I've had two occasions recently to be shocked at what Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) consultants charge versus what they actually deliver.
And angry, because (in one case) it was daylight robbery.
So here's a tip if you're struggling with optimizing your site for the search engines:
Get your self a free Google account (if you don't already have one) and add Google Webmasters' Tools and Google Adwords to it.
With Adwords you'll need to give them details of a valid credit card, but you don't need to spend anything unless you set up a campaign.
Google Webmasters' Tools
Then dig into Google Webmasters' Tools and read their guidelines on setting up an effective site – Webmasters' Guidelines.
There's a lot of valuable information there and it's a great starting point for making sure your site is properly structured and meets Google's quality guidelines. Especially as it comes from Google itself.
For more information specifically about optimizing your site for the search engines there's a PDF document on the Google Webmasters' Tools site.
It's Google's Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide, and you can find it here.
This one goes into some detail on each of the on-page elements you need to pay attention to, what they do and how you should configure them for the best results.
I urge you to read both those documents to educate yourself on the principles of site construction and search engine optimization.
You may still decide to hire an SEO consultant if you do not have the time, the skills or the inclination to do it yourself.
That's fine (and a good move unless you're confident of doing it yourself), but please educate yourself on the basics first, so you know whether or not your chosen consultant is giving you good value.
Unfortunately, because SEO has this aura of being a black art, it's an area that's spawned a bunch of people who claim to be able to do wonderful things, for which you'll pay a fortune and get little in return.
I also mentioned adding Adwords to your Google account. This is because Adwords contains a very powerful keyword tool that you can use to find good keywords for your site.
You'll have noticed that those articles by Google on SEO don't mention keywords. That's because Google is able to access your site and read the content of your pages, so it doesn't need keywords to tell it what your site's about.
However, other search engines (Yahoo and Ask among the major ones) do make use of keywords, so it's as well to include properly focused keywords in your META tags.
Quite apart from that, the META keywords tag is part of the W3C standards for web page construction, so having them there helps to ensure your page is standards-compliant.
The Keywords Tool in Google Adwords offers you two ways of developing a set of META keywords for your page:
- You can type in the URL of your page and ask the tool to list keywords it recommends based on the page content
- You can type in the primary keyword (or search term) you have come up with for the page and ask the tool to list related keywords.
In both cases the tool will look at the keywords (or search terms) that people have used to find the same type of information that your page contains, and list those terms for you.
Some of the terms will be irrelevant. So select between 3 and 10 relevant ones and use those in the keyword META tag content for your page.
Search Engine Optimisation is a necessary and important part of making your website successful, but it's not a black art.
So don't let someone persuade you it is and charge you a fortune for doing little in return.