By now, most Singapore business owners understand the importance of search engine optimisation. They know that without a sound SEO strategy, there is very little chance that their website will ever be seen by their target audience. They also realise the value of hiring a professional Singapore SEO consultant to help them with this strategy.
However, there are many companies that tend to take every agency that claims to be SEO experts at face value. And unfortunately, this can do more harm than good. After working with a company that is not truly skilled in SEO, or that uses black hat techniques, it is often very costly to fix. And the worst part is it costs businesses a considerable amount of time.
So how can well-meaning Singapore businesses decide whether or not an agency truly specialises in SEO? Well, there are a few key questions that you can ask yourself what will help to weed out the undesirables–specifically as it relates to how they view Google’s ranking factors. Let’s discuss a few of these questions. But first, let’s talk about what ranking factors are.
Google Ranking Factors
According to Google’s mission statement, it’s main objective is to organise information and make it both useful and universally accessible. This mission is fulfilled through the use of its search engine. Whenever users need information, they type their queries into the search engine and are presented with a list of information that Google has previously organised.
But how does Google organise this information? How do they decide what information is most relevant and useful to the person’s query? In other words, how do they figure out which website will offer the best user experience? Well, the answer is simple, they rank websites according to specific factors.
Google examines each website to determine if they have these factors, and to what extent. The sites that have these factors are rewarded with the highest search engine rankings. Those that don’t are typically buried in the SERPs. Though Google currently has over 200 ranking factors, there are a few that carry more weight and mean more than others. And the best SEO agencies know exactly what they are and how to make the most of them.
Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself when choosing your SEO expert:
Question 1: Should the SEO consultant be focused on the quality of my content?
If you want to get on Google’s good side, then it’s essential that the content on your website is of the highest quality. Why is this? Well, Google understands that users are on the hunt for the most valuable information. And the usually find this in content that is well-researched, well-written, and well-formatted.
Whenever you meet with a quality Singapore SEO consultant, you’ll notice that they are interested in the type of content that you offer. If your content is not up-to-par, they are likely to make suggestions about how you can make it better. They will encourage you to use H1, H2 tags as well as images when needed. More specifically, they discuss the importance of search intent, keywords, voice search, and rich snippets. If you want to know if a company is worth working with, pay attention to their attitude towards content.
Question 2: Should the SEO consultant be concerned with how mobile-friendly my website is?
When it comes to online mobile penetration, Singapore is at the top of the list. In fact, mobile usage has increased so much that Google is now mobile-first indexing. This means that rankings are determined primarily by the mobile version of your website.
So an expert SEO consultant understands that it’s not an option for your website to be mobile-friendly–it’s a must. You will notice that quality companies will discuss how responsive your website is and how you could make improvements. They will encourage you to make it so that your website responds well to not just mobile, but every device.
Question 3: Should the SEO consultant be concerned with how secure my website is?
Believe it or not, the security of your website can play a huge role in how highly you rank in the search engines. Google wants its users to feel as if they can browse safely, so if your website shows any signs that the user’s information or privacy could be compromised, then it could have a negative impact on your business.
Quality consultants will talk to you about HTTPS. You see, Google recently said that by July of 2018, it would start to flag websites as “not secure” if they are not HTTPS. They will talk to you about the possible canonicalisation that could come with switching to HTTPS and how they can help you to avoid these issues.
Question 4: Is the SEO consultant focused on my offering a great user experience?
The best SEO consultants understand the importance of pleasing the user. Sure, they want you to live up to Google’s standards. However, they know that Google standards often align with what the user wants. So instead of focusing solely on the technical sides of things, your consultant should be talking to you about what your site will look like from the perspective of your visitors.
They will often spend a significant amount of time on how important a good site structure is. They want to make sure that your site is very easy to navigate. They want users to feel as if everything is intuitive.
Question 5: Is the SEO consultant capable of increasing my page speed?
One of the main causes of high bounce rates is the loading speed of your page. Today’s Singapore consumers can be pretty impatient. In fact, in general users expect your website to lead in under 3 seconds or else they will leave.
