Google. The giant. Almost every client with which I work asks me how they can be found on Google, rank better on Google, get to the top of Google. The benefits to achieving this are, of course, obvious. If you sold shoes, and every person that put "shoes" into Google saw your website, you would be making money hand over fist. I have even known of companies that were purchased simply because of how well they rank on Google. It's a big deal.
Achieving it, on the other hand, is more complicated. First, let's discuss how Google decides what websites to show when it makes the search. Basically, Google has a catalog of the entire internet. It reads the words on your website, and then it reads the words on the websites that link to you, especially the words in the actual link. It also assigns a grade to each website, so getting a link from one website could cause you to get more "points" to your ranking than another. The one with the most "points" go first, the one with the second most goes second, and so on. It's a bit more complicated and it actually takes many other factors (your social media presence, how quickly your website loads, etc), but this is the main one.
Now, for many years there has been a service called "Search Engine Optimization." Basically, it's a job devoted to making your website rank better. They work with the content on your website, as well as getting good websites to link to you, so that you can rank better.
This used to be significantly easier than it is now. Google does not like its rankings being manipulated, and so over the years they have improved the way their search engine algorithm works so that won't be affected by the common "tricks" that SEO companies relied upon to make their clients rank well; in fact, they now actually punish websites they feel are trying to unfairly manipulate their rankings. You could see your position drop or, even worse, your website could be removed from Google altogether!
So, do you still want to be first on Google? Of course you do! Now, it is very difficult to do it alone, so many people end up hiring a search engine optimization company in order to help them. Unfortunately, this field has a tendency to attract a large number of scams. To help you cut through the scam artists, I attached a list of warning signs that, if an SEO company says, should make you take warning:
- They'll submit your website to search engines: your website will be found by Google naturally, so there's no reason to submit. This is a worthless "service" designed to make it look more impressive.
- They give you a very short timeline: SEO is a complicated process. Anyone who says they'll get you where you want to be in a week, they're lying.
- They talk about "optimizing your keywords tags:" Google has stopped reading keywords tags years ago. It's just a quick fix people use to trick you to think they're doing more work.
- They don't want to make changes to your website: Chances are, your website is not optimized the best for search engines (how could it be if you don't know how to do it?). If they're doing things you can't see, they're probably not doing much of anything.
- They don't tell you how they're getting you links: Companies often say they have proprietary secrets, and they certainly won't reveal everything, but if they're completely silent on it, they're probably doing something shady. Ask them what their strategy is.
- They promise too much for too little: No, you're not going to be the number one on Google for "shoes" for a one-time $300 fee. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Of course, these are just guidelines. When in doubt, go with your gut. Try to see if they have other clients and contact them. Make sure it's somebody you're comfortable. Real SEO is a long-term relationship with a lot of money involved, so you need to be sure that this is somebody who can you work with.