Search Engine Optimisation

A website that sits on page 5 or 6 of a search result, and never grows nor ranks better, is not a worthwhile investment. A website is an important part of your set of marketing tools and a marketing strategy that does not include SEO (search engine optimisation) is nothing less than sub-par. In our instant access world, up to 97% of people are researching their desired product or service on the web before they make a purchase. By helping you capture these potential clients an effective and easy-to-find website fulfils a critically important role to the future growth of your business.

More about Search Engine Optimisation at SwiftCom.

SEO is a frequently used term in the online industry. But what is it really, what should it cost and how does SEO work, specifically for companies operating eCommerce sites in South Africa?

Many companies in South Africa claim to do SEO well. However, is that really the case? What are the elements involved in proper SEO?

What is SEO not?

SEO is not simply a small monthly subscription that you can pay. After doing market research, we found that really good SEO companies in South Africa cost about R60,000 / month. A bit more expensive than you though?

Another very important mistake not to make is to fall for the packages deal where an SEO company guarantees to rank you in certain areas. SEO doesn’t work that way, you cannot guarantee to rank in certain areas. The only real way to rank in certain areas would be to use Google ads and target on certain provinces, cities or suburbs. The reason for this is because Google decide where and when to rank your website. An SEO company cannot really manipulate it.

One other misconception is global SEO ranking. Some SEO companies offer to make your website rank nationally or internationally. However, each country has a unique culture and each culture searches differently on Google. Think of specific ad campaigns that would work in South Africa. A company would be able to use the words “Lekker” or “Rugby” or phrases like “Jou Ma se Kos”. It’s because that’s part of one of many cultures in South Africa.

Similarly, other countries also have certain cultures. And you cannot make a website rank on Google if you don’t understand the culture that you’re ranking it for. Moreover, how can you understand a culture if you don’t speak that specific language? You can read more about global SEO here – Neil Patel has great resources on many different SEO fields.

Also worth mentioning is the time it takes to rank on Google. If you sign up with an SEO company and your website suddenly starts to rank after a few weeks, you should be worried. Organic SEO takes months or even years to grow and not weeks. Some SEO companies have an arsenal of websites in their fleet and when you sign up with them, depending on the package you’re paying for, they’ll create backlinks for you on these sites. Alternatively, they’ll use what we call “back-linkers” to go through internet forums, ask fake questions and then answer these questions with links to your site. We’ve also seen back-linkers create links on bookmark sites. These links are actually very bad for your site’s reputation and should be removed as soon as you see them.

You can read up more about backlinks on Google’s Link Scheme’s policy. You’d be surprised to know that even exchanging goods or services in order to get a link on a friends website or blog is against Google’s policy. And although it’s very difficult for Google to crank down on this, eventually, in time, they will find ways of penalising sites with bad back-links.

How to identify a good SEO company?

Identifying a good SEO company is like buying a house. You have to do proper research and visit more than just one before you decide. If you partner with the wrong SEO company, major damage could be done to your brand and it will be a big setback to your business.

So we’ve lined out a few good ways to identify an SEO company below:

  • Check which backlinks their own website has.
  • Ask them what strategy they follow.
  • Ask them whether you’ll rank within weeks of signing up.
  • As them how they create backlinks.
  • Don’t fall for the bounce rate trick.

Let’s elaborate a bit more on the above points so you know exactly how to identify a good SEO company.

Backlinks

The best way to verify an SEO companies’ integrity would be to find out why they’re ranking on Google. An easy way to do this is to check their backlinks. Backlinks is a common way to manipulate page rank in the SERPs. Your SEO company should definitely not be doing it on their own website. If they do, well, then they simply don’t deserve to rank on Google.

Now that you know a bit more about backlinks, we’ll show you how to check an SEO companies’ backlinks. You can also follow this sam process if you would like to see who is linking to your competitors. There are many tools available to do this, one free tool you can use is Neil Patel’s Uber Suggest. Simply visit his tool, enter the URL of the SEO company’s homepage and see what pops up. So let’s help you make sense of the results.