This is one of the first things that the best consultants take note of. They will offer suggestions about how you can go about speeding things up. This is the first impression people have of your website. And considering the fact that high bounce rates indicate a bad user experience, Google takes this particular ranking factor very seriously and so should your consultant.
Question 6: Does the SEO consultant offer tips for on-page optimisation?
Sure, consultants are concerned about how your website looks at first glance, but they are also interested in what goes on behind the scenes–on-page optimisation. They know that this is the type of SEO that will help you to communicate directly with the search engines. This is how you will let Google know who you are, what you offer, and if what you offer is relevant to your target audience.
The best consultants will offer suggestions when it comes to metadata. They will encourage you to use schema. They will also suggest that you implement an internal link structure.
In the world of search engines, there is hardly anything more significant than backlinks. Whenever another website links to your content, it lets Google and other major search engines know that what you have to offer is valuable. And if these links come from an authoritative source that Google already trusts, then that backlink means even more and can do a lot for your rankings.
Quality consultants aren’t as much concerned with how many backlinks you get as they are with the quality of your backlinks. In fact, they know that the wrong backlinks can get you into trouble. So speak with the consultant about how they view backlinks and what their strategies are to get them.
Question 8: How does the SEO consultant measure results?
One of the most important questions you should ask yourself when choosing a consultant is whether or not they mention their metrics. You need to know that the agency is monitoring your results so that they can make changes as needed. This will help them to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
You can tell a lot about the consultant based on the tools that they use to measure your results. For instance, one of the tools you should listen for is Google Analytics. They will also mention Adwords, Ahrefs, Google’s Mobile-friendly test, SEMRush, and much more.
Secrets that NO SEO Consultant ever Talks about with Anyone
Now that you know the right questions to ask your SEO consultant to find out if they’re competent enough for the task ahead or all talk, there insider trade secrets that you’ll never live to hear from an SEO consultant, no matter how honest they are.
This is the kind of secrets that SEO consultants never talk about among themselves or with anyone else for that matter.
SEO isn’t some dark art that Can Only be Understood by a Technical Mind
SEO is NOT engineering and some super-sized programming caboodle. Anyone with a brain can understand it and effectively implement it.
However, that’s NOT something SEO consultants like to talk about. Of course, it’s hard work. But it’s NOT that complicated.
Here’s the thing, good marketing is, for the most part, data-driven. So the underlying marketer has to have the technical capacity of some kind to both set up and parse this kind of data.
This is NOT only true in SEO, but in other fields of marketing as well. But what some self-proclaimed SEO experts do is that they try to obfuscate everything to make it appear like it’s beyond your comprehension, when it certainly isn’t.
They make it appear like it’s coded and that only a person with a deeper understanding of computer algorithms has the brain power to understand it. Some will even try to make it seem like they’re holding some more buried secrets that can magically propel you to the top of search engine rankings.
Well, that’s how you tell that a consultant is trying to sell you banana oil — when they are so focused on proving to you how tech-savvy they’re instead of focusing on their creative side.
The truth is, SEO is more skewed towards creativity and less towards technicalities. Although most SEO consultants like to consider themselves as techies, in a real sense, good SEO thrives on a hefty dose of creativity and hard work.
It’s a White hat, But NOT that Clean
Google would have loved to see the whole world run their websites and everything else without paying any attention to what they’re doing behind the curtains. But as it appears, that’s NOT even possible.
Marketers are always all over their business, trying to find out the kind of improvement they have made to their system so they can position themselves even better for a prime ranking.
In other words, they’re manipulating Google and other search engines to favour them in the SERP’s, with the only difference being they’re doing it within the standards allowed.
Google won’t penalize them, so long as they’re NOT using spam-related techniques or leveraging some of the schemes Google ruled out as blackhat, but they’re NOT completely clean.
Google will penalize you when you start to buy links, set up non-functional websites to generate links or use automated programs to spread the links. What they wouldn’t punish you for is using keywords research tools such as SEMrush, MOZ, and ahref to come up with keywords that you can naturally start targeting through high-quality content.
