There’s a lot of garbage out on the internet about how to hire an SEO. One of the most common suggestions is an evaluation of links. Why are links important? Links are still one of the most important ranking factors for most search engines, however, that recommendation is subjective.
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When it comes to links, Google has specific guidelines. One of the most obvious violations is: “Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites.” Most SEOs are lazy, and in order to obtain links, they throw a site-wide footer link on their client’s websites. In fact, the person who claims to be an expert in hiring and evaluating SEO companies employ violates this very guideline, among others. Maybe that’s why they can’t get ranked.
Here’s another reason links are subjective. Let’s talk about this website, as well as Altitude SEO for a minute.
SeanHakes.com was owned by another entity from 2010 to late 2017. During that time the domain was used for a lot of different things. I took back control of this domain around October of 2017. I threw up a website on it just to see if Google would rank it for anything, and it didn’t. It was obvious there was a link penalty. Most of the links pointed to it were from unknown spammer networks so removing the links was out of the question.
That’s when I went through my own SEO detox process. This process included a deep dive into the link portfolio, attempting to remove links by contacting the webmaster (most of which are anonymous) and then finally, disavowing the links. Between that, adding some content and optimizing the site, the rankings started to come back. If you or an SEO person were to look at my backlinks, they would rightfully think my site is spamming Google. However, what you can’t see are the proactive steps to fix the issues.
Altitude SEO has a similar story. In 2008, the domain was first owned by Altitude SEO Pte Ltd from Singapore. In late 2010, the domain was then transferred to an unknown party. According to the Wayback Machine, the owner of Altitude SEO from 2007 to 2012 (based on the copyright in the footer) was registered by Andrew Prince. In 2015, the domain was then transferred and operated for a short time by a gentleman named Mike Lee and shortly later acquired by me.
That’s seven years of history where I had no control over what happened to the AltitudeSEO.com domain. Additionally, sometime in March of 2017, Altitude SEO was hacked. The hack generated thousands of pages that linked out in addition to created, thousands of inbound links from foreign domains. The hack was caught quickly, the pages were removed, the exploit was patched, and additional security measures were put in place to lower the chance of it happening again. Additionally, we had to go in and disavow more links.
If you’re inexperienced in SEO, looking at backlinks is a bad idea for the reasons stated above. Here’s a better solution…
Everyone is selling SEO. If someone is selling you on the ability to get ranked in Google, don’t you think they should be able to do it for themselves?
- Step 1: Can the SEO provider rank themselves? Google their city name + SEO and see if they show up on the 1st page. If they don’t they are probably not worth their salt. Don’t buy into the we’re too busy working on our client websites to focus on our own.
- Step 2: Visit SEMRush.com. Put their domain into the search bar. This tool will tell you a few things: 1. their overall ranking history; 2. their search engine traffic; 3. how many keywords they rank for, and 4; their traffic value. Here’s a picture that will help guide you through this very basic, but important step…
Example 1: It’s pretty straightforward. There’s no traffic. This is an actual traffic graph.
Example 2: Besides being very little traffic, the rankings are inconsistent. This leaves me to believe that this website keeps getting hit by Google, or they are participating in a PBN (Private Blog Network.) PBN’s usually deliver quick, fabricated rankings that fade quickly.
Example 3: Since 2011 this website rankings have pretty much crashed. This is a pretty clear indicator that they are participating in unethical SEO practices for themselves. SEO is all about growth, and that’s the opposite of what the 3rd websites traffic/rankings indicate.
Example 4: This chart represents healthy, sustained growth. This growth is typically achieved when a website adheres to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. The dip in rankings/traffic around April of 2017 would be concerning if the site didn’t recover like it did. The ranking decrease likely happened because lack of attention being put to SEO.
- Next, interview the SEO. Find out if they have your goals in their best interest. Get a few referrals from actual clients. Don’t only call them, check their rankings in SEMRush.com too. A lot of clients are friends therefore they will give a good review regardless so just double check what they are saying is accurate through that tool.
- Ask about their link development process. See if they are transparent with it and willing to share links they’ve acquired from other clients.
- Ask if they can give you an hourly break down of what work they are doing. In many cases, SEO salespeople throw out a budget and see if the client will bite. They typically start high, and have no real breakdown of efforts included for that price. At Altitude SEO, we have an hourly rate attached to each budget and track exactly how much time we spend on each account.
- If an SEO tells you that their process is proprietary, walk away. If an SEO company sticks a link on their clients website to theirs, walk away.
When in doubt, give me a shout. I’d be happy to tell you about Altitude SEO, but I’ve also become friends with a lot of other great agency owners and would be happy to refer you to someone who I think could also be a good fit for your business.
Need more? Here’s a terrific video from Google that gives some very insightful tips on how to hire an SEO. Don’t take my word for it – watch for yourself.