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A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Jim Drever, WyomingEntrepreneur.biz business adviser
"I have recently been contacted by a company offering to help my website so that it will be found by search engines. Are these companies good or are they fraudulent?" Jennifer, Laramie
Yes and no on both counts. If you cannot manage your website's search engine optimization yourself, the best thing is to research the company you hire.
First, I would be cautious about companies coming to you, especially those that telemarket or send unsolicited emails. If they are good at what they do, they shouldn't have to engage in push marketing. The exceptions would be a familiarity with your industry, geographic proximity or some other compelling reason to engage in business with them.
The next often omitted step is checking references. If the business was referred to you, this might already be taken care of. Find out what they were able to do for other businesses and see what their expectations are for your website and what they can do to improve your search engine rankings. This is important because there are different levels of competition for different terms.
Find out how they seek your input and keep up to date with your search terms. The search terms should not be industry jargon, but should be the words customers use, especially when searching for you, your product or service. These search terms should appear on your webpage. Normally, these terms change over time, so what will they do to keep up? Will they monitor and report your rankings on important terms?
Finally, if you have the slightest concern that the company might use unscrupulous techniques, stay away. The techniques I am mentioning are things such as using phony webpages that back link to you, stuffing your pages with text the same color as the background (Google or any other search engine can read it in the code, but your visitors will not see it) and other tricks.
When Google catches people using these techniques, it will blacklist the entire site. Being blacklisted means instead of just being on the fifth page of results, your site will never be found.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.