How to Choose an SEO Company

If you’ve spent any time researching SEO prices then I’m sure you seen quite the range of available services and prices. The best SEO companies keep a steady book of business and know what their work is worth. Unfortunately in SEO just because you pay a higher price doesn’t always mean you get a higher level of service. In fact, there are quite an array of scammers who will guarantee the world, and either don’t have the knowledge necessary to perform the work or they simply don’t have any intention of providing quality services to their clients. The best advice is to exercise caution and use common sense; SEO isn’t a magic bullet.

Prior to hiring an SEO Company, you need to clearly understand SEO is a long-term approach to building your business. You need to set reasonable expectations, otherwise you are going to be disappointed. If you desire instant results, we highly recommend doing Pay Per Click advertising. The cost is higher, but if you desire instant results and maximum control, PPC is the way to go.

Here are a few key questions to ask when hiring an SEO company:

1. Ask how they will Benchmark and Forecast ROI on an SEO campaign and how they measure success.

I recommend working with providers who understand SEO in terms of ROI to your business. Paying $99 to rank #1 in Google w/ a money back guarantee isn’t exactly what I call planning for ROI. If the company you’re evaluating can’t help you forecast the value of SEO to your business then they probably don’t understand business enough to provide long term successful SEO services. I actually recommend establishing benchmarks and creating ROI based goals for your campaign as another way to measure the effectiveness of SEO.

2. Who exactly will be doing the SEO on my site? You should receive a name, a phone number along with their social accounts and instant messaging. Why is this important?

Unfortunately, many SEO companies range from shady to pure scams. Some companies are simply fronts who accept business for many services and outsource everything. They do not even know or have any idea of who will be performing the SEO for your site.

A ton of SEO work is outsourced to India or other countries where the “SEO” assigned to your account is working for $2/hr. I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with this practice other then the lack of transparency. Buyers should know exactly what they are purchasing.

3. Request a defined communication plan that explains points of contact, frequency of contact, and length of contact.

You should discuss how frequently you will receive account updates and what level of detail you should expect during your scheduled communication. With SEO work often taking months to see real results in the SERPS it’s vitally important that you have defined communication expectations with your SEO company and that there is a mutual trust and respect.

4. Ask what form of project management will be in place on your account and what level of access you will have to view the tasks, resources, objectives, and timelines in place regarding your project.

This could be an online project management system where hours are being logged and tasks recorded, or it could be as simple as excel spreadsheets logging the time and tasks performed. Regardless of the mechanism the important point is to define an Accountability Plan and stick to it. You may not see tons of value in having accountability when things are going great, but if you don’t prepare for any obstacles in SEO then you’re setting yourself up for failure. The accountability plan should be interwoven with your communication plan to ensure maximum satisfaction.

SEO is somewhat abstract and intangible which lends itself to more potential problems regarding customer satisfaction. The end results are real, but sometimes the process and strategy of how to achieve those results is a little more difficult to grasp and value.

With high levels of communication in place, a lot of the accountability issues should be at ease, but there should still be some visibility into the actual workload being performed by your SEO company. This helps you understand the amount of tedious work that goes into successful SEO campaigns and it also helps the SEO company ensure customer satisfaction. When results aren’t coming as fast as you had hoped, it really pays off to make sure you’ve established a project accountability plan.

5. Ask for a high level SEO plan. Most agencies will tell you they intend to build links to your site. My advice…run! At a high level, SEO comprises three elements: website architecture / design, content, and site promotion (social media + earning links). Once you have a solid website with great design and fantastic content THEN you can begin promoting the site.

Many SEOs are still caught up in years past where you could simply build links to a site and get it to rank well. They never learned about onpage optimization beyond adjusting a few meta tags. In my experience the best long term results are achieved for a new client when you first focus their website architecture, then work to raise the quality of the site’s existing content to “best on the web” levels. You need to distinguish between “link builders” and SEOs. A working analogy is the difference between a guy who changes oil and a certified mechanic. There are too many oil changers who are presenting themselves as mechanics.

6. Ask to see examples of how the SEO company uses analytics to optimize client’s sites and measure how that impacts the bottom line. If they fumble on this one you might want to take a closer look.

Last but not least, analytics should be an important part of your buying decision. Analytics provide you with data, but it’s what you do with that data that matters to your bottom line. Anyone can install Google Analytics and print a report, but the more valuable skill is in the ability to draw insights from analyzing the data. If the SEO company is offering you reports without recommendations then I would say they aren’t too focused on truly optimizing your site. Analytics will give you the data you need to make the right decisions in your online marketing strategies. The goal is to work with a company that not only understands the analytics but can explain them to you in business terms that make sense so you can feel good about implementing the recommendations.

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