How does your SEO rank loyalty?

Before hiring a professional SEO (search engine optimization) company, there is a critical question that should be asked, but is often overlooked. The question is:  “Are you already working for a business in my industry?”  If the answer is “yes”, you should request and carefully consider the company’s plan for promoting the best interests and search engine ranking of multiple clients in the same competitive industry.

Here is a GREAT example of a BAD deal!

The company that designed my orthodontist’s website – officite.com – promotes their services as follows:

Strategic search puts your practice first.

Just as you may have found Officite today by searching the terms “dental marketing” or “dental Web site design” on a search engine like Google®, so, too, will your patients and prospective clients search for you with words associated to their needs.

By creating customized keyword lists that include localities, ailments and treatments, and properly registering every Web site we build with the network of major search engines, you know you will be front-and-center when someone searches for you.

But guess what? My orthodontist is nowhere to be found on Google for “cosmetic dentists” or “orthodontists” in Colorado Springs. Why? Well, just try plugging this section of their home page text into Google (with quotes for an exact match):

“doctor and patient become a team for treating an individual’s dental needs”

You will find about 290 listings using the exact same text. What’s more, if you begin going through the sites you will find that all of the patient education information on the sites has been duplicated as well.

It’s common knowledge that in the case of duplicate content Google chooses the ONE site that they believe is the original owner of the text and filters all of the other pages out of their search engine results. Since Google assigns the highest rank to sites with unique and relevant information, no SEO company can guarantee better rankings by using duplicate content.

So is it possible for an SEO company to have more then one client in the same industry? We discussed this challenge in a thread at The Small Business Forum, [see SEO loyalty in the face of competition] and the general consensus was that though it is possible, an ethical SEO would know full well that the scenario is complicated and have a plan in place.

Some of the valid ways in which an SEO can address competition among clients are:

1.  Limit clients to certain geo-locations. An orthodontist in Colorado Springs would not be affected by ongoing SEO work for an orthodontist in Denver.

2.  Explain the conflict of interest and refer the new client to another trusted SEO.

3.  Structure the contract based on achieving first page rankings. In that scenario, theoretically an SEO could serve up to 10 different companies. Ever changing rankings could make this idea unrealistic, however.

4.  Provide services based on specific keywords that do not overlap between clients.

5.  Hire writers (in house or outsourced) to ensure that unique content is written for all clients.

6.  Offer two separate contracts, one that guarantees exclusive rights within a certain mail radius and one that has no such guarantee. Charges would be based on which contract the client chooses.

In the end, all of the SEO’s I discussed the issue with agreed that it is a matter of company ethics.

So ask the question. If the SEO company has a plan in place at least it means they have thought through the complications and made a decision to look out for their clients’ best interests. If there is no plan, you could be hiring the company that is promoting your competition!