Search engine optimization (SEO) services have been around for a long while now, but the nature of SEO is ever-changing. This means that the nature of what constitutes effective SEO services changes frequently and it's critical for you to understand whether the SEO services being offered by a company match current best practices and the needs of your company.
Ranking Potential on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
Search engine optimization helps your site rank for inbound queries (searches) on Google and other search engines. Therefore, SEO services should have a primary goal of making this happen for your business.
That being said, businesses may have different SEO goals based on even the simplest detail like whether they provide online services or they provide in-person services at a brick and mortar.
If you have a local brick and mortar business, SEO services should include localized or location-based SEO. You'll want your business to show up when people search for your services in the locations where you do business; "t-shirt printer in Philadelphia, PA" and "shirt printer near me" when the user has location-based search enabled are important queries for you to rank.
SEO Services Should Include Keyword Lists
SEO services should include a list of target keywords for your business. These keywords should have some search volume, meaning people use the terms on a search engine, and should also be low in difficulty, meaning you can rank for the keyword with little effort or difficulty.
Keywords should include long tail keywords -- this is a longer search term that is typically more specific, but generally means your audience is more interested and so they are also more likely to click.
For example, if you sell shirts, you're not going to outrank large companies for "t-shirt printing." However, you could rank locally or for long tail keywords like "T-shirt printing for sports clubs in Philadelphia".
Backlink SEO Services
Backlinks (other websites linking to yours) continue to hold high value with search engines like Google. These links improve your site's authority and the search engine is more likely to show your page on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
If you have a website about shirts and suddenly get a rank on a blog hosted by a recognizable brand shirt manufacturer, it can increase your brand recognition but the link can help your rank. Note that how much credibility you earn is largely based on the reputation of the linking site -- for example, a link from CNN.com will always be more valuable than a link from a local news website.
Recommendations for Your Existing Website
If you've never done SEO work on your website before, or in some cases, even if you have done SEO work before, your existing website probably has some SEO flaws or at least has some room for improvement.
Any basic SEO service should include an SEO audit that identifies bad backlinks, critical site errors, opportunities around content and more.
Beyond content, service providers should measure and make recommendations around site structure, mobile usability, page load speed and other UI/UX related improvement opportunities.
Content Marketing Plans
Keyword lists and recommendations are more useful if you have a plan built around them that dictates what to do with content and your website.
SEO services should include a content marketing plan outlining how you should use the recommended keywords, in what frequency, and general timeline to deliver. Channels can run the gamut but should be based exclusively on those channels where your audience spends their time.
A plan should be calendar based and your SEO services provider may even provide content services such as blogging.
If you're hiring for SEO services, it's important to know what you're getting and how it will improve your ranking on search engines. Make sure you have clear goals and that the time, money, and effort you are investing garners a return for your business.
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