Ten Things to Ask Before Hiring A Company to Promote Your Web Site
By Eric Ward
November 12, 1996

Author’s note…believe it or not, I wrote the below article in November, 1996. The Internet Archive still has a copy of the original you can see here. I leave this article live on my site for a few reasons. One is that it’s intertesting to see how it holds up over time. Some aspects of it are dated, such as search engine submissions, but other aspects are as relevant today as they were two decades ago. Also, it helps show that  some of us were seeking links as a form of public relations long before it became mainstream, and long before their was a “Google” to reward us for those links.  The beauty of this approach is that those of us who worked this way ended up creating the exact type of backlink footprint that Google was looking for: not manipulated, earned, and relevant.

The below 10 questions should be asked of any Web promotion/submission service before hiring them.

1. Do they use automated submission services to do their work?

Some companies, especially those who make silly offers like “submit your site to 500 search engines for $19.95”, are executing those submissions via automated scripts. This is extremely dangerous, and most search engines and directories dread them. Auto-submission services are dangerous, and all are NOT created equal. The company you are contracting with should disclose to you exactly how any submissions will be made. I’ve seen many auto submission services fail terribly in making listings. It is always preferred that you use the actual submission form from the site you are submitting to, not someone elses. It takes longer, and yes, it’s a pain in the ass, but it is worth it. Some search engines and directories even deny submissions made from auto submission services. I currently get new clients every month who used one of these auto-bots first, and now pay me to re-submit their listings. If you truly need to use one of these services, please contact me and I will recommend a couple of the best ones to you, free of charge.

2. Will you receive proof that the submissions were made, and a print-out for every single site used?

I don’t mean a one-page laundry list of all sites, but the actual confirmation print out that nearly every submission outlet offers.

If you do not get a copy of every post sent or confirmation screen print-out, ask for them.

This helps prove that the sites were used one at a time, the right way. If you do not get a copy of every post sent or confirmation screen print-out, you should ask why

3. Will they provide you with references names and phone numbers?

This is so simple, yet it’s overlooked. If a company claims that they can help you with building awareness of your site, then ask them to prove it. I’ll gladly give you client’s sites and email contacts in three countries.

4. Are follow-up services available to verify your URL made it in, and re-submission after 30 days for slow or lagging indexes? 

We know how slow the engines are to respond to new submissions. Sometimes it seems like they let them slip through the cracks. Why should you have to pay twice for something that should have made it in the first time? Here is what you should get: After 30 days, at least one re-submission to any search that does not have the URL added yet. If they don’t offer such a gaurentee, they need to at least offer you a list of the submission outlets so that you can pursue it on your own.

5. Do they locate, keep up with, and maintain ongoing editor and publisher relations with the Internet media folks?

If the company offers to send news releases to editors on your behalf, ask them what their relationship is with the folks they are contacting, how they select them, and whether or not they have perm ission from the people they are sending to. Do they even know their names? Try this test on them. Ask them to name any 2 Yahoo Pick Of The Week Editors by name.

6. Never use a service that sends Email by Bcc’ing (blind carbon) to a list of names. Ask them if they do. 

Blind carbons are the equivalent of an unsolicited phone call to your house to sell you something. They irritate. Have you ever received one? If so, you probably didn’t like it much, especially if you didn’t ask for it.

How savvy is your online PR firm? Ask them to name any two Yahoo Pick Of The Week editors by name

Next, you probably did what most people do: hit the “delete” key. The exact opposite of what you want your PR to do. I send each and every email one at a time, to a specific person, by name. Yes, it is slower. It also works for my clients, which is the best reward. I have sent thousands of press releases to thousands of editors, and have yet to be asked to stop. Why? Because I do it right. I now get email from editors, writers, and contributors telling when they’re getting new email addresses, so I can keep sending them my client’s electronic press releases.

7. More is absolutely NOT better. Ask them how they select the submission sites for your site. 

Some services will re-send your info to hundreds upon hundreds of directories or other contacts, bragging about the free link they got you. Baloney. I’ve seen the lists of sites, visited them, and I ask you: What good is being on a bunch of obscure hot lists that get 3 hits a day each? This is nothing but a way of trying to impress you with big numbers of sites submitted to as opposed to what really matters–the quality, interests, traffic and intent of the users visiting the sites where your submissions were made. Also, just because a directory offers a free link to any business does not mean it will be in the best interests of your company to be in that directory. There are even fake directories who are only after an email addrss to sell to someone. Not every link is a good link…Quality beats quantity in the long run.

8. Do they look beyond the basics? Require some effort to look for regional and topical affinity audiences.

If all that someone does is stick your URL in all the major general directories they know of, they have insulted you and your site. What about other venues like Blogs, RSS feeds, site reviewers at venues like Yahoo Picks or USA Today Hot Sites. Yes, this takes some time to research, but it’s worth it.

9. Do they give you specific outcome objectives, or are they charging by the hour or by some other method? 

At least two companies have services that will bill you based on the number of hours they spend each month engaged in “link-seeking” activities for your site. Hmmm… Now, I can’t speak to whether or not such practices will or wont work, but here’s a question: Isn’t billing by the hour an invitation for abuse? A way to avoid quantifying performance? If you choose this method, agree to some set of performance goals FIRST, and if you can, get a track record.

10. Do they work with every site on the planet, or carefully select who they work with? 

Depending on the situation, trying to increase awareness of two or more similar (and possibly competing) companies is unethical and self-serving, and not in the best interests of the client nor their site.

Copyright (c) 1996, Eric R. Ward

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