But the fact remains, the tactic you’re using is still manipulative. Google knows about it, and it’s even using them on some of the websites they own. But you’re NOT writing naturally when your writing is in the first place fashion around the keywords you collected.
Same goes with link building and everything else. Google made it clear a while ago that they’d prefer if all the links were generated editorially and that nobody was doing anything on their end to manipulate the links on their site, ever.
But since that’s NOT going to happen, Google has laid down a safe ground for marketers. So long as you’re observing your bounds, you’re safe: the SEO links you’re building won’t be brought into question.
They Don’t Know How to Go Viral
People write things, and some of them go viral. Then they try to replicate the same style into their next piece of writing, and there’s nothing.
That’s because no one can tell by just looking at an article if it will be going viral. Because, then again, some matters are better left to chance.
Viral marketing is one of the most complicated fields in marketing that nobody has yet to fully figure it out. You can increase the number of shares a post is getting, but that’s NOT to say the amount will be big enough to break through the virality veil.
But just as clueless as you on the subject of virality is the SEO consultant you’re about to hire. They can promise you traffic, improved CRO, a better ranking, and so forth. But one thing they can’t promise you is if they’ll be making your article go viral. And any agency that tries to sell you that is certainly lying to you.
They Can’t Guarantee a Top Ranking
An SEO expert will help you improve your ranking in the SERPs, but they can’t guarantee you a top ranking. It’s beyond them. They simply do their thing and then sit down like the rest of the marketers to wait for results.
No marketer has enough power to control how Google and any other search engine for that matter ranks site. All that SEO expert do is spend their time trying to understand ranking systems and the changes made on that system at that particular time.
They’ll then modify their websites and content to make sure they’re giving search engines what they want.
At MediaOne Marketing, for example, we try to make intelligent guesses as to what exactly appeals to Google and other search engines. We also try to test some of these strategies out on our site and some other sites we manage to find out how they’re working and to what capacity. It’s only then that we’ll try to implement it on a client’s site.
But even with this, nothing comes with guarantees. For all we know, your competitors could be doing pretty much the same on their end. It’s simply a matter of “may the best effort” win, and until we also get to control everyone that you compete with, nothing we do comes with guarantees.
They Need You to Succeed
This is where things get a little complicated. SEO experts are competent in matters of SEO and not your niche.
So unless they’ve handled a similar project before, they need you every step of the way. Come to think about, the main goal of any genuine SEO campaign will always be to establish you as an authority site that your target audience can trust.
They can boost your ranking, but they need you for info. Any agency that glosses over this idea is merely setting you up for failure. And if they’re lucky to bring in results, then you can be sure the result won’t be permanent.
This is NOT to say that you’re the person to write the blog content and stuff. What’s implied is that you’re the person in charge of how you want to be perceived. You want the impression you create on your audience to be positive enough to last long and win their loyalty.
In other words, you’re the voice of your brand. And the only way an SEO agency can pull it off is when they work in close partnership with you instead of letting their writers do all the work. So while they’re pushing you to rank for a list of keywords, they also have to care about what it is that you want to achieve on your end.
If they’ve Put some of their Strategies and Tactics to the test
There is a reason experience matters a great deal in SEO. If you’ve been in the business of marketing long enough to witness the constant paradigm shift, then you would understand how certain things are the way they are.
Google isn’t trying to make life harder for marketers. If anything, if there’s anyone to blame for all that is happening in the world of marketing, then it’s the people employing blackhat marketing techniques. They’re the people that are making the internet insufferable.
Being in the industry long enough helps you to view things a little bit different and even understand some of its mechanizations. So where other marketers will be running their campaigns based on a manual they have or some tutorials they’re following, an experienced marketer will be running the campaign from a place of experience and deeper understanding.
Even better, this is NOT the first time they have done this. Their experience allows them to make calculated guesses of what to expect. And if there’s a new tactic in the street, their experience would have taught them to test it out for validity before they can go ahead and implement it on anyone’s project.
Sometimes finding the best SEO specialist is simply a matter of pay attention to what is most important to them. And if you create a list of questions, specifically as it relates to Google ranking factors, you will learn where they stand. The list above is a great starting point.