How to choose a good SEO company is a difficult job — just ask any client that has experienced disappointment or disaster after engaging the wrong the firm. Unfortunately, there are many to ask. This article will prepare you to substantially improve your ability to identify SEO agencies that will help you, and filter out those that are likely to be a bad — or very bad — fit.
How to Choose an SEO Agency — Overview
It’s all about you!
The best way to approach a search for an SEO agency (or freelancer) is to think about it as being in one of three buckets:
- Competent agencies that are a good fit
- Competent companies that are a bad fit
- Incompetent or unethical companies
Naturally, you are looking for agencies in category number one. Competent agencies have three general qualities you need:
- A thorough understanding of SEO best practices
- A successful track record in your industry and/or with clients having similar SEO objectives and campaign structures
- The depth and breadth of talent to prioritize your work
These factors are essential when going about how to choose the best SEO company for your business. Plenty of SEOs are competent — or even brilliant — but they lack certain experience and/or bandwidth to handle your SEO campaign properly. These agencies know how to put on a good pitch — if you fail to ask the right questions, you can easily be dazzled into making a choice that may be good for some other company, but not yours.
The fact that there are bad SEOs out there should not sour you from pursuing SEO. It’s a sad fact of life that any type of business attracts bad players, and SEO is no exception. However, armed with the right questions, you can spot them and eliminate them from consideration in short order.
How to Choose the Best SEO Company — Ask the Right Questions
To gauge a candidate’s understanding of SEO best practices, these questions will help.
- What is the purpose of SEO? The correct answer is to generate qualified organic traffic to your website, and have that traffic convert (into an inquiry submission or phone call). Remember that you are investing in SEO to generate sales leads or e-commerce revenue. If an SEO is trying to get you to focus on some other goal such as traffic volume or rankings, all the strategy it employs will miss the mark on what you need to accomplish through SEO.
- Do you have a documented workflow for SEO campaign execution? Google’s search algorithm has more than 200 factors, and SEO campaigns involve activities on multiple fronts (such as content development, technical website modifications and analytics) that must be coordinated efficiently to make sure nothing falls through the cracks or otherwise is bollixed. Well-organized SEOs have carefully documented processes for campaign execution. If your SEO lacks one, you are destined to overpay for underwhelming results.
- Describe your keyword research methodology. Targeting the right keywords makes or breaks a campaign. Many factors go into keyword research, including search volume, search intent, competitiveness of the keyword and relevance. The best SEOs adhere to industry best practices for keyword research and add various refinements based on their experience and expertise. You want the SEO to explain how it goes about making sure the keywords for your campaign will maximize conversions, not just traffic.
- Do you have a method for tracking sales leads/e-commerce revenue from your campaign? It is possible to set up your SEO campaign to capture data from phone inquiries, form submissions and online orders generated from your SEO campaign, but it takes a fair amount of expertise to set up campaign tracking accurately and granularly. If your SEO has the ability to do this, you will be able to understand the ROI of your campaign — also, the SEO will be better able to improve your campaign as it goes. Without accurate tracking, you will have a fuzzy concept of your ROI at best, and your campaign is likely to drift without much improvement.
- Can we see a sample monthly report? Top SEO companies provide detailed reports on monthly performance, usually with commentary. Reports should be easy to understand and give you a sense of what work you’re paying for and what results you are getting.
To gauge whether a competent SEO can get the job for you, these questions will help.
- Have you managed campaigns similar to ours in scope, objectives and industry? If so, can we contact the clients and/or see case studies? You may think the most important factor here is experience in your industry — that is not usually the case, however. Having industry experience does help the SEO by giving it a jump-start on keyword research and writing content for your campaign. However, your input can sometimes make up for weaknesses in this area. Of greater importance is choosing an SEO that is adept at handling campaigns with a similar scope of activities and campaign objectives. Scope involves the major types of work involved in the campaign and the volume of that work — will your link building efforts require one off-site article a month or 20? Will you be targeting 50 keywords or 500? For some SEOs, 50 is their wheelhouse; for others, it’s 500. In terms of objectives, the important distinction is lead generation or e-commerce. The composition and execution of a lead generation SEO campaign is much different from one supporting an e-commerce site. SEOs tend to specialize in one or the other.
- Do you have an in-house staff? To what extent, if any, do you rely on freelancers? SEO campaigns involve copywriters, editors, web designers, front-end programmers, back-end programmers, strategists, analysts and content marketers. If your campaign is going to get steady, high performance from a well-oiled machine, the SEO will need an in-house staff. Freelancers, while often quite talented, are not under full control of the SEO agencies that hire them. You don’t want your campaign grinding to a halt because a freelancer takes an extended vacation or has a falling out with your agency. By the same token, the agency’s in-house staff should have some depth, for the same reason. If an agency is spread too thin, results, which take time to kick in in almost all cases, will take even longer. This will not only bring down your ROI, but will also frustrate you month in and month out.
How to Choose an SEO Company — Filter Out the Bad Ones Quickly
When it comes to filtering out incompetent or unethical SEOs, you’re in luck. You don’t have to ask a lot of sophisticated questions because they’ll flash the warning signs right in your face. Here are those warning signs:
- Guaranteed results. It’s impossible to guarantee results in SEO. If you’re being told you’re guaranteed to get #1 ranking on such-and-such-keyword, or that you will get a 500 or 5,000 percent increase in traffic, send this company packing. SEO is too complex and too much affected by forces beyond your control (such as what your competitors are doing) to make any such guarantees.
- Predicting extremely rapid results. Similar to “SEO guarantees,” “fast SEO results” is a bit of an oxymoron. It’s true that in some situations, simple SEO tweaks can change your rankings quickly. But, in general, if an agency is telling you it can triple your traffic in three months or get you to page one on Google in a month for a strategically awesome keyword, you should make it explain in detail how it plans to accomplish this.
- Package SEO deals. Package deals, while tempting because of their simplicity, almost never work. SEO requires too much customization around your particular SEO needs to lend itself to one-size-fits-all execution. With most of these generic packages, you end up paying too much for services you don’t need, and not paying enough for services you do need. We’ve been running SEO campaigns since the late 1990s and we’ve yet to have two that are identical in the distribution of workload.
- Unwillingness to share. If an agency doesn’t want you to visit its office, is reluctant to give you referrals, won’t let you see a sample monthly report, cannot cite specific examples of successful campaigns, and/or is evasive when asked about its client base, management structure or ownership structure — it’s time to continue your search.
Two Final Tips on How to Find the Right SEO Company
These tips apply to not only SEO, but also to any search for a vendor.
- Consider the overall stability of the company. SEO is a rapidly changing industry, and agencies come and go. How long has your candidate been in business? Does the agency have a good BBB rating? Is it well financed or struggling month to month? Has it recently been acquired or is it an acquisition target? The answers may not make or break your decision, but if you consider a successful SEO campaign will be a multi-year proposition, you certainly want to know as much about your partner’s present and future condition as possible.
- Check online reviews. There are a number of legitimate SEO review sites you can browse to get a feel for what clients have to say about a particular SEO agency — they can be very revealing. Client reviews may also be found on general user review sites, general business sites (such as BBB) and on social media platforms. Not only do these reviews give you a sense of what the agency is about, it will help you validate what the agency tells you during the pitch.
To learn more about our SEO services, contact us now or call 855-883-0011.