After you’ve run the tool, at the bottom left, click on the Backlinks tab. This will show you all the backlinks that the page or domain you’ve entered has. You can then go through a few backlink results and analyse them. 

  • If your SEO company has good backlinks, the websites you visit will be legit and part of their industry. Those websites will also have good relevant content.
  • If your SEO company has bad backlinks, websites linking to them will be part of completely different industries and the website’s linking to them will be very low quality. One way to identify the quality of a website is to read the content and see whether it makes sense or not.

The quality of backlinks to your SEO companies’ website should be a major factor in your decision making process.

Here’s why:

If you’re looking for a good doctor, what do you do? You ask friends and family for referrals, correct? People that have had past experiences at a doctor and can recommend their services. So consider this fact, who would you rather trust as a referral to a good doctor, a nurse friend who works in the medical industry or a person from your local café? Well, I’m sure, as we all would, you would trust the nurse friend. Purely because they’re reputable in that industry and they should know what they’re talking about. Backlinks work in the same way, if a website has many backlinks from irrelevant industries, it’s a sign of cheating with SEO. 

Why would a website offering tours, link to an SEO company for any good reason? You only link to other websites because they might contain resources or information that you don’t have. That’s almost the whole idea of the internet.

Strategy

Okay, enough about backlinks, let’s talk about strategy. An important question you can ask your new SEO company is “what strategy they’ll be following”? SEO companies charging low rates and have loads of clients, simply don’t have the time to setup a proper strategy for each client. “If they fail to plan, well, then they plan to fail”. – Benjamin Franklin

But setting up a strategy is very important, your SEO company needs to be in constant contact with you about what they’re going to do next and how they’ll reach certain goals. Their strategy should also be in line with what you have in mind for your business.

If you’re running a campaign for Black Friday, your SEO company should know about that and have a page ready. Otherwise you won’t rank on Google when the time comes.

Ranking

How quickly do you rank when signing up with an SEO company? Ranking very quickly is a bad sign, unless you have a very niche market and a great launch campaign, you’re not likely to rank very quickly. There’s an estimated 30 trillion websites on Google. Adding another one on there won’t really make a big difference, would it? So, unless, as mentioned earlier, you have a niche market and you fill many content gaps, your website could take more than a year to start ranking organically.

It takes time for people to link to your website and find it’s content. Google also look at factors like pages/visit, speed, mobile usability, etc, before ranking your website. So a lot of focus and effort should be going into those factors. Focus on keeping the visitors you receive on your website so that Google can realise, hey, there’s something to be found here.

Creating Backlinks

How will the SEO company create backlinks for you? Manually going to forum sites and posting questions and answers is most certainly not the way. Those are low quality links and will actually do you more harm than good.

Good backlinks influence your domain rating. You can read more about domain rating here. You’ll quickly realise after reading the link that backlinks on forum sites are actually negative for your domain rating and should not be the bulk of links to your site. Forum sites link to too many other sites, so their links are almost worthless.

If you generate amazing content on your site and you truly fill content gaps in the market, you’ll automatically get backlinks from other people as time passes.

Bounce Rate

We’ve heard this one too many times. If you’re asked to open your Analytics and navigate to the bounce rate tab, immediately be alert. Bounce rate is not entirely what you might think.

Consider this example. A user Google’s for “bed sizes South Africa”. They visit your site and within seconds they find a result. They then leave your site and continue doing whatever they were doing before the Google search.

Did the user bounce because they didn’t visit your website for more than a minute? Well, no, they didn’t, because they found what they were looking for. The default bounce rate setting on Google Analytics might not be optimal for your website. There are ways to adjust it in order to count certain users as “not bounced”. One way is to include scroll percentage as “not bounced”.

So make sure not to believe everything you’re told about bounce rate.

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