent your SEO expert from ruining your website.
Step 1: Ask whoever is in charge of your SEO what they’ve been doing.
It’s not rocket science. Whenever something goes wrong with your website — visibility-or discoverability issues, rankings problems, or even “conversions-related concerns” — the first person you should be reaching out to is the person in charge of your SEO. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re paying more or less. The fact is that you’re paying (or have paid) them for the work they’re doing. Therefore, they’re accountable to you.
The thing is, your traffic tanking might not be the only concern you’re having at a particular time. You may also notice that your backlink profile contains some shady links. Or, other times, you might even want to know the SEO strategies in use — whether they can, in fact, get you to rank or whether they’re going to earn your website a Google penalty, eventually.
Your many concerns notwithstanding, if you’re still paying the SEO consultant, they’re answerable to you. Ask them specifically what they’ve been doing that’s taking the turn for the worse on your business website.
Bear in mind, however, that your SEO specialists shouldn’t always take the hit.
I mean, they may not be the cause for the drop in your rankings as that could have been caused by other external factors like updates by search engines (Google is notorious for this one) or maybe when a competitor stepped up their game (for example, a competitor who started using paid advertising).
That said, if your SEO specialist has made significant changes to your website or website properties, like landing pages, meta tags, content, for instance, then that could be it.
Regardless, even when the issue is caused by external factors like Google updates — while your SEO guy or lady may not know about it (because Google sometimes make changes to their algorithm without the noise) — they should be able to specifically detail you (not performance details) trackable tasks (think link building, content creation, content promotion, social media or search advertising, etc.) that they’ve been doing so far.
Step 2: Fire your SEO consultant if you must.
Your SEO consultant shirking or not answering questions you may have about your website; the general consensus or the popular pattern obtainable from the feedback of experts in the SEO community wherein you may have shared their report; if their work isn’t getting you the finalized result you two agreed upon or showing signs of getting you closer; and/or the outcome of the audit of the new SEO guy indicating that their SEO team have not in fact followed SEO best practices or that they’ve been manipulating you could only mean one thing: they’re fired!
Because most SEO consultants are on a retainer basis — often 6, 12 months. Opt for six months for starters and even at that, let your SEO specialist be aware should you not be seeing any signs of improvement within a given period (I can say three months, but lucky you if yours starts picking up in a month or two) will mean you have been relieved of any obligation to them regardless of the contract.
That way, you can make your decision based off what’s and what’s not working for your business.
Step 3: Get a report of your website’s current status.
The severity of the event leading to issues you’re now experiencing with your website and the feedback you’ve been able to gather will inform your next line of action. Usually, the next best step to take will be to work with another SEO expert to help you audit your website and detail you with the state of things (that’s assuming your current SEO expert has no convincing explanation to the issue you raised, or if you noticed a popular trend in the comments of people in the social community wherein you’ve shared your dilemma).
What’s even more interesting about getting input from a connected community of SEO experts is that apart from being educated about your issues, there’s this (one, two, or more?) guys and ladies who often volunteer to audit your website for free or for a reduced fee.
Step 4: Take your time and upgrade your knowledge of SEO.
You’ll need a clear head and a sharp mind going into another deal with a new team of SEOs. Since you just got out of a bad SEO experience, I’ll recommend you chill a bit. While at it, I’ll recommend you start learning about SEO. For this simple reason…
If your reason for ditching the former SEO agency, company or freelancer was because you observed they had been taking you for a ride given your lack of SEO knowledge, I don’t know about these new guys, though, but what makes them any different?
Once bitten twice shy it’s often being said. And it’s your business website we’re talking about here.
Additionally, some “mistakes” like the one made culminating into how Google decided to drop your website on the search graph is best made at a maximum of one time (if you know what I mean).
To protect your online business and its reputation, and to avoid being preyed upon by starving SEOs…
- You should be in the know about the qualities that define pro SEOs from their mediocre counterpart.
- Also, be knowledgeable of the best practices that the major search engines are in signatory to.
- Assuming something goes really wrong, you should know why and what to do about it.
Needless to say, this knowledge will come from your deliberate efforts to know how SEO works.
To be honest, it can be hard starting out — especially for a founder or business owner who lacks interest in the subject of bots ranking pages. But I dare say the time and effort invested is worth it.
Step 5: Take charge of your website’s SEO (if you can and must) or get some help.
Suffice to note that the SEO learning as being suggested to you wasn’t to have you thinking you’re now an expert that should by all means manage your own SEO. That’s why this one comes with a BIG caveat and for emphasis’ sake — take control of your business’s SEO only if you can and must!
To be honest with you, there’s a limit to what you can do (and should be doing!) as a newcomer to SEO. Might be needless anyway, but you should know that some Googling here and there won’t get you to be operating at an expert level.
That said, and the limitations notwithstanding, you could still handle some aspects of your business SEO.
Google has sworn by a website that loads fast and has useful and authoritative contents. (Even better, if you make those contents brand relevant). It also recommends on-page optimization so that their bot gets to understand the content on a page while ranking it accordingly as per matching search queries.
You might want to start from here.
This is nothing technical or above and beyond. So you could just drop your website URL into Google Page Speed Insight or any of the other similar tools; run the suggestions that you can wrap your head around and for those ones you can’t, just kindly forward them to your webmaster.
Then focus on publishing useful, engaging and actionable content for your users…and that’s just about what you should be doing (if you’re not highly skilled) as far as the SEO of your business website is concerned. Those exploits seemingly too cheap to make any difference, they’re powerful nonetheless. And effective, too.
If done right, they can:
- Earn you editorial links
- Increase your rankings
- Increase your website’s visibility and reach
- Generate more product awareness
- Help to generate more traffic
- Increase your leads and customers
- Drive sales
Note, however, that if you’re in a very competitive niche — you’ll know based on the Cost Per Click (CPC) of your money keywords — doing the usual stuff as highlighted above may not work, or work as effectively as you’d have wanted it to. This is when you’ll need a hand. A skillful hand at that.
It’s recommended that whoever will be taking charge of the SEO of your business should be very familiar with your space (verify this before handing over your website). Ask for references if you must. Or, if it makes sense, ensure expectations are discussed and finalized.
When it comes to SEO for your website, knowing the decisions to make, why and when is very crucial. And as detailed in the post, by now you should know what to do when there are issues surrounding your website and no one’s owning up, making explanations, or suggesting solutions.
I also categorically stated in the post that consenting to contracts shouldn’t be done blindly. If it helps, ensure to add some sort of clause indicating that if the agreed expectations are not being met after a certain period of time, then you’re out.
As someone who owns or runs an online business, tell me in the comment box if:
- You do SEO for your business or engage the services of SEO experts
- You ever took any of the five steps in the post, and if at all, why?