One of my fabulous clients forwarded me an spam SEO email she received the other day from a company and in the course of investigating it, I found some amazing things I wanted to share with you small business website owners who are looking to hire someone to do SEO for your website.
I found, to my amazement, a graphic advertising a Google Sitemap for $250.
Wow, a Google Sitemap for $250. Now I realize many of you are thinking, what the heck is a sitemap and maybe this is a reasonable price. Not so!
First off, Google and Yahoo and Bing and everyone else use the same XML sitemap format. You don’t need a different one for Google and Yahoo and Bing. Secondly, it’s a little text file that simply lists the pages on your site. It’s supposed to help search engines find all the pages on your site. Now whenever I design a website, I create one, just as an insurance policy to make sure Google finds all the pages, but if Google has already found your pages, you might not need one. Click here to see if Google has indexed all of your website’s pages. Google even provides a free site map generator.
Now, if your website isn’t fully indexed and you think you need a sitemap, what’s a reasonable price? Well, for many of the websites I design that are under 30 pages, making a sitemap takes maybe 15 minutes. Maybe an attorney can make $250 in 15 minutes, but not most web designers. Therefore, charging a flat rate of $250 for a sitemap is really, really, really overcharging folks for something they might not need and even if they do need it, it’s pretty quick to create.
This is just one example of an SEO company or individual charging for things that are pretty close to free. Here are some others:
Submission to Search Engines
I often see this offered as a service. First off, if you take the top three search engines, Google, Yahoo and Bing, you’ve got 90% of the search engine market covered (see January 2009 results). What if I told you could submit your website to these three search engines for free? Seriously. Here are the links:
Now, if the big three let you submit for free, what are chances the other little players charge you? You get the point. And you only need to do this ONCE for your website. Submitting over and over will only annoy them, and we don’t want that.
This is another example if a very small file that can help your website. Again, this takes maybe 5 whole minutes to create and is typically much smaller than the sitemap file. Oh, and Google also has a tool that will help you create this little helper file too. Click here to get Google’s help to create a robots.txt file. It’s supposed to give “bots” those mysterious little programs that crawl around the web directions. Again, not super hard to make and should only take someone a few minutes.
Now this item is a tricky one. It’s super easy to change a website’s meta tags. But what to change them to is the part that takes the time investment. What are meta tags? These little pieces of code, very short, that are (or should be) a part of your website code near the top of your page. Want to see what your meta tags look like? Just go to your home page, click “view source” in your browser. Look at the top for something like:
<title>Hello I am your title and should be filled with keywords</title>
That’s the “title” tag. And here’s the description tag:
<meta name=”Description” content=”Hello I am a description of this particular page” />
That’s it. See how short they are? The hard part is doing the research to figure out what to put in these two meta tags. But actually changing them is very quick. A good SEO person should involve you in this research. Changing the tags is trivial, deciding what to change them to is not. And what about the keyword meta tag? The keyword meta tag was declared dead and useless in 2002.
Be really, really careful of link building scams – they can actually do damage to your search engine rankings. On the website I saw they were offering a month of link building for over $3000. This is a huge amount of money – and you need to find out exactly what you’re getting for this. If they are just going to spam small business website owners with endless link exchange requests, it’s not worth it. Find out details, ask questions. If they can’t explain their link building practices in language that you understand, look elsewhere.
While it is debatable whether having your website validate is a benefit to SEO, actually finding out IF your website code is valid is free. Click here to use the W3C Validation tool.
Image Tag Optimization
Sounds impressive huh? Well, it’s a very small task depending on the number of images you have on your website. In general, whenever you add an image, there’s a part of the image code that can contain keywords. It’s contained in the ALT attribute of the image tag. So if you sell widgets, it might look like this:
<img src=”images/widget.jpg” alt=”widget”>
It’s just a little bitty extra piece that should, as a matter of good design, be on every image.
Local Google Listing
By now you’re getting pattern, right? Google stuff is FREE. Click here to learn how to get your business listed in Google Local.
Want good FREE SEO advice? Visit Google’s Webmaster Central. Even if you’re not a web designer, it will give you a good education right from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. And if someone gives you a list of SEO services they will provide – do a little bit of research to see if any of these things are really something you can do yourself. There are lot of people out there to take advantage of this thing called SEO – a little education goes a long way.
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.