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If all this is sounding a little complex, then you might be considering skipping the hard part by outsourcing your SEO. But can you trust an SEO company to do the best possible job for your site and for your brand? While there are a ton of great SEO companies out there providing valuable work and helping companies to reach new heights in terms of their exposure and profits, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that there are probably more not so great SEO companies.

These are the companies that didn’t get the memo when Google changed. They’re the companies that still insist on keyword stuffing and link spam. Worse are the companies that knowingly don’t do anything and just take your money. And the problem is that it isn’t easy to tell the two apart.

How do you know if your SEO company is offering great value for money, or whether it’s actually just twiddling its thumbs and sending you large invoices every few months?The answer is that you need more robust tracking. But we’ll get to that in a moment. Read on to find out why SEO is such a tricky industry and what you can do to protect your investment.

The Trouble With SEO Companies

This isn’t a problem you face with most other industries. If you hire someone to paint your fence, then at the end of the day you can see the work they’re doing and you can decide for yourself if you’re getting your money’s worth. Ultimately, your fence is either going to be painted, or it isn’t. There are no half measures. The same is true for cleaning companies. And for marketing consultants. And for accountants.

But when you hire someone to do SEO, you actually can’t see the results right away. It can take months for SEO to have a positive impact on your site’s ranking and even when it has been done well, there’s no guarantee you’ll get to page one. And worse: most people don’t have a comprehensive knowledge of SEO and so don’t know what their companies should be doing to help them get the best results.

How can you check in on someone if you don’t know what they’re meant to be doing? In fact, even if you handle your SEO yourself, it can still be hard to know if it’s working or not! Using Metrics, Tracking Tools and Google Analytics
All you can really ask is that you see metrics regarding the SEO campaign. And some of these metrics can be more useful than others.

You can ask for the number of links that have been built for instance. You can ask for the Page Rank of the pages where those links have been built (although ‘page rank’ is now largely a depreciated measure). Use everything you’ve learned in this book to ensure that those are highly quality links and not just link spam. You need to get long-term results, not a short term boost.And you can track changes in your positions in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

Many SEO companies will use tracking software which lets them see your site climbing the rankings for different terms over time. They can then use these to deliver you a report showing how your site has climbed since their intervention. If you are handling your own SEO, then you might still choose to use a tracking tool in order to keep an eye on your success over time and ensure that your efforts are getting results.

But what does any of this tell you?

Because here’s something else to consider: getting to the top of Google is not the end goal. Even if you get to the top of Google, there’s no guarantee this will bring more profits for your business because you need to ensure that the people finding your content are targeted and that those people are converting. Or to put it another way: all that really matters is the bottom line.

If you’re a business and you’re paying for SEO, then you need to know that you are getting more sales because of that SEO and that you’re earning more money. This way, that SEO is offering ROI and that means it has been money well spent. Savvy companies then will track the ROI of their SEO spend by using a tool called Google Analytics.

This is the most well-known analytics tool for webmasters and marketers and one particularly useful feature it has is the ability to set a ‘goal’ and then track the traffic that makes it to that goal.So if you’re trying to sell a product, then your ‘goal’ might be the ‘thank you page’ that you show after a purchase. This allows you to see not only that you’re getting more traffic but also that you’re getting more targeted traffic that’s actually converting.

Better yet, Google Analytics will be able to tell you where those converting visitors came from. And specifically, you’ll be able to see if someone who used your search term eventually ended up buying your product. These are people who have bought products from you because of your SEO efforts.

Using PPC to Research Your Keywords

If you hire an SEO company to help you rank for a certain search term, then you are probably missing the point. The better way to approach this is to hire an SEO company to help you increase your profits or your brand awareness. Thus, the very best SEO companies are those that use a combination of different marketing tools – combining everything from SEO to social media to brand management.

Part of this is choosing the right search terms. So if you let your SEO company choose your search term and they don’t increase your profits, they might be good at ranking still but not good at strategy. It’s important to know whether ranking for the particular phrase you’re interested in is actually going to translate to tangible results.

The same is true if you’re doing SEO on your own. And one way you can check how successful your SEO is likely to be before you spend lots of time and/or money on it, is to use PPC. PPC is of course ‘Pay Per Click’. This is a type of advertising that involves.

Using Analytics in Your Own Campaign

It is equally important that you use analytics in your own SEO campaigns for the very same reasons. Good SEO is about constant iteration and seeing which actions are having the best impact on your tracking. Struggling to rank for a certain term? Then you can consider aiming for another one. Finding that people from an unexpected search term are converting more highly than those from other search terms? Then it might be time to switch gear and start trying to rank for that phrase instead!

Setting up Google Analytics is thankfully rather simple. First, you’ll need to head over to Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/) and then you’ll need to add a small tracking code to each page of your site. If you’re using WordPress, then you can simply use a plugin to do this. You can then set up your ‘view’, which will let you choose which stats you want to look at.

Some useful things to look at here are your audience overview (key data regarding who is looking at your site, which can help you to better target specific demographics), acquisition (where your traffic is coming from), real time (which shows you how many people on your site right now) and the aforementioned ‘goals’.