If you want to get the most out of a city tour, hire the right tourist guide.
The same is true when it comes to hiring a search engine optimization company to provide your company with assorted online marketing services. Go out and do a search on Google for “[your city] + seo” and you will get a list of 300+ SEO firms offering you their services.
You begin by getting in touch with the firms, beginning with the top-listed one, since it seems obvious that the one at the top must know what it is doing. But as you get down to the other firms at the top, you realize they are saying the same things, or as one reader commented on a previous article I wrote, “SEO is definitely the biggest scam of all. How can every would-be Internet Marketer on the planet promise every client to put him or her onto the top page of Google natural search?” The clear answer is that some can deliver while others cannot.
If so, how then do you determine which SEO company to choose?
- Firstly, let us remove a few misconceptions regarding SEO firms. A fancy or sleek website does not necessarily make a good SEO firm. If you need an SEO firm that can likewise undertake design of your new website, of course, you might need to consider how good their own website appears. But if your priority is to hire an excellent SEO firm, some of the best ones have only mediocre or above-average websites.
- The highest-ranking SEO firm in your geographic location is not logically the firm you need to hire.
- The “SEO firm” you should hire need not be one most people will consider hiring. Size does not always matter. Often and, remember, not all the time, less is more. The SEO firm suited for your needs may only have a couple of workers down in a basement office. Or, perhaps, one that has 500 employees on hand. Either of the two could very well be the right SEO firm for you. You just need to find out which.
- “All SEO outfits are con artists.” Of course, this claim is totally wrong because it is only 95% correct. Be very careful about the SEO firm you choose. So many individuals hire a firm only to regret after a couple of years, wondering if they just wasted their money for nothing.
Finally, the main point – how do you go about choosing the right SEO firm?
- List down the things you require from an SEO firm. Do you require reputation management, link removal, a one-time SEO audit, link-building, ongoing SEO, PPC management, content marketing, retargeting, or any of the other 20 services usually offered by SEO firms? If unsure which of those you need, begin by assessing the task that needs to be done. Do you need to increase sales by 20% across a period of one year, or leads by 50% for the next six months? Is your objective enhanced rankings, or do you just aim for the boss to know that an SEO company is doing its job for him and then you can cross off this nuisance of an item from your to-do list? Set a goal by which you will gage the success of your relationship with your SEO firm, and make that objective the focus of your interaction with it. Without that kind of success measurement of the SEO tasks, you are bound to lag behind your competitiors who do.
- Make manifold consultations, but keep it confidential. Once you have decided what you require, meet with an SEO firm — face-to-face or via phone or email — that seems convincingly capable and inquire how it can assist you determine what you must do. Many SEO firms are willing to provide a free consultation, knowing that by doing so they could convince you and get your business. By doing so, you will also find out if you can work well with the firm and the people. Through the consultation, which may require several days if the SEO firm has to conduct a research on your website and industry, you should receive a proposal with the necessary services and the price. Then, unless you are in a hurry and will go for the first firm you meet, do the same thing with one or two other firms for comparison. But do not tell an SEO firm you are shopping around or talking to other firms; this sorts of dampens their interest for your business and end up becoming less competitive. This applies particularly to some of the best SEO firms over which clients are eager to work with rather than those SEO firms striving to work with a client.
- Obtain case studies and references. The number one issue you want addressed by an SEO firm is: “Will you help me finish my job?” You need an SEO firm that has had the experience in helping other clients face the same problems you encounter. If you operate a self-storage company and you deal with an SEO firm that has done work with 10 other self-storage firms with great results, you have enough basis to be confident about working with that SEO firm. If your business is rather unique and you require a generalist SEO firm rather than one that is highly-specialized, obtain case studies and references from SEO firms that have done work for clients with comparable business parameters and parallel tasks as yours.
- Allow the firm to narrate stories. An excellent SEO firm operates strategically and is also highly creative, telling meaningful stories. These stories permit you to get a more precise picture of what the SEO firm truly is. Case studies and references are like browsing through someone’s LinkedIn profile. You should do that before getting an employee; but you would never get someone based solely on their LinkedIn profile. You would do well to listen to their stories about their background, track-record, achievements and mistakes. This is one reason why video interviews from companies like are making points. Ask the SEO firm how they were established, what their best-client story was, what their worst-client encounter was and how they managed it, and how they have developed over the years. Although you might have decided to hire them after following the first three tips, listening further to their stories may abruptly turn your opinion into the opposite direction.
Establishing clear goals, getting a variety of bids, examining pointers to the future, and listening to stories – these are steps to take to assure you will choose the right SEO firm. Will there be exceptions? Certainly. We are so busy doing the work that creates results for our customers, and even though we know we should present case studies, somehow they are not the highest priority. And I know of some companies that I would not hire myself or endorse to anyone else, even though they have very appealing case studies. In both cases, hearing narratives of firm’s experiences is the best way to appreciate the reality behind the firm.
Have you ever worked with an SEO company? What steps did you take to ascertain you hired the right one?