Comparing Web Design Companies That Claim They Do SEO with Actual Search Engine Marketing Firms That Really Do
So during a recent meeting with a potential client, they brought up that their current web company, who both designed their new website and was doing "SEO" for them, was sending them annual SEO reports that detailed their progress in their ten chosen keywords.
Yes, you read that correctly. Annual reports.
Now, far be it from me to question the business practices of another company, but that's exactly what I'm going to do anyways.
SEO is an ongoing process that requires regular work on a monthly basis. Things can change at a moments notice, with competitors making advances in the rankings, reliable sites that link to you no longer being reliable sites, and, of course, Google changing the game on you with little or no warning. Because of that, having an SEO company that's focused on that and that spends their time not only working to help your site rank but also researching new methods to effectively use SEO is paramount. Which brings me to my main point.
Have you ever seen the movie "Ratatouille"? In the film the main character, a rat named Remy (voice of Patton Oswalt), has aspirations to become a chef, inspired in no small part by his hero Gusteau's motto of "Anyone Can Cook." While I'll spare you a long drawn-out synopsis of the film, we come to realize that the spirit of Gusteau's motto was that while not everybody could be a great chef, a great chef could be anybody (like a rat in this case).
These days it seems like every web design, development, and marketing company says that they do SEO. Now I'm sure that some of them have brought on the necessary staff to do a respectable job of SEO for their clients. I'm also sure, however, that many of them are fumbling their way through it and are doing their clients, who probably don't know any better, a huge disservice by attempting to do SEO for the extra money when they don't really know how.
When you're looking for an SEO company, make sure to spend the time and make sure they actually know what they're doing. Ask for references and case studies. See if anybody has complained about them on the internet. Talk to them and make sure they seem passionate about what they're doing. Make sure you have a good personality fit with them. It's better to take your time and find the right company for you instead of ending up with annual status reports. Remember that not everybody can be a great SEO, but a great SEO can come from anywhere.
Yahoo! purchased the popular free web hosting service GeoCities in 1999 for $3.57 Billion dollars in stock. And on October 26, 2009, Yahoo! shut down GeoCities for good. Any website on GeoCities that was not transferred to a new web host by Monday is gone forever. Granted, most sites built on GeoCities were festering eyesores and for the most part nobody will lose sleep over its demise, but Yahoo! really screwed the pooch on handling the closing when it comes to SEO.
Let me explain.
As of October 28, 2009, there are 7.45 Million GeoCities URLs still indexed in Google. Go ahead, click that link and try to visit one of the sites listed. For example, Dr. Doo Wopp's site "all about me and my love of the doo wopp sound" at http://www.geocities.com/doowopp21/ is no longer available and redirects to a Yahoo! 404 page. Multiply that one site times 7.45 Million and we're dealing with a huge number of sites that will simply vanish.
I just did a search on SEMRush to find out the popular keywords for which GeoCities URLs rank in the Top 20 in Google for, and it came back anastounding 686,270 different keywords that generate an estimated 11,947,000 visitors from Google each month. It's hard to fathom a website that got nearly 12 million visitors a month from Google alone will disappear.
For example, one of the keywords reported by SEMRush is the keyword "sayings." According to the Google AdWords Keyword tool, this keyword gets over 1.2 Million searches a month.
Currently, the GeoCities website at www.geocities.com/heartland/lane/2470/lslists.htm ranks 4th in Google for a keyword that gets 1.2 million searches a month. Once Google re-indexes that site and is served a 404 error page, that site will be removed from the index.
At the very least, you would think Yahoo! would put forward some effort to preserve their search engine rankings and most of that traffic, right? Apparently that isn't the case. Since Yahoo! is simply forwarding the GeoCities URLs to 404 or 410 permanent error pages instead of redirecting the sites with SEO friendly 301 redirects, the search engines will eventually drop all of the missing URLs from their indexes and Yahoo! will lose out on all of the invaluable search engine rankings and traffic that has amassed over the years. It baffles me that a company as big as Yahoo!, not to mention a major search engine, would make these decisions without keeping SEO in mind.
There has long been a myth that "search engines can't read PDFs" so it is better to put all content on an indexable HTML page. This may have been true a few years ago, but nowadays most of the major search engines have no trouble crawling and indexing PDF files. There are several fantastic guides out there about how to optimize a PDF for the search engines, such as this one from 2007 on Search Engine Land.
However, even though I just clearly stated that search engines can crawl and index PDF files, I still recommend putting text-rich content on an HTML page over a PDF file (whenever possible) for a few reasons:
1. No website navigation in PDFs. More often than not, the PDF does not maintain the same look and feel of the website, let alone provide any navigational elements. While it is true that PDFs can include clickable links, the vast majority of them do not have the site's global navigation, and thus users will be left with nowhere to go but back to the search results.
3. Users may not be expecting PDFs. This may be just me, but I personally hate clicking through a search result and not immediately viewing a web page, but rather waiting for my browser to unfreeze while Adobe Acrobat takes its sweet time launching to load a PDF file. By the time the PDF is finally loaded, oftentimes I am already regretting that I clicked to view it while directing my cursor to the Back button.
There are some cases in which PDFs should remain as PDFs, such as brochures and other print material, but articles and technical papers certainly can be converted to HTML pages. I will follow up shortly with another post on how to go about doing so.