The practice of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has changed quite a deal. A lot of the developments in how websites are ranked can be directly attributed to spammers exploiting previous ranking factors.

As such, SEO has now become a somewhat involved practice that can still be distinctly separated into two types: those who expertly work with Google’s often mysterious guidelines and those who try deviously to work around them.

The problem with the first kind is that their results only work long term, garnering little appreciation from impatient clients, and with the second, it works well in the short term until Google discovers it and heavily penalises the site (at which point the SEO company is no longer under contract.)

Obviously, when looking at SEO companies, it’s better to choose the first. But the hard part is knowing which SEO agency is which.

The Changing Goals

Many claim that the increasing complexity of Google’s search algorithms, like Penguin and Panda, have made SEO such an esoteric practice that it’s not really worth the time. But while it has become harder to rank, statistics show that SEO spending is higher today than it was in 2004.

This is due to changing industry objectives of SEO, or rather a noticeable search engine presence. While many used to see SEO as a tool to create revenue for their site, these days it’s more often associated with building brand reputation and other general marketing goals. This has helped executives see it in a more versatile sense and made practitioners less desperate to achieve results in unethical ways.

What to Look out For From SEO Companies

An SEO agency can perform a multitude of services, although many agree that it’s most effective when integrated into a new site design rather than an existing one. They write and develop content strategy, provide technical advice on the infrastructure, perform link building or even manage online social media campaigns.

As mentioned above, adopt a brand image perspective when looking for SEO companies. The company should behave more like a digital marketing agency than “ranking wizards”.

  • They should have experience in your country, including verifiable testimonials.
  • They should be well versed and comply with Google Webmaster Guidelines.
  • They should specify their SEO techniques and provide detailed reports and recommendations.
  • Don’t trust any company that guarantees a #1 ranking in a month or promises an unnatural amount of links.
  • Watch out if they own shadow domains or have been themselves removed from Google’s Index.

Although there is a great deal of expertise involved in SEO, it shouldn’t be seen as technological puzzle. Rather one should look for an SEO company that understands Google’s practical objectives with their ranking practices and works with them to build your brand online the right way.