A good SEO initiative can have a huge impact on making your site search engine friendly and improving your rank. When considering a search engine optimization (seo) firm, however, it is critical that you do your homework, since a reputable seo firm can help improve your site, but an unscrupulous firm using deceitful practices can ruin your reputation and your site. With this in mind, here are some important SEO points to keep in mind:

Content and Keywords

Since search engine spiders comb your site finding keywords or phrases for indexing, it is important to pay attention to your content. The key here, though, is to use keywords and keyword phrases wisely, since keyword spamming is frowned upon by search engines. Content should be well-written and geared to your target market with solid keyword phrases.

Relevant Links

Relevant links are a must if you want to increase page rank. These must be from reputable sites that provide content relevant to your site. Be aware, though, that link farms and link exchanges offer practices that can get you banned from search engines, so it is best to stay away from them. The lesson here: Not just any link will do.

Hard Work and Patience Required

There are no magic tricks, nobody has exclusive knowledge, and results do not happen instantaneously. A well-optimized site, with work done consistently, is the only way to gain or maintain page rank. If you can’t devote the time to do this yourself, then a reputable SEO firm is the route to go.

SEO Tricks to Avoid

These are just a few of the tricks that should never, under any circumstances, be used:

  • Number 1 Page Rank Guaranteed - First off, search engines continually look for malicious attempts to manipulate page rank and change their algorithms regularly because of this, so no one can guarantee page rank. Plus, with those algorithm changes, a page rank of one today can easily turn into a page rank of 10 tomorrow, so consistent work is a must, and without it, rank cannot be maintained.
  • Submit Your Site to [insert name or names of search engines] - This is something that you can easily do yourself. Google® offers a link to add your URL, as well as sitemap inclusions, to submit sites for free—No payment required. Those that tout this claim can submit your site to thousands of search engines or directories with no affect on rank at all, so don’t buy it. Mind the title above Patience & Hard Work are still Required.
  • Hidden Keywords - This is accomplished by making the font color of the text the same color as the background. This is also keyword spamming. This is never acceptable and should never be done. It’s one of the older black hat methods of unscrupulous SEO firms.
  • Redirects, Doorways, Shadow Domains - Although redirects, if done properly and for the right reasons, are acceptable, the practice of redirects to deceive search engines is not. Shadow domains use deceptive redirects and are owned by the SEO firm, so they are only of value as long as you are using the SEO firm’s services. Doorways are just pages loaded with keywords, with some using hidden links in the pages that direct users to the firm’s other clients—and not just you.
  • Cloaking - This practice is meant to allow search engine robots to see one thing, while showing users another. Highly frowned upon by search engines.
  • Unsolicited Email Offers - If you receive an email informing you that these people noticed that your site is not listed, and they can help, you should immediately hit the Spam button to make sure it goes into its proper place. A reputable firm will not send out unsolicited emails.

In Conclusion

There are many reputable resources on the Web, which will help you learn for yourself what is needed to optimize your site and gain page rank. If, however, you find that you don’t have the time to undertake a task like this—because it does take time and work—make sure you thoroughly check out the SEO firm. Ask for testimonials from other clients, what their practices are, and make sure you understand what exactly they will do. If an SEO firm does not have an interest in helping you to understand something, you need to find another firm. Remember that you are responsible for your site. It will be you that gains or loses, so it is in your best interest to be informed and be aware.