You're interested in paying an SEO firm money to enhance your online presence, but which SEO firm should you choose? The following tips should help you properly make that important decision.
How do other SEO experts regard this company? Search on Google. Many SEO experts post on SEO forums. Do their peers respect their opinion? What do their former customers think of them? Don't be bashful. SEO companies will typically showcase their clients on their websites. Give one or two of those clients a call, and ask them what their SEO provider did for their bottom line.
What do you need?
Do you need an SEO audit, local SEO, organic SEO, PPC management, link building, email marketing, etc.? Not sure what you need? Take some time before requesting proposals from SEO companies to figure out the job to be done. Do you want to increase sales by 20% over the next 12 months? Do you need better rankings for certain keywords? Have a goal in mind by which you will measure success, and make that goal the center of your communication with your SEO firm. If you can't measure how successful your SEO efforts are, you're less likely to be successful.
Case studies and references
Is your SEO firm ultimately going to help you accomplish your goals? Treat your search for an SEO expert as if you're on vacation in a foreign country. You'll need an experienced guide. SEO providers can't predict the future, but they can put your mind at ease by providing client references. If you run an insurance agency, and you talk to an SEO firm that has worked with hundreds of other insurance agencies, then that's a reasonably good predictor they'll be successful working with your agency.
Make them tell you stories.
A good SEO firm executes tactically. A great SEO firm does that and is also highly creative, and creative people tell good stories. Stories also allow you to get a truer vision of what the SEO firm is all about. Case studies and references are like looking up someone's LinkedIn profile. You do that before hiring an employee, but you wouldn't hire someone based exclusively on his or her LinkedIn profile. You'd also want to hear the candidate tell you stories about his or her background, experience, and successes and failures. Even if you have made up your mind, as you listen to stories, you may completely change your opinion.
Watch out for experts who can't answer questions confidently.
No one knows everything. In SEO, you can't expect someone to answer every question you pose with a perfect answer, but you can expect them to answer honestly and confidently. You're really looking for confidence, generally: how competent and composed is the SEO you're dealing with? Do they know how to answer questions logically and reasonably, or do they get flustered and defensive by pointed questions?
Beware of experts using techniques that put you at risk.
This includes buying links, cloaking with an intent to deceive users and/or search engines, etc.. Find out, and be assured that the partner you choose doesn't mess around with any tricks that could harm your company.
Chances are someone you know already has an opinion or two about a SEO consultant or agency. Ask them. Use your social connections on LinkedIn and elsewhere (such as Twitter). Some of the best leads for a SEO firm will be word-of-mouth referrals from people you trust.
Does the SEO firm guarantee rankings? Run fast. Guaranteed rankings mean nothing if they don't lead to conversions. The town of Impact, Texas has a population of 35. If you're an insurance agent and you rank #1 organically on Google for the term 'Impact Texas car insurance,' who cares? You are unlikely to drive any traffic if any from that term and even less likely to turn that traffic into a conversion. If an SEO agency does guarantee a #1 ranking on Google for a much more popular search term like 'Los Angeles auto insurance' in a short period of time, the tactics used to get you that #1 ranking could haunt you in the future.
Do they provide monthly reports?
How will the SEO agency measure success? How will they convey that information to you? You should be provided a report of your progress on a monthly basis. SEO firms should always provide the tasks they perform in your monthly report. They should also include the rankings for the terms that are agreed upon and a summary of what went on that month, goals and what to expect in the future.
Finding the right SEO company isn't an easy task. Don't let a pushy salesperson rush you into making a decision without answering all of your questions and concerns.
About the Author
John Dessommes manages search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising campaigns for multiple independent insurance agencies nationwide. He also handles SEO for GetITC.com and ITC’s other web properties. John stays on the cutting edge of industry best practices to ensure that visibility is maximized and opportunities are not missed. He has considerable knowledge about on- and off-site optimization, AdWords, business listings and social media.More Content by John Dessommes