If there is one adage you should keep in mind every moment of your business life, it is this: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If someone offers you a gold nugget at half price, it is probably pyrite; otherwise known as Fool’s Gold. This is especially true for the online aspects of your business, whether you operate a brick-and-mortar shop where you sell physical goods, a service business, or a fully Internet-based information brokerage. While most businesses are net-savvy today, especially in cosmopolitan markets like Hong Kong, you can still get less quality than you deserve if you are not careful.

Hong Kong tram

Cracking the Hong Kong Market

Internet marketing in Hong Kong is just as competitive as any other advertising outlet, with dozens of companies to choose from. Selecting one based only on cost is rarely your best option; as the saying goes, when you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Company size does not necessarily matter, either. Quality certainly does, especially when shopping for online marketing packages for business. So how do you avoid the hype and find the substance, so you can get the most for your money? Make these five practices part of your due diligence.

1. Take guarantees with a grain of salt

Never let wishful thinking override your common sense. As a businessperson, you know that all business involves calculated risk. It makes no sense for an SEO company to make guarantees, any more than it does for a physical trainer or a doctor to do so. They cannot control every variable in the equation, particularly the way you implement their changes and recommendations. If they make ironclad guarantees, then you should suspect the possibility of fraud.

2. Check references

Checking references might seem very 19th century, but references don’t have to be written in longhand on rag paper to count. All but the newest firms should have a list of satisfied customers they can provide upon request in an email. In fact, you should not have to ask for the list; it ought to be easily available on their website. If an SEO candidate does not want to provide you with a customer list, that should be a red flag. Even if you do get a list of happy customers, never just take their word for it. Can you talk to those customers? Call several prove their bona fides, and to see if they really are happy with the candidate SEO firm’s work. How did the provider do? Did they deliver on time and within budget, or even better, complete their work early?

3. Does the provider care more about keywords than your business goals?

When you hire a company to do something as significant as your meeting your SEO needs, they must be willing to do their due diligence in even greater detail than you did your due diligence on them. online marketing in virtual Hong Kong requires a deft touch and a sincere understanding of your business goals—not just a list of keywords or phrases they want to hit a specific number of times on your splash pages or homepage. Significant discussions with you, with detailed study of your needs and the quality of your existing content, will naturally produce the appropriate keywords they need to use in the SEO content they produce for you. Any other approach will likely be hit-and-miss.

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4. Has the provider done anything suspect for other customers?

An SEO marketing package should deliver crisp, clean SEO content that plays by the rules, using legitimate techniques to draw customers into your business. Review the website(s) of their existing customers, once you confirm their existence and state of satisfaction. If things still look good, apply a product like SEMRush.com to one or more of those websites to perform a basic audit, checking to see if they have gotten the basics of the website correct. A site may look fine until you realize the SEO specialists have failed to use the best possible keywords and combinations, or their understanding of the company’s business goals seems somewhat off or incomplete—either by mistake or because their work lacks quality. Either way, the effect of their work will be limited.

black hat or white hat seo services

5. Does the provider use “black hat” techniques?

Review their own websites as well as their customers’. How tightly focused is the copy? Do they key on the appropriate terms for their core business or their customer’s business? Everyone wants their website to appear on the very first page of the search engine results, whether on Google or Baidu, but you only want to get there legitimately. Have they hidden keywords in the code that have nothing to do with the content, but attract a lot of search engine attention—especially ones associated with sexually oriented sites or subjects? Not only is this a dishonest way to acquire traffic, such sites may be illegal in some jurisdictions. In any case, it will not get you customers or conversions. Similarly, do they include hidden links from websites they own or control on their customer websites? If so, that should put them out of the running immediately. So should fake or suspected fake reviews. These are written by paid writers who could care less about the products they write about and are often paid so little money they just say the same thing for each product they “review,” changing only the name. That is worse than useless. If they offer “free reviews” along with the SEO in their proposed Internet marketing package, avoid them altogether.

True Quality, True Integrity

You may be just fine hiring the first plumber or mechanic you find in the local directory, but this will not work for Hong Kong marketing, especially when it comes to the serious business of Search Engine Optimization. Do your homework, focusing on the SEO company’s integrity, willingness to work closely with you, quality of work, and legitimate business practices—practices that meet your own quality standards.  If you find yourself don’t understand what they are talking about, it’s worthwhile to take a basic SEO course. Alternatively, look for a custom designed internet marketing workshop that suits your needs. This way you get a better understanding what you are getting when you talk to a SEO agency next time.

Good SEO: Worth the Price

Remember, too, that you get what you pay for. Quality work requires decent rates, so bypass the very lowest bidders. Choosing “lowballers” often results in cut corners, boilerplate, poor communication, and terrible results. Take a little time to learn more about your potential SEO providers—and choose quality first, second, and third.

Floyd Largent is a freelance writer/editor with 25+ years of experience. Since he became a full-time freelancer in 2005, he has written literally thousands of SEO articles for a variety of clients, as well as hundreds of productivity and business articles, and has ghostwritten eight books on subjects as varied as marketing, productivity, and veganism. Educated as an anthropologist and historian, he worked as an archaeologist and technical writer for 15 years before beginning to write fully-time. He believes a good writer can write on any subject, and has also written games, a play, several novels, dozens of short stories, close to 100 history and archaeology articles published in U.S. magazines, a dozen scholarly papers, more than 100 cultural resources reports, hundreds of pieces of web-copy, as well as numerous technical specifications and white papers; and he has edited more than a hundred fiction and non-fiction book manuscripts. He can be contacted directly at [email protected].